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Religious Studies

Carl D. Evans, Chair

James S. Cutsinger, Ph.D., Harvard University, 1980, Director of Undergraduate Studies
Donald L. Jones, Ph.D., Duke University, 1966, Associate Chair of the Department
Jon Michael Spencer, Ph.D., Washington University, 1982

Associate Professors
Carl D. Evans, Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1974
Kevin Lewis, Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1980, Director of Graduate Studies
Janice Love, Ph.D., Ohio State University, 1983

Visiting Assistant Professors
Thomas B. Ellis, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2002
David R. Vishanoff, Ph.D., Emory University, 2004

Professors Emeriti
Lauren E. Brubaker Jr., Th.D., Union Theological Seminary, 1944
Harold W. French, Ph.D., McMaster University, 1972


The major in religious studies is provided for students seeking a broad liberal arts education focused on the study of religion. Students explore the histories, teachings, practices, and cultures of more than one religious tradition and develop specific areas of interest among the subfields of the discipline.

Degree Requirements

(120 hours)

1. General Education Requirements (53-62 hours)

The following course fulfills some of the general education requirements and must be completed for a major in religious studies: RELG 110. For a general outline, see College of Liberal Arts.

2. Major Requirements

General Major
Courses numbered 300 level and above, RELG 498 must be included (24 hours)
Intensive Major
Courses numbered 300 level and above, RELG 498 must be included (30 hours)

3. Cognate or Minor, see "College of Liberal Arts." (12-18 hours)

4. Electives, see "College of Liberal Arts."

Course Descriptions (RELG)

