Religious Studies (RL)
Professors: J. F. Kelly, D. R. Mason, D. K. Donnelly, P. Lauritzen, J. R. Spencer (Chair), T. L. Schubeck, S.J., S. E. McGinn, P. K. Nietupski; Associate Professors: J. M. Nuth, Z. Saritoprak (Said Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies); Pastor in Residence: V. Lassiter; Writer in Residence: D. Cozzens
The study of the religious experience of humanity is an academic discipline which John Carroll University considers to be an integral part of a liberal education. As a Jesuit and Catholic university, John Carroll also provides the opportunity for its students to choose elective courses designed to give them an understanding of their faith commensurate with their other learning. The University Core requirement in religious studies is satisfied by RL 101 and a second appropriately designated 3-credit RL course at the 200 or 300 level.
Major and Minor Requirements
Major in Religious Studies: RL 101 plus 36 credit hours.
RL 200; 205; 220 or 228; 231 or 232 or 237; 250 or 252 or 253 or 254 or 255; 260 or 262 or 267.
One additional course in world religions.
One 300 or 400-level course in philosophical or systematic theology.
One 300 or 400-level course in religious ethics.
Two upper-division elective courses (6 cr.)
RL 493 (3 cr.)
At least three courses must be on the 400 level; one of these is RL 493.
A comprehensive examination is required.
Although not required, RL majors are strongly encouraged to study abroad.
Minor in Religious Studies: RL 101 plus 21 credit hours.
Nine credits (3 courses): One course from three of the following areas:
Scripture – RL 200 or 205
History of Christianity – RL 220 or 228
Philosophical or Systematic Theology – RL 231 or 232 or 237
World Religions – RL 250 or 252 or 253 or 254 or 255
Religious Ethics – RL 260 or 262 or 267
Nine credits must be at the 300-400 level, and include at least one 400-level course.
RL 101 is a course designed to introduce students to religious studies as an academic discipline and to address several issues and topics fundamental to the discipline. The options for the second course allow students to continue study, in greater depth, of one or more of the issues and topics introduced in the first course.
RL 101 is prerequisite for all other courses offered in the department.
Courses at the 200 and 300 level are open to all students except where prerequisites are specifically stated. The difference between 200 and 300-level courses is that 300-level courses have a more specific or limited focus. Enrollment by non-majors in courses at the 400 level requires authorization by the chair.
The Department of Religious Studies offers a major and a minor. The major in religious studies may serve as partial fulfillment of the requirement for the certification of elementary and high school teachers of religion in the Diocese of Cleveland.
The department is privileged to offer courses with the support of three different endowments, the Walter and Mary Tuohy Chair of Interreligious Studies, the Bediüzzaman Said Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies, and the Bernard Hollander Lectureship in Jewish Studies. For details on these programs, see pages 327-331.
Program requirements and course descriptions for the Master of Arts degree in religious studies are published in The Graduate Studies Bulletin.
101. INTRODUCTION TO RELIGIOUS STUDIES 3 cr. Introduction to the academic study of religion. Topics include the nature of religion; the human search for meaning; revelation; symbol, myth, and ritual; faith as it relates to reason, experience, and morality. Introduction to the areas of scripture, theology, ethics, and religious traditions. RL 101 is designed to prepare students for courses at the 200 and 300 level.
200. OLD TESTAMENT/HEBREW BIBLE INTRODUCTION 3 cr. Historical and cultural environment of the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible), its nature and composition, and its religious and theological developments.
205. NEW TESTAMENT INTRODUCTION 3 cr. Development and composition of the New Testament; the historical, cultural, and religious environment out of which it arose; and the various theological perspectives found within it.
220. HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY I 3 cr. Christianity from its origins to 1300: earliest communities, encounter with the Roman world, establishment of Christian intellectual and artistic life, monasticism, conversion of the barbarians, rise of the papacy, the Gothic age.
223. AFRICAN AMERICAN RELIGION 3 cr. The African American religious experience, including historical roots of African religion essential to slave Christianity, development of the institutional church, and spiritual expressions influencing African American worship styles. Important political and social foundations of the church from which political and social organizations were created, as well as African American theology.
228. AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY 3 cr. Development of Christianity in the U.S. from the colonial period to the present. Emphasis on interaction between Christianity and American culture and on development of Roman Catholicism in the U.S. Topics include the Puritans, religious liberty, abolition, revivalism, immigration, nativism, Industrial Revolution, Catholic education, prohibition, fundamentalism, rise of the laity, and modern secularism.
231. CONTEMPORARY CATHOLIC THEOLOGY 3 cr. Overview of Roman Catholic theological themes and issues since the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) with attention to selected areas: scripture, grace, sin, redemption, the role of Jesus, the Church, ethical norms and morality, and sacraments.
