Fall 2017 Christian Studies Course Guide

Last updated: 26 August 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 and Katherine Kidd
Th 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. / Class #10773

The focus of this course is reading and examining the Bible as a literary text or, more accurately, as a collection of widely diverse literary texts. Most of this course will focus on narrative portions of the Bible, although we will see how other literary forms are often interwoven throughout the Bible’s stories. Among the topics we will consider in this course are: the origins of biblical texts and their historical contexts; the Bible’s own representations of history, particularly the history of Israel; the nature of God throughout the Bible; human-divine relations and covenants; different critical approaches to the Bible); the figure of Jesus; apocalyptic literature; and the various themes, motifs, and literary forms that bring these issues together. We will also look at different uses of the Bible as a way of understanding biblical narrative, including different translations and paraphrases, and Bible stories in art, literature, and popular culture.

FP 0003 Freshman Seminar: Science Fiction and Myth

Prof. Laura Dice
Tu 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. / Class #11487

The work of this seminar considers science fiction and its use of myth and religion in its narratives.  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 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 to go beyond the structures of high school writing. You should have a strong interest in science fiction and mythology, a familiarity with 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). Due to this, additional meetings and activities will occur outside of scheduled class times. FP 0001 is designed especially for first-term students as an introduction to the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. Through class work and out-of-class activities, students will gain knowledge of the educational opportunities at the University, the cultural events on and off campus, and an understanding of what it means to be a liberal arts student. All students who enroll in this course will receive a free academic planner on the first day of class. This course is part of the Gods and Androids Academic Community.

ITAL 80 Italian Cultural Heritage 1

Prof. James Coleman
TuTh 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. / Class #19938

The literature, art, and culture of medieval and Renaissance Italy has had a profound impact on Western culture that continues in the present day. This course explores Italian culture during this pivotal period, introducing students to Dante's Inferno and its astonishing account of the author's journey through Hell, as well as works by Petrarch, Boccaccio, and other major Italian authors. The class will investigate connections between Italian literature in this period and developments in painting, sculpture, music, and other art forms. We will reflect critically on the appropriateness of the positive value judgments conventionally linked with the use of the term "Renaissance," with particular attention to the difficulties faced by women and minority groups during this period. No prerequisites. No knowledge of Italian is required. The course satisfies the the School of Arts & Sciences Foreign Culture Requirement.

PHIL 473 Philosophy of Religion

Prof. Brock Bahler
TuTh 11:00 am. – 12:15 p.m. / Class #27387

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.

RELGST 105 Religions of the West

Prof. Adam Shear
MoWeFr 11:00 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. /Class #18435

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 1370 Global Christianity

Prof. Paula Kane
TuTh 1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. /Class #29020

This course takes Christianity as a prism through which to consider the origins and growth of global religions. Christianity has tried to achieve a global status since its inception in the ancient Mediterranean world in the first century. Stemming from Paul’s fateful decision to evangelize the gentiles, Christianity has long sought to achieve a global network of believers, which now comprise about 20% of the world’s population. In this course, we study Christian globalization in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and focus on two Christian traditions, Catholicism and Pentacostalism, as examples of religions that have deliberately and successfully globalized. We ask if the contemporary values of and pluralism and relativism are good for religions and religious people. And, where religion is no longer a powerful cultural force, what are the prospects for a purely humanitarian approach to common problems in a globalizing world?

RELGST 1540 Saints East and West

Prof. Milica Hayden
TuTh 2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. / Class #29022

A Russian monk once observed that "each saint is a unique event." Indeed, in various religious traditions we encounter men and women who are recognized and venerated as particularly holy and unique witnesses to the divine. Just as each saint is unique within his or her tradition so is each tradition of saints unique in its articulation and expression of the overall religious culture. By looking cross-culturally at the materials on saints selected for this course and discussing (problematizing) the notion of sainthood itself, we examine religious themes, ideas and symbols found in them. These diverse writings are often marked by a very personal tone, a deeply felt relation with the divine (sometimes reflecting saint's inner struggles and/or their mystical experience of union), but also by pleas and calls for social and/or religious reforms. Our examples of devotional literature include Hindu, Muslim, and Christian sources, medieval as well as modern. Even though originating in specific religious contexts, many of these narratives raise issues which have wider human appeal and hence relevance for us today, too.

