This 4-unit General Education course is a "thematic examination of biblical doctrines, including God, Christ, Holy Spirit, man, redemption, the Church; consideration of their historical development and contemporary meaning" (Undergraduate Catalog).
Class time will concentrate on student presentation and discussions, with occasional professorial lectures, spontaneous sermons, and edifying tangents. Readings introduce complementary and competing accounts of Christian life. Assignments concentrate on applying and evaluating the lessons of Christian theology for the Church and its disciples today.
This course introduces you to the fundamental teachings of the Christian faith: God, creation, humanity, sin, Jesus Christ, last things, Church, and salvation. Using the Bible, the history of Christianity, and the practices of the various Christian churches as our sources and guides, we will explore these different dimensions of Christian belief. While we will also discuss reading and writing assignments, lectures and discussion will not cover all the course material. The structure of this course roughly follows a narrative (and please pardon the grammar) beginning with
- Act 1: God and creation ("God and us"). Our guide in this part of the course is the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, often called the "Our Father" by Catholics and "the Lord's Prayer" by Protestants. It helps us begin where good theology begins: With the doctrine of the Triune God. Next (and somewhat out of sequence), we explore creation, which culminates in the creation of humanity in God's image. The rise of sin in God's good creation is the ultimate problem, requiring the ultimate solution. So God, creation, and fall set the stage for
- Act 2: Israel and Jesus ("God with us"). This part centers on the person and work of Christ, and follows his own narrative, from his first coming to his last. To show how ingrained Jesus' narrative is in the Church's life, we will use the Christian year as a guide for what Christians believe about Jesus. Yet Jesus' past, present, and future work on our behalf would remain disconnected from our own lives, apart from
- Act 3: Christian community ("Us with God"). The Church is the social, personal, and historical shape of salvation in the "end-times." When we ask what it means to be saved, we are calling on the doctrine of the Church. We will learn about what the Church is by focusing on what the Church does. This is embodied powerfully in its order of worship on the Lord's Day.
This course contributes to Westmont's General Education curriculum in serving the school's vision of Christian liberal arts collegiate education. It focuses on the substance, logic, and integrity of Christian belief (including its dependence on the Holy Scriptures of the Church), the ethical (that is, practical) form the faith takes in Christian community, and the historical shape of Christian tradition. Far from constricting our picture of life, these foci bring all things into perspective. Jesus Christ is the Word of all creation and the one true embodiment and Lord of humanity. His human nature comprehends all human endeavor that is not compromised by sin. His indwelling Spirit sanctifies and empowers faithful human life in its entirety. His Church is gifted and commanded to participate in him and in holy and virtuous fellowship in all that it does. So Christian doctrine properly describes and governs every truly human enterprise. You will see that our course readings and lectures respect this quality of theology in diverse and sometimes surprising ways wrestling boldly and faithfully with the insights of modern and postmodern philosophy (particularly in the helpful and unhelpful ways they frame Christian categories), the natural sciences (particularly in the forms and implications of the doctrine of creation), the behavioral sciences (particularly in the doctrines of Church and salvation), art and literature (particularly in the ways they have creatively appropriated and communicated the good news), history (particularly in its storytelling about the missions and failings of the Church in the world), and communication (particularly in the course's demands for critical thinking, clear expression, and teamwork). As Jesus of Nazareth is the definitive revelation of both God's character, the form and goal of all creation, and our atonement for all that falls short of the glory of God, no good or evil thing is beyond the scope of Christian doctrine.
Christian doctrine changes lives. It has changed the world. If you participate in this class (whether or not you call on Jesus as Lord), it will change you too. You will believe differently, live differently, and of course think differently. Our goal for the course is to gain academic knowledge whose practical power changes us.