  • 110 -- Introduction to Religious Studies. (3) An introduction to the methods of religious inquiry and to the beliefs and practices of major religious traditions.
  • 111 -- Biblical History and Literature. (3) A brief introduction to contemporary study of the Bible, its historical background, writing, and transmission, its principal persons, events, and ideas, and their significance for the present time.
  • 114 -- Religion and Culture. (3) The impact of religion on modern Western culture, and of culture on religion. Selected topics: Holocaust, Freud, love, evil, puritanism, fundamentalism.
  • 115 -- Religion in America. (3) Communities, persons, themes and events which have helped to shape the religious climate in America; with emphasis on Christian communities.
  • 202 -- Introduction to Reason and Faith. (3) Historical and systematic introduction to theology; the search for balance between belief and reason; contemporary developments.
  • 203 -- Comparative Religion. (3) The religious experience of varied persons and groups, East and West, in traditional and contemporary settings.
  • 301 -- Old Testament. (3) A critical study of the literature of the Old Testament emphasizing its historical development and meaning in the life of ancient Israel.
  • 302 -- New Testament. (3) A historical and critical study of the origin, structure, and transmission of the New Testament writings and their meaning in the life and thought of the early Church; emphasis is placed on the life, teaching, and significance of Jesus and Paul--both for their day and for ours.
  • 311 -- The Mission and Message of Jesus. (3) An analysis of the historical and social setting of the Gospels designed to afford the student a fuller understanding of Jesus and his mission.
  • 312 -- The Life and Letters of Paul. (3) A critical study in the life and thought of Paul, his letters to the early Christian churches, his role in the expansion of the Christian movement, and his continuing influence today.
  • 313 -- The Johannine Literature. (3) The Gospel of John, the Johannine letters, and the Revelation of John are considered against both the background of first-century history and their theological relevance in our time; emphasis on major Johannine themes and, in the case of Revelation, the apocalyptic movement in general.
  • 320 -- Old Testament Sacred Histories. (3) A critical study of the sacred histories found in the Old Testament, focusing on J, E, P, and the Deuteronomic history, and the chronicler's history; attention will be given to the recasting of older traditions and the dominant theological perspective in each sacred history.
  • 321 -- Old Testament Prophets. (3) Old Testament prophets, the nature of their prophetic experience, their place in the life of ancient Israel, their message, and their continuing theological significance.
  • 330 -- Faith, Doubt, and God. (3) Judeo-Christian views of God; modern criticism and contemporary responses.
  • 332 -- Christian Theology. (3) Basic Christian teachings concerning God, creation, sin, the person and work of Christ, and life after death.
  • 335 -- Christian Ethics. (3) Basic Christian teachings concerning human nature and conduct; historical foundations and contemporary applications.
  • 336 -- Liberation Theology. (3) An examination of the origin, development, context, and central themes of recent Third World, African-American, and feminist theologies.
  • 340 -- God and the Gods. (3) The worship of Yahweh and other deities in ancient Israel with special attention to the evolution of monotheism.
  • 341 -- Israel's Wisdom Literature. (3) A critical study of Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Solomon; particular attention will be given to the place of wisdom in Israelite and Jewish life and culture, the literary forms of wisdom, the theological presuppositions of the various wisdom traditions, and the impact of Israel's wisdom on contemporary life.
  • 342 -- The African-American Religious Experience. (3) Introduction to the study of the religious traditions of African Americans; special emphasis on the sociopolitical contexts in which these religious traditions have developed.
  • 343 -- Rastafarians and Reggae. {=AFRO 360} (3) The 20th-century, Jamaica-born, now international Rastafari religion and its popular music, reggae, approached from the perspective of comparative religion.
  • 344 -- The Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. {=AFRO 344} (3) Encounter with the theology of Martin Luther King Jr., including influences originating from Walter Rauschenbusch, Howard Thurman, and Mahatma Gandhi.
  • 351 -- Religions of South Asia. (3) Examination of major South Asian religions--Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Islam, emphasizing the historical context for changing religious ideals, and the commingling of traditions.
  • 352 -- Religions of East Asia. (3) Expansion of Buddhism beyond India, development of Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, and other national religious expressions in China and Japan.
  • 354 -- Islamic Institutions and Traditions. {=HIST 386} (3) The institutions--political, religious, social, and economic--developed by the Muslim community and the traditions which surrounded them. Emphasis on the role of these institutions and traditions in the classical era and the changes they have undergone in modern times.
  • 356 -- Introduction to Buddhism. (3) An introduction to Buddhism from a social historical perspective that examines Buddhist religious goals and practices in the local contexts of India, Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, and Japan.
  • 360 -- Anthropology of Magic and Religion. {=ANTH 352} (3) A comparative examination of such topics as ritual, cosmology, revitalization movements, magic, witchcraft, myth, and possession.
  • 361 -- Psychology of Religion. {=PSYC 320} (3) The development of the religious consciousness and its various expressions, the psychological dynamics of growth and conversion, response to crisis, and the relation of spiritual practice to health and wholeness.
