Religious Studies Course Offerings
RELS 106 Introduction to the Bible – GS 1 (Lower)
This course provides an introduction to the literature of the Judaeo Christian tradition. It will include a study of modern critical methods including source criticism, form criticism and redaction criticism as they relate to this literature. There will be a special emphasis on theological themes. Fall and spring semesters.
RELS 114 Introduction to Theology – GS 1 (Lower)
This course examines the nature of religion in human experience, the personal and communal dimensions of faith, and critically analyses basic questions in Christian theology. Fall and spring semesters.
RELS 200 / CLAS 200 Augustine and the Classical World
This course will survey the life and times of Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430), one of the great thinkers of the Western world. With more than 100 books, 200 letters and 500 sermons, he left a lasting impact on Western philosophy, religion and culture. He is seen as a major influence in shaping the theology of Western Christianity. The goal of this course is to understand how the classical heritage of Greece and Rome influenced Augustine’s thinking and in turn his impact on the late Roman world. By reading some of Augustine’s writings (in English translation) and those of modern scholars, we will attempt to understand how the synthesis produced by Augustine is both a final flowering of classical civilization itself and a cornerstone of the Christian civilization of the Middle Ages that was to come. Spring semester, alternate years.
RELS 221 / AMER 221 Religion in America – GS 6
Examines the historical development of religious movements in America, both mainstream and peripheral groups, and analyzes the religious perceptions by which Americans have viewed themselves as a nation and culture, including a contemporary assessment.
RELS 242 Liturgy and the Sacraments
This course examines the nature of the liturgy and the sacraments as the forum in which the church expresses and forms its identity and mission in the world. The course examines the historical evolution of the seven traditional sacraments as well as the other major rites of the church. Finally, the course explores the implications of the reformed liturgy for Christian life and ministry in the contemporary world. Alternate years.
RELS 255 / PHIL 250 Philosophy of Religion
This course examines the rational assessment of religious beliefs and concepts and arguments used in their support. The course considers contemporary challenges to belief in God and the responses to these challenges.
RELS 260 / CLAS 260 Early Christian Monasticism
This course traces Christian monasticism from its rise in the deserts of Egypt and Syria to its spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond, specifically to Ireland. In the Christian and non-Christian contexts, concepts of asceticism and holiness prevalent in various cultures of antiquity, and monasticism’s relationship to the wider Church and society will be examined. Early monasticism exerted a powerful influence on the development of medieval Christian culture in both the Latin West and Byzantine Greek East, and continues to be an important factor in models of asceticism and holiness in many parts of the modern world. Spring semester, alternate years.
RELS 268 / WMGS 268 Sexuality, Intimacy and God
See infrequently offered courses.
RELS 280 Introducing Christian Traditions
This course examines the history of Christianity in its theological, social and institutional dimensions, from the New Testament era to the present. This development is studied in a variety of historical and cultural contexts, presenting through representative figures and issues both continuity and diversity in Christian thought and life in the midst of society. Course prepares RELS majors/minors for more advanced courses in the RELS curriculum.
RELS 290 Doing Theology Today
This course explores a variety of approaches to theological inquiry from classical methods to the diversity represented in modern revisions of the theological task. The course utilizes differing models of theological method, comparing selected theologians and themes. These methods include traditional as well as contemporary interpretation, the treatment of various sources for theological discourse and the research skills necessary for doing theology today.
RELS 310 Marriage and Family as Vocation – GS 1 (Upper)
This course explores the moral and religious dimensions of marriage and family, with particular attention to resources within the Catholic Christian tradition. It will attend to such questions as: What does it mean to place the marriage commitment and the wider commitment to the family in the context of a relationship to God?; What does it mean to consider marriage a vocation and sacrament?; How does the vocation of marriage develop over time?; How do careers, children, aging parents and other obligations affect the marriage relationship?; What does it take to sustain a lifelong martial commitment in our culture?; What are the distinct characteristics and responsibilities of Christian family life? Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 312 Mission and Identity of the Church – GS 1 (Upper)
Why is Christianity essentially a social experience? What makes for strong fellowship and a faith community? Studied in the light of Vatican II and its search for the meaning and nature of the Church models, the course seeks to develop an understanding of the Church as community. The course aims at trying to discover why faith in a community context better fits the definition of the word Christian than a contemporary emphasis on individual experience. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 314 The Origins of Biblical Monotheism
This course explores the development of monotheism in ancient Israel, the culture which produced the Hebrew Bible. The course will focus on the reflections about the divine found in the Bible, alongside central religious texts from Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. In particular, the course will examine criticisms of these traditional religious visions as articulated by ancient intellectuals such as Plato, Cicero and, most importantly, the anonymous biblical authors who argued forcefully that the God of Moses could not be represented by any kind of figure in the limited human sphere. The course will expose students to a number of influential and classic ancient texts and interpret their varying religious claims. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 315 Mary through the Ages
This course will be an examination of the figure of the Virgin Mary, as she has been experienced by Christians (and some non-Christians) for the last two millennia. We will study the development of her cult by examining canonical and non-canonical scripture, Mary in art, the development of Marian doctrine and dogma in the Catholic Church, Mary’s role in Protestantism and Islam, Marian apparitions, and Mary as a figure of liberation and oppression. The course will also include a field trip to the recently approved Marian apparition site in Champion, Wis. As a major focus of Christian life and devotion, examining the figure of Mary and the role she has played in the lives of believers is an important part of understanding the Christian tradition.
