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RELS-233, Christianity. Spring 2010 - Rein - Syllabus (Short Version)

RELS-233, Christianity. Spring 2010 - Rein - Syllabus (Short Version)

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Published by Nathan Rein
Syllabus for Rein's course on Christianity at Ursinus College, Spring 2010.
Syllabus for Rein's course on Christianity at Ursinus College, Spring 2010.

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Published by: Nathan Rein on Jan 18, 2010
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01/17/2010

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RELS-233
 
Christianity: A Historical Introduction
 
Spring 2010MWF 11-11:50amOlin 108
 
Instructor: Nathan ReinOffice hours: M 1:30-3pm, Tue 10 am-12 noon, and by appt.Olin 211, x. 2571, nrein@ursinus.edu
 
Course description
This course will examine some of the main themes characteristic of the Christianreligion, focusing mainly—but not exclusively—on Christian theological reflection.You will concentrate on primary sources throughout the semester, ranging from thefoundational texts of the New Testament through the twentieth-century theology.The course is arranged thematically rather than chronologically and will deal withtopics like struggle and transformation, belief and knowledge, worship and theChristian life, and Christianity in the modern world. Rather than try to present acomprehensive picture of the tradition—which seems impossible to me—I amtrying to introduce you to some of the great debates and problems against whichChristian thinkers have defined themselves over the centuries.Several interrelated questions will define the course. Keep these questions in mindas you read and discuss the material. In no particular order, the questions are:(1)
 
How have Christians responded to the demands of the secular world and tothe changing norms of world history?(2)
 
How have Christians translated the gospel of salvation through Jesus intoeveryday life and understanding? What are some of the ways that Christianity has changed its followers?(3)
 
How do Christian ideas and practices shape the way individuals andcommunities have dealt with the human body?(4)
 
What attitudes have Christians typically adopted towards knowledge, reason,or belief? Have Christians understood knowledge of religious matters asessentially different from other sorts of knowledge?A word of clarification: this course is not constructed with the assumption that youare a Christian. Nor is it constructed with the assumption that you are not. Similarly,it will not assume that any one version of Christianity is more correct, moreauthentic, truer, or better than another. Our approach to the tradition will behistorical and critical (not 
critical 
in the sense of "hostile," but 
critical 
in the sense of "giving careful, thorough, and analytical consideration"). Keep in mind that "Christianity" doesn't exist out there, in the world, independent of Christians, just asthere is no free-floating English language that can be abstracted and separated fromthe people who actually speak English every day. In studying religion, we areentering into a relationship with real people, their ideas and feelings, and theirattempts to make sense of their own lives, rather than studying some abstract,disembodied, intellectual tradition. While the works we read will indeed get quiteabstract at times, try not to lose sight of the fact that there is always a
 person
behindthe words, trying to sort things out for him- or herself. On a fundamental level,Christianity is concerned with the basic dilemmas of human life: the need to live
 
