Fall 2016 Christian Studies Course Guide

In the future, as this program develops, the guide will include listings from other area colleges and universities.

Last updated: 23 October 2016
This list represents courses with substantial content in Christian history, theology, culture, the Bible, and the relationships between Christianity and other religions. By including courses on this list, the PGH Christian Studies project does not endorse them or take responsibility for their content. Unless otherwise indicated, classes do not have prerequisites and do not fulfill general education requirements.

Free books! Take any of these courses and we will pay for your books, up to $100 for each course. See details here.


University of Pittsburgh

AFRCNA 0313 The Black Church

Prof. Wilbert Austin
Th 6:00PM-8:30PM / Class #29530

This course will examine the Black Church within the broader context of the African American religious experience in the United States.  We will survey and analyze the development of the Black Church from its historical and theological manifestations through its development into contemporary institutional forms.  We will study its historical and theological development by examining the variety of its distinctions, praxis, experience, outlook and historical personages through critical consideration of various readings, lecture and class discussion.  The role of black churches in establishing and providing connectivity and community in black life will be examined as well as the trends toward new expanded roles for the Church in an increasingly technological and non-religious oriented age.  A critical reading of texts, class discussion and written reflection and analysis will be fundamental to our approach.

CLASS 1312 Plato

Prof. Christiana Maria Hoenig
TuTh 2:30PM-3:45PM / Class #25117 

This course will examine Plato's views on key topics in Ethics, Metaphysics, and the Theory of Knowledge. We shall look into Plato's relation to Socrates and the evolution of his own mature views.

ENGLIT 0597 The Bible as Literature

Prof. David Brumble
Tu 6:00PM-8:30PM / Class #10794 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Literature, Writing Intensive

We will be reading the Bible as Literature. This is to say that we will be discussing, for example, the story of Adam and Eve, the story of Noah and the flood, and the story of the crucifixion of Jesus as stories. We will try to understand these wonderful stories in their historical contexts, and so we will be discussing a wide range of background materials -- art, anthropology, history, and more.

ENGLIT 0580 Introduction to Shakespeare

Prof. Mike West
MoWe 4:30PM-5:45PM / Class #11075 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Literature, Writing Intensive

This course will introduce students to several of Shakespeare's plays, the historical context(s) in which they were written, and the traditions of interpreting and appraising Shakespeare which persist into our own time. Students may be expected to view at least one film version of a Shakespeare play, and to attend a local production, if available.

ENGLIT 1101 Invention of English

Prof. Ryan McDermott
MoWe 4:30PM-5:45PM / Class #28589 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for 2nd Lit / Arts / Creative Expression and Historical Change

How did people read and write English literature before "literature" was even a meaningful word in the English language?  In this course, we will work with the primary evidence we have to answer questions like this: the manuscripts in which medieval people encountered literature such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  We will read early English literature not in modern anthologies, but in the compilations that medieval readers and writers made for their own use.  Texts will range from world-famous tales to lesser-known romances and lyrics, to the many oddments included in medieval anthologies, including children's ABC, charms, spells and prayers.  We will work with modern editions of complete manuscript compilations and with digital and physical facsimiles of manuscripts, but also make our own editions from digital manuscripts, and our own compilations.  Along the way, you'll learn Middle English and how to read medieval handwriting.  These practical skills will help us grapple with theories of authorship, performance, editing and canon that are relevant to literature of all times and places.

FP 0003 Freshman Seminar: Science Fiction and Mythology

Prof. Laura Dice
Tu 6:00PM-8:30PM / Class #11549 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Seminar in Composition