RELS 316 Who is Jesus?
An attempt to answer the biblical question “And who do you say that I am?” – is a central issue of theology. Looking at today’s answers formulated in continuity with scripture and tradition but shaped in the light of contemporary culture and experience. Prerequisite: junior standing.
RELS 318 / PEAC 318 / WMGS 318 Feminist Theology – GS 1 (Upper)
This course introduces students to feminist theology as a theology of liberation, examines its foundations in feminist theory and Christian revisionist sources and explores its contributions to the Christian – especially the Catholic – faith tradition. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 319 / HIST 319 / AMER 319 The Catholic Contribution to the United States
This course will explore how and why Catholics of diverse gender, race, class and religious commitment have contributed to the socioeconomic, cultural, political and intellectual development of the U.S. The course will examine Catholics and their church from Spanish North America to St. Norbert College, from immigration to assimilation and from conflict to consensus.
RELS 320 The Christian Tradition – GS 1 (Upper)
This course examines the history of Christianity in its theological, social and institutional dimensions, from the New Testament era to the present. This development is studied in a variety of historical and cultural contexts, presenting through representative figures and issues both continuity and diversity in Christian thought and life in the midst of society. For non-religious studies majors/minors only. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 321 Topics in Scripture
This course critically examines scriptural themes and genres. It may also concentrate on one or more biblical authors or works. Prerequisite: RELS 106.
RELS 322 Religious Heritage of the Hebrew Bible – GS 1 (Upper)
This course examines the origin, nature, significance and religious heritage of the Hebrew Bible as the foundation document of both Judaism and Christianity. This course studies the Hebrew Bible both as a revealed and religious scripture and as a profoundly human document. The primary focus will be on the text itself, supplemented by the use of reference, historical and interpretive (both Jewish and non-Jewish) materials. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 324 / WMGS 324 Women in the Bible – GS 1 (Upper)
This course uncovers the untold and often troubling stories about women in the world of biblical literature. The material provokes thought and dialogue regarding the biblical writers’ perspectives on gender, sexuality and personhood. Students will be encouraged to think honestly and courageously about their own assumptions regarding authority and identity and participation in unjust social systems. Students will learn new methodologies to analyze gender and sexuality in order to rethink long-held social norms. Throughout the course, we will regularly reflect on how biblical representations impact the roles of women and men in contemporary society. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 325 Providence, Suffering and Freedom – GS 1 (Upper)
This course examines various possibilities for making sense of the traditional Christian belief in an omnipotent, allloving, providential God in light of the contemporary awareness of the immensity and tragedy of human suffering and the growing recognition of the depth and radicalness of human freedom. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 327 / CLAS 327 Ancient Wisdom and the Modern Search for Meaning – GS 1 (Upper)
What is the good life? What can a person truly know? Is there justice in the world? These are some of the fundamental, universal questions of the human condition. This course will raise these questions and look at how the biblical wisdom literature answers them along with similar writings from elsewhere in the ancient world as well as modern literature and film. As a result of this analysis students will have the opportunity to construct a coherent and viable structure of meaning for their own life’s journey. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 328 The Hebrew Bible
This course provides an intensive introduction to the methods of critical study used by contemporary biblical scholarship on the texts of the Hebrew Bible, including scholarly use of the Hebrew Bible to reconstruct the history of ancient Israel. In addition to extensive reading of biblical texts and related secondary literature, students will also study the cultural and religious background of the ancient Near East.
RELS 329 The New Testament
This course examines the complex social and historical background of the New Testament and the creation of the New Testament texts within that context. Those contexts include Second Temple Judaism, and Greco-Roman political, religious, and other cultural assumptions and events. Students will read substantial portions of the primary texts – both the New Testament writings themselves and surrounding documents. The course follows significant Catholic principles regarding biblical study and interpretation in order to better understand the textual foundation for Christianity, and to see Christianity as an ongoing process of inculturation.
RELS 331 Judaism and Christianity: The Holocaust – GS 1 (Upper)
The examination of the historical and contemporary relation of Jews and Christians, through a study of critical events, comparative literature and correlated theologies, in an analysis which recognizes both interrelated unity and tragic antagonism. In line with Catholic teaching on the Shoah, the course strives to create a deeper understanding of the interrelated causes of genocides in general, and the Holocaust in particular. Students should become more aware of the relationship between religious discourse and its political and social ties, as well as the complicity of all human beings in unjust social structures. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 333 / PEAC 333 Christian Ethics: Theology and Society – GS 1 (Upper)
The course addresses the enduring problem of the relationship between Christian faith and moral questions. It does so in the light of the convictions of a Catholic Christian faith community tradition. It seeks to determine the faith responses to contemporary social ethical issues. The social issues studied will vary. Fall and spring semesters. Religious Studies majors/ minors taking course for major/minor should sign up for RELS 433. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 337 Character and the Moral Life
This course examines the relationship between morality, happiness, and the good life by focusing on the qualities of character that are necessary for human flourishing, especially the virtues. Special attention is given to the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, as well as the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. The second half of the course explores the seven capital vices that are most detrimental for human well-being: envy, vain glory, sloth, greed, anger, gluttony and lust.
