Academic Course Catalogs

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Theology and Religious Studies

Ronald A. Pachence, PhD, CHAIR
María Pilar Aquino, STD
Susie Paulik Babka, PhD
Bahar Davary, PhD
Mary Doak, PhD
Orlando O. Espín, ThD
Russell Fuller, PhD
Florence Morgan Gillman, PhD, STD
Aaron S. Gross, PhD
Evelyn Kirkley, PhD
Louis Komjathy, PhD
Dennis W. Krouse, STD
Mary E. Lyons, PhD
Gerard Mannion, DPhil
Lance E. Nelson, PhD
Maria Pascuzzi, STD, SSL
Patricia A. Plovanich, PhD
Emily Reimer-Barry, PhD
Karen Teel, PhD
Karma Lekshe Tsomo, PhD

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies is a diverse community of scholars who advance the teaching and study of religion with particular attention to fostering understanding of Catholic traditions. In support of the educational mission of the university and the furtherance of our own disciplines, we pursue excellence in scholarship. As a faculty that is multidisciplinary in both training and outlook, we bring a spirit of creativity and dialogue to bear on the exploration of religious meaning.
We are dedicated to our role in fulfilling the liberal arts goals of the core curriculum, and equally committed to fostering a vibrant cohort of majors and minors. By providing an intellectually rigorous program, we create opportunities for students to probe religion as a constitutive element of human experience and values, and to acquire skills for engaging diverse dimensions of religion with openness and respect.

The Theology and Religious Studies Major

Major Requirements – 36 units

Lower Division

Two courses (6 units) chosen from among the following: THRS 110-203.

Majors are encouraged to choose these two lower-division courses in consultation with their advisors and with careful attention to the various prerequisites specified for upper division courses

Upper Division

  • THRS 301 (3 units)
  • One course (3 units) in Bible or in Christianity chosen from among the following: THRS 330-362, 364, 367-369, 381-388.
  • One course (3 units) in a religious tradition other than Christianity chosen from among the following: THRS 312-321.
  • One course (3 units) from among the following must be taken in the final spring semester: THRS 450W Themes in Theological Studies or 451W Themes in Religious Studies. Note: Majors are encouraged to enroll multiple times in 450W and 451W before the required course in the final spring semester.

Elective Credit

Students must complete 18 other units (6 courses) elective credit, only 3 units of which may be chosen from among the lower-division courses.

Majors may concentrate in specific areas of study through careful distribution of their elective units, including but not limited to biblical studies, religious studies, systematic theology, and theological ethics. It is important to select an advisor specialized in one’s area of interest.

The Theology and Religious Studies Minor

Minor Requirements – 18 units

18 units in Theology and Religious Studies, of which at least 9 must be upper division courses.

Theology and Religious Studies Courses (THRS)

THRS 110 EXPLORING RELIGIOUS MEANING (3)
A thematic and topical introduction to the study of religion. Drawing material from at least four religious traditions, including Christianity, this course considers a range of possible themes and topics such as symbol, ritual, mysticism, myth, material culture, gender, ethics, ecology, death and the afterlife, and contemplative practice.

THRS 112 Introduction to World Religions (3)
A survey of the major religious traditions of the world, focusing on an understanding of the religious world views and practices that shape culture across the globe. Selected readings from these traditions, which will include Christianity, the religions of India and East Asia, Judaism, Islam, and the religions of indigenous oral cultures.

THRS 114 Introduction to Catholic Theology (3)
This course is an introductory survey designed to prepare students for upper division courses in Christian theology. Topics may include the scriptures, history of the Church and/or theology, the nature of theological discourse, introduction to theological terms and definitions, and examination of select topics or issues in theology. Emphasis will be placed on the constitutive dimensions and characteristics of the Roman Catholic tradition.

THRS 116 Introduction to Biblical Studies (3)
A study of the Old and New Testaments and their formation, historical character, primary themes, and interpretation.

THRS 119 Christianity and Its Practice (3)
An introduction to Christian belief and practice through reflection on classic and contemporary expressions of the Christian life.

THRS 202 Special Topics in Theology (3)
An examination of selected issues or themes in theology and/or theological ethics, from one or more Christian perspectives, to be chosen by the instructor. Topics will vary semester by semester. A list of current special topics offerings is available on the department’s website.

THRS 203 Special Topics in Religious Studies (3)
An examination of selected issues or themes in religion to be chosen by the instructor. Topics will have a comparative focus. Topics will vary semester by semester. A list of current special topics offerings is available on the department’s website.

THRS 301 RELIGION CAFÉ: MAJORS AND MINORS’ SEMINAR (3)
Through the study of exemplary texts and presentations from invited Theology and Religious Studies faculty members, this seminar will introduce students to the various methodologies in the academic study of religion, as well as to the research interests of current faculty members in the department. This course will also address basic research methodologies, the use of the library and the internet, and the construction of a research paper. This seminar is required of all majors and is open to minors. The course should be taken as soon as possible following the declaration of the major. Prerequisites: Declaration of major or minor; THRS 110, 112, 114, 116, 119, 202 or 203.

