Religion

In contribution to the mission of Bluffton University to provide a superior liberal arts program shaped by the historic peace tradition of Mennonite churches, the religion department of Bluffton University has four objectives:

  • to teach the skill and value of critical thinking toward Scripture and toward historical-denominational traditions with an aim toward deeper commitments to God as known in Jesus Christ and greater critical appreciation for the students' own heritage;
  • to expose all students at Bluffton University to Judeo-Christian history, literature and values in particular conversation with Anabaptist and Mennonite perspectives and traditions;
  • to offer a program of in-depth study for those whose interests take them beyond the minimum exposure to religion in general education courses and that provides further skill in biblical interpretation, in assessing theological proposals and in passing on theological traditions; and
  • to be a defining center of contemporary free church theology for both the academic community and the Anabaptist and Mennonite churches.
     

To accomplish this four-fold mission, the religion department offers one major with three tracks (Biblical Studies, Theological Studies, and Youth Ministry), five minors (Biblical Studies, Theological Studies, Youth Ministry, Missions, and Philosophy), and the pre-seminary program, each of which reflects and is shaped by the peace church heritage and the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition while remaining in conversation with other Christian traditions. In addition, the religion department collaborates with other departments to provide interdisciplinary offerings.

We team with the health, fitness and sport science department to offer a major in Youth Ministries and Recreation. This interdisciplinary major is designed to prepare students for entry-level leadership positions in a variety of congregational, camp, para-church and recreational settings.

We also partner with the communication and theatre department on the Communication in Church Organizations Program. Students who are interested in Christian church mission and other ministry institutions may combine this program with a major in religion or communication.

Those who plan to major or minor in religion should take COM 185 instead of MAT 105 as their general education reasoning course.
More info...

Majors

Religion major  

(51-56 hours)
In Mark 12, we learn that the study of religion requires the use of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Traditionally this has been accomplished through the pursuit of a diverse set of approaches: the study of the Bible is kept in our heart, the study of spirituality (often called practical theology or ministry) moves forth from our soul, the study of theology engages our mind and the study of ethics conditions our strength. In keeping with this emphasis, the major in religion offers tracks in Biblical Studies, Youth Ministry and Theological Studies

The major in religion serves the needs of a variety of students.  As a religion major, you will learn to think critically and appreciate how to understand and mediate among diverse perspectives.  These skills are wonderful preparation for many vocations.  The major in religion also provides an excellent foundation for those interested in church vocations or further graduate studies in religion.  Religion is also an ideal complement to another major. 

Tier I:  Prerequisite for religion majors (3 hours)
REL 100 Introduction to Biblical Worldview (3)

Tier II:  Core courses for all religion majors (21 hours)
REL 242 Spiritual Disciplines in the Life of the Church (3)
REL 250 Introduction to Old Testament (3)
REL 252 Introduction to New Testament (3)
REL 273 Christian Theology (3)
REL 274 Christian Ethics (3)
REL 350 History of Christianity (3)
REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)

Tier III or Major Track Courses

Biblical Studies (27-28 hours)

GRK 111, 121 New Testament Greek (2 semesters) (6)
       and/or HEB 111, 121 Old Testament Hebrew
REL 220 World Religions (3)
REL 312 Exegetical Studies (once with an OT focus and once with a NT focus) (6)
REL 322 Methods of Biblical Interpretation (3)
REL 395 Religion Seminar (1)
ENG 401 Critical Theory (3)

Choose one of the following:
REL 320 Historical and Theological Studies (3)
REL 325 Sacred and Civil Religion in America (3)
REL 352 Contemporary Studies Theology & Ethics (3)
REL 359 Mennonite History and Thought (3)

Choose one of the following:
REL 230 Christian Worship (2)
MUS 231 Music Ministry (2)
REL 332 Christian Missions (3)
REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry (3)
REL 336 Discipling and Mentoring (3)
REL 340 Religious Communication (3)
 

Theological Studies (27-28 hours)

REL 220 World Religions (3)
REL 320 Historical and Theological Studies (3)
REL 322 Methods of Biblical Interpretation (3)
    or REL 340 Religious Communication (3)
REL 352 Contemporary Studies in Theology and Ethics (3)
REL 312 Exegetical Studies (3)
REL 359 Mennonite History and Thought (3)
PHI 105 Introduction to Philosophy (3)
  or PHI 152 Ethics (3)
REL 395 Religion Seminar (1)