RELGST 1760 Religion and Rationality

Prof. Brock Bahler
TuTh 2:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. / Class #11841

This course critically examines how religious and nonreligious thinkers have navigated the relation between faith and reason throughout the history of Western thought. Special attention will be paid to evaluating how the relationship between religion and philosophy within Western religious thought has shaped current debates regarding politics, race, gender, and science.

Duquesne University

ARHY 217-01 Religion, Reason, and Vis Culture

Prof. Julia Sienkewicz
TuTh 3:05 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.

Learning Objectives: By the end of this course, the student will: • demonstrate recognition of how the relationship of religious faith and reason in various Western cultures has affected the arts • master art historical vocabulary and develop the ability to critically analyze works of art; • develop an understanding of how religion and reason, in unity or in conflict, separately or together, have had an impact upon artistic intention and creation • dissect their responses to works with religious content or subtext; • engage in critical thinking about and critical reading of art historical and interdisciplinary issues relating to the theme of art and religion; • explain how intellect, affect, moral development, and religious faith work together in learning and find expression in works of art.

COMM 103 Interpersonal Communication

Prof. Anthony Wachs
TuTh 12:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

In this course we exam understandings of personness and the self, and one’s relationship with other persons. As a part of Duquesne University’s Social Justice Core Theme area, we examine justice as a virtue that can guide person’s to happier relationships and a better world. Finally, we distinguish between the forms of loves that are created by and sustain different forms of relationships.

COMM 201 Human Communication in a Technological Age

Prof. Anthony Wachs
TuTh 10:50 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.

In this course, we engage ethical and practical implications of an increasingly mediated society in which people create, use, and are influenced by technological change in every sphere of human communication. Students explore theoretical questions concerning new communication technologies and applications -- learning to ask not "can it be done?", but "should it be done?" Along these lines, we will examine how developments in technology threaten the cultural/value structures that enable human beings to answer the latter question. Students learn to build communicative practices in which technology assists rather than controls human communication.

COMM 461/561 Rhetorical Theory

Prof. Anthony Wachs
TuTh 4:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.

Through the reading of primary and secondary texts, we examine theories of persuasion and eloquence. Rhetorical effectiveness will be posited as a function of understanding the nature of a “worldview” and the ability to move another soul. Along these lines, we will exam pistis (the Greek term that can be translated as both “modes of persuasion” and faith) as central to the study of rhetoric. Additionally, we will situate the study of rhetoric within the classical and medieval trivium, or arts of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. 

HONR 145-03 Honors Theology

Prof. Radu Bordeianu
TuTh 9:25 a.m. – 10:40 a.m.

We will attempt an investigation into the identity of Jesus the Christ. We will insist on his Jewish, human, and divine identities as portrayed in the Bible, as well as visual representations of Jesus in various historical, geographical, and socio-political contexts by focusing on works of art through the centuries.

In order to become familiar with key biblical texts relevant for Christology, be aware of the ways in which early Christian traditions have regarded Jesus, and understand the historical mechanisms that led to multiple understandings of the identity of Jesus, we will study selected passages from the Bible, and we will analyze a significant number of paintings, sculptures, films, and musical compositions based on the book by Jaroslav Pelikan, The Illustrated Jesus through the Centuries. 

PHIL 301W Medieval Philosophy

Prof. Bonin
MoWeFr 11:00 a.m. –11:50 a.m.

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 di culty 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 and natural causes, and the soul.

POSC 101-01 Cath Thgt, State Security in the Modern World

Prof. John Sawicki
MoWeFr 9:00 a.m. – 9:50 a.m.