THRS 312 THE HINDU TRADITION (3)
A study of key aspects of the multiple ways of being religious that form the Hindu tradition, including scriptures, theologies, spiritualities, rituals, social practices, images of divinity, important figures, and contemporary developments. Points of contact with other Indic traditions, Christianity, and Islam will be considered as appropriate. Prerequisite: THRS 110, 112, 203, or consent of instructor.

THRS 313 Jewish Faith and Practice (3)
An examination of Jewish beliefs and practices, their historical and biblical foundations, and their theological and cultural expressions. Prerequisite: THRS 110, 112, 116, or consent of instructor.

THRS 314 BUDDHIST THOUGHT AND CULTURE (3)
An introduction to the academic study of Buddhism. The course systematically explores the historical development, philosophical premises, religious practices, social institutions, and cultural expressions of the world’s Buddhist traditions, with special emphasis on points of contact between Buddhist and Christian thought. Prerequisite: THRS 110, 112, or consent of instructor.

THRS 315 ISLAMIC FAITH AND PRACTICE (3)
A study of the life of the prophet Muhammad, the fundamentals of the message of the Qur’an, its relationship to Judaism and Christianity, and questions which Islam poses in modern history. Prerequisite: THRS 110, 112, 203, or consent of instructor.

THRS 316 THE DAOIST TRADITION (3)
An introduction to the Daoist (Taoist) tradition as both an indigenous Chinese religion and global cultural and religious phenomenon. This course provides a systematic overview of Daoist history and explores important and representative Daoist concerns such as cosmology, dietetics, ethics, meditation, ritual, and scripture study. Prerequisite: THRS 110, 112, 203, or consent of instructor.

THRS 317 RELIGIONS OF CHINA (3)
An introduction to Chinese religions with specific emphasis placed on the indigenous Chinese religions of Confucianism and Daoism (Taoism) as well as on Chinese forms of Buddhism. This course explores not only Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism as Chinese cultural traditions, but also the transformation of those traditions in contemporary China and in contemporary America. Prerequisite: THRS 110, 112, 203, or consent of instructor.

THRS 320 NATIVE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS (3)
A historical and systematic investigation into the spiritual contribution of Native Americans, their ethos, and their meaning for Christianity and the future of humanity. Prerequisite: THRS 110, 112, 203, or consent of instructor.

THRS 321 AFRO-LATIN RELIGIONS (3)
This course studies the three main religions of African origins in Latin America and the United States. Lukumí/Candomblé, Vodoun, and Umbanda are approached and interpreted from diverse perspectives: historical, cultural, theological, etc. Their formation and development are contextualized in the Latin American experience of slavery. Their contemporary significance is discussed. Prerequisite: THRS 110, 112, 203, 358, or consent of instructor.

THRS 330 FOUNDATIONS OF CHRISTIAN ETHICS (3)
A study of the life of Christian discipleship, centered on the development of moral character, on the role of communities in the living of Christian life, and on norms for the personal and social actions of Christians. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 202,119, or consent of instructor.

THRS 331 SEXUAL ETHICS IN THE CATHOLIC TRADITION (3)
An examination of human sexuality from the perspective of the Roman Catholic tradition. After an introduction to Catholic ethical method, the course examines traditional and contemporary understandings of sexuality, gender, sexual orientation, love, and justice. This provides a foundation for consideration of moral norms regarding such issues as marriage, non- marital sex, LGBTQ sexuality, masturbation, pornography, birth control, prostitution, and prevention of sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 334 CHRISTIAN SOCIAL ETHICS (3)
A study of the Christian community’s relation to civil society and of socioethical problems in light of Christian tradition. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116,119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 335 CATHOLIC SOCIAL THOUGHT (3)
An examination of the living tradition of Catholic social thought. The course will explore themes in Catholic social teaching, such as economic justice, sustainability, feminist concerns, peacemaking, the role of the Church in civil society, and a consistent ethic of solidarity. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 341 CHRISTIAN WORSHIP (3)
An introduction to the study of Christian liturgy through an examination of the history of liturgical practice, of myth and symbol as dimensions of sacramentality, and of theological and cultural principles of celebration. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 342 CHRISTIAN SACRAMENTAL PRACTICE (3)
A study of the practice, history, and theology of Christian initiation, eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 343 CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE (3)
A theological study of Christian marriage with consideration of the historical development and current pastoral understanding of this sacrament. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 353 EARLY CHRISTIANITY (3)
A study of the theology and religious practices of the first five centuries of Christianity. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 354 THE MEDIEVAL CHURCH (3)
A study of the theology and religious practices of Western Christianity from the sixth through the 15th centuries. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 355 THE REFORMATION ERA (3)
A study of the theologies and religious traditions leading to, and expressed in, diverse ecclesial communities in Christianity during the 16th and 17th centuries. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 356 CATHOLICISM IN THE UNITED STATES (3)
The history of the Catholic Church in the United States of America and theological reflection upon its unique development and characteristics. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 357 PROTESTANTISM IN THE UNITED STATES (3)
The history, theology, and cultural developments of Protestants in the United States, including the following denominational families: Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Holiness/Pentecostals, Congregationalists, Lutherans, and the Disciples of Christ. Prerequisite: Any lower-division THRS course.