The work of this seminar considers science fiction and its use of myth. Mythology here is understood as a body of beliefs that seeks to answer questions about the relationship of humans to the divine. Science fiction expands our understanding of myth and religion, and questions our relationship to technology and to science as well. Through a variety of readings and viewings, we will consider the way science fiction uses myth to complicate our understanding of the past, the present, and the future. Through essay writing, we will examine the language of speculative fiction, and how it provides a way to understand ourselves, our world and other worlds, and the universe and the univers-ity. Because science fiction is so much a part of our experience in the 21st century, it provides a unique, metaphorical, and speculative language to engage with the expectations of college-level writing and go beyond the structures of high school writing. You should have a strong interest in science fiction and myth, a familiarity with contemporary religious traditions, and have a desire to boldly explore new worlds in reading and writing. Freshman Seminar fulfills the Seminar in Composition requirement and includes Introduction to the Arts and Sciences (FP 0001), an introduction to academic life in the School of Arts and Sciences. Topics of discussion include: (1) The City and the Campus; (2) Academic Skills and Services; (3) Academic Honesty; (4) Academic Communication; and (5) Educational Goals. Because Freshman Seminar is a four-credit course, students spend at least 10 additional hours during the term on out-of-class activities that complement and enrich coursework. All students who enroll in this course will receive a free academic planner on the first day of class compliments of the Office of Freshman Programs. This course is part of the Gods and Androids Academic Community.

FP 0003 Freshman Seminar: Writing the Spiritual 

Prof. Renee Aukeman Prymus
Mo 6:00PM-8:30PM / Class #23695  / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Seminar in Composition

In this course, we will examine how the spiritual life—an inner dimension of life that has to do with our relationship with our own selves and/or the divine—is represented in writing while exploring the following inquiries: How do authors write about spiritual experiences/beliefs/questions/doubts that others cannot see? How do they push beyond religious rhetoric to convey their inner lives in language that others can understand? How can you write clearly and creatively about your own faith or skepticism? To investigate these questions and more, we will read critical and personal essays from writers of various religions, visit several religious landmarks in the city of Pittsburgh, and write a series of experimental yet disciplined essays designed to embody spirituality. We will write in response to the authors we read, write about our own experiences, and write about the spirituality we discover in Pittsburgh. This course welcomes students who want to use writing to explore their own spiritual lives and learn about the spiritual lives of others. Writing the Spiritual also includes an introduction to mindfulness meditation. Freshman Seminar fulfills the Seminar in Composition requirement and includes Introduction to the Arts and Sciences (FP 0001), an introduction to academic life in the School of Arts and Sciences. Topics of discussion include: (1) The City and the Campus; (2) Academic Skills and Services; (3) Academic Honesty; (4) Academic Communication; and (5) Educational Goals. Because Freshman Seminar is a four-credit course, students spend at least 10 additional hours during the term on out-of-class activities that complement and enrich coursework. All students who enroll in this course will receive a free academic planner on the first day of class compliments of the Office of Freshman Programs.

HAA 0050 Introduction to Medieval Art

Prof. Shirin Asgharzadeh-Fozi Jones
TuTh 9:30AM-10:45AM/ Class # 23697 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for The Arts

This course explores the art of Western Europe from the conversion of Constantine in the fourth century to the invention of printing in the fifteenth century. By examining manuscripts, metalwork, sculpture and architecture, we will consider the political, theological, and social changes that informed the production of medieval art. Changes in style and iconography will be connected to the artists, patrons, and other audiences who lived in this period, and special attention will be paid to the kings, queens, monks, and crusaders whose ideas and actions shaped the history of the Middle Ages.

HAA 0070 European Visual Tradition, Renaissance - Present

Prof. Christopher Nygren
TuTh 11AM-12:15PM / Class # 25959/ Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for The Arts

This class will introduce you to the art of Europe, with a focus on the captivating period when the Middle Ages transformed into the Renaissance, and the Renaissance gave birth to modernity. We will cover the period from about 800 – 1800, during which Europe occupied a unique position of power and wealth. We will also examine the definition of “art” as it was known during this period, and consider the ways in which European artistic production was expanded during the Age of Exploration. Many of the most influential masterpieces of the Western tradition, such as Versailles and the Sistine Chapel, will be discussed in close detail. Beyond examining their aesthetic beauty, however, you will also be asked to think critically about how such monuments functioned within their social contexts and gained fame as objects of devotion, sites of commemoration, or other meaningful producers of social identity. This is a foundation course in art history, so it is not expected that you will have prior knowledge of the art, history, or cultures under consideration.

