Every religion provides its followers with two things, a doctrine and a method. The doctrine is like a map; it describes the landscape of Reality, explaining the way things truly are. The method is a set of practical instructions that concern what a person must do in order to travel to the places the map sets out; it involves the application and verification of doctrine in the believer’s own experience. Theology includes the study of both doctrine and method, both metaphysical principles and spiritual practice. It is the science of God and of deification.
This course is an introduction to the theology of the Christian religion, especially its doctrinal dimension. Our aim is to understand the Christian Map of Reality by examining basic Christian teachings concerning the origin, nature, and structure of man and the universe in relationship both to each other and to God. This approach is sometimes referred to as “systematic” theology, for the goal is to understand the essential doctrines of this religion as organically related parts of a single spiritual system. The chief interest is not the historical origin or development of religious institutions nor the social or psychological context of religious belief, but the underlying meaning and internal consistency of the Christian worldview as a whole.
We shall focus on the Christian understanding of God, Creation, the Fall, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Resurrection and life after death. Special attention will be devoted to the person of Christ and the doctrine of the Incarnation. In each case, the teachings of Christianity will be approached, not as abstract propositions simply demanding assent, but as spiritual supports for an ascent toward union with God.
Three texts are required: James S. Cutsinger, That Man Might Become God, the instructor’s lectures for the course; The Orthodox Way, by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware; and a A Reader in Christian Theology; compiled by the instructor and arranged to correspond with the chapters in Ware, each section of the reader contains both a classic text from the Christian tradition and a selection from the writings of C. S. Lewis.
- Reading. Reading and thoughtful reflection are essential. The assigned texts and lectures will demand study and not just skimming. Students will be expected to read these materials very closely and carefully.
- Attendance, both prompt and regular. A sign-up sheet will be circulated at the start of each class to record daily attendance; two unexcused absences are permitted, but a penalty of one letter grade is imposed for each additional unexcused absence. When quizzes (see below) are given, they will be administered immediately at the start of class, so that tardiness can take a further toll on one’s grade; it is in any case a discourtesy to one’s fellow students to be late, so please come on time or do not come at all.
- Participation. Students should be active participants, questions and comments being strongly encouraged. During the first part of each class, the instructor will highlight certain points in his Christian Theology lectures and introduce additional material, but there will always be ample time for discussion. Although there is no grade as such for class participation, constructive contributions on a regular basis can help to raise a student’s final course grade by as much as a full letter.
- Quizzes and examinations. There will be six short, unannounced quizzes based on the daily reading assignments in Christian Theology and the book by Ware (together these constitute 30% of the final course grade) and two essay examinations: a midterm (30%) and a comprehensive final (40%), both of which are designed to test additionally one’s knowledge of the materials in the reader.
Please note that make-ups for missed quizzes or examinations will not be permitted except for medical or other essential reasons, and only then if one promptly presents a written excuse from a doctor or other responsible authority.