Spring 2018 Christian Studies Course Guide

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

Last updated: 25 October 2017
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.

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University of Pittsburgh

ENGLIT 597 Bible as Literature

Prof. Mark Best
Tu 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. / 28260
This course continues Bible as Literature, and students will examine various forms of biblical literature including prophecy, apocalyptic literature, wisdom literature, psalms and poetry, New Testament epistles, and narrative materials not covered in the earlier course. We will consider these works in terms of literary form and style, and in their origin historical and cultural contexts. We will also read non-biblical texts from the ancient world that help us to better understand the Bible as a literary work.

ENGLIT 1797 Bible as Literature 2

Prof. Mark Best
Th 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. / 26914
Sequel to Bible as Literature. No description available.

ENGLIT 1101 Invention of English

Prof. Ryan McDermott
MoWe 4:40 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. / 31347
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, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Piers Plowman. 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 ABCs, 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.

ENGLIT 1115 Chaucer

Prof. Ryan McDermott
MoWe 3:00 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. / 31348
English literature does not begin with Chaucer, but in many ways it might as well. So many Anglophone authors have looked to Chaucer as “the father of English poetry” that his work wields outsize sway over later authors. In this course, we will read the large majority of Chaucer’s most mature work, The Canterbury Tales, with a view to its pivotal role in English literary history. By focusing on The Canterbury Tales, we will be led to explore the traditions Chaucer translates and adapts, his innovations, and the use to which later authors put him. Chaucer is also a window onto the later Middle Ages, and we will of necessity consider the political, social, and religious world in which The Canterbury Tales emerged. Perhaps most importantly, this course will immerse you in the dialect of Middle English that forms the linguistic DNA of your life. Middle English is a “foreign language” that you already know (without knowing it) and you will be able to read it on the first day of class without any study of vocabulary or grammar—Chaucer promises all the pleasure of reading poetry in another language at a 75% labor discount!

FP 6 First-Year Seminar: Writing the Spiritual

Prof. Renee Prymus
TuTh 01:00 p.m. - 02:15 p.m. / 26112
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. We will explore the following inquiries: How do authors write about what they 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. This course welcomes students who want to use writing to explore their own spiritual lives and learn about the spiritual lives of others. This course includes an introduction to mindfulness and meditation.  First-Year Seminar (FP 0006) is offered in the spring term to first-year students. It fulfills the Seminar in Composition requirement in the School of Arts and Sciences. As with First-Year Seminar (FP 0003), this course uses readings, writing assignments, and discussions to explore a focused topic and examine ways in which high school and college-level writing differ.

HPS 620 Science and Religion

Prof. Brock Bahler
TuTh 1:00 pm. – 2:15 p.m. / 27757
This advanced undergraduate course addresses two questions: does the scientific understanding of the world suffer from a kind of incompleteness that can be remedied by the super naturalist religions? Or is there even a clash between contemporary science and such religion?

ITAL 1085 Dante, Petrarch, And Boccaccio

Prof. James K, Coleman
TuTh 11:00 am. – 12:15 p.m. / 29650
Dante’s Divine Comedy is one of the most influential literary works of all time. In this course, which covers the key episodes of Dante’s three-part epic (with particular emphasis on Inferno), we will follow Dante’s journey through the terrifying abysses of Hell to the luminous expanses of Heaven. We will examine works and phenomena inspired by Dante across a range of fields and genres, including film, video games, visual arts, music, television, and graphic novels. Students will thereby gain an understanding of the remarkable cultural impact of Dante’s work from his own time to today, in Italy, the U.S., and across the globe. This course, taught in English, satisfies the Literature General Education Requirement, and counts for the Italian minor and majors.

PHIL 1760 Religion & Rationality

Prof. Brock Bahler
MoWe 3:00 pm. – 4:15 p.m. / 30555
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?

RELGST 105 Religions of the West

Prof. Paula Kane
TuTh 4:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. / 18504
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, and Islam. We will also touch on 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 1100 Israel in the Biblical Age

Prof. Benjamin Davis Gordon
MoWeFr 11:00 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. / 22190
This course explores the history and development of the people of Israel in ancient times. What do we know about the Israelites and how do we know it? Students will read both biblical and extra-biblical materials and study the remains of key archaeological sites. They will learn about everyday life in ancient Israel, the role of class and gender, life-cycle events, religious festivals, political institutions, systems of belief, and famous personages in history and lore. The trajectory of the course will begin with the near eastern origins of the people, continue through the rise of the Israelite and Judahite monarchies, and end with the post-exilic reestablishment of the second temple commonwealth in the Persian period.