HAA 1305 Early Renaissance Architecture

Prof. Franklin K. Toker
MoWe 3:00PM-4:15PM / Class #28695

The Early Renaissance (1420-1500) in Italy marked a fundamental change in the way humankind saw and thought about the world and the built environment. This course examines the buildings, cities, projects, and theories of that period through its major designers. It concentrates on the new acceptance of rationality and modular linkage in building, which prefigures the rationality and scientific method characteristic of the modern world, and it offers students exposure to some stunningly beautiful buildings and cities.

HAA  1121 Tudor England

Prof. Emily Frances Winerock
TuTh 2:30PM-3:45PM / Class #24887 / Fulfills Dietrich School Requirement for Historical Change and Int'l Foreign Culture Regional

When Henry VII took the throne in 1485, England was just another backwater kingdom in Northern Europe. By the time Elizabeth I died in 1603, England had become a major player in European politics and was enjoying a cultural golden age whose fruits continue to feed and fascinate us. This course provides an introduction to the often colorful events and people that marked and shaped Tudor England, while also probing its controversies and darker sides. Major themes will include how the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation played out in England; domestic and foreign policies--and the assumptions that motivated them; what daily life was like for those at the top, middle, and bottom of the social hierarchy; and separating fact from fiction in the portrayal of Tudor England in movies, television shows, novels, Renaissance fairs, and popular culture. Assignments will draw on a wide range of primary sources, including plays, instruction manuals, sermons, portraits, and the writings of the famous and not so famous.

LEGLST 1315 Sex, Law and Marriage

Prof. David J. Defazio
Fr 12:00PM-2:55PM / Class #15807 

This course will survey the socio-legal aspects of marriage, marital alternatives and related modes of sexual expression. In many respects, the law in these areas has been changing dramatically, reflecting, if not causing, fundamental shifts in the values and norms surrounding intimate behavior. All of the major changes will be examined in this course, and topics such as the following will be covered: ceremonialized marriage, common law marriage, open marriage, contract marriage, homosexual and transsexual marriage, divorce (including "no-fault"), adultery, marital sodomy, marital rape, artificial insemination, test tube fertilization, abortion, illegitimacy, adoption, paternity suits, child custody, alimony and property settlements.

PHIL 0473 Philosophy of Religion

Prof. Brock A. Bahler
TuTh 11:00PM-12:15PM / Class #29042 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Philosophy

Are there good reasons for thinking that God exists? Are there good reasons for thinking that he doesn't? In this course we will examine the chief arguments for and against the existence of God, as well as other topics central to philosophy of religion: the nature of religious language, the relation of faith to reason and the use of religious experience as evidence. Members of the class will develop a working knowledge of the issues by reading and discussing traditional and contemporary authors. Lectures will be used to initiate and focus discussions.

Religious Studies

Many RELGST courses may be of interest to students pursuing Christian Studies. Representative courses are highlighted here; for a complete list of offerings, see the Dietrich School course guide.

RELGST 0025 Major Biblical Themes

Prof. Tucker Ferda
MoWeFr 10:00AM-10:50PM/ Class #20347

This course introduces students to some of the dominant themes we see in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Some of these themes include: God, creation, covenant, revelation, prophecy, wisdom, fertility, social justice, and ritual. We consider the development and function of each theme in its social and historical context across the biblical canon, comparing and contrasting how these ideas reiterate basic biblical concepts. The primary text is the Bible itself with secondary readings providing background and context.

RELGST 0105 Religions of the West

Prof. Adam B. Shear
TuTh 1:00PM-2:15PM / Class #18014 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Historical Change Comparative

This course is a historical introduction to the religious traditions that developed in ancient Near East and the Mediterranean. Our major emphasis is on the history of the religious traditions that emerged in late antiquity in this area and which continue to be major world religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Zoroastrianism. We focus on key concepts, historical developments, and contemporary issues. Throughout the course, we also examine interactions among these religious traditions. In the last part of the course we examine the issue of globalization and the spread of these religions around the world as well as the presence of "non-Western" religion in the "West." The course also serves as an introduction to the academic study of religion and provides a foundation for further coursework in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. No prior knowledge of any of the religions studied is expected or assumed.

