Spring 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: 19 October 2015
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

ENGLIT 0597 The Bible as Literature

Prof. David Brumble
MoWeFr 11:00AM-11:50AM / Class #20456 / 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 0646 Apocalypse

Prof. Jeff Aziz
MoWe 4:30PM-5:45PM / Class #29486 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Literature

This course will explore our culture’s two-thousand-year-old fascination with end times.  In various media including text, film, and one video game, we will examine visions and revisions of the unmaking of the world that begin with the biblical Revelation of St. John and continue to contemporary popular culture.  Students will discover that they already know a lot about reading Christian allegory and iconography, and will find that knowledge challenged (and hopefully enriched) in a psychedelic landscape of heavenly thrones, lakes of fire, and many-headed beasts.  The genre of “apocalypse” might sound like a depressing one, but you will be astonished how much fun can be had tromping across this blasted, often radioactive wasteland, peopled with mutants, strange gods, the living dead, and conquering aliens.  Yes: there will be love among the ruins.  Along the way, we will explore the manner in which apocalyptic narratives emerge from the Hebrew and Christian scriptures and never quite forget where they came from.  Works examined in the course will include Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, Philip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, and the game Half Life 2: Episode One.

ENGLIT 1101 Invention of English

Prof. Ryan McDermott
Mo 6:00PM-8:30PM/ Class #29427 / 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 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 anthologies. Along the way, you’ll learn Middle English, a bit of Old English, and how to read medieval handwriting. These practical skills will helps us grapple with theories of authorship, performance, editing, and canon that are relevant to literature of all times and places. No experience necessary!

HIST 1110 Medieval History 1

Prof. Bruce Lanier Venarde
TuThr 11:00AM-12:15PM / Class #27008 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Historical Change Regional

“A great many things keep happening, some of them good, some of them bad.” So Gregory of Tours, a bishop in western France, began his history of the world more than 1,400 years ago. This course will consider change in Mediterranean and European society from the late Roman Empire to ca. 1000 AD, sometimes called “the Dark Ages,” and ask you to come to your own understanding of how to describe the long pre-history of Europe’s eventual domination of much of the globe. Was the early medieval period an end or a beginning? An era of perpetual crisis or creative experimentation? Good or bad? Topics will include politics, religion, gender, material culture, living conditions, economic production and exchange, art, and literature, with attention to continuities with the Roman past as well as divergences from it. We will read and ponder things written down at the time (and painted, sculpted, or built), which will sometimes be relatively straightforward and at others rather strange -- and even, like Gregory of Tours’s opening line, at least a little comical. The format is lecture-discussion, with emphasis on exchange of observations and ideas about how people understood themselves and the world around them and how we might understand them from our own perspective as the distant heirs of early medieval people. Evaluation will be based on participation in discussions and three papers.

HIST 1116 Intro to the Renaissance

Prof. Emily Frances Winerock
TuTh 4:15PM-5:15PM / Class #29793

Stores closed on Sundays; Latin medical terms; banks, tennis, and high heels—the beliefs, obsessions, and discoveries of Renaissance Europe continue to impact modern life. The new printing presses made it faster, cheaper, and easier to convey ideas to broader audiences, as well as encouraged literacy more generally. The split of western Christendom into Protestant and Catholic churches inspired intellectual and artistic creativity but also led to violence, persecution, and warfare. Modern states and national identities emerged from conflicts over dynasties, faiths, philosophies, and territories. This course examines the “rebirth” of classical forms over five hundred years ago that revolutionized education, politics, law, literature, science, art, and gender relations. Assignments will draw on documents written and material objects created during the Renaissance to help us grasp what this period of momentous change looked like from the perspective of those who were living through it.

HAA 0302 Renaissance Art

Prof. Christopher Nygren
TuTh 11-12:15 / Class # 26945 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for The Arts, 2nd Lit/ Arts / Creative Expression Regional

Transformations in the status, appearance, and meaning of artworks during the European Renaissance have profoundly affected Western visual culture. This course explores the extraordinary experiments of competitive, innovative artists and patrons, going beyond stylistic change to focus on the role of artistic invention in shaping Renaissance society. It considers the shifting functions of the visual arts in Europe between 1250 and 1600. Artists to be discussed include Giotto, Brunelleschi, Donatello, van Eyck, Botticelli, Mantegna, Leonardo, Durer, Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian. Students will be asked to write short papers on thematic issues throughout the term and, at the end of the semester, they will undertake a more substantial project that engages the research methods of art history.

