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Religion

 
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The curricular mission of the Department of Religion is to lead students who major in Religion and Culture to understand religion as a significant part of the human experience, simultaneously shaping and being shaped by cultures, societies and worldviews. To this end, students will become acquainted with the sacred scriptures and basic history and tenets of major world religions. Students will acquire a more in-depth understanding of the histories, beliefs and scriptures of Judaism and Christianity and will have the opportunity to explore more fully the third of the Abrahamic religions, Islam; they will understand the roles of the dialectical relationship between religion and the societies in which they are embedded with respect to such issues as science and religion and engagement with contemporary culture. Students will come to understand the roles that religion sacred texts play both to legitimate and to challenge given cultural norms and practices. Students will be encouraged to recognize that religion plays its most significant role in society when it assumes a stance to affirm human dignity and to challenge social and cultural structures that diminish such dignity. Finally, students will learn essential skills to do original research in religion appropriate for undergraduate students.

Students interested in studying religion, either as a major or minor, should strongly consider submitting an application for the Vocational and Spiritual Exploration scholarship and the Hester Scholarship.  Click here for more information.

Degree programs offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Culture
  • Minor in Religious Studies

The Major 
Religion and Culture
Students are encouraged not to take higher-level courses until they have completed courses in the previous level. CTI 100, The Responsible Self (4), or permission of the instructor, is a prerequisite for all intermediate and advanced religion courses. For non-majors, completion of a “Sacred and Secular” course or permission of the instructor is a prerequisite for taking intermediate and advanced religion courses. During the senior year, students will complete a senior project as part of the advanced capstone course. Students fulfilling any requirements through overseas study must get prior approval from the department chair. The major consists of 26-29 hours as follows:

Required Courses
REL 115                       Exploration of the World’s Sacred Scriptures (4)
REL 270                       Religion in the Modern Age (4)
REL 215                       Reading the Bible Then and Now (4)
     or REL 272             Judaism, Christianity and Islam (4)
REL 275                       Magic, Science and Religion (4)
     or REL 276             God, Nature and Science (4)
REL 375                       Issues in the Study of Religion (4)
REL 470                       Capstone: Religion, Social Stability and Social Change (4)

Designated Elective (2-5 hours)
One of the following:
1)   REL 215 or 272 or 275 or 276 (a class not used to meet one of the above requirements)
2)   Internship or overseas study experience approved by the department
3)   A course from another discipline or subject that involves the study of religion or a subject that complements or enriches the study of religion.  The department must approve any such course that is not on the following list:
ARA 211  Intermediate Modern Arabic I
ART 250  Western Art History I
ART 353  Greek and Roman Art and Mythology (3 or 4 hrs)
BIO 133  Evolution and Ecology (5 hrs. with lab)
BIO 134  Biological Diversity and Design (5 hrs. with lab)
CRV 203  Ministry Internship (2 hrs)
CTI 258  Astronomy and Cosmology (5 hrs. with lab)
CTI 259  The Ecology of Food (5 hrs. with lab)
ENG 330  Introduction to Textual Study
GRK 215  Intermediate Ancient Greek
HIS 103  World History to 1600
HIS 104  World History since 1600
HIS 229  History of the Middle East
HIS 322  World War II and the Holocaust
LAT 213  Intermediate Latin
LSP 100  Introduction to Philanthropy, Volunteerism & Nonprofit Sector (2 hrs.)
LSP 250  Leadership: Cornerstone Course (2 hrs.)
MUS 344  Christian Hymnody
PHI 202  Ethics
PHI 215  History of Western Philosophy I
PHI 216  History of Western Philosophy II
PHI 353  Environmental Ethics
PHI 357  Contemporary Philosophy of Science
PHI 361  Philosophy of Religion
POL 215-220  Approved courses appropriate to complement major in religion (e.g., Christianity and Politics, Israel/Palestine Peace, etc.)


The Minor 
Religious Studies
The curricular mission of the Department of Religion is to lead students who minor in Religious Studies to understand religion as a significant part of the human experience, simultaneously shaping and being shaped by cultures, societies and worldviews. To this end, students will become acquainted with the sacred scriptures and basic history and tenets of major world religions. Students will learn essential skills to do original research in religion appropriate for undergraduate students. Students will have the option to acquire a more in-depth understanding of 1) the histories and beliefs of the Abrahamic religions, or 2) the roles of the dialectical relationship between religion and the societies in which they are embedded with respect to such issues as science and religion and engagement with contemporary culture or 3) the roles that religion and sacred texts play both to legitimate and to challenge given cultural norms and practices. Students will be encouraged to recognize that religion plays its most significant role in society when it assumes a stance to affirm human dignity and to challenge social and cultural structures that diminish such dignity. The minor consists of 16 hours as follows:

Required Courses
REL 115                       Exploration of the World’s Sacred Scriptures (4)
REL 375                       Issues in the Study of Religion (4)
8 additional hours from any 200-level REL courses


Course Descriptions
REL 115 Exploring the World’s Sacred Scriptures (4 cr. hrs.)
This course offers a comparative study of the scriptures of the world, including the Jewish TaNaK, the Christian New Testament, the Muslim Quran, the Buddhist Pali Canon and the Hindu Puranas. Students will learn important information about the historical and cultural backgrounds of these texts and some foundational features of the religions that these texts represent.

REL 215 Reading the Bible Then and Now (4 cr. hrs.)
Employing an intertextual reading strategy, this course surveys the biblical story and the history of reading the biblical text from Christian and Jewish perspectives. Focused attention is given to contemporary readings of the Bible from various cultural and social locations. Prerequisite for majors and minors: REL 115. Offered every spring. Cross-listed as CTI 240. It is recommended that students enrolling in this course be eligible to take Level-II CTI courses.

