FOUNDATIONS OF CHRISTIAN BELIEF
A study of the basic concepts of Christian theology via the perspective of Biblical tradition, historical development, and contemporary relevance.
This course is designed so that students will be able to:
1. Articulate the foundations of Christian belief, its practices and traditional doctrines.
2. Identify and better understand a relationship between historic Christian faith and contemporary issues related to human life and culture.
3. Think, write and discuss, with a growing sense of clarity and understanding, significant life issues from an informed theological perspective.
4. Articulate several distinctive aspects of a Wesleyan understanding of the Christian faith and how that faith is expressed in life and in the context of the Church of the Nazarene.
5. Appreciate the connection between sound Christian thinking and ethical Christian living---i.e. the relationship between belief and behavior—and evaluate moral and ethical choices in light of sound Christian interpretations
All students taking Introduction to Christian Thought should have already completed the earlier General Education courses Christian, Faith and Life and Introduction to the Old Testament or Introduction to the New Testament.
Grenz, Stanley J. Created for Community: Connecting Christian Belief with Christian Living. Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.
Harper, Steve. The Way to Heaven: The Gospel According to John Wesley. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003.
Young, William. The Shack. Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007. (Note: I do not order this for the bookstore, as it is readily available in many locations)
Overview of Course Content
This course will attempt to cover the basic content of the Christian faith. We will examine classical and historical understandings of God, Creation and Humanity, Sin and Redemption, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church and Last Things. Along the way we will address questions like: 1) How do we know what to believe? 2) What makes faith or belief possible? 3) What do we mean by “God”? 4) Is God in charge? 5) What’s wrong with us? With the world? 6) Who is Jesus and how does he make a difference? 7) What is the church and why is it necessary? 8) How do we practice the Christian life? 9) How are my beliefs reflected in my behavior? 10) Where are we headed? Where is the world headed?
Our approach to the classic faith of the church will be in response to the kinds of issues and questions raised as well as a systematic review of key theological issues. Together we will explore what it means to think, live and discern the meaning and purpose of life as part of the Christian story. Your engagement and participation will an important key to the success of the course!
Overview of Course Requirements
1. Listen to all online comments from the instructor and read all assigned readings from textbooks and other articles as posted in the weekly schedule.
2. Complete and submit online all assigned responses to readings and interview reports (approximately 500 points; 40-45% of the course grade). These assignments will appear in the Moodle section for each week during the course (see Schedule for due dates). They will involve responses to objective and subjective questions based on the course readings and class material.
3. Regular tests over assigned readings. (250-300 points; about 20% of course grade). Directions for taking tests will be provided.
4. Memorize and write from memory “The Apostles’ Creed” (top of syllabus). You will take this quiz in the middle and at the end of the course. Your average score between the two will be your score for this assignment. Obviously, the intent is to encourage genuine, lasting memory. (50 points; 4% of course grade)
5. Write an essay offering your critique of the novel, The Shack. This novel should be read carefully after completing the reading and writing assignments over the two textbooks. Follow these guidelines: 1) After reading the book, locate and read three positive and three negative critiques/reviews of the novel (you should have no problem of locating these online). These should be published reviews, not just what some people have to say on Amazon.com, etc.) You must cite these reviews and where they are found in the bibliography of the paper; 2) Prepare your essay including: a) brief (a couple good paragraphs will do) overview of the story, b) identify and discuss at least 4 significant theological issues (there are many!) you see in the book---how are they presented? do you agree or disagree with the theology that is implied? why? why not? (you should reflect in this section your ability to use the ideas you have learned through your study of the texts), c) your overall assessment of the book....is it helpful? why? how? why not? Which reviewers do you most agree with? will you recommend it to other people? why? why not? This overall essay should be at least 4-5 pages in length (100 points; 8% of course grade).
6. Write a 1200-1500 word essay (double-spaced, 12 pt font) reflecting on your experience of studying the foundations of Christian belief. What are the most important ideas you have gained?What are the most significant questions you have thought about and what tentative answers have you developed? Why is theology important? What does theology have to do with your chosen field of study or anticipated vocation? What does what you believe have to do with how you will choose to live your life? What big questions about theology are you still wrestling with? Your essay should reflect your thoughtful interaction with these questions as they relate to the issues and ideas of the course and with the reading material while at the same time express your own personal engagement with Christian theology. Please remember to properly cite any sources (including the texts) that you use in your paper. The purpose of this assignment is to allow you the opportunity to bring together, in a way that is clarifying and helpful to you, the important issues and questions of this CORE course. It should reflect your best thought and most careful writing. Make this a paper you would like to share with a parent, a best friend, a pastor or someone else important in your life. (100 points; 8 % of course grade)
7. Informed participation in the course activities including interaction with the work of other students, forum discussions, responses to questions, etc. (250-300 points; approximately 20 % of course grade)
All written work for the course is expected to meet minimal university writing standards. Papers should be typed (12pt font), double-spaced, and with proper citations for all material not your own. Papers will be graded based on MLA style. Typed papers are preferred for all assignments. Because our language is such a strong force in shaping our ideas, and because all publishing is now done in gender inclusive format, inclusive language is strongly encouraged on all written assignments.
If you need assistance with a learning, physical or psychological disability that may affect your academic progress, you are encouraged to contact the Academic Center for Excellence, Disability Services at (405)491-6694 (M-F 8:00-5:00). All students are encouraged to seek assistance from ACE, the Southern Nazarene University Academic Center for Excellence (LRC #309).