HAA 1230 Pagans & Christians: Early Middle Ages

Prof. Shirin Asgharzadeh-Fozi Jones
MoWe 3:00PM-4:15PM / Class #29657

This course examines the Mediterranean world during the complex period from ca. 200-800 AD, when the traditions of ancient Rome were gradually absorbed into the new Christian cultures that would later define the European Middle Ages. The idea that Rome suffered a “decline and fall” will be critically examined, and the ways in which the newly Christianized peoples of the Roman Empire either embraced or rejected aspects of their Roman identity will be considered in detail. Major works of early Christian art and architecture will be explored in detail, and compared to surviving monuments from other traditions including Mithraism, Judaism, and Islam. Particular attention will be paid to the growing rift between the Latin West and the Greek East, and the gradual emergence of the medieval Byzantine, Abbasid, and Holy Roman Empires in the shadow of the ancient Romans. Readings will balance modern scholarship with medieval primary sources, and homework assignments will include visits to Hillman Library Special Collections and the Carnegie Museums.

LATIN 1032 Medieval Latin Authors 2

Prof. Bruce Lanier Venarde
TuTh 2:30PM-3:45PM / Class #29159

LATIN 1032 serves as an introduction to medieval Latin literature via reading and analysis of vivid narratives in two key genres: the saint's life and the Crusade narrative. We will begin with the "Life of St. Martin," the famed biography of a fourth-century AD monk, bishop, and evangelist who lived in late Roman Gaul. We then turn to the so-called "Gesta Francorum," the earliest account of the first Crusade, written by an eyewitness just before 1100 AD. The vocabulary and grammar of these texts are not quite that of classical Latin, but the adjustment is not difficult. If there is time at the end , we will read a letter or two by the early humanist polymath Petrarch, who goes out of his way to write like classical authors. Three semesters of university Latin or the equivalent are recommended, but only two are required. This course will not be offered again in the foreseeable future. Prerequisite(s)

PHIL 0010 Concepts of Human Nature

Prof. Jonathan Alphonse Butttaci
Mo 6:30PM-8:30PM / Class #25076 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Philosophy

In this course, we will consider some of the most fundamental questions in philosophy in relation the idea of human nature. Questions to be discussed include: Are human beings naturally good or evil? Do we possess freedom of the will? What is the nature of the self? And what distinguishes human beings from mere animals? Readings will be drawn from both classic philosophical sources, such as Plato, Hobbes, Rousseau, and more contemporary philosophical and scientific work on these issues. Prerequisite(s)  

PHIL 0473 Philosophy of Religion

Prof. Brock A. Bahler
TuTh 1:00PM-2:15PM / Class #27272 / 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 0105 Religions of the West

MoWe 4:30PM-5:45PM / Class #19750 / 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 0415 Religion in Modern America

Prof. Paula M. Kane
TuTh 11:00AM-12:15PM/ Class #2340 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Historical Change

The course examines the impact of religion as a moral, intellectual, and institutional force in America from 1865 to the present. Despite claims that the nation was becoming less religious, at least seven new religions were founded in the U.S. after the Civil War, while millions of migrants from southern and eastern Europe brought large numbers of Catholics and Jews to challenge the dominance of Protestants. We seek to understand how religions have both shaped and reflected economic, social, and cultural conditions in the United States. The course combines lecture with student discussion of religious conflicts and critical moments of cultural change, using primary sources and secondary interpreters. We also engage documentary films, slides, and local museums and historical sites. Major emphases include religious responses to intellectual, scientific, and economic change, including Biblical criticism, evolutionary theory, immigration, urbanization, industrialization, Marxism, fascism, racism, and feminism. We conclude with questions about the present day: is the United States an exception for its high levels of religious behavior or is secularism on the rise?