RELGST 0405 Witches to Waldon Pond

Prof. Paula M. Kane
TuTh 11:00AM-12:15PM/ Class #29022 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Historical Change

This course introduces students to some of the dominant themes we see in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Some of these themes include: God, creation, covenant, revelation, prophecy, wisdom, fertility, social justice, and ritual. We consider the development and function of each theme in its social and historical context across the biblical canon, comparing and contrasting how these ideas reiterate basic biblical concepts. The primary text is the Bible itself with secondary readings providing background and context.

RELGST 1120 Origins of Christianity

Prof. Rebecca I Denova
MoWeFr 11-11:50 AM / Class #23777/ Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Historcal Change Regional

This course presents a historical-critical investigation of Christian origins. Special attention is paid to varieties of 1st century Hellenistic and Palestinian Judaism within the Greco-Roman world. Primary readings include selected Biblical passages and apocrypha, 1st century historians and philosophers (Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Philo), the New Testament corpus (including Paul and the Pastorals), and selected readings from the Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition there will be assignments from various modern New Testament critics, historians, and theologians.

RELGST 1372 Catholicism in the New World

Prof. Paula M Kane
TuTh 1:00PM-2:15PM / Class #28947

The course will examine the history of the Roman Catholic Church since 1492 in the Americas using various moments of internal crisis or external conflict as focal points for study. Topics will include: missionary and military contact with New World indigenous populations after 1492; the minority situation of Catholics in the new United States; the Irish famine and its global consequences; conflicts between Catholic ethnic groups; the impact of Catholic support for fascist regimes in the 1930s and 1940s; counter cultural forms of Catholicism (conscientious objectors, civil rights activists, pacifists); Vatican II and its impact; liberation theology, Marxism and structural reform in Latin America; shifting theological positions on social and moral issues; the current sexual abuse crisis; the Pope Francis effect. While the emphasis will rest upon the social, economic, and political dimensions of Catholic history, the course will also address the aesthetic and cultural legacy of Catholicism including sacred architecture, music, and the arts, in elite and popular forms.

RELGST 1760 Religion and Rationality

Prof. Brock Bahler
TuTh 2:30PM-3:45PM / Class #11935/ Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Philosophy

This is a course that is both an introduction to philosophy of religion and a brief introduction to four major philosophers: Moses Maimonides, a 12th-century Jewish thinker, Thomas Aquinas, a 13th-century Catholic theologian, Immanuel Kant, an 18th-century Protestant philosopher, and Søren Kierkegaard, a 19th-century Protestant writer. We study their answers to the following questions: Can we conceive of God at all? Can we say anything truthful about him? If so, what? If not, should we be silent about him? Can we prove that he exists? Are there ways other than reason to achieve knowledge of him (e.g., faith, love, religious experience)? Should the Bible sometimes be taken literally? If so, when? If not, is there a literal sense that underlies its figures of speech? Is happiness possible without knowledge of God? Can a perfect and unchanging God be offended by what we do? Did Jesus accomplish something by his death? What, exactly? Is there life after death? If so, what form does it take?


Duquesne University 

Because Duquesne is a Catholic university, it has extensive offerings in Christian Studies. We have listed here courses that may be of special interest to students at other universities, and for which detailed descriptions are available. For a complete list of courses offered, consult the course schedule on the registrar's Web site. Duquesne does not compile course descriptions, so if a title intrigues you, e-mail the professor and ask for more info. They'll be happy to help.

SOCI 222 Intro to Peace and Justice

Prof. Sarah MacMillan
TuTh 9:25 AM-10:40PM / Class #14253

An introduction to conceptual, practical, and spiritual dimensions of peace and justice.  Peace and justice are treated as the by-products of intra-psychic, interpersonal, situational, organizational, regional, national, and global conflict.  How do Christians and other believers approach conflict both within and external to their communities?  This course looks at theories of conflict and its transformation, driven by social and cultural-religious justice factors.  Examining cases beginning post-World War II, we will explore movements for peace and justice driven by religious and other motivations.  Satisfies University Core requirement for the Social Justice theme area.