RELGST 1130 Varieties of Early Christianity

Prof. Rebecca Denova
TuTh 4:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m. / 10554
This course will examine the many different and often competing forms of Christianity that existed during the first five centuries of our common era. We will include an historical survey of Mediterranean culture and society in the historical Roman Empire to help us understand the ways in which Christianity developed in relation to the philosophical, sociological, theological, and political environment of this period. We will also focus on the contribution of the early varieties of Christianity to modern Western views of the relationship between the individual body and society. The literature of this period represents a broad variety of beliefs and practices ranging from philosophical views of god and matter (and the nature of each), to notions of life-long celibacy.

RELGST 1135 Orthodox Christianity

Prof. Joel Brady
MoWe 4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. / 26417
To provide an insight into the history, doctrines and rituals of the orthodox Christian tradition in Eastern Europe from the byzantine through contemporary period. Orthodox rituals will also be reviewed and studied.

RELGST 1545 Mysticism: East And East

Prof. Milica Hayden
TuTh 2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. / 29607
Mysticism, understood as a living experience of theological doctrines, constitutes an unexpected point of convergence between such different religious traditions as Hinduism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity. In this course we look into how this spiritual kinship is forged from distinct practices in India and in the traditions of eastern Christianity, by examining the selected mystical writings of both religious traditions. The course is structured around three central themes: 1) God as Mystery: negative theology (Hindu and Orthodox ways of unknowing the divine). 2) God as Person: the Hindu notion of avatar and Orthodox understanding of incarnation, and 3) God as Prayer: two selected methods of contemplation (Hindu yoga and Orthodox hesychast prayer). The course is based largely on reading and discussion of primary sources (in English translation) supplemented with selected secondary sources to help enhance students' understanding of the comparative method, on the one hand, and symbolic, often enigmatic and sometimes "upside-down" language of the mystical texts, on the other. The course is based largely on reading and discussion of primary sources (in English translation) supplemented with selected secondary sources to help enhance students' understanding of the comparative method, on the one hand, and symbolic, often enigmatic and sometimes "upside-down" language of the mystical texts, on the other.

Duquesne University

ENGL 406W-61 Pilgrimage Narratives

Prof. Sarah Wright
Th 6:00 p.m. – 8:40 p.m.

HIST 171-01 History of Christianity

Prof. Jotham Parsons
MoWeFr 10:00 a.m. – 10:50 a.m. / 26101
This course traces the development of the Christian religion from its obscure origins to its present status as a diverse world religion with hundreds of millions of adherents. Our focus is on the ways in which the thought and organization of the Christian churches have responded to the enormously diverse societies and cultures in which they have existed. 

HIST 174-B01 Sacred Places: Faith, History, Geography

Professor TBA
TuTh 4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. / 21094
Students will examine how sacred or holy places are identified with and reveal a culture’s search for truth so as to gain insights into those cultures’ unique worlds. As students study how the spiritual and physical coincide, they will also learn of shared themes among diverse cultures, such as how place grounds faith. 

THEO 332-01 Jesus of Nazareth: History & Theology

Prof. William Wright
TuTh 9:25 a.m. – 10:40 a.m. / 26287
Jesus of Nazareth is the most historically important and influential person who has ever lived. Over the centuries, billions of people have believed this 1st century Jewish man to be the incarnation (or "enfleshment") of God and to be powerfully alive, present, and active today. Many non-Christians also admire him for his teachings and religious significance. This course will be an extensive study of the life of Jesus of Nazareth as it is given in our best historical sources about his life: the four Gospels in the New Testament. By placing Jesus in the historical setting of 1st century Palestinian Jewish life under Roman rule, we seek to grasp what the words, deeds, and events of his earthly life would have meant in his own day. In doing so, we will also attend to the ways in which the four evangelists receive and interpret the figure of Jesus in their Gospels. Our goal will be to arrive at a better understanding of this most historically important individual, whom Christians believe to be God become human.

THEO 507-01 Sacramentality in Comparative Theology

Prof. Devassikutty Madathummuriyil
We 9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. / 25912
This course provides a substantive graduate level exploration of the notion of sacramentality from a comparative-theological perspective. The study includes introducing the method of comparative theology and the exercise of this method in the study of two religious traditions, i.e., Hinduism and Christianity. The study focuses on Ramanja (1017-1137) who developed a sacramental worldview and worship in Sri Vaishnava tradition. The course also presents a detailed examination of sacramentality from the perspective of pneumatology and grace, with specific reference to important theologians such as Karl Rahner, Jürgen Motman and various sacramental world-views in the Orthodox traditions as well as the pan-en-theistic view in contemporary theology.