RELGST 1100 Israel in the Biblical Age

Prof. Benjamin Gordon
MoWeFr 11-11:50 AM / Class #23797 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Int'l Foreign Culture Regional

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 I Denova
TuTh 2:30PM-3:45PM / Class #10633 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Historical Change Regional

Through early Christian literature (such as non–canonical gospels and the writings of the Church Fathers) and various types of archaeological evidence, this course will examine the many different and often competing forms of Christianity that developed in the first four centuries of the common era. Among the areas of examination will be key theological issues, creedal formulation, Gnosticism, martyrdom, asceticism, Christian relations with pagans and Jews, and the battles over orthodoxy and heresy. We shall also assess the conversion of Constantine and the social and political implications of the Christianization of the Roman Empire.

RELGST 1135 Orthodox Christainity

Prof. Milica Hayden
TuTh 2:30-3:45 / Class #17340/ Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Int'l Foreign Culture Comparative

This course is designed as an overview of the history, teachings and rituals of the Orthodox Church in its multinational context. Geographically, Eastern Orthodox Christianity primarily includes Russia, south-eastern Europe and the coastal areas of the eastern Mediterranean, but there is also a large Orthodox diaspora in the western hemisphere. Understanding Orthodox Christianity -- its specific historical experience (from Byzantine and Ottoman empires to the life under communism, and beyond), its theological doctrines and spiritual practices, its rich artistic, musical and ritual expressions -- has become increasingly relevant in the post-communist era with the emergence of religion as an important aspect of cultural identity and national self-definition. Through lectures, discussions, oral presentations and visits to local Orthodox churches, students will gain an insight into the multifaceted world of Orthodox Christianity.

RELGST 1372 Catholicism in the New World

Prof. Paula M Kane
TuTh 1:00PM-2:15PM / Class #19770

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 1545 Mysticism: East and East

Prof. Milica Hayden
TuTh 9:30AM-10:45PM / Class #29185 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Int'l Foreign Culture Comparative

TMysticism, 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 will be 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.

RELGST 1760 Religion and Rationality

Prof. Brock Bahler
TuTh 4:00PM-5:15PM / Class #29632 / Fulfills Dietrich School requirement for Philosophy

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 

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.

AFST 204 Appr to Black & African Theol

Prof. Eugene Elochukwu Uzukwu
TuTh 1:40PM-2:55PM / Class #22698

This is an introductory course to theology from African and African American perspectives. Students are opened not only to Roman Catholic theological traditions but also to the diversity of approaches in theology within which Black, African and Third World theologies are located. The dislectical engagement of African and Black Theologies and the methodological and interpretative shifts that account for their emergence and ongoing development are rooted in African and Black history and tradition. The course has also added pastoral dimension; the preparation for and enhancement of ministry in the Roman Catholic Church to peoples of African descent.

ARHY 217 Religion, Reason and Visual Culture

Prof. Julia A. Sienkewicz
TuTh 12:15PM-1:30PM / Class #23108

Students will examine how faith and reason are expressed in art, and the tensions that exist between faith and reason both in the creative process itself, and in artists' responses to their cultures and religious experiences.

ENG 307 Spst:Religion/Spiritual in Lit

Prof. Kathy L. Glass
MoWeFr 12:00PM-12:50PM / Class #24361

Study of the imaginative and critical treatment of religion and religious concerns in literature. Courses in this area are typically organized around such topics as The Bible as Literature, Ethnicity and Spirituality.

CLPR 282 Origins of Catholic Faith

Fr. Drew Morgan
MoWe 3:30-5:00pm, CLPR 282 / class held at The Newman Institute 211 N. Dithridge St.

The goal of Origins of the Catholic Faith is to introduce students to a systematic and scholarly consideration of the Catholic faith.  Christ the Teacher instructs us in all aspects of human life, spiritual and historical.  The content of this course will reflect that.  We will consider issues of faith, revelation and our knowledge of God.  We will also investigate the historical development of the faith and the faith's impact on history.  The primary sources of our investigation will be Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

HIST 171 History of Christianity

Prof. Jotham Parsons
MoWe 3:00PM-4:15PM/ Class #22587

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 172 American Religious Experiences

Prof. Michael C. Carhall
TuTh 10:50AM-12:05PM / Class #24215

This course explores the history of religion in American life from the colonial period to the present. We will focus on three themes: the ways in which religion has served to reinforce and challenge social and political structures, the relationship among the individual, the church, and the state, and the ways in which religious groups have responded to competition from secular ideas and structures.