Choose one of the following:
REL 332 Christian Missions (3)
REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry (3)
REL 362 Youth Ministry I: Theology and Programming (3)

Choose one of the following:
REL 230 Christian Worship (2)
REL 231 Music Ministry (2)
PCS 230 Theories of Peace and Conflict (3)
REL 325 Sacred and Civil Religion in America (3)
ENG 401 Critical Theory (3)
A 2nd REL 320 Historical and Theological Studies (3)
A 2nd REL 352 Contemporary Studies in Theology and Ethics (3)

Youth Ministry (29 hours)

PSY 214 Child and Adolescent Psychology (3)
REL 230 Christian Worship (2)
REL 240 Principles of Christian Education (3)
REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry (3)
REL 336 Discipling and Mentoring (3)
REL 362 Youth Ministry I: Theology and Programming (3)
REL 364 Youth Ministry II: History and Praxis (3)
REL 385 Practicum (2)
REL 395 Religion Seminar (1)

Choose 9 hours from the following:
REL 312 Exegetical Studies (3)
REL 320 Historical and Theological Studies (3)
    or REL 352 Contemporary Studies in Theology and Ethics (3)
REL 340 Religious Communication (3)
REL 359 Mennonite History and Thought(3)
 

Youth Ministries and Recreation major 

(53 hours)
The interdisciplinary major in youth ministries and recreation is designed to prepare students for entry-level leadership positions in a variety of congregational, camp, para-church and recreational settings that will offer an opportunity to develop and test ministry and leadership skills in a professional setting before committing to ministry, a seminary education or to further training in recreational professions.

Communication: (Choose 1) 
COM 195 Interpersonal Communication (3)
COM 275 Organizational Communication(3)
COM 340 Religious Communication (3)

Psychology: (3 hours)
PSY 214 Child and Adolescent Psychology (3)

Recreation: (12 hours)
HFS 115 Introduction to Recreation (3)

Nine hours from the following:
HFS 135 Games and Social Recreation (3)
HFS 225 Commercial Recreation (3)
HFS 205 Recreation Leadership and Program (3)
HFS 215 Outdoor Recreation (3)
HFS 245 Camping Administration (3)

Religion: (32 hours)
REL 230 Christian Worship (2)
REL 240 Principles of Christian Education (3)
REL 242 Spiritual Disciplines in the Life of the Church (3)
REL 312 Exegetical Studies(3)
REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry (3)
REL 336 Discipling and Mentoring (3)
REL 362 Youth Ministry I: Theology and Programming (3)
REL 364 Youth Ministry II: History and Praxis (3)
REL 385 Practicum: Camping and/or Youth Ministry (2)
REL 395 Religion Seminar (1)

Choose one:
REL 250 Introduction to Old Testament (3)
REL 252 Introduction to New Testament (3)

Choose one:
REL 273 Christian Theology (3)
REL 274 Christian Ethics (3)
REL 350 History of Christianity (3)

Choose one:
REL 320 Historical and Theological Studies (3)
REL 325 Sacred and Civil Religion in America (3)
REL 352 Contemporary Studies in Theology and Ethics (3)

Choose one:
REL 359 Mennonite History and Thought (3)
REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)

Minors

Minors enable students to explore a selected area in religion while devoting the majority of their academic program to another discipline. In keeping with the department's focus on conversation and diverse traditions, minors in missions and philosophy are offered in addition to biblical studies, theological studies and youth ministry. 

Biblical Studies minor (19 hours)
GRK 111, 121 New Testament Greek
       or HEB 111, 121 Old Testament Hebrew (3) (2 semesters recommended)
REL 250 Introduction to Old Testament (3)
REL 252 Introduction to New Testament (3)
REL 312 Exegetical Studies (once with an OT focus and once with a NT focus) (6) 
REL 322 Methods of Biblical Interpretation (3)
REL 395 Religion Seminar (1)
 

Theological Studies minor  (19 hours)
PHI 105 Introduction to Philosophy (3)
REL 273 Christian Theology (3)
REL 274 Christian Ethics (3)
REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)
REL 395 Religion Seminar (1)

Choose one of the following:
REL 320 Historical and Theological Studies (3)
REL 352 Contemporary Studies in Theology and Ethics (3)

Choose one of the following:
REL 325 Sacred and Civil Religion in America (3)
REL 350 History of Christianity (3)
REL 359 Mennonite History and Thought (3)
 