RELS 338 Religion and Literature
See infrequently offered courses.
RELS 340 World Religions: A Comparative Examination – GS 11
This course offers a critical and comparative introduction to the world’s non-Christian and mostly non-Western religious traditions. Focusing on Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Judaism, Islam and several indigenous religions as well as new religious movements, the course investigates and compares these traditions with special attention given to contexts. A key component in this involves examining the phenomenon of globalization and the issues of diversity and interaction between traditions.
RELS 341 The Afterlife and the Other World – GS 10 and GS 12
When we ascribe meaning to our lives as human beings, we often refer to or draw upon a notion of a world of justice that we will experience after we die. This hope for restoration or peace and relief from suffering as an actual, conscious experience is a distinctly “Western” notion of the end of a linear “history.” This Western way of thinking is quite different from the Eastern, Hindu and Buddhist notions of the absorption or obliteration of consciousness in moksha or nirvana. This course will examine the development through history of the Western idea of an afterlife and an “other world” of spirit and existence. How does this belief influence our daily lives? How do the great monotheistic religious traditions interact with popular culture to make afterlife ideas nearly unquestionable? The course also looks at the ways that the discourse of afterlife influences the way we handle death.
RELS 342 / PHIL 342 Asian Philosophy and Religion
A study of the major philosophical and religious traditions of South and East Asia. The course emphasizes the Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist traditions. The ethical, metaphysical and epistemological aspects of each major tradition are covered. Alternate years.
RELS 350 Christianity and Cultural Diversity – GS 1 (Upper)
In what ways is Christian theological self-understanding informed by encountering non-Christian religions? This course investigates both aspects of the question with particular attention to themes such as cosmopolitanism, hybridity, pluralism and relativism. First we examine Christian theological resources – both traditional and emerging – for understanding religious diversity. Secondly we explore the development, beliefs, and practices of the Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic traditions. Students draw on the Christian theological framework to answer constructively questions about the relationship between Christianity and these religious groups. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 355 Theology of Spirituality – GS 1 (Upper)
This course is an introductory exploration of the theology of prayer and the spiritual life; it explores the realm of religious faith and the various means by which humans enter into an explicit relationship with God. Students will be exposed to the various schools of Christian spirituality as they have arisen in the history of the Christian community. In addition, class sessions will be devoted to discussing the relationships of spirituality with the human condition. Spring semester. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 359 / WMGS 359 Women and Islam – GS 11
Since the crusading era, nothing about Islam has perplexed the “West” more than the role of women. In this course we consider the current Western stereotypes of Muslim women as victims and/or terrorists before reading translated Islamic texts on gender and historical evidence of Muslim women’s religious and social activities since the seventh century. We look at these texts from various points of view, including postcolonial and feminist theory. Attitudes toward the body, involving sexuality, purity, fertility and seclusion are examined in a comparative context. Finally, we discuss how current Muslim women scholars and activists are bringing about new identities for Muslim women worldwide.
RELS 360 The Essentials of Catholic Thought – GS 1 (Upper)
This course examines the key concepts of Catholicism as expressed since Vatican II. These include the credal, sacramental and moral life of the Christian as influenced by this great event. Central to all is the role of Christ in the life of the Church. Fulfills General Education Area 1 Upper – Religious Studies Requirement.
RELS 389 Special Topics
This course is an in-depth study of one or more major issues confronting contemporary religion. Students are challenged to make concrete applications of the role of theology and religious practice to issues of the early 21st century and to evaluate the impact of the heritage and tradition on their own thinking and on society in general. Topics will change from semester to semester but may include such issues as the Holocaust, nuclear weapons, abortion, racism and church-state relations.
RELS 433 Christian Ethics: Theology and Society
The course addresses the enduring problem of the relationship between Christian faith and moral questions. It does so in the light of the convictions of a Catholic Christian faith community tradition. It seeks to determine the faith responses to contemporary social ethical issues. The topics will vary and include specific issues such as human rights, sexuality, social justice and biomedical questions. Prerequisite: religious studies major/minor.
RELS 460 Advanced Seminar
Offers senior religious studies majors and minors the opportunity to engage in a research project on a special topic, theme or theologian. Spring semester.
RELS 490 Independent Study
A course allowing staff and students to explore together topics of special interest. Prerequisites: instructor’s consent and approval of the associate dean of humanities and fine arts.
RELS 494 Internship
This course is an action/reflection experience for those seeking skills in the ministry. Students are placed in the local community. In addition to regular weekly service, students are required to meet each week in a supervised class with an instructor from the religious studies faculty. In those meetings, students explore the bases of practical theology, as that science reflects on the pastoral experience.