Religious Studies



Religious Studies

» Course Offerings

Course Offerings


One unit of credit equals four semester hours.

Bidisciplinary courses may also be taken for major or minor credit for this program.

REL 200 Introduction to Biblical Studies
The Bible is studied in the light of modern scholarship with an eye toward its relationship to the contemporary world and the issues arising out of modern culture. The department recommends, but does not require, that students complete REL 200 prior to REL 302, 305, 306, 307, 314 or 319.

REL 211 Biblical Hebrew I
The course will introduce biblical Hebrew grammar, syntax and vocabulary to students through listening, speaking and written exercises. From elementary forms and constructions, students will move into reading and translating simple prose texts in the Hebrew Bible. The course will also include an overview of the origins and history of the Hebrew language, the history of biblical Hebrew texts, and the importance of the language for biblical scholarship in Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions. Brief attention will be given to similarities with and differences from Modern Hebrew. Upon request.

REL 230 Christian Social Ethics
A study of selected contemporary moral problems such as racism, poverty and hunger, war and peace, and sexual and familial relationships. An examination of the moral adequacies of fundamental Christian convictions.

REL 240 World Religions: General Introduction
An exploration of the major religious traditions of East and West, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.

REL 241 Introduction to Judaism
This course is an introduction to Judaism, beginning with the origins of early Hebrew and Israelite religion in the ancient Near Eastern context, moving to post-exilic Judaism and concluding with the contemporary period. Primary texts will be studied, as well as key events and figures in the history of Judaism. Attention will be given to contemporary segments of Judaism in the United States, such as Orthodox, Conservative and Reform traditions. January Term and upon request.

REL 242 Issues in Islam: Gender, Politics and Human Rights
Through compelling contemporary issues this course will trace the development of Islam from its early days as a small struggling community to a religious and cultural superpower. It will feature a variety of practices of Muslim communities and explore Islamic law, theology and spirituality. Special attention will be given to contemporary expressions and contributions of Islam.

REL 243 The Religions of India
India is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Although India is one-third the size of the United States, its population is more than three times larger. Eighty-three percent of its population is Hindu, 11 percent Muslim, 3 percent Christian, 2 percent Sikh and less than 1 percent Jain. While Buddhism has nearly disappeared from the Indian subcontinent, its rise contributed profoundly to the history of religion in India. This course will explore the distinct features of each tradition represented in India, how the traditions interact with each other, and the peculiar Indian commonalities the traditions share. Every third year on campus and every third year in India. Repeatable for credit when taken on campus and in India.

REL 244 Understanding the Qur’an
This course is a comprehensive introduction to the language, literary genres, social context, interpretive schools of thought and themes of the Qur’an— the heart of Islamic devotion, worship, personal decisions and public life. Students will explore the origin, evolution and compilation of the Qur’an, as well as historical and contemporary exegetical methods that Muslims have applied to interpret the text as they learn to understand and interpret the Qur’an for themselves.

REL 252 Movies and God
The third-century theologian Tertullian once asked the question: “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens?” A contemporary version might be: “What has Jerusalem to do with Hollywood?” Art forms and entertainment media help shape, and are shaped by, popular culture and opinion. This course will examine how films convey religious motifs to viewers. Through class discussion and short written assignments, students will begin to appreciate how movies communicate their own interpretations of the sacred and are commentaries on religious values in society. Upon request and January Term.

REL 268/368/468 Internship
.50, 1.00 or 1.50 credits
Internships are intended to provide supervised, hands-on, work-relatedmexperience in religious institutions, in religiously sponsored organizations, or in jobs underwritten by religious bodies in independent secular institutions. Students may take their internship for credit as an elective or as part of their major or minor in the department. Inquiries should be made to the full-time faculty of the department in the term preceding the anticipated internship. Registration for internships must receive departmental approval. Repeatable for credit. Pre- or corequisite: REL 280 or REL 281. Upon request.

REL 280 Ministry: Callings and Practice
This course will introduce students to the long history of ministry in the Christian tradition, beginning with the biblical bases for a “calling.” It is designed especially for students who are interested in exploring a call to Christian ministry or vocation in preparation for work as a pastor, priest, chaplain, religious educator, scholar or administrator, or in other ministries. Through systematic theological and biblical reflection, students will explore historical and contemporary spiritual practices that lead to the discernment of spiritual gifts. The course will present individuals in their social and historical contexts who have excelled in pursuing their ministerial vocations in the Christian heritage. The Niebuhr Center for Engagement and Reflection requires the successful completion of this course or REL 281 for grant-supported internships, international courses and other opportunities.