THRS 358 LATINO/A CATHOLICISM (3)
A culturally contextualized study of the beliefs and practices of Latino/a Catholics in the U.S., with particular emphasis on popular Catholicism. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 360 JESUS IN CHRISTIAN TRADITION (3)
A critical investigation of the person and ministry of Jesus in light of Scripture and the Christian tradition. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 361 CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING OF THE HUMAN PERSON (3)
A theological exploration of the meaning and dignity of human persons in terms of their relationships to God and to creation. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 362 CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDINGS OF SALVATION (3)
An examination of Christian understandings of salvation from biblical, historical, and contemporary perspectives. Prerequisite: THRS 116, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 363 BELIEF AND UNBELIEF (3)
An investigation in the context of modern atheism and secular humanism into the validity of the claim of religion to speak truthfully of God and to describe the adequate response of human beings to the divine being.

THRS 364 THEOLOGY OF THE CHURCH (3)
An investigation of the origin, nature, and function of the Church, primarily from the Catholic perspective. Prerequisite: THRS 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 366 THE PROBLEM OF GOD (3)
The questions What is God?, Does God exist? and What does it mean to believe in God? are investigated against the background of classical theism and modern thought.

THRS 367 FEMINIST THEOLOGY (3)
An exploration of contemporary feminist theologies from the Christian perspective to gain knowledge of their contributions and challenges to the whole of the Christian tradition. Included is a survey of historical emergence, methods and approaches, major theological themes, tasks, and spirituality. Prerequisite: THRS 112, 114, 116, 119, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 368 LATINO/A THEOLOGIES (3)
An analysis of the contexts, methods, major themes, authors, and texts of Latino/a theologies. Liberation and cultural theologies will be emphasized. Prerequisite: THRS 116, 202, or consent of instructor.

THRS 369 LIBERATION THEOLOGY (3)
A study of the origin, characteristics, and major themes of liberation theologies, with special attention to the theologies of liberation in Christianity and their contribution to social justice and constructive transformation today. Liberation theologies in other religious traditions may also be considered. Prerequisite: Any lower-division THRS course or consent of the instructor.

THRS 370 GENDER AND RELIGION IN THE UNITED STATES (3)
An examination of religion’s role in shaping womanhood and manhood, and the roles men and women have played in shaping religious communities in the U.S. Prerequisite: Any lower-division THRS course.

THRS 371 CULTS AND SECTS IN THE UNITED STATES (3)
An examination of new religious movements commonly called cults and sects in the U.S. Prerequisite: Any lower-division THRS course.

THRS 381 THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES (3)
A study of the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) and their composition and most important themes and concepts. Prerequisite: THRS 116 or consent of instructor.

THRS 382 THE PROPHETIC TRADITIONS OF ISRAEL (3)
A study of Old Testament prophets in their historical, social, and political backgrounds. Prerequisite: THRS 116 or consent of instructor.

THRS 383 THE GOSPELS OF MATTHEW, MARK, AND LUKE (3)
A study of the sayings and deeds of Jesus as handed down by the early Christians and recorded in the first three Gospels. Prerequisite: THRS 116 or consent of instructor.

THRS 385 PAUL, THE MAN AND HIS MESSAGE (3)
A study of Paul, his social-historical context, and his theological thought. Prerequisite: THRS 116 or consent of instructor.

THRS 386 JOHANNINE THEOLOGY (3)
A study of the Gospel and the letters of John. Prerequisite: THRS 116 or consent of instructor.

THRS 388 THE WORLD OF THE BIBLE (3)
A study of historical, political, social, cultural, and religious issues of selected periods of biblical history.

THRS 390 THE HOLOCAUST: DEATH OF GOD OR DEATH OF HUMANITY? (3)
A study of the Holocaust focused on the moral and religious dilemmas it raises for Jews and Christians.

THRS 450W THEMES IN THEOLOGICAL STUDIES (3)
A study of selected issues, problems, or themes of relevance across the various specialties and subfields in theological studies. The selected issue or theme will be explored both deeply and broadly. Specification will be made by the instructor. The course may be repeated for credit with different course content. This course meets the requirements for a USD W course. Students will produce and orally present substantial term papers. Prerequisites: THRS 301; declared major or minor in THRS.

THRS 451W THEMES IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES (3)
A study of selected issues, problems, or themes of relevance across the various specialties and subfields in religious studies. The selected issue or theme will be explored both deeply and broadly. Specification will be made by the instructor. The course may be repeated for credit with different course content. This course meets the requirements for a USD W course. Students will produce and orally present substantial term papers. Prerequisite: THRS 301; declared major or minor in THRS.

THRS 494 TOPICS IN THEOLOGY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (3)
A study of selected major figures or problems or movements or periods in either Christianity and/or other religions. Specification will be made by the instructor. Prerequisite: If any, vary with instructor and topic.

THRS 499 DIRECTED INDIVIDUAL STUDY (1-3)
Prerequisite: consent of instructor and approval of the department chair and the dean.