Youth Ministry minor (21 hours)
REL 362 Youth Ministry I: Theology and Programming (3)
REL 364 Youth Ministry II: History and Praxis (3)
REL 385 Youth Ministry Practicum (2)
REL 395 Religion Seminar (1)

Choose 9 hours from the following:
REL 240 Principles of Christian Education (3)
REL 242 Spiritual Disciplines in the Life of the Church (3)
REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry (3)
REL 336 Discipling and Mentoring (3)

Choose one of the following:
REL 252 Introduction to New Testament (3)
REL 273 Christian Theology (3)
REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)
 

Missions minor (19 hours)
REL 220 World Religions (3)
REL 332 Christian Missions (3)
REL 350 History of Christianity (3)
REL 395 Religion Seminar (1)

Choose one of the following:
REL 252 Introduction to New Testament (3)
REL 273 Christian Theology (3)
REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)

Choose one of the following:
REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry (3)
REL 336 Discipling and Mentoring (3)

Choose one of the following:
LAS 342 Cross-cultural Experience (3) (i.e., a second, with a practicum component)
REL 385 Practicum in Christian Missions (3)
REL 390 Independent Study in Missiology (3)
 

Philosophy minor (21 hours)
PHI 105 Introduction to Philosophy (3)
PHI 152 Ethics (3)
PHI 390 Independent Study in Philosophy (3)
COM 344 Rhetoric Theory (3)

Choose one of the following:
REL 273 Christian Theology (3)
REL 274 Christian Ethics (3)

Choose 6 hours from the following:
REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)
ENG 401 Critical Theory (3)
PLS 270 Political Theory (3)

Programs

Pre-seminary program (34 hours)
GRK 111, GRK 121 New Testament Greek (6)
    and/or HEB 111, HEB 121 Old Testament Hebrew (6) 
REL 250 Introduction to Old Testament (3)
REL 252 Introduction to New Testament (3)
REL 273 Christian Theology (3)
REL 274 Christian Ethics (3)
REL 312 Exegetical Studies (3)
REL 322 Methods of Biblical Interpretation (3)
REL 395 Religion Seminar (1)

One course in practical theology (3)

Choose one of the following:
REL 325 Sacred and Civil Religion in America (3)
REL 350 History of Christianity (3)
REL 359 Mennonite History and Thought (3)
REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)

Participation in the Ministry Inquiry Program
more info...
 

Courses

Greek
GRK 111, GRK 121 New Testament Greek 1, 2
   (3 each)
An introduction to the elements of New Testament Greek with emphasis on the mastery of basic forms, vocabulary and syntax. The class combines the formal, systematic approach with the inductive approach to language learning with reading in the Gospel of John. The two semesters are designed to be taken in immediate sequence. Students are also introduced to the culturally conditioned structures of thought reflected in the Greek language. Students completing the course will be able to read simpler portions of the New Testament at sight and more difficult portions with the aid of a lexicon.

Hebrew
HEB 111, HEB 121 Old Testament Hebrew 1, 2   (3 each)
An introduction to the Hebrew language of the Old Testament. The two semesters are designed to be taken in immediate sequence. Students study the basic grammar of the language and read short portions of a wide number of Old Testament books. Students completing the course will be able to read simpler portions of the Old Testament at sight and more difficult portions with the aid of a lexicon.

Philosophy 
PHI 105 Introduction to Philosophy
    (3)
Introductory discussion of philosophical methods, ethics, knowledge, nature of reality and religious beliefs. Attention may be given to the philosophical dimensions of psychology, art and politics.

PHI 152 Ethics   (3)
Consideration of various ethical theories, issues in contemporary moral philosophy and moral issues in contemporary life. The student is challenged to clarify the basis of right and wrong conduct.

PHI 390 Independent Study in Philosophy   (1-4)
By arrangement. Topic to be proposed by the student.

Religion 
REL 100 Introduction to Biblical Worldview 
(3)
An introduction to each of the four main ways that modern theologians have attempted to understand the Bible (biblical studies, ethics, theology and spirituality) through the exploration of the biblical foundations of each approach. Students consider the distinctiveness and the relationships between these different approaches to the biblical text in an Anabaptist context. The course emphasizes the ability to read and understand biblical texts in a discerning way and to explore the text's potential for shaping a contemporary worldview. The Sermon on the Mount provides a focal text for the course. 

