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NOTABLE COURSES IN MULTIFAITH EDUCATION AT AMERICAN SEMINARIES, 2009
The study found a striking number and diversity of courses being offered at theological schools that teach seminarians about other faiths. In order to provide additional resources to seminary faculty who are interested in offering such courses, the study's authors have highlighted model courses based on their pedagogical soundness, creativity, and relevance to preparing a religious leader for our time. When faculty gave permission, syllabi are posted below for consultation. Auburn welcomes additional syllabi for similar courses. Model courses are listed by subject area, alphabetically.
This intensive course is open to all and is especially encouraged for all entering Starr King School for the Ministry students. The course invites the student to engage in an interactive, multi-media process of beginning to reconceptualize the ways in which Judaism, Islam and Christianity have been heretofore studied. We are only now beginning to acknowledge the radical importance of studying Judaism, Islam, and Christianity together. Islam is often constructed as a problematic Other and therefore seen as having nothing in common with and nothing to do with anything outside of its own realm. The histories and processes of interaction between the three traditions in Muslim Andalusia will be studied through text, music, architecture, graphic art, ecology, etc. Instead of looking exclusively at three discreet and distinct traditions, we will examine how the three informed each other within the context of al-Andalus. This will provide a paradigm which we will then interrogate as we look at how historiography, geography, bodies, genders, identities, notions of race and fictions of purity, relationships of class and power intersect in the development of these religious traditions. This will lay the groundwork for further collaborative study of the three religious traditions. In addition to the work on Andalusia proper, we will also look at the implications of these intersections in the post-1492 Americas, as well as in the history of Islam in Bosnia. Where is East? Where is West?
The United States is home to a tremendous variety of Buddhist traditions. This two-week course will introduce basic Buddhist doctrines and practices, provide a brief historical overview of Buddhism in the US, and include visits to several Buddhist groups in the Berkeley area. Race dynamics will be an important theme of the course. Students will be asked to make a minimum of five site visits to Buddhist communities during the course: Pure Land, Ch'an, Theravada, Nichiren, Tibetan, and/or Zen; and to write brief reflection papers on them. A final exam will occur in class on the last evening.
Case Study Method
The course will introduce students to modern political theory through concrete questions of religious tolerance, identity, and diversity. Readings will combine classic texts in early modern political thought (e.g., Hobbes, Locke, Mill), significant contemporary works (e.g., K. A. Appiah, C. Taylor, U. Narayan, W. Cavanaugh), and case studies (e.g., John Brown and Theo van Gogh). At every point the theological perspectives implicit and explicit in the readings and cases will be given special attention. The course will also attend especially to the limits and paradoxes built into each of its key terms and to practical, political, and theological resources for working through and living with them.
Instructor: Dr. Sharon Welch. In this course we will explore the way in which ethical thought and action is redefined through post-colonial critique and engagement. From a critical study of Engaged Buddhism, Native American, and African-American humanism and Christianity, we see systems in which ethical action is founded on particular spiritual and meditative practices that elicit habits of attention, shape desire, and form a sense of the self as embedded in a collective and historical matrix. From these traditions, we see the ways in which ethics is as much a matter of shaping collective courage, will, and emotion as it is a matter of individual critical, rational and principled judgment. From a study of post-colonial comparative religious ethics, we also see western ethics differently. From the point of view of Buddhist, Native American and African American positions, we will explore the critical possibilities of one prevalent form of western ethics - social contract theory. We will also take up a third task: given the challenges of religious and ethical pluralism, how do see and understand difference, and then work together to shape a collective, ethical wisdom?
Instructor: Lucinda Mosher [Note: Dr. Mosher is also the author of this study]. Also known as "The Worldviews Seminar"( because enrollees become full participants in a week-long experiential and interdisciplinary intensive Worldviews Seminar sponsored by the University of Michigan-Dearborn), the purpose of this course is to better equip seminarians for ministry in a multireligious America. To this end, students are introduced to foundational information about the belief and practices of the world's religions as they become better aware of the multi-religious nature of Metropolitan Detroit. They will learn the concepts, vocabulary, and practices of a number of religions sufficient for engagement in intelligent dialogue with members of those religions, and sufficient to be informed visitors in a variety of religious settings. They will consider a Christian theology of religious difference which promotes neighborliness, hospitality, and mutual understanding. Teaching methods include lectures, use of audio-visual materials, presentations by adherents of the religions studied, panel discussions, interactive exercises, daily site-visits to houses of worshipÑwith opportunity to observe worship ceremonies and to interact with congregants.