232. JESUS: HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES 3 cr. The ways Christians have understood the person and work of Jesus. Use of scripture and tradition to illumine how those who confess him as Savior have defined him and to provide means for traditional and creative thinking about the central figure of Christian faith.
234. RELIGION AND PSYCHOLOGY 3 cr. The intimate and complex relationship between religion and psychology, which many in Western secular societies believe has become the arbiter of meaning, replacing religion as the engine shaping our understanding of the good life. Also examines the mutual influence of religion and psychology, where they converge and where they diverge, and how they assist the spiritual seeker.
237. CONTEMPORARY PROTESTANT THEOLOGY 3 cr. Main ideas and expressions of Protestantism; selected writings of major modern Protestant theologians.
238. CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (Offered at Borromeo Seminary) 3 cr. Overview of Roman Catholic theology based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as a look at various themes and issues since the Second Vatican Council that find their roots and explanation in the Catechism. Emphasis on scripture, grace, sacraments, sin, redemption, the role of Jesus, the Church Magisterium, ethical norms, and morality.
250. INTRODUCTION TO JUDAISM 3 cr. Historical overview of the development of Judaism from its biblical beginnings through the modern period, including a discussion of the major religious ideas of classical Judaism.
252. INTRODUCTION TO THE RELIGIONS OF INDIA 3 cr. Study of interpretation of India’s religions and cultures, including the discussion of methods and cultural biases in the study of foreign religions and cultures. Focus on Hinduism and Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent and how these were transmitted to other Asian countries.
253. CHINESE RELIGIONS 3 cr. Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Ancient Chinese beliefs and practices, and the introduction and adaptations of Buddhism. Philosophical and cultural manifestations and the gradual development of the major Chinese religious movements up to the modern period.
254. JAPANESE RELIGIONS 3 cr. Ancient Shinto beliefs, importation and modification of Korean and Chinese cultures and religions up to the modern era. Emergence of the Japanese empire in the 7th century, and the developments of Tendai, Kegon, Zen, and Shingon beliefs and practices.
255. INTRODUCTION TO ISLAM 3 cr. Surveys the history of Islam, the impact of Islamic belief and culture on the world’s social and political development, and the fundamental tenets and practices of Islam. Includes a modern interpretation of the Islamic tradition.
260. MORAL DECISION MAKING 3 cr. Examination of contemporary moral issues with a focus on methods for analyzing and evaluating moral problems, as well as the sources from the Christian tradition that form moral identity and ethical decisions.
262. CATHOLIC MORAL THEOLOGY 3 cr. Methods for making informed and prudential moral decisions grounded in experience, Scripture, church teaching, and rational discourse. Addresses contemporary interpersonal and social problems, in light of moral theory within the Catholic tradition.
264. AFRICAN AMERICAN CHRISTIAN SOCIAL ETHICS 3 cr. Nature, origins, and functions of African American ethical response as related to social, political, and religious belief systems. Emphasis on historical and social translation of values dictated by African American religion and theology. Topics include African American social Christianity, ethical/political issues of religion, womanist ethics, and current ethical dialogues.
267. LIBERATION ETHICS 3 cr. Focuses on the ethics that arose out of the moral indignation of Latin Americans and African Americans in response to injustices. This ethics begins with the concrete reality of the poor and oppressed and moves toward the transformation of persons and structures as its goal. Includes reflection on a people’s experience in light of social-scientific analysis and scripture.
272. CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY 3 cr. The interior life studied from the perspective of spiritual freedom and transformation grounded in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Probes the deepest longings of the heart and their relationship to human and spiritual fulfillment.
299. SPECIAL TOPICS 3 cr. Selected topics in one of the areas of religious studies. Selected content and number of credits to be announced when offered.
300. HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST (HS 300) 3 cr. History, culture, and religion of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Syro-Palestine.
301. ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE BIBLE 3 cr. Principles and methodologies of archaeology; examination of how archaeology broadens and informs our understanding of the world and events of the Bible.
306. JESUS IN FILM AND HISTORY 3 cr. Prerequisite or corequisite: RL 205 or equivalent. Introduction to the historical person Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus’ words and deeds as understood by his own contemporaries. Comparisons to how Jesus was later understood and portrayed by his followers and popular media (e.g., art, literature, film).
315. THE HOLOCAUST AND ITS MEANING 3 cr. Reaction of Jewish and Christian intellectuals to the Nazi attempt to destroy the Jewish people; analysis of accounts of Holocaust survivors; the singular witness of Elie Wiesel; significance of the Holocaust for Jewish-Christian dialogue.
320. HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS 3 cr. Origins of the feast; gospel infancy narratives; apocryphal traditions; Christology; Christmas in Medieval art and drama; cult of Saint Nicholas; origins and growth of Christmas music; Puritan attack on the feast; decline of the feast in 18th century; impact of the Industrial Revolution; Washington Irving, Charles Dickens, and establishment of modern Christmas; 20th century commercialization; contemporary developments.