REL 281 Serving Society: Faith Perspectives
In this interdisciplinary course, students will acquire wide-ranging knowledge of how religious principles and faith have informed engagement with society and have motivated pursuits of humanitarian and religious service through history. Students will gain a critical understanding of scriptures, teachings and rituals in major religions that encourage social justice and service as well as responsibility for the natural world. Students will explore important faith-motivated movements and leaders in historical context that demonstrate interaction with society for good, and sometimes for ill. The course will stress self-knowledge and awareness as students reflect upon their own biographies of faith and are encouraged to explore their future life’s work through exposure to professional mentors and field experiences. The Niebuhr Center for Engagement and Reflection requires the successful completion of this course or REL 280 for grant-supported internships, international courses and other opportunities.

REL 302 Biblical Prophets and the Current Context
This course offers a critical analysis of the literature and contexts of the biblical Hebrew prophets in light of biographical data and historical, literary/ rhetorical and oral poetic scholarship of prophecy (by men and women) in ancient Near Eastern cultures. The course will examine the central concerns of biblical prophets, such as monotheism and social justice. The course will consider as well some historic and contemporary connections with the biblical prophetic traditions.

REL 305 Visions, Revolts and Messiahs: Second Temple Judaism
A survey of Judaism from the Babylonian exile through the rise of the rabbis (515 BCE to 70 CE). The course will include a critical reading of historical and literary sources from the Bible, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Josephus. Upon request.

REL 306 The Story of Jesus: The Synoptic Gospels
A study of Matthew, Mark and Luke-Acts and the multicultural and historical settings in which they were composed and to which they were addressed. The gospel documents will be examined with the aid of the tools of modern critical biblical study. The course will also address similar gospels excluded from the canon. Spring Term, alternate years.

REL 307 Paul the Apostle: His Letters and Thought
An introduction to the content and background of the letters attributed to Paul. Emphasis will be placed on the literary structure and rhetorical strategy of his letters, and the specific issues addressed in each of his letters. Particular attention will be given to the social context of each of Paul’s Christian communities and how this affects his strategy in addressing the social and theological issues that arose among them. Spring Term, alternate years.

REL 309 Quest for the Historical Jesus
This course is an inquiry into the person, social location and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as reconstructed from the earliest traditions in the New Testament Gospels and non-canonical literature. This course introduces students to the scholarly study of Jesus as a historical figure, providing the opportunity to become more familiar with the relevant primary sources and other data, as well as the tools for critical historical investigation.

REL 314 Women in the Bible: Gender and Culture
This course is a critical analysis of women figures in biblical texts and contexts, using historical, anthropological, sociological, feminist, literary and theological methodologies. Students will gain the skills necessary to interpret biblical stories of women in light of the contexts of the times, in ancient Israel and 1st- and 2nd-century Palestine and nearby areas in the New Testament period.

REL 319 Biblical Theology
An in-depth examination of the theological diversity and unity of the various perspectives represented in the Old and New Testaments. Upon request.

REL 320 The Emergence of Christian Thought
Traces the historical development of crucial Christian doctrines including the Trinity, the two natures of Christ and original sin in the early Christian centuries, together with the medieval and Reformation development and modification of these doctrines. The contemporary relevance of the Christian tradition is emphasized.

REL 321 Modern and Contemporary Christian Thought
Examines the theological Renaissance of the 20th century as it was formulated in the thought of such seminal figures as Barth, Bultmann, Brunner, Tillich, the Niebuhrs and Bonhoeffer, and the impact of these figures on contemporary Christianity.

REL 322 Theologies of Liberation
Survey of contemporary efforts to relate religious understandings of human freedom and justice to contemporary movements toward human liberation. Included are such issues as the African American experience; strategies for liberation in Africa, Asia and Latin America; and the feminist perspective. Upon request.

REL 323 Religion and Science
The course introduces the science and religion debate, giving key historical examples in their social, scientific and theological contexts. Students will examine theological and religious claims and their interaction with different sciences—physics, biology and psychology. The place of religion and science in constituting social and personal values for diverse religious traditions shall be addressed.