Instructor: Whitney Bodman. This course explores and challenges various definitions of "fundamentalism," seeking an understanding of the nature of the phenomenon, questioning how the term is used, and considering its meaning in various contexts. Students examine movements and trends in Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, as well as other movements that have been called fundamentalist.
Instructor: Duane A. Priebe. This year-long research seminar will seek to construct a contemporary doctrine of Scripture in conversation with Hans-Georg Gadamer's "Truth and Method". It also will be done in conversation with what it means for a text to be scripture in Classical Christian and Lutheran traditions as well as in other religious traditions, such as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism. We shall consider what it means to read Scripture as a sacred text and the reading strategies that engenders, in conversation with classical ways Christians have read Scripture as well as in conversation with methods of historical study. Objectives: To understand the formation of the biblical text and its function in conversation with Gadamer's view of how truth happens in art and written texts; To look at the way truth occurs and claims us in cultural traditions, especially in classical texts, with a view to understanding how biblical texts address and claim us; To explore the issues of historical distance and the contemporary character of the text, as well as to examine the plain sense of the text and the way the words run; To consider both the place and the limitations of historical study in reading biblical texts, as well as other strategies for reading Scripture.
Interdisciplinary (2 courses)
Instructors: Bill J. Leonard and James M. Dunn. Team taught by professors from different disciplines, the course surveys the news stories, analysis and opinion in the New York Times. The class reads and discusses the religious, moral, ethical, theological, historical and popularly spiritual aspects of all items. Additional readings help put in perspective these events and attitudes in relationship to the American religious experience and culture.
Reel Theology: An Interdisciplinary Theological Encounter with Contemporary Culture
What religious or theological function can be performed by popular culture? To what extent can film and contemporary literature provide occasions of transcendence, divine encounter, and religious/ ethical exploration? In this course, we will watch movies and read some popular and/or important works of literature as touchstones for theological and religious conversation. Readings in theology and the study of religion will contextualize and round out our discussions.
Islam (2 courses)
Instructor: Marianne Farina. A study about the faith and practice of Muslims, a complex and diverse tradition. The resources for this exploration combine research and scholarship with the arts, social communications, and field experience, i.e., learning from Muslim community in the Bay Area. This course is an introduction to the history, philosophy, and theology of Islam. It will present various theological and social topics to the students through the reading and study of Islamic texts and guest lectures by Muslim teachers/leaders from the Bay Area. Students also will visit local masjids and community centers in hopes that the combination of study and practical experience with the Muslim community will deepen their understanding of Islam. Students will learn about the basic tenets of Islamic faith and principles of worship and social action. Students will become familiar with the schools of thought in Islamic theology, philosophy and jurisprudence. Students will meet members of the various Muslim communities in the Bay Area and their leaders. Students will develop critical skills for evaluating the way Muslims are portrayed in the arts and in public forums.
Islam for Rabbinic Students
This course begins with a review of basic history and theology of Islam. The heart of the course is a study of contemporary issues within the Islamic world: the view of the non- Muslim, war and peace, and the role of women. The course concludes with a study of Islam in America and Islam in the post 9/11 international scene. In a service-learning component of the course, RRC students will partner with Muslim students from the University of Pennsylvania to create and execute a teaching session in a Muslim or Jewish School.
Instructors: Polen and Heim. Team taught by a Jew and a Christian, meets on ANTS campus; joint course with Hebrew College will trace the development of the messianic idea from its biblical roots through Second Temple Judaism and into later rabbinic and Christian thought. Our study will explore interpretations of key texts in New Testament and Christian theology, as well as among Jewish philosophers, kabbalists and mystics. The course will examine the qualities and characteristics of the messianic age as understood by different personalities and faith communities.
Leadership and Interfaith (2 courses)
Facilitated by the Staff of the Interfaith Center of New York, in cooperation with Field Education staff. This course offers students a unique opportunity to meet with, and learn from religious leaders from other faith traditions. Students will learn more about the role(s) these leaders serve in their communities; gain practical insight on how to effectively interact and work with other religious communities; and examine and discuss the benefits, challenges, and strategies for mobilizing and coalition-building across religious lines.
