RS120C–D, St. Michael’s College, Vermont, Spring 2016
St. Edmund 105
Professor Jeffrey A. Keiser | email@example.com
Office and Hours: Jeanmarie 152; Mon and Wed 11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
This course offers an introduction to the origins of Christianity, the Bible, and the major Christian traditions. The course is divided into three units covering the biblical foundations of Christianity, medieval developments, and modern challenges. Topics covered in the course include heresy and orthodoxy, church and state, the ‘war’ between science and religion, and much more. This study will be conducted academically, so no particular religious affiliation is presumed or necessary.
Students in this course will:
- gain an understanding of contemporary methods and presuppositions in the academic study of religion;
- learn to read the Bible and other assigned texts critically and contextually;
- become familiar with key persons, events, and movements in the history of Christianity;
- develop written and oral communication skills.
- Harold Attridge, et al., Eds., The HarperCollins Study Bible, Student Edition (San Francisco, Calif.: HarperOne, 2006). C. A. Cory and M. J. Hollerich, Eds., The Christian Theological Tradition, 3rd Ed., (Upper Saddle River, N. J.: Pearson Education, 2009) (Abbreviated TCTT in the Course Schedule).
- Links to additional readings will be posted on the course schedule.
Attendance and Participation: Regular attendance will be reflected in your final grade. I acknowledge, however, that some absences are unavoidable; please notify me in advance of such absences whenever possible. In addition to attendance, your grade for the course will incorporate the following components:
Reading: Arrive in class with the assigned readings in hand, having read and annotated them in advance so that you are prepared for discussion.
Active Participation: Listen, make notes, ask questions, and contribute to class discussions.
In-Class Exercises and Quizzes: You will be required to participate in a variety of in-class exercises, either individually or in groups. As well, short quizzes will test your comprehension of class discussions and/or assigned readings. In order to receive credit for an exercise or quiz, you must be present on the day it is assigned and ensure that you turn it in with your full name on it. I will not offer make-up exercises or quizzes.
Thinking Pieces: Over the course of the semester you must complete five thinking pieces. These are short assignments based on the readings. In some cases the assignment will require that you compare and contrast different readings or answer a set of questions. In other cases you will write up a response to a question concerning a reading. These responses should be no more than two pages (roughly 500 words of typed, double-spaced text in 12-point Times New Roman or the equivalent). Depending on the nature of the assignment, you must turn in a hardcopy in class or upload your response to Canvas prior to the start of class.
Thinking Pieces must be turned in at the beginning of class on the day they are due. Late submissions will be marked down.
Church Visit Report: Prior to Wednesday, March 30 you must attend a major weekend service of a church service of your choosing, excluding the denomination in which you were raised or with which you are currently affiliated. This exclusion does not apply if you have no Christian background or affiliation. During your visit you should make careful observations of the service. Write up your notes immediately afterward. A 3–5 page paper detailing your observations will be due on Monday, April 4. Additional details are available here.
Final Examination: A final examination will be administered during the exam period in May. This exam will cover content from the entire course. Additional details will be released later in the semester.
Summary of Course Requirements
- Attendance and Participation: 10%
- In-Class Exercises and Quizzes: 20%
- Thinking Pieces: 20%
- Church Visit Report: 25%
- Final Examination: 25%
Student work in this course will be evaluated in accordance with the college’s policy on academic integrity.
Please let me know if you have any special learning needs or if there is any factor which could interfere with your work in this course.
Laptops and Electronic Devices
Use of laptops and other devices such as tablets is discouraged in the classroom except for a documented learning disability. Please turn off your devices for the duration of the class.
Changes to the Syllabus
The official version of this syllabus will be hosted online. Modifications to the course schedule will be announced in advance.
Jan. 18: The Three Traditions of Christianity
TCTT, Introduction (pp. 1–17)
Jan. 20: Creation and Fall
TCTT, pp. 19–27; ch. 2
Jan. 25: The Covenant(s) of Abraham
TCTT, pp. 42–54
Jan. 27: Israel and the Torah
TCTT, pp. 54–67
Feb. 01: Territory and Temple
TCTT, pp. 68–73
TCTT, ch. 5
Feb. 08: Exile and Restoration (continued)
Feb. 10: Second Temple Judaism to the Time of Jesus
TCTT, pp. 91–103 TCTT, pp. 103–114
HB/OT: Ezra 3:8-13; Malachi 2:1-3:7
Feb. 15: Jesus According to the Gospels
Thinking Piece #01:
The four sects of Judaism are each looking to hire a messiah. Write one job description for each sect that fits their expectations of a messiah.
Does Jesus fit any of these expectations? Why or why not?
TCTT, pp. 114–117
1. Mark (the whole gospel)
2. Matthew 1:1–4:17 and 23:1–26:2
3. Luke 1:1–4:14 and 9:51–11:13
4. John 1:1–3:21 and 8:12–59
Feb. 17: The Death of Jesus
HB/OT: Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Zechariah 12–13
NT: Kurt Aland, ed., Synopsis of the Four Gospels, 10th Ed. (United Bible Societies, 1993), pp. 288–324
Feb. 22: NO CLASS
Feb. 24: Paul the Apostle
TCTT, ch. 7
Thinking Piece #02: Critical Explorations in the Letters of Paul.
