Religious Studies | Introduction to Christianity
R180 | 10779 | Furey
The above class carries Arts and Humanities distribution
This course will teach you new things about a familiar religion.
Nearly two billion people around the world today describe themselves
as Christians, including a majority of people in the U.S. So most
people believe they have at least a basic knowledge of Christianity.
This is what news reports take for granted, for example, when they
compare Christianity to other religions such as Islam or Judaism,
and it is what people assume when they discuss the battles between
Christianity and secular society. But Christianity is in fact
bewilderingly diverse. We may be able to agree on a simple
definition: Christianity is the religion of people who believe that
Jesus Christ is the savior of the world. But what does it mean
to “believe in”? How is this salvation achieved? What should
believers do in the world? How should they worship? Over two
thousand years of history, in diverse cultures, Christians have
answered these questions in an amazing variety of ways.
Christianity, in other words, is not really a single, unchanging
religion but instead an ever-changing network of related practices
and beliefs. In this course, we’ll come to know these differences
primarily through the eyes of several individual Christians who
lived in diverse times and places. This means that we’ll rely on
their writings—on primary sources, in other words—supplemented by
information from lectures and a short introductory text. We’ll study
their ideas about sex and celibacy; about dying for God; about
pilgrims, mystics and monks seeking God; about the long history of
church-state struggles; the violence of medieval crusades; and the
fierce debates between Christians from the time of Jesus Christ up
through the present day.
In order to enhance your knowledge of these primary texts and their
contexts, this course requires that you submit a short response to
weekly questions about the reading. The rest of the course grade
will be based on participation in weekly sections, three in-class
tests, a paper, and a final exam. We will also screen three films
outside of class time.
At the end of this course, you should be able to a) think and write
analytically about religion; b) analyze primary texts and explain
the importance of historical context; c) explain key differences
between Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic versions of Christianity;
and d) describe key events in Christian history.