PHIL 219 Christian Philosophy

Prof. Brian Cronin
TuTh 10:50AM-12:05PM / Class #24286

This course studies the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ and other basic Christian symbols. It analyzes these in relation to the nature of religious knowledge, the problem of evil in biblical experience, and phenomenology of the holy.

PHIL 315 Thomas Aquinas

Prof. Therese Marie Bonin
MoWeFr 11:00AM-11:50AM / Class #24290

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.

THEO 220 Jesus the Christ

Prof. Stephen Patrick Doering
Th 6:00PM-8:40PM / Class #22381

An introduction to the study of Jesus as Christ and Savior, concentrating on the principle mysteries of his existence. The insights of the New Testament and the early church councils will receive special attention, as well as representative interpretations among the theologians.

THEO 251 Sexuality, Sex and Morality

Prof. Elizabeth Agnew Cochran
TuTh 10:50AM-12:05PM / Class #13231

An analysis of the nature of sex and sexuality in Christian thought, and of the relevance of these concepts for contemporary moral life.


Carnegie Mellon University

76441 Uncensored Chaucer

Prof. Peggy Knapp
MW 3:00pm-4:20pm

We will read most of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in Middle English; his language is odd-looking and may ruin your spelling temporarily, but easily mastered. We will also consider some brief accounts of late medieval institutions and traditions (chivalry, religious life, marriage, etc.). Most class meetings will consist of discussions that examine Chaucer’s fictions in relation to the social conditions they imply and the tellers’ stakes in the telling. While we are discussing the General Prologue, I will ask each of you to identify the pilgrim through whose eyes you will try to read each of the tales (in addition, of course, to seeing from your own vantage point). As the course goes on, you will thereby become an expert on one of the social roles portrayed in Chaucer’s fictional universe. Late in the term we will read his narrative poem Troilus and Criseyde, considered by some the first English novel. When you finish the course, you will know a great deal about medieval England, an early phase of the language we still speak, and the first great realist narratives in our language. Chaucer’s work is challenging, surprising, and fun.

Required are near-perfect attendance, steady participation, and three papers.

79202 Flesh and Spirit: Early Modern Europe, 1400-1750

Prof. Allyson Creasma
TR 1:30PM-2:50PM

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.

79427 Russia's Demons

Prof. Charlene Castellano
TR 12:00PM-1:20PM

Demons, devils, witches, sorcerers and all sorts of malevolent spirits infested the forests, fields, waters and farms of the peasants in Old Russia. Their world was a pagan one, and even when Christianity finally came to it in the tenth century, pagan beliefs did not give way. The new Christian teachings were reshaped to fit in to the traditional cosmology, and throughout the eighteenth century, and even into the early nineteenth in some isolated regions, a "double belief" was maintained - one that became double trouble with two sources of forces to fear.This course begins with a brief look at the demonic world of the Russian folk, and comes to focus on the ways in which writers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries drew on its resources in order to give expression to their own fears about political and social developments of their day. Under study are the outstanding exemplars of the literary demonism for which Russian literature is known. These are: Aleksandr Pushkin (The Bronze Horseman), Mikhail Lermontov (The Demon), Nikolai Gogol (Viy), Fyodor Dostoevsky (Demons, also known as The Possessed), Andrey Bely (Petersburg) and Mikhail Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita).The course follows a seminar format. Attentive reading and enthusiastic participation in class discussions are musts. Also required are four thoughtful and full-blown essays about the authors and works under study, at least one of which is research based.This is a 9-unit course. But for those proficient in Russian, a total of 12 units can be earned by conducting some portion of the work in Russian and meeting outside of class for some additional hours. Details are to be worked out in advance, in consultation with the instructor.

57477 Music of the Spirit

Prof. Paul Johnston
F 1:30PM-3:20PM

This is a guided listening course which surveys musical explorations of spirituality. 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.

80276 Philosophy of Religion

Prof. Kevin Kelly
TR 10:30AM-11:50AM

In order to expand our ideas about what religion could be, the course begins with a brief cross-cultural review of some major religious traditions around the world. Then we turn to some more traditional arguments for and against theism, including the ontological, cosmological, and design arguments, the argument from religious experience, the argument from miracles and historical testimony, and the problem of evil. We will also consider whether morality ultimately depends on God's sanctions and (yes, here it is at Carnegie Mellon) whether life would be meaningless if God did not exist.