REL 324 The Problem of God
The topic of this course is “God” in recent Western intellectual history. More precisely, this course will address how people talk about God and how that discourse has evolved. Religious conceptions of God will be examined in their historical, social and theological context. This course will examine a broad array of perspectives from Reinhold Niebuhr’s Does Civilization Need Religion? to the modern secular fundamentalists. By the end of the 19th century, many prominent intellectual and social figures abandoned Christianity, and society became increasingly secularized. The secularization hypothesis will be critically analyzed within its theological, historical and cultural context. Key representatives of “the history of unbelief ” will be surveyed, including Auguste Comte, Ludwig Feuerbach, David Strauss and Richard Dawkins.

REL 325 Sociology of Religion
This course is concerned with how people put their beliefs about the sacred into action as they relate to other people. Religion is shaped by the sociocultural systems within which it operates across time, place and circumstance. This course deals primarily with case studies of changes in religion in the United States since the 1960s. In and through these primary sources of examples and illustrations, the course will address the “big questions” in the sociology of religion. Materials for this course will be based on the Western traditions as they shape North America, but it will also address the condition of globalization that increasingly causes the world to be “a single place.” Beginning with the Judeo-Christian tradition as it shaped both majority and minority communities in North America, this course will also cover Islam, the religions of Asia and indigenous traditions of native peoples throughout the world including Native Americans.

REL 328 The Problem of Evil
A critical examination of and struggle with what may be the oldest and most intransigent theological problem—theodicy, the problem of evil in a world created by a good God. How is it possible that a good, all-knowing and all-powerful God allows such suffering as disease, natural disasters, hatred, mass murder and every form of wickedness imagined by human beings? Students will address this central question with such related questions as human free will, natural events, the existence of God, and if God exists, God’s possible character. Upon request and January Term.

REL 331 Religious Ethics and Human Sexuality
This course is a critical study of biblical perspectives, theological positions, ethical reasoning, church traditions, faith commitments and empirical data that address questions of sexuality and the family. It examines key ethical variables such as human nature, God, the church, love, justice and empowerment in such major issues of sexuality as eroticism, marriage, partnering,divorce, contraception, reproduction, sexual identity, sexual harassment, health care and public policy.

REL 332 Religious Ethics and Health Care
Theological reflection on ethical norms and selected issues in health care. Study of the biblical and theological grounding of human values and attention to secular sources of morality enable students to articulate their own positions. Issues addressed include informed consent, research on human subjects, abortion, genetics, death and suffering, euthanasia and physician-assisted death, HIV/AIDS, and health care delivery and its reform.

REL 341 Theology of Christian Art
The theological underpinnings of Western art and architecture as they are exemplified in the Early Christian, Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods. Upon request.

REL 343 Islamic Mysticism and the Poetry of Rumi
A study of the Islamic mystical tradition and one of the most popular poets in America, Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207–1273). Within the context of Islamic mysticism, students will analyze his world, life, poetic works and significance for the fields of religion and cultural studies. Rumi was an Islamic scholar and mystic whose influence transcends religious and national boundaries. Most famous for his magnum opus, the Masnavi (nicknamed “the Koran in Persian”), Rumi was a spiritual guide whose teachings have inspired countless individuals, powerful socio-political movements and numerous religious groups such as the Mevlevi Sufi Order of whirling dervishes. Upon request and January Term.

REL 344 Religious Classics
Literary expressions of religious faith and life focusing on personal, devotional and confessional language rather than doctrinal propositions. Examples: Augustine’s Confessions, Echkart’s Sermons, Luther’s Christian Liberty, Teresa of Avila’s Interior Castle, Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Julian of Norwich.

REL 346 African American Religious Traditions
This course introduces students to and leads them in a critical examination of the important richness and complexities of African American religious traditions as they bear on the religious, sociopolitical and cultural expressions and experiences in America today. Close attention will be given to contemporary issues and options as they are seized and exemplified among various religious movements such as Black Muslims, Black Judaism, Afro-Centric Christianity and the return to African religions. Upon request.

