Theology Courses


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Fall 2018

Courses are for Purdue credit. Some may be used to fulfill Ecclesial Lay Ministry requirements.

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REL 203: Theology of St. Paul

MWF: 10:30-11:20 AM, BEERING B242
Dr. Thomas Ryba

Historically, the theology of Paul (of Tarsus) has been reconstructed in a wide variety of ways.  Recognized as the first theology of the Christian tradition, Paul’s thought has been understood both as having originated in the pre-established categories of primitive Christianity and as having been shaped by a wide variety of religious and philosophical currents.  Among the imputed influences on Pauline theology are Rabbinic Judaism, Pagan mystery cults, ecstatic religious experience, Hebrew prophecy (and its prophetic mission), Greek philosophy, and psychosis.

The purpose of this course is to establish—as nearly as possible—what the theology of Paul was.  Specifically, we will concentrate on Paul’s understanding of God, Jesus Christ, salvation, Christian community, spiritual gifts, the mission to the Gentiles, and the rhetoric of the epistles.  In the process, we shall also attempt to discover which claims about the origins of his thought are credible and which will not bear close scrutiny.  All this will be accomplished through readings of: Acts, the Pauline (and Deutero-Pauline) epistles, the apocryphal exploits of Paul, apocryphal and pseudepigraphal works of ancient Judaism, and some contemporary secondary literature on Pauline theology.

Required texts:  (1) Alan Segal, Paul the Convert, (2) Calvin Roetzel, The Letters of Paul: Conversations in Context (6th Edition), and (3) N.T. Wright, Paul: In Fresh Perspective.

Also, supplementary background readings will be available on BLACKBOARD).

Requirements: (1) One take-home midterm, (2) one analytic book report, (3) one group slide-show presentation on the rhetoric of an epistle, and regular attendance and participation.

Religions of the West

PHIL/REL 231
MWF 11:30-12:20, BEERING 1268
Dr. Thomas Ryba

The purpose of this course is to provide a systematic survey of those religions variously described, in the West, as ‘Western Religions’ or ‘Religions of the West.’  Immediately, a problem arises because the adjective, ‘Western,’ is questionable.  The descriptions ‘Western’ or ‘of the West’ have been understood as designating a problematic geo-cultural location—but also a homogeneous style of religious thought because of their common origins as Abrahamic monotheisms.  Contemporary scholars of religion, and indigenous believers, often contest this imputed homogeneity and have pointed to the incredible complexity and fluidity of these traditions, characteristics which resist simplistic classification.  Well aware of the challenges such descriptions present, we, in this course, will engage in a comparative study of the systems of belief and thought traditionally termed ‘Religions of the West’ by Western scholars of religions.  This will be accomplished through a series of readings on these systems’ histories, philosophies, and scriptures.

Required texts: (1) F. E. Peters, The Children of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam and (2) Thomas Ryba, The Abrahamic Traditions: A Comparative Structures Approach. Also, background readings on BLACKBOARD.

Requirements: (1) Four objective exams, (2) regular attendance and participation. Significant supplementary extra credit will be available.

Directed Readings

PHIL / IDIS 590: (To be arranged by student and professor) This course provides the student with an opportunity to explore individually tailored research topics.  The emphasis is upon initiative, independence, and creativity, within limits agreed upon by instructor and student.  Topics and meeting schedule are subject to instructor’s approval.  

Prerequisites: one course in theology, or in philosophy, or instructor’s approval.