THEO 524-61 Roman Catholicism in the Long 19th Century

Prof. Kenneth Parker
We 6:00 p.m. – 8:40 p.m. / 26289
When the long nineteenth century (1789-1914) is studied by historians of Christianity, it is commonly examined as a period in which an aggressive secularization marginalized religious practice in society, when the rise of historical consciousness called into question long held assumptions about the Christian past, and when the emergence of scientific positivism displaced appeals to revealed truth. This course explores how Catholics in this period responded to these challenges. Central to the theme of this course is the question: Why did challenges to the Catholic faith result in expanded claims for papal authority, and contribute to the Romanization of the Catholic Church around the world?

WSGS 234-01 Sinners and Saints

Prof. Sarah Miller
TuTh 10:50 a.m. – 12:05 p.m. / 26240
This course examines the complicated relationship between sanctity, sin, and illness in attitudes toward women in the later middle ages. Students will consider how medieval writers conceptualized the mystical experiences, martyrdoms, and illnesses of women in particular, students will grapple with the ways sex and gender shape texts by comparing how men and women wrote about the female soul and body. A range of literary genres will be consulted: hagiography, autobiography, and medical treatises.  

HONR 145-01 Honors Theology

Prof. Kevin Mongrain
TuTh 1:40 p.m. – 2:55 p.m. / 26141

HONR 145-02 Honors Theology

Prof. Bogdan Bucur
MoWeFr 2:00 p.m. – 2:50 p.m. / 26142
This is an ambitious course designed specifically for Honors students. It offers an introduction to three distinct area: (1) an introduction to a number of “key” texts of the Bible in their historical, cultural, political and literary contexts; (2) an introduction to biblical theology, focussed on the notions of covenant and theophany, and guided, methodologically, by the study of "reception history of the Bible"—that is, how biblical texts have been received and reinterpreted in later (in our case, Christian) tradition; (3) an introduction to Christian Origins, that is, the the gradual transformation of an obscure Jewish sect into a distinct world religion during the first three centuries CE.

PHIL 315W-01 Thomas Aquinas

Prof. Therese Bonin
MoWeFr 11:00 a.m. –11:50 a.m. / 26015
An introduction to the philosophical thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, focusing on such topics as God, nature, knowledge, language, the problem of evil, and the relation between faith and reason.


Carnegie Mellon University

79-202 Flesh and Spirit: Early Modern Europe

Prof. Allyson Creasman
TuTh 10:30 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.
This course examines European history from the Black Death to the French Revolution, a period known to history as the early modern period. That is, it marks a period in European history that was not quite medieval, and yet not quite modern. Many features of modern society, such as the nation-state, free-trade economies, religious pluralism, scientific rationalism, and secular culture trace their origins to the early modern era, yet the period was also marked by important continuities with the Middle Ages. During this course, we will explore how Europeans re-imagined their world in its transition from the medieval to the modern. Topics to be considered will include the renaissance of the arts, the problems of religious reform, exploration and colonialism, the rise of science, and the expansion of the state. Through these developments, we will focus on Europeans changing notions of the human body, the body politic, and the natural world, as well as their re-interpretations of the proper relation between the human and the divine, the individual and the community, and the present and the past.

57-477 Music of the Spirit

Prof. Paul Johnston
Fr 1:30 p.m. – 3:20 p.m.
This guided listening course is a musical exploration of spirituality, musicological, and ethnomusicological survey organized around comparative religions. While the majority of repertoire will be from the Western Classical tradition, musics of a variety of cultures will be included. The music will be organized by particular religious traditions and by universal themes, such as community, death/afterlife, birth/new birth, martyrs/heroes, transcendence/immanence, meditation/contemplation/trance, etc. Most course materials, including streaming audio, are online, with one meeting per week in the classroom. Will include participatory introductions to numerous forms of chant. Requires oral and written reports. No prerequisites.

80-276 Philosophy of Religion

Prof. Kevin Kelly
TuTh 10:30 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.
While many interesting questions about religion are belief-specific, we will strive in this course to keep a global perspective. We will begin by considering a concept at the center of Western religion -- God -- as it presents itself in various traditions. We will then move to consider major Eastern religions, with a focus on their influence on philosophical thought. In both of these studies, we will emphasize the relationship between language and religion. We will conclude the course by considering commonalities between Eastern and Western religious thought. The student should leave the course with 1) the tools to consider religious text and rhetoric philosophically, and 2) a sharpened idea of what religion is (though this might differ from my own).