REL 347 Theories of Religion
This course introduces the history of theoretical approaches to religion by investigating individual thinkers and movements in order to see how religious studies arose. The course begins with the emergence of religious studies from theology, and it continues through the various disciplines of the social sciences— sociology of religion, psychology of religion, anthropology of religion, phenomenology of religion and cognitive science of religion—noting the major authors and theories of religion found in each.

REL 350 Religion in America
A historical introduction to religion in American culture highlighting the roots of American religiosity, the variety of religious communities, the distinctive features of American Christianity, religious pluralism, and the relation of church and state.

REL 351 Religious Studies in Public Schools K-12
This course is designed for students who intend to become teachers in public primary and secondary schools, but will also be of special significance for current teachers, school administrators, religious leaders and parents. Students will study the applicability of the religious liberty clauses of the First Amendment, explore resources and curricular programs for the critical study of religion, and develop an appreciation for academic pedagogical styles that are respectful, informational and analytic, rather than styles that are devotional, proselytizing or derogatory. Students will gain legal insights, ethical awareness and tools to teach religious studies units and courses in public schools. January Term and upon request.

REL 361–364 Special Topics in Religious Studies
The theological study of subjects not a part of the regular department offerings. Topics will vary from term to term. Repeatable for credit. Unless explicitly specified, these courses will not satisfy any Integrated Curriculum requirements, but may satisfy the department requirements for the major or minor.

REL 370 Christian Rome through the Centuries
The course will examine the history of Christianity in Rome, from before the time of the Apostles Peter and Paul to today’s pope. Christian Rome’s economic influence will be examined from before the days of Rome’s official adoption of Christianity in the fourth century to its modern-day stature as a sovereign state, Vatican City, with diplomatic relationships around the world. Students will visit Rome and its environs, Vatican City and Assisi.

REL 371 South Africa: Service and Interdisciplinary Study
This international course examines South Africa’s political history, traditional and colonial cultures, religions, the new South Africa of the post-apartheid era, and social challenges related to education, poverty and health care. Students do service work with organizations and schools in the Cape Town area and travel to historic sites in Soweto, Johannesburg, District Six, Robben Island, the Cape of Good Hope and Entabeni Game Reserve.

REL 372 Modern Israel: Its Religions, Histories and Politics
This course explores the contemporary religions of Israel and Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and from Haifa through Jerusalem to Bethlehem and Hebron. In a country that conjoins religion and government, students will study how the state has influenced all religions, and how these religions have influenced each other. Students will investigate the contemporary meaning of religious identity and religious freedom, listen to devotees’ personal narratives, visit ancient holy sites, observe religious practices, probe different beliefs and values and ponder the religious experiences of the peoples of Israel and Palestine: the Baha’i of Akko and Haifa; the Druze of Golan and Galilee; the Samaritans of Mount Gerizim; the Jews of Tel Aviv, Yerushalayim and the settlements; the Christians of Bethlehem, Nazareth and the Old City; and the Muslims of Ramallah, al Khalil and al Quds. Special attention will be given to the variety within Jewish life, the warmth of Islam and the vibrancy of Christianity. Participants will explore how such varied religions have survived, adapted and blossomed on the desert.

REL 430 The Niebuhr Seminar: God and Justice
A reading seminar that will examine selected writings of Reinhold Niebuhr and his younger brother, H. Richard Niebuhr, in order to discover their salient theological, ethical and political contributions that continue to have potency in the contemporary world and promise for tomorrow. Special attention will be given to the brothers’ relationships with the church and with Elmhurst College. Upon request.

REL 490 Senior Seminar
Religious studies senior seminar exposes students to a series of relevant and influential topics and texts reflecting the diversity and dynamism of religious studies and provides a forum for in-depth analysis and debate. Senior seminar is required of all departmental majors and is open to all students who have successfully completed at least three courses in religious studies.

REL 492/292 Independent Study
Students may pursue their special interests on an individual basis by making arrangements with a professor of the department. Repeatable for credit. Consent of the department chair is required.

REL 495 Honors Independent Research
.50 credit
This course gives Honors Program students the opportunity to design and implement a significant research project in the field of theology and religion, culminating in an appropriate public dissemination of research methods and findings. This research must build upon previous coursework taken within the major or minor, facilitating faculty supervision and guidance. Repeatable for credit. Permission of the faculty supervisor and the director of the Honors Program required prior to registration.

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