  • 362 -- Awakening to Death. (3) An inquiry into personal encounter with death and dying, with attention to comparative religious interpretations of death and strategies of coping with it.
  • 364 -- God and Globalization. {=POLI 336} (3) A critical survey of current issues and historical developments in religion and world politics, focusing particularly on those demonstrating the interplay of globalization and fragmentation.
  • 370 -- Spiritual Autobiography. (3) Autobiographical texts and contexts, ancient to modern, in which the constructed life" is shaped decisively by confrontation with religious questions. "
  • 371 -- Visions of Apocalypse. (3) An exploration of the prophetic vision of last things
  • 372 -- Religion and Existentialism. (3) Existentialist thought as adapted by theologians to interpret religious experience and the biblical message. The movement from philosophical protest against essentialism into imaginative description of existence revealed under stress.
  • 373 -- Holocaust and Religion. (3) Religious and moral dimensions of Nazi terror (1933-45) and death camp experiences reported by eyewitness survivors and represented by subsequent filmmakers, poets, and fiction writers.
  • 374 -- Creativity. {=AFRO 374} (3) Study and application of various theoretical perspectives on creativity with a view to approaching creativity as a virtue in religious life, exemplified especially in African-American culture.
  • 375 -- Music and Religion in American Culture. (3) An exploration of the ways in which religion finds expression in and through American folk, popular, and classical music, both sacred and secular.
  • 376 -- Religious Expression in African-American Music. {=AFRO 376} (3) Encounter and engagement with the folk and popular music of African Americans from the point of view of religion and spirituality.
  • 381 -- History of Judaism: The Ages of the Bible and the Talmud. {=HIST 383} (3) The Jewish people, 1800 B.C.-A.D. 500, and the religious, cultural, and political factors involved as they created and lost a nation and developed a religion.
  • 382 -- History of Judaism: The Middle and Modern Periods. {=HIST 384} (3) The religious and secular history of the Jewish people since A.D. 500, including an examination of theological Judaism, modern Israel, and American Judaism.
  • 383 -- The Jewish-Christian Encounter. (3) Historical, theological, and social relationships in the Jewish-Christian encounter from its beginnings to the present, emphasizing the impact of post-Biblical Judaism on Christianity, Christian teachings of contempt and other forms of antisemitism, and the challenge of the Holocaust.
  • 399 -- Independent Study. (3-6) Contract approved by instructor, advisor, and department chair is required for undergraduate students.
  • 491 -- Selected Topics in Religious Studies. (3) Course content varies and will be announced in the schedule of courses by suffix and title.
  • 498 -- Advanced Project. (3) A supervised research project or other creative work, required of majors, normally taken in the senior year.
  • 510 -- World of the Hebrew Bible. (3) An examination of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in the context of the history, literature, and religion of the ancient Near Eastern world.
  • 514 -- The Quest of the Historical Jesus. (3) Examination of studies on the historical Jesus from 1778 to the present. Attention given to the relationship between "the Jesus of history" and "the Christ of faith."
  • 521 -- Readings in Religion. (3) A program of reading and consultation will be arranged to provide for independent research and concentrated study in an area of particular interest to the student.
  • 532 -- Dialogue of Reason and Faith. (3) Criticism and defense of religious belief in historical perspective.
  • 550 -- Comparative Black Religion. {=AFRO 550} (3) The comparative study of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Rastafari among African Americans from an interdisciplinary perspective.
  • 551 -- Tradition and Transformations in Islamic Cultures. {=ANTH 515} (3) Islam as a dynamic cultural tradition: emphasis on the tension between Islamization and the larger Islamic tradition.
  • 552 -- Buddhist Studies Seminar. (3) The examination of a theme or problem central to the study of Buddhism in a seminar emphasizing intensive reading and creative discussion. Course may be repeated since topics change.
  • 553 -- Reading Pali Buddhist Texts I. (3) An introduction to Pali Buddhist texts, focusing on the acquisition of basic Pali reading skills and the analysis of texts. Completion of this course does not satisfy language proficiency requirements.
  • 554 -- Reading Pali Buddhist Texts II. (3) The intermediate study of Pali Buddhist texts, focusing on translation and the analysis of texts. Completion of this course does not satisfy language proficiency requirements.
  • 572 -- Religious Classics. (3) Selected "classic" works of the Western religious tradition
  • 573 -- Religion in the South. (3) Regional faith traditions in Southern cultural context; the African-American church, influence of evangelical piety, Lost Cause idealism, fundamentalism, civil religion.
  • 592 -- Topics in Texts and Traditions. (3) Reading and research on selected topics in the study of religious texts in the life of religious communities. Course content varies and will be announced by suffix and title. May be repeated twice as topics vary.
  • 593 -- Topics in Theology and Religious Thought. (3) Reading and research on selected topics in the study of doctrines, cosmologies, spiritual practices, and ethics of religious traditions. Course content varies and will be announced by suffix and title. May be repeated twice as topics vary.
  • 594 -- Topics in Religion and Society. (3) Reading and research based on selected topics in the study of religious institutions, practices, and experiences in relation to societies. Course content varies and will be announced by suffix and title. May be repeated twice as topics vary.

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