321. HISTORY OF THE IDEA OF EVIL 3 cr. Problem of evil from its biblical origins to the modern period with emphasis on the interaction between religious notions and cultural forces. Topics include the Book of Job, the rise of Satan, Augustine and original sin, Satan in medieval art, Dante, Milton, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, Mary Shelley, the demonic and Gothic, modern theological and scientific approaches.
322. GOD AND RADICAL EVIL IN THE MODERN WORLD 3 cr. Development of the idea of God’s relation to evil since the Renaissance; emphasis on the changing notion of evil in response to cultural changes such as the Enlightenment and Darwinism; the demonic and the Gothic in the 19th century; modern literary and philosophical theodices; theological responses.
323. AFRICAN AMERICAN THEOLOGY 3 cr. Survey of the theological foundations and systems which dominate African American religious thought; contemporary theological issues relating to biblical ideals, liberation and justice, black feminist theology, and concepts from the African American religious experience.
324. LIFE, TIMES, AND THEOLOGY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. 3 cr. Life, career, and teaching of the civil-rights leader and Christian theologian; sources of his unique theology; analysis of speeches and writings; King’s relationship to thinkers such as Tillich and Gandhi; milestones of justice and peace.
325. WOMEN IN CHRISTIAN TRADITION 3 cr. Lives and writings of prominent women within the Christian tradition from the viewpoint of contemporary feminist theology. Emphasis on women’s contribution to theology in light of their historical context.
326. HISTORY OF THE PAPACY 3 cr. Origins of the papacy in the Roman world; growth of papal influence in the Early Middle Ages; decline of the papacy and rise of Protestantism; Counter Reformation; the popes and the absolute monarchs; the Enlightenment attacks; responses to European revolutions; the papacy and European totalitarianism; the papacy and the Third World; the popes and modern democratic trends.
328. THEOLOGY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN SACRED MUSIC 3 cr. Survey of theological issues and constructs in African American sacred music. Musical theology of Negro spirituals as starting point in discovering expressions of biblical and societal musings. Gospel music as well as anthematic presentations present a basic understanding of life and being in the African American experience.
331. MODELS OF GOD 3 cr. Comparison of several models for understanding God and God’s relations to the world: personal models (Mother, Friend); soul-body model; traditional models (Monarch, Being Itself); process models (Cosmic Lover, Creator-Redeemer-Liberator); God as Mystery. Theologians to be read include Aquinas, Kierkegaard, Teilhard de Chardin, Hartshorne, Ogden, and McFague.
332. SIN, GRACE, AND WHOLENESS 3 cr. The human being in relation to God and in conflict with evil, as seen in the Bible and in works of Paul, Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther, Karl Rahner, and contemporary liberation and feminist theologians.
334. CHRISTOLOGY 3 cr. The person and work of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures, historical theology, and contemporary theology.
335. THEOLOGY OF THE CHURCH 3 cr. Origin, nature, and mission of the Church in light of its evolution from the preaching and mission of Jesus and his disciples, through its developing history, to its current self-understanding since Vatican II.
336. SACRAMENTS 3 cr. Introduction to concept and nature of “sacrament” and to the historical, liturgical, and theological development of the seven sacraments, which are studied in general as well as individually. Emphasis upon sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation/chrismation, eucharist) with consideration of sacraments of healing (penance, healing of the sick) and of Church service/government (matrimony, holy orders). Also examines the “sacramental imagination” as a way to understand theological assumptions that play a large part in Catholic spiritual tradition.
338. BELIEF AND UNBELIEF 3 cr. Examination of Atheism in the modern period focusing on representatives of the so-called “New Atheism” together with an examination of several recent intelligent views of both God and religion.
351. BUDDHISM 3 cr. Buddhist religion from its beginnings to its decline in India. Transmissions to and preservation of Indian traditions in Tibet, East Asia, China, Southeast Asia. Buddhist history, regional variations, philosophical positions, and social/political applications.
356. ISLAM IN AMERICA 3 cr. Introduction to history of Islam and how it first came to the New World. Focus on the experience of American Muslims, including experiences of African American Muslims, immigrant Muslims, and new American converts. Considers all levels of the American Muslim public sphere and current U.S.-Muslim relations.
363. RELIGION, ETHICS, AND GENETICS 3 cr. Examination of the religious and ethical issues raised by the revolution in biotechnology made possible by contemporary advances in genetics.
364. CHRISTIAN SEXUALITY 3 cr. Study of human sexuality, its meaning and mystery, and ethical issues related to sexual behavior and attitudes—all from a Christian perspective. Christian wisdom and wisdom of the ages in light of human experience and contemporary theories of the meaning and significance of sexuality. Special attention to the inherent relationship between spirituality and sexuality.