2within the limits of one's own body and mind; the inevitability of sickness, old ageand death; the pressures of coexistence with other people; the elusiveness of experiences of joy and peace.The simple purpose of the course is to explore the Christian tradition — or, perhapsmore appropriately,
traditions
in the plural. As we will see, Christianity is
alive
, moreof an ongoing conversation than a static set of doctrines. Our work will consist primarily of reading, writing (both formal and informal/ungraded), discussions inand outside of the classroom, and some basic field work, meaning that throughout the semester you will actually visit churches, interview people, and examineartifacts from the world around you.
Requirements, assignments and grading
Course requirements:
-
Regular class attendance
-
Attendance at two out-of-class field visits, including reports to the classafterwards
-
Four formal (graded) papers, three 3-5 pp. and one 8-12 pp.
-
Weekly focus papers (you must turn in nine over the course of the semester;these are due each Thursday and will be not be graded)
-
Peer responses to formal papers
-
Brief in-class presentations (two to three)I plan to assign the shorter formal papers for the weeks of Feb. 8, March 1, and April5, but this may change. There will also be regular informal written and oralassignments; I'll hand out more information on this separately. Depending on what Iobserve in the classroom, I might also decide to use tests or quizzes on the reading.Your first three papers, your presentations, and your classroom participation willeach be worth 14% of your final grade, and your final paper will be worth 30%.While I will not grade your focus papers, I will ask you to turn in a portfolio of allyour writing for the course at the end of the semester, and work of consistent highquality will be reflected in a raised participation grade.
Books you will need:
Margaret R. Miles,
The Word Made Flesh
 Hugh T. Kerr (ed.),
Readings in Christian Thought 
 St. Augustine,
Confessions
(Penguin edition, translated by R.S. Pine-Coffin)St. Benedict,
The Rule of St. Benedict 
(Vintage edition, edited by Timothy Fry)Randall Balmer,
Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory 
(third edition)Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins,
Left Behind 
There are a lot of editions of Augustine's
Confessions
and Benedict's
Rule
. For thisclass, it's important that you have the editions specified here (Penguin for the
Confessions
, Vintage for the
Rule
). They should be available in the bookstore. Also,you are going to need a good, reliable Bible translation. If you don't have one, Istrongly recommend the New Revised Standard translation. You
cannot 
use the New
 
3International Version. I've ordered two Bibles for the bookstore, the
HarperCollinsStudy Bible
and the
New Oxford Annotated Bible
. Either will be fine; you don't needboth. If you want to buy books online, you can see this whole list at this link:http://j.mp/rels233books .
The fine print 
H
OW TO CONTACT ME
: You should feel free to contact me by email or phone at any time.Unless things are really crazy, I should respond within 48 hours. You can also phoneme at home if it's before, say, 10:00 p.m. (610-933-4686). If that's not good enough,try IMing me via AIM; my screen name is nathanrein. I'm on Facebook, and you canadd me to your friends list if you like to say in touch that way. And finally, I amusually in my office, though it's always a good idea to call or email in advance andmake an appointment.W
RITTEN WORK
: Rule 1.
 All written work must be submitted
in order to receive apassing grade for the class. This means that if the end of the semester comes and Idon't have one of your papers,
 you will receive an F for the course
. If you neglect tohand something in, it is your responsibility. I won't come chasing after you, but yourgrade will suffer. I request that you submit all papers via email. Rule 2. Late paperswill be penalized by one grade-step (from B+ to B, etc.) for each day they are late,unless you have arranged with me for an extension well in advance of the due date. Idon't mind giving extensions if you can explain why you need one. Life iscomplicated. Rule 3. However,
informal writing (particularly focus papers) will
never 
be accepted late
. Rule 4. Follow the formatting guidelines that I give you. Allwritten work must include both
 page numbers
and a
word count 
in the upper right corner of the first page. Staple it or I'll throw it out. I'm not kidding.A
TTENDANCE
: Attendance at every class meeting is expected. Missing class showsdisrespect for your classmates and professor and for the collective enterprise of theclass. As per Ursinus College's stated policy, no distinction will be made betweenexcused and unexcused absences. Missing two class meetings may result in theissuance of an academic warning slip. Missing more than four meetings may result in a failing grade for the course. Each missed class will lower your semesterparticipation grade.A
CADEMIC HONESTY
: Plagiarism is a serious offence, and today it has become very easyto detect. In written work, all quotations must be properly attributed and appear inquotation marks. But at least as importantly,
any time you are drawing on someoneelse's work you
MUST 
cite it 
! (Either parenthetical citations or footnotes areappropriate.) This includes paraphrases, summaries, or
any time
you make use of anidea that's not your own. Anything else is plagiarism and can result in one or both of the following: (1) a failing grade for the course or (2) College-level disciplinaryaction, including expulsion. At best, you will have an extremely unpleasant meetingwith the dean and get an "F" for the assignment, and I guarantee it will ruin your dayand mine. If you have questions about the proper use of sources, please don't hesitate to contact me. You are probably better off turning in nothing at all than

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