The Course

This 4-unit course is a "thematic examination of biblical doctrines, including God, Christ, Holy Spirit, man [i.e., humanity], redemption, the Church; consideration of their historical development and contemporary meaning" (Undergraduate Catalog). Of the General Education requirements, it meets both the Doctrine component and (for students with sufficient ACT, SAT/WRII, or TSWE scores) the Writing for the Liberal Arts component.

Class time will feature lectures, student-led discussions of secondary texts, spontaneous debates and 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.

We will learn these fundamental teachings in ways that introduce key insights in contemporary theology:

  • From the legacy of Swiss theologian Karl Barth we will learn over and over that Jesus Christ is determinative for Christian theology, particularly his life, death, and resurrection.
  • From twentieth century theology we will learn that the doctrine of the Trinity is a central theological claim of Christian faith that follows from this fact and in turn informs all others.
  • From a variety of theological voices we will learn that the implications of Jesus Christ reach into every corner of our world and our lives with radical judgments and fresh beginnings.
  • From the last century of biblical scholarship we will learn that the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed is a fundamental category in Christian theology (especially eschatology, the study of the end-times) and ethics.
  • From postmodern philosophical theology we will learn that the good news of Jesus Christ, not some other ideology or some "universal rationality," judges truth-claims.
  • From missiologists and from brothers and sisters of other cultures we will learn that the good news is inherently culture-crossing, culture-challenging, and culture-changing, and that this is as true of our own cultures and most cherished ways of life as others'.
  • From the Christian tradition itself we will learn that Christian faith is basically practical, communal, and therefore ethical, and that the Church is therefore fundamental to truly Christian life and theology.
  • From brothers and sisters in other Christian traditions we will learn Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology not as fundamentally wrong forms of Christianity but as legitimate exercises of Christian faith with which Protestant evangelicals have legitimate differences.

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.

Course
Vision
Reading
Tasks
Schedule
MATERIALS
Rules of the Game
A Few (Strong) Suggestions on Essay Writing
Pointers for Presentations
Peer Review Guidelines
Review Form (PDF)