REL 270 Religion in the Modern Age (4 cr. hrs.)
Through the study of significant shapers of modern religious studies, students explore how human communities create and maintain worlds of meaning in response to experiences of the sacred. The ongoing significance of religion in a modern context, influenced by skepticism and scientific naturalism, is given focused attention. Recommended prerequisite for majors and minors: REL 115. Offered every fall. Cross-listed as CTI 238.  It is recommended that students enrolling in this course be eligible to take Level-II CTI courses.

REL 272 Judaism, Christianity and Islam (4 cr. hrs.)
This course examines separately the historical development of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and then moves to historical and contemporary comparisons among these three great monotheistic religions. The study also explores the significant instances of intellectual and textual cross-fertilization that have shaped the development of these religions. Visits to representative places of worship will be part of the learning experience. Recommended prerequisite for majors and minors: REL 115. Offered regularly. Cross-listed as CTI 239.  It is recommended that students enrolling in this course be eligible to take Level-II CTI courses.

REL 275 Magic, Science and Religion (4 cr. hrs.)
This course studies the distinctions that emerge between magic, science and religion when seeking to understand whether and how a civilization’s reasons for confidence in science differ from those that support its belief in religion. The course will be structured around the categories, often applied to religion, of mystery, salvation, causation and theodicy as they apply to all three topics (magic, science and religion). Recommended prerequisite for majors and minors: REL 115. Offered every fall. Cross-listed as CTI 236. It is recommended that students enrolling in this course be eligible to take Level-II CTI courses.

REL 276  God, Nature and Science  (4 cr. hrs.)
Students will learn essential features of the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution, as well as religious, primarily Christian, arguments both challenging and affirming the theory. Evolution grounds human existence interdependently within nature, not over and above nature, a status that religion can either endorse or challenge. The course explores biblical responses to the issue of human ecological responsibility, including the study of both "green-friendly" and "not-so-green-friendly" texts. Offered every spring. Also listed as CTI 234. It is recommended that students enrolling in this course be eligible to take Level-II CTI courses.

REL 375  Issues in the Study of Religion  (4 cr. hrs.)
This seminar explores a selected topic of contemporary significance in religious studies, employing critical methods of investigation in order to develop skills as students of religion. Students will read and analyze texts appropriate for an undergraduate seminar in religion and employ such texts in the construction of an individual research paper. Students may repeat the course if different issues are studied. Recommended prerequisites for majors: REL 115, 270 and Elective Religion Courses or permission of the instructor; prerequisites for minors: REL 115 and completion of REL 200-level courses or permission of the instructor. Offered each spring.

REL 341 Christianity in Non-Western Cultures (2 cr. hrs.)
Introduction to the origins and development of Christianity in cultures outside Europe and North America, usually focusing on one or two areas of the world, e.g., East Asia, Central America, West Africa, the Middle East. Usually taught by the missionary-in-residence.

REL 344 The Church and Its Hymnody (4 cr. hrs.)
See course description for Music 344. It is recommended that students enrolling in this course be eligible to take Level-II CTI courses.

REL 455 Independent Studies  (1-4 cr. hrs.)
Independent studies in a selected area according to the interest and ability of the student, including a teaching practicum. May be accomplished in an off-campus project or honors program with prior approval of the department. A formal written summary of the project findings will be submitted.

REL 470 Capstone: Religion, Social Stability and Social Change (4 cr. hrs.)
This capstone seminar revisits important issues explored in earlier religion courses that give attention to the role of religion in contemporary culture. Students will read important neo-classical works in the sociology and anthropology of religion to see how religion serves as a source both to legitimate and challenge given social structures. Students will engage in original research. Prerequisites: Religion Core courses (115, 270 and 375) and Religion Electives (215 or 272 AND 275 or 276) or permission of instructor.


Religion Faculty

J. Bradley Chance, Ph.D., Religious Studies 
Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department, and Director of Academic Advising 
Dr. Chance received an A.B. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He then attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where he was awarded the M.Div. Dr. Chance holds his Ph.D. from Duke University. His areas of focus include New Testament and early Christianity, biblical interpretation, and religion in the contemporary society, including sociology and religion and science/religion dialog. Chance is recipient of the Willard Teaching Award, 2013. He is also recipient of the Northland Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Teaching Award, 2001 and the Missouri Governor's Teaching Award, 2002. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion.

Milton P. Horne, D.Phil. in Theology
Professor of Religion and Coordinator for Faith and Learning
Dr. Horne received a B.A. from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He attended the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he was awarded an M.Div. Dr. Horne then received a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Oxford. He focuses on the Old Testament; ancient Near Eastern religion and culture; and the history of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Horne is recipient of the Willard Teaching Award, 1994 and the Northland Chamber of Commerce Excellence in Teaching Award, 2008. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Brendon C. Benz, Ph.D., Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East
Assistant Professor of Religion
Dr. Benz received a B.A. from Taylor University in Upland, Ind. After teaching high school history for two years in Queens, N.Y., he attended Princeton Theological Seminary where he received the Henry Snyder Gehman Award in Old Testament and gradated with an M.Div. Dr. Benz holds his Ph.D. from the Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University.  While there he was awarded the College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award and served as a teaching fellow for the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Teaching and Learning Program. His areas of interest include Israelite history and religion, biblical theology, and contemporary biblical interpretation. He is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Oriental Society.

 
   

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