REL 220 World Religions  (3)
An introduction to the major religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism and Islam. The course attempts to understand these world wisdom traditions on their own terms through a consideration of their origins, history, sacred texts and religious practices. This course may be taken as part of the Peace and Conflict Studies minor.

REL 230 Christian Worship   (2)
An examination of how persons and groups have expressed Christian faith through worship. The course includes a historical survey of worship practices, a comparative study of current worship practices in various traditions and an examination of how the various arts are used in and contribute to worship. Offered on demand.

REL 231 Music Ministry   (2)
A practical study of methods and materials for the church musician. The course includes study and projects in hymnology, church choir repertoire, instruments in worship and administration of a church music program. Not offered every year; REL 230 is a recommended prerequisite. Also listed as MUS 231.

REL 240 Principles of Christian Education   (3)
Christian education in the context of the church congregation is the primary focus of this course. An overview of the history, theology, use of the Bible, learning models and settings of Christian education leads to a comprehensive case study by each student of one congregation's educational ministry. Designed for persons currently involved or those who may become involved in Christian education. Prerequisite:  REL 100. Offered alternate years.

REL 242 Spiritual Disciplines in the Life of the Church   (3)
The goal of this course is to expose students to biblical spirituality and historical models of spirituality. In addition to fulfilling the conventional requirements of a typical academic course, students are encouraged to cultivate spiritual devotion in their own personal and corporate lives. Class assignments require more than academic performance. They also challenge students to reflect deeply on and to develop disciplines that will enhance their spiritual lives. Prerequisite: REL 100. Offered alternate years.

REL 250 Introduction to Old Testament   (3)
An introduction to the literature of the Old Testament with emphasis on the primary text. Students read and analyze material from a broad spectrum of biblical texts in the effort to understand the main components of the biblical story and the nature of the literature in the Old Testament. The course emphasizes the ability to read and understand biblical text in a discerning way and to explore the text's potential for continuing to shape a modern world view. Prerequisite: REL 100.

REL 252 Introduction to New Testament   (3)
An introduction to the literature of the New Testament with emphasis on the primary text. Students read and analyze material from a broad spectrum of biblical texts in the effort to understand the main components of the biblical story and the nature of the literature in the New Testament. The course emphasizes the ability to read and understand biblical text in a discerning way and to explore the text's potential for continuing to shape a modern world view. Prerequisite: REL 100.

REL 273 Christian Theology   (3)
The course surveys central doctrines of the Christian faith and develops a few doctrines in more depth. Topics include the nature and work of Christ, the nature of the church, eschatology, religious authority and creation. Emphasis on particular topics may vary. The overall focus of the course is to present these doctrines both from the perspective of the church of the so-called Constantinian synthesis and from peace church perspectives. Prerequisite: REL 100.

REL 274 Christian Ethics   (3)
The first part of the course demonstrates how much of mainstream ethics reflects the church of the so-called Constantinian synthesis and then provides a peace church view of Christian ethics. The second part of the course applies this learning to the spectrum of issues that confront Christians in the modern world. Prerequisite: REL 100.

REL 311 Jesus   (3)
An investigation of one area in the study of Jesus. Course content varies and is announced prior to registration. Areas of investigation include a discussion of the methodological problems involved in studying the historical Jesus and may concentrate on a theme such as: 1) a study of one of the Synoptic Gospels; 2) a study of the history of research on the historical Jesus in the 19th and 20th centuries; 3) Jesus images in literature; or 4) how Christology is treated in such specific theologies as black theology, feminist theology and womanist theology. May be repeated for credit with a different topic. Prerequisite: REL 100.

REL 312 Exegetical Studies   (3)
An investigation of one particular book or selection of text in the Bible. Occasionally the focus is on ancient texts outside of the Bible that are of particular importance for understanding the origins and nature of Christian and/or Jewish faith. The focal areas include (but are not limited to) the Psalms, the prophets, women in the Old Testament, the Gospel of John, the letters of Paul, the book of Revelation and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The topics alternate and are announced prior to registration. May be repeated for credit with a different topic. Prerequisite: the appropriate introduction course (REL 250 or REL 252) or permission from instructor. With an appropriate topic, this course may be taken as part of the Women's Studies minor.