368. CHRISTIAN SOCIAL JUSTICE 3 cr. Writings of significant Catholic and Protestant theologians and Christian social teachings that relate to sociopolitical and economic topical issues, including church-state, war and peace, and international economic relations.
371. IGNATIAN SPIRITUALITY: ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT 3 cr. Study of the life and writings of Ignatius Loyola and the spirituality that emerged from his religious experience, the dissemination of Ignatian spirituality across the globe through the creation of the Jesuit order, the mission and ministry of the first Jesuits, the development of Ignatian spirituality through the centuries, and a focus on its contemporary relevance.
373. CLASSICS IN SPIRITUALITY 3 cr. Theory and practice of the spiritual life through the works of classic and contemporary religious figures who have significantly influenced the field of spirituality. Thematic approach draws on the writings of Augustine, Catherine of Siena, Ignatius of Loyola, Theresa of Avila, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Therese of Lisieux, C. S. Lewis, Thomas Merton, Simone Weil, Henri Nouvwen, and others.
374. DOROTHY DAY AND THOMAS MERTON 3 cr. The two most significant American Catholic writers of the 20th century, whose work has been acknowledged and praised for both its spiritual depth and prophetic witness. Focus on Day and Merton as guides for the spiritual seekers of the 21st century.
376. THE FRANCISCAN MOVEMENT 3 cr. Franciscan movement from its birth in the life of Francis of Assisi to its contemporary manifestations. Historical and spiritual aspects of the Franciscan phenomenon and its import for the Church today.
385. TUOHY CHAIR 3 cr. Specific content will be announced
399. SPECIAL TOPICS 1-3 cr. Selected topics in one of the areas of religious studies. Specific content and number of credits to be announced when offered.
Note: Registration in all 400-level courses requires prior permission from the instructor and the department chair, except for RL majors and graduate students.
400. INTRODUCTION TO BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION 3 cr. Problems of and approaches to understanding Scripture. Special focus on the methods essential for doing exegesis, biblical interpretation, and contemporary applications.
404. PROPHECY IN ISRAEL AND THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST 3 cr. Study of prophecy and prophets in ancient Israel and its ancient Near Eastern context. Specific focus on such biblical prophets as Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah.
406. NEW TESTAMENT ETHICS 3 cr. Seminar on ethical prescriptions and perspectives conveyed by the New Testament. Teaching and praxis of Jesus, including his concern for the poor and his solidarity with the marginalized, as bases for analyzing a cross-section of ethical traditions in the New Testament. Students will hone skills at reading these texts in light of their literary, historical, socioeconomic, and political contexts, as well as their applicability to contemporary ethical debates.
408. PAUL AND HIS WRITINGS 3 cr. Introduction to the cultural and historical background of the Apostle Paul’s life and career, his major writings, and their impact.
420. EARLY CHRISTIANITY 3 cr. Emergence of Christianity into the Greek and Roman world from the first to the sixth centuries. Trinitarian theology and Christology, church and state, the role of women, monasticism, the interaction with pagan culture, the establishment of ecclesiastical structures, early Christian art, and the Church’s growing self-understanding.
430. INTRODUCTION TO SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY 3 cr. Nature, method, and content of systematic theology, with emphasis on the influence of history and culture on the articulation of doctrine. Readings and discussions centered on significant contributors to Christian systematic theology.
437. READINGS IN FEMINIST THEOLOGY 3 cr. Various topics in feminist theory and its impact on religion and theology. Specific content and number of credits announced when the course is offered.
466. JUSTICE AND THE ECONOMY 3 cr. Team‑taught interdisciplinary seminar. Interrelationship between economic and ethical choices and their implications. Basic economic and theological‑ethical frameworks for decision making. Case studies.
480. INTRODUCTION TO CANON LAW 3 cr. Introduction to the 1983 Code in its historical context, with a view to its pastoral application. Special attention to canons on sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Marriage.
489. NEW COVENANT AND SOCIAL JUSTICE: A PRAXIS APPROACH 3 cr. Links theological theory with religious and pastoral practice. Minimum of 20-25 hours engagement in concrete community service project combined with background research on topic, seminar discussion, and written reflection in light of the essential gospel message.
492. INDEPENDENT STUDY 1-3 cr. Prerequisite: consent of the chair and the instructor. In-depth study on a tutorial basis of a particular problem, approved by the chair and directed by a member of the department. A paper is required.
493. SENIOR SEMINAR 3 cr. Seminar for RL majors and minors. Normally taught in fall. Specific content to be announced when offered. Consent of chair or instructor required.
496. BORROMEO SENIOR SEMINAR 3 cr. Synthesis of four years of collegiate priestly formation.
499. SPECIAL TOPICS 3 cr. Selected topics in one of the areas of religious studies. Specific content and number of credits to be announced when offered.