NT: Acts 6:1–8:3; Galatians; Philippians 2–3; 1 Corinthians 1–3; 8; 11:17–15:58
Feb. 29: Paul the Apostle (continued)
NT: Acts 6:1–8:3; Galatians; Philippians 2–3; 1 Corinthians 1–3; 8; 11:17–15:58
Mar. 02: Expansion, Consolidation, and Accomodation
Musarillo, Herbert, trans., The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, from The Acts of the Christian Martyrs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972)
TCTT, pp. 135–139
TCTT, pp. 171–175 (“The Life of the Church”); 239–241 (“The Development of Monasticism”); 261–263 (“Reform within the System”)
Remigiuz Sowa, Dir., The Last Anchorite (2009)<iframe class="embed noprint" src="//player.vimeo.com/video/9794946" width="500" height="281" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
TCTT, ch. 8
Mar. 09: Irenaeus of Lyon and the Beginnings of Orthodoxy
TCTT, pp. 161–171
NT: John 1:1–18
Irenaeus of Lyon, Against Heresies 3.18.1–7, 19.1–3, 5.1.1–3, trans. R. A. Norris, Jr., in idem, The Christological Controversy (Sources of Early Christian Thought; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), 49–60.
Mar. 14: The Christological Controversy
Thinking Piece #3:
Study this chart comparing the creed of Nicea (325 C.E.) to the creed of Constantinople I (381 C.E.). How would you explain the additions to the creed ratified at Constantinople?
Recall Irenaeus of Lyon’s understanding of Jesus as discussed in his writing Against Heresies and in the last class. How does the definition of Chalcedon expand on this understanding?
TCTT, ch. 9
HB/OT: Proverbs 8:1–9:1 NT: John 1:1–18
Mar. 16: Nicaea II: Orthodoxy and Iconoclasm
TCTT, ch. 11
Daniel Clendenin, “The Image of Christ: Theology in Color,” in idem, Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 71–93
John of Damascus, “Third Apology of John of Damascus Against Those Who Attack the Divine Images,” in St. John of Damascus, On the Divine Images (trans. David Anderson, Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), 71–90.
Watch the following video,Taking a Tour of the Orthodox Church, and answer the questions on the viewing guide<iframe class="embed noprint" width="420" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2Gf4ocqV10k" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></span>
Mar. 21: NO CLASS
Mar. 23: NO CLASS
Mar. 28: NO CLASS
Mar. 30: Discussion of Church Visits
Apr. 04: Ancient and Medieval Theories of Sin and Salvation I: Augustine of Hippo
CHURCH VISIT REPORTS DUE
TCTT, ch. 10
NT: Romans 5 and 7; 1 Timothy 2:12–15
Stephen Finlan, “Jesus in Atonement Theories,” pp. 193–212 in ed. D. Burke, The Blackwell Companion to Jesus (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2011)
Augustine of Hippo, To Simplician—On Various Questions 10–12, pp. 380–381 in ed. and trans. J. H. S. Burleigh, Augustine: Earlier Writings (LCC; Louisville: Westminster John Knox 2006)
Apr. 06: Ancient and Medieval Theories of Sin and Salvation II: Anselm of Canterbury
TCTT, pp. 246–250 (“Major Theological Figures in the Early Medieval Period”); 264–268 (“Medieval Religious Piety: The Mediation of Grace”); 292–294 (“The Black Death and the Christian Imagination”)
Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo (selections) from ed. and trans. Thomas Williams, Anselm: Basic Writings (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2007)
Apr. 11: Scholasticism
TCTT, ch. 15; pp. 289–290 (“Scholasticism and Nominalism”)
Theodore Gracyk, “St. Thomas Aquinas: The Existence of God can be proved in five ways,” an argument analysis of the “Five Ways”
Apr. 13: Scholasticism (continued)
Apr. 18: The Development of the Papacy
Thinking Piece #4: Read Luke 22:38 in its original context, then read Unam Sanctam, by Pope Boniface VIII. What do the two swords of Luke 22:38 represent, according to Boniface? Does this interpretation fit the context in the Gospel of Luke? Why or why not?
TCTT, pp. 235–238; 242–244 (“The Evolution of the Papacy”); 258–261 (“The Primacy of the Papacy”); 290–292 (“The Avignon Papacy and the Great Schism”); 294–296 (“Revolts Against Church and State”)
NT: Matthew 16:13–23; Luke 22:1–38
Urban VIII, Unam Sanctam
Apr. 20: The Reformation 1: Martin Luther
TCTT, pp. 303–306 (“The Modern Period”); chs. 17–18
Martin Luther, Concerning Christian Liberty (selections)
Alexander Dominitz, Dir., 95 Theses
TCTT, chs. 19–20
April 25: The Reformation 2: John Calvin
TCTT, chs. 19–20
April 27: Reformation to Colonization
TCTT, chs. 21 and 23
Cotton Mather, “Nehemias Americanus: The Life of John Winthrop, Esq., Governor of the Massachusetts Colony” Magnalia Christi Americana 2.1–4
Robert Allen Warrior, “A Native American Perspective: Canaanites, Cowboys, and Indians,” pp. 235–241 in ed. R.S. Sugirtharaja, Voices From the Margin: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World, Third Edition (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2006)
May 02: Christianity in the Modern World: From the Scientific Revolution to the Challenge of the Enlightenment and the ‘War’ with Science
Thinking Piece #5: Watch astronomer Carl Sagan’s famous “Pale Blue Dot” speech, as interpreted by the recent reboot of his 1981 miniseries Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey. What is the purpose of this segment? Is Sagan speaking strictly in scientific terms or does he go beyond the ‘magisterium’ of science as defined by Stephen J. Gould?
TCTT, chs. 22 and 24
Joshua M. Moritz, “The War that Never Was: Exploding the Myth of the Historical Conflict Between Christianity and Science,” Theology and Science 10.2 (2012): 113–123
Stephen J. Gould, “Nonoverlapping Magisteria,” Natural History 106 (1997): 16–22
May 04: Concluding Discussion