The Course

This 4-unit course is an "upper-division seminar course open to RS majors and minors (others by permission)" (Undergraduate Catalog). Our topic is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as it relates to questions of nature and scientific inquiry. The course helps fulfill the theological/historical studies emphasis of the religious studies major, and the systematic theology upper-division elective of both the major and the minor. Of the General Education requirements, it meets the Writing for the Liberal Arts, Writing outside the Major, or Writing within the Major component. Introduction to Christian Doctrine (rs20) is a formal prerequisite.

We will also strive in specific ways to meet the six learning standards Westmont has adopted for our students:

  • Christian orientation. You will become more familiar with Christian doctrine, scripture, church history, world religions, and biblical scholarship as we describe the biblical, historical, dogmatic, and cultural shape of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. You will do this through active listening and reading, discussion, written reflection, theological analysis of the many settings in which the Holy Spirit is known and considered.
  • Diversity. In your interactions with the course material, readings from Christians from elsewhere in the world and other traditions from Roman Catholic to Eastern Orthodox to secularist, and from premodern to postmodern, as well as interactions with other Westmont students and people elsewhere, you will have a variety of opportunities to encounter traditions and people whose lives, goals, faith, and unbelief are different from yours. This can make you more knowledgeable, empathetic, and incisive in weighing, understanding, and interacting with those objects of God's mission, judgment, forgiveness, and transformation.
  • Critical and interdisciplinary thinking. This course is intrinsically interdisiciplinary: we are exploring the ways pneumatology and the natural sciences interact and inform one another. Among the implications of the good news of Jesus Christ is that Jesus Christ is Lord of all, and so every area of human and cosmic life has the potential to signify his reign. We will read demanding writing that assumes both scientific and theological literacy to search for any such signs, and we will think critically to discern them and judge their significance and implications. You will learn how to think both theologically and scientifically, by yourself and with others in the course, about common topics: God, and God's creation.
  • Research and technology. Course assignments will take you repeatedly into our textbooks and back to raise and answer new, critical, and synthetic questions. This will turn you into an information gatherer and researcher of our course materials as well as other sources of information we may drawing on, especially for those who take this course for in-course honors standing and undertake a research project. (You will gain further experience representing and citing these sources, both written and oral, in your own work so as to study with academic honesty and integrity.) In the normal course of our semester together you will also find yourself gaining familiarity with a variety of information technologies, though this is not a main focus.
  • Active societal and intellectual engagement. The history of theology takes us to the birth of western civilization, which birthed the age of science that sets and profoundly shapes contemporary society. Learning the histories of both the Holy Spirit and modern scientific inquiry as interrelated and implicated in one another will also focus us on one of the most vexing debates that shapes our contemporary world. Helping one another and working on your own through the demands of writing- and speaking-intensive assignments that relate the Christian faith to Christian life will also cultivate the skills that will help you after college in the workplace, volunteering, school, church, and at home.
  • Written and oral communication. As my "rules of the game" state, I assign regular written exercises in a variety of genres. You work according to a regular reading, thinking, and writing schedule. You are formally and radically accountable for writing well, citing sources properly, introducing and organizing your answer, answering the entire question, and drawing on all the requested sources. You edit rather than merely write, and judge fellow students' arguments as peers rather than simply formulating and submitting your own. All this makes for more conscientious writing. You also write and deliver presentations in class, discuss your work with one another, and converse with me in one-on-one appointments. These activities foster more conscientious speaking. Together they help you communicate effectively in a range of genres, listen as well as articulate, and learn to put new as well as old ideas in words and to purposes truly your own.

More information on the structure and substance of the course is in the introductory lecture.

Rules of the Game
A Few (Strong) Suggestions on Essay Writing
Pointers for Presentations
Peer Review Guidelines
Review Form (PDF)