Religion as a Source of Terror & Transformation
Instructor: Scott Holland. Since September 11, 2001, there has been a renewed awareness of how religion and religious discourse can become a source of both terror and transformation. This relationship between terror and transformation is especially challenging and complicated when religion "goes public." How do particular and prophetic religions enter pluralistic, public squares and contribute to social and political understanding and policy? Can there be credible expressions of public theology in our late modern, postmodern age? This course will explore the problems and possibilities of religious language and practice with the hope of what the prophet Jeremiah called "the peace of the city" in view.
New Religious Movements
This course will examine several religious groups that have been spawned in the U.S. and Canada, such as the Latter-day Saints (Mormons), Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Seventh-day Adventists, the New Age movement, and the Nation of Islam. Students will study these movements and examine the North American culture that produced and nurtured them.
Instructor: Fr. Clapsis. This seminar examines the biblical, patristic and liturgical foundations of peace as well as the reflections of modern Orthodox theologians on peace and peacemaking. It will attempt to retrieve the peace theology of the Orthodox Church in conversation with the ecumenical and interfaith discussions about peace and peacemaking. It is guided by the theological assumption that violence is a reality of the fallen world but cannot have theological legitimacy if eschatology shapes the life of the Church. The purpose of the course is to provide solid grounds for the participation of the Orthodox Church in peace and peacemaking movements and efforts as a faithful expression of the Church's calling. It will also examine critically peace statements and declarations of different Christian churches and ecumenical organizations and compare their theology with the beliefs of the Orthodox church in an effort to consider common ground and differences.
Instructor: Diana Lobel. The works of the 12th century Judeo-Arabic philosopher Maimonides is investigated in dialogue with texts from Islamic and Christian philosophy and mysticism, Taoism, Chinese and Zen Buddhism, and the process philosophy of A.N. Whitehead. Topics may include: the nature of the Absolute, origin of time and the universe, paradox of transcendence and immanence, role of teachers, sages, and prophets, language and negative theology, reason and the path to realization.
Instructor: Jacob Kinnard. A comparative course that examines the dynamics of pilgrimage from a number of different angles - theoretical, doctrinal, ritual, social - and which utilizes a variety of sources - including classical, ethnographic studies of actual pilgrimages, and focused studies of particular pilgrimage places.
Islam, which remains the fastest growing world religion, represents unique challenges for Christian witness and effective church planting. This course surveys the key strategies currently being used to plant churches in Islamic contexts. Special emphasis is given to contextualization of the gospel in the Arab world, the role of non-Westerners in church planting and the role of culture in religious change.
Religions and the Arts
Instructor: Reisacher. This course explores the major world's religions by looking at art and symbols. It provides an introduction to Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. In addition, it also covers more minor traditions and briefly takes a look at some new religious beliefs. The class will mainly look at the non-verbal and sensory elements of these religions and describe their meaning and role.
Team-Taught (2 courses)
Instructor: Yehezkel Landau and others. This eight-day intensive training program offers a practical foundation for mutual understanding and cooperation among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Participants learn about the tenets and practices of the three faiths, study texts from their respective scriptures together, attend worship at a mosque, synagogue, and church, and acquire pastoral skills useful in interfaith ministry. Building on Hartford Seminary's strengths as an interfaith, dialogical school of practical theology, this teamtaught program is a resource for religious leaders who are grounded in their own traditions while open to the faith orientations of other communities. Due to the interfaith nature of this course, we aim for equal representation among each of the three Abrahamic traditions in admitting students to this course.
Religions in Dialogue: Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity
Interfaith conversations between the Christian instructors and a Buddhist and a Muslim will explore the nature of these faiths and seek understandings that make possible authentic community and shared tasks on behalf of life.
Theology of Religions
This course explores the theological issues surrounding interfaith. Following a brief survey of the extent of the diversity in religion (both historically and today), the course concentrates on theological issues. The first issue is soteriology: are non-Christians saved? Along with Pluralism, Inclusivism, and Exclusivism, the course examines various alternatives. The second issue is similarity and difference. The third issue is truth, mission, and dialogue. What are the limits to dialogue? Does a commitment to dialogue entail a commitment to relativism? How should Christians interpret the great commission to go and convert the world? Finally, we look at the issues of religious diversity within and beyond a congregation, for example, interfaith marriage, a Muslim wants to take the Eucharist, and interfaith worship. [NOTE: A course with nearly identical title and description is offered at Hartford Seminary]
Instructor: Miriam Therese Winter. A year-long six-credit course in leadership and applied spirituality rooted in women's experience and from a feminist perspective which meets monthly. Program has had multifaith participation since its inception.