PHIL 299 Love and Friendship

Prof. Therese Marie Bonin
MoWeFr 1:00PM-1:50PM / Class #14183

A philosophical consideration of love and friendship: the nature of love, its causes, its effects, its many manifestations, the mutual love found in friendship, the kinds of friendship, and the importance of friendship in human life.

PHIL 301 Medieval Philosophy 

Prof. Larry Harrington
Th 1:40PM-2:55PM / Class #13204

A sampling of Christian and Islamic thought from late antiquity through the 13th century, with emphasis on the continuity, development and fruitful interplay of the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions.  We will weigh the difficulty of assimilating this complex pagan heritage within the context of revealed religion and consider how medieval thinkers worked toward a solution in connection with such themes as knowledge, God's existence, the problem of evil, the relation between divine & natural causes, and the soul.

THEO 217 The Bible and Mystical Experience

Prof. Bogdan Bucur / Class #14318
Th 1:40PM-2:55 PM

This course invites students to consider the inextricable link between the interpretation of sacred authoritative texts and various claims to mystical experience in Second Temple Judaism, early Christianity, and rabbinic Judaism. We will read a number of primary texts spanning about a millennium (roughly 300 BCE – 700 CE), examine their connection with liturgical, ascetical, artistic, and community-defining practices, and their claim to aid in the attaining, sustaining, and guiding visionary, auditory, and other types of experiences that are most conveniently categorized as “mystical.” 

THEO 313 Archeology of the Bible

Prof. Jim Platt
Th 3:05PM-4:20PM / Class #14295

An illumination of the events and background of the Bible through archaeology of the historical setting and the cultural background.  After a brief introduction to the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods, we will move into the Bronze and Iron Ages where Old Testament history is primarily situated.  This will include a detailed study of the complicated archaeological picture of the holy city of Jerusalem.  A portion of the class will also be dedicated to the Roman Period (i.e., the New Testament era): the life of Christ and the ministry of Paul.  The course will include lectures and student presentations and be heavily augmented with photographs and a selection of artifacts.



Carnegie Mellon University

ENGL 76323 God: A Literary and Cultural History

Prof. Christopher Warren
MW 1:30pm-2:50pm

This course will investigate ideas about God, primarily from the Western intellectual tradition. Our readings will include selections from Hebrew and Christian scripture, Dantes Inferno, Augustines Confessions, Benedict Spinozas Theological-Political Treatise, and Carl Schmitts Political Theology, as well as more recent investigations by Pope Francis, Marilynne Robinson, and Talal Asad. Students will be responsible for a presentation and two interpretive papers.

HIST 9352 Christendom Divided: The Protestant and Catholic Reformation, 1450-1650

Prof. Allyson Crewman
TR 1:30pm-2:50pm

At the dawn of the sixteenth century, western Europeans still shared a common religion and identity as members of the Roman Catholic Church. Within less than two decades, this uniformity began to crumble, and the very fabric of western culture was irrevocably altered. By 1550, Europe was splintered into various conflicting churches, confessions, sects, and factions, each with its own set of truths and its own plan for reforming the church and society at large. This period of rapid and unprecedented change in western history is commonly known as the Reformation. Though this term has traditionally referred to the birth of Protestantism, it also encompasses the simultaneous renewal and reform that occurred within Roman Catholicism. This course will survey the Reformations of the sixteenth century, both Protestant and Catholic, examining the causes of the Reformation, the dynamics of reform, and its significance for western society and culture. In the process, we will analyze such on-going problems as religious persecution and the accommodation of dissent, the relationship between religion and politics, and the interactions between ideology and political, social, and economic factors in the process of historical change.

MUSIC 57173 A Survey of Western Music History

Prof. Paul Johnston
MW 3:00pm-4:20pm

This course surveys the development and contexts of European art music and its global adaptation. While keeping in view the chronology from Gregorian chant to the present, this survey emphasizes key personalities and issues, particularly issues relating to period style and interpretive decisions in performance.