Current Special Topics Course Offerings

Each semester, we offer special topics courses that are designed by our faculty to innovate and engage students with new subject matter.

Theology and Religious Studies special topics courses are numbered THRS 202, 203, 394 and/or 494.

Current Special Topics Courses

THRS 394
Art and Theological Imagination

Section 01 (CRN: 1825), TR 2:30-3:50 p.m., 3 units

Susie Babka, PhD

What role do the arts and creative expression play in the task of theology, the disciplined and critical reflection on belief and the nature of God?  The meanings discoverable through art and the creative process lead to deeper questions, enhancing critical thought. Art expresses our nature as spiritual beings inseparable from the material world; it explores morality, politics, emotion, the subconscious, and the unknown. The “theological imagination” is a way of perceiving and appreciating the sensible world, as Margaret Miles observes, “with ‘a certain slant of light,’ in which other human beings, the natural world, and objects appear in their full beauty, transformed.”  Visual art plays a key role in Christian history: maintaining, illuminating and communicating the Christian memory of divine revelation.  Across religious cultures, visual art energizes the human imagination for the divine, seeing the divine in all things, from the ugly to the ordinary to the sublime.  The thesis of the course is that great art, whether explicitly containing religious symbolism or not, reveals the depth dimension of reality, what might be called “God.”   This course will consider the meaning and function of theological aesthetics, and attempt to cultivate tools for the appreciation of visual culture.  We will examine Christian art to examine its relationship to doctrine and theological argument. We will also consider the expressive meaning of modern art as a way to explore the emptiness and absence of the divine.  Finally, we will examine the role of art in activism and attention toward justice.

THRS 394
Buddhism and Christianity in Dialogue 

Section 03 (CRN: 3665), TR 2:30-3:50 p.m., 3 units

Section 04 (CRN: 2080), TR 2:30-3:50 p.m., 3 units 

Team-Taught Course: Mary Doak, PhD and Karma Lekshe Tsomo, PhD 

This course pursues the academic study of Buddhism and of Christianity through comparative and dialogic methods.  It is essential that each religious tradition is presented and studied in a manner appropriate to its own self-understanding.  At the same time, this course seeks a greater understanding of each tradition through awareness of the similarities and differences between these two world religions.  In addition to an exploration of essential aspects in the origin and development of each religion, this course will engage in a comparative study of Buddhist and Christian concepts of the ultimate, views on death and the meaning of life, and of religious experience, especially in relation to issues of peace and social justice.

THRS 394
Comparative Mysticism 

Section 02 (CRN: 2705), TR 2:30-3:50 p.m., 3 units

Louis Komjathy, PhD

Emphasizing peer-directed conversation, this course is a seminar on mystical literature and mystical experience from a historical contextualist, textual, and comparative perspective. The course examines mystical experience (experiences of the sacred) in various religious traditions through close textual analysis of important and representative texts.