The increasing tensions of the present security environment can have a strangling effect on the spirit and ethos of moral reason, and faith founded social institutions. The State needs to be secure and have its people secure. Doing so, however, may involve hard choices to do things it would not do ordinarily. How can a principled and faith founded people respond to these exigencies? This course introduces the student to the rich tradition of Roman Catholic thinking on the subject of war, peace, and the State and the dignity of the individual. It will then open a conversation with some of the other approaches to contemporary problems, as well as assess responses to pressing security issues confronting the world. 

THEO 206-01 Christian Mysticism

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

The course centers on the mystical theology of Christian religion. The main texts will be the Bible and primary texts from the tradition of Christian mystical writings. With an eye on discerning the internal logic of Christianity as a whole (not just its doctrines but it rituals and spiritual disciplines too), the course begins with a reflection on a paradigm of Christian theology that emphasizes the “iconic” nature of God-talk; this paradigm views theological words and ideas as the “letters” that seek to express the spiritual reality of God’s ineffable mystery without reducing it to a verbal or conceptual idol. This is the essence of written testimonies to mystical experience in the Christian tradition. The mystical and the esoteric are necessary for understanding the doctrinal and exoteric truth claims in the entirety of the Christian tradition. As one illustration, the course applies this paradigm of “iconic” writing as a lens for interpreting the development of classical Christological and Trinitarian doctrine, as well as the development of the theology of grace. Finally it examines several primary texts by spiritual-mystical theologians from the tradition. Overall the focus of the course is on the symbiosis of Christian mysticism and a Christological-Trinitarian doctrine of God. The course will include writings by authors such as Origen, Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, John Cassian, Maximus the Confessor, Richard of St. Victor, Anselm, Bernard of Clairvaux, Bonaventure, Meister Eckhart, John Ruusbroec, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Francis de Sales.

THEO 212-01 Sacred Scriptures of Ancient Israel

Prof. Bogdan Gabriel Bucur
TuTh 1:40 p.m. – 2:55 p.m.

This course provides an introduction to some of the most important texts, themes, and persons of the Hebrew Bible, with an eye to the role they have played in constructing and reinforcing individual and communal identity—specifically the identity of the people of Israel. We will alternate between scholarly readings of the texts, reflecting the broad consensus (or, in some case, the main positions) of specialists in the area, and traditional readings stemming from various ancient interpreters weaving exegesis, ritual, and ethics into the sacred canopy—the symbolic universe—of Judaism and Christianity. 

THEO 228-01 The Birth of the Bible

Prof. James Platt
TuTh 3:05 p.m. – 4:20 p.m.

Among the common questions heard in Biblical circles are: How did we get the Bible? How can we be sure that the books it contains are the books that are supposed to be there? What about all those other books—books like the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene—what are we to make out of them? This course will consider these questions and others as we seek to explain how the Bible came to be a book, and how the contents included were ultimately settled upon. This course will also include reflections on the origins of Christianity and incorporate readings from many of the so-called “other books.” 

SOC 210/WSGS 210 Sociology of Sex and Gender

Prof. Sarah MacMillen
TuTh 1:40 p.m. – 2:55 p.m.

This course will explore the domain of sexual identity, the concomitant notion of the social construction of gender, and the concept of deviance. While our point of departure is distinctively sociological, we will attempt to examine the issues in a broader context. Consequently, we will be drawing from diverse fields such as philosophy, cultural anthropology, psychology, literature, and popular culture. The readings will focus on power, addressing the conditions under which the gender system intersects with other factors to create various kinds of power and powerlessness. We will analyze contemporary films for what they can tell us about the popular conceptions of sex and gender identities, relations, and constructions. The readings will also address how people empower themselves, both personally and collectively. We will have numerous guest speakers, and although it will be a standard lecture course, active student participation will be highly encouraged.

Carnegie Mellon University

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