  REL 320 Historical and Theological Studies (3)
An investigation of one area of church history or Christian theology. Topics vary across the entire range of Christian history and are announced prior to registration. While not limited to the following, topics might include the history of monasticism, the theology of Martin Luther, the theology of John Calvin, Radical Reformation, black theology, liberation theology, feminist theology, atonement theology. May be repeated for credit with different topic. Prerequisite: REL 273 or REL 274 and sophomore standing, or permission of the instructor. Offered alternate years. With an appropriate topic, this course may be taken as part of the Women's Studies minor.

REL 322 Methods of Biblical Interpretation  (3)
Examines various approaches to how Christians today read and interpret the Bible. Explores problems and possibilities associated with interpreting the Bible and looks at various principles and methods of interpretation that have been proposed. Examines how to read the Bible devotionally and how to lead Bible studies in a variety of settings, such as in youth groups, residence hall Bible studies and Sunday school classes. Prerequisite: REL 100. Offered alternate years.

REL 325 Sacred and Civil Religion in America   (3)
The course surveys developments in American religion from the earliest permanent settlements by Europeans to the present. Particular attention is given to those aspects of the American religious scene which have contributed to the evolution of Civil Religion. Examples of these phenomena might be the New England Theocracies, the Revolutionary War, the Benevolent Empire, the Civil War or the separation of church and state. Prerequisites: REL 100, REL 273 or permission of instructor.

REL 332 Christian Missions   (3)
This course studies how God works in the world to bring about reign of God and transform human lives and how churches participate in that mission. Students survey major eras in the history of Christian missions, learn to recognize contemporary "types" of mission strategy and develop the biblical and theological basis of Christian mission. They examine how to share a message that truly is good news for people suffering violence and oppression, for people who want to protect their cultural and religious traditions from Western culture and for people in the increasingly pluralistic "post-Christian" West itself. The course makes regular use of case studies. Prerequisites: REL 100, REL 220.

REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry   (3)
Addresses fundamental ministry issues on the personal and professional level, including one's call to ministry; the theological principles of ministry; the balance of priestly and prophetic roles in the ministry; and the character, integrity and ethics of the ministering person. The course examines identity issues, congregational systems theory and collegiality issues, both in terms of gender issues and working in multiple staff situations. Prerequisite: REL 100.

REL 336 Discipling and Mentoring   (3)
Examines ways of encouraging and nurturing people in their faith development. Students analyze, critique and implement methods of discipleship and mentoring in both one-on-one and small group contexts. Course gives attention both to foundational/theoretical issues and practical issues. Prerequisite: REL 100.

REL 340 Religious Communication   (3)
This course is an introduction to the theory and practice of religious communication in its sermonic, liturgical, deliberative and promotional forms. The course surveys homiletic theory from St. Augustine's On Christian Doctrine to contemporary narrative approaches to preaching and explores the role of religious language in congregational worship, decision-making and public relations. Attention is given to such current communication issues as the impact of electronic media on religious messages, the use of gendered language in religious texts and the tension between intimacy and inclusiveness in public worship contexts. Students in the class write sermons, create responsive readings, plan congregational worship services and business meetings and design church promotional materials. Prerequisite: junior or senior status

REL 350 History of Christianity   (3)
A history of the Christian church from the death of Jesus Christ through the 16th century. Special attention is paid to the rise of bishops, the formation of creeds, the Great Schism, the Constantinian Shift, the monastic era, pre-reformation free church movements and the reformation in its Anglican, Radical, Protestant and Catholic forms. Prerequisite: REL 100.

REL 352 Contemporary Studies in Theology and Ethics   (3)
An investigation of one area of Christian theology or ethics. Topics vary and are announced prior to registration. While not limited to the following, topics might include particular focused studies (creation, atonement, intimacy and the body, digital culture), theological or ethical movements (black theology, feminist theology or ethics, environmental ethics) or studies of significant contemporary theologians (John Howard Yoder, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Gustavo Gutierrez). May be repeated for credit with different topic. Prerequisites:  REL 273 or REL 274 and sophomore standing, or permission of the instructor. Offered alternate years. With an appropriate theme, this course may be taken as part of the Peace and Conflict Studies minor.

REL 359 Mennonite History and Thought (3)
The course surveys the history and meaning of Mennonitism from its inception to the present. Topics may include Mennonite origins in the Anabaptist Reformation of the 16th century, Mennonites in colonial North America, the movement westward with the frontier, the Quickening of the 19th century, the schisms of the 19th and 20th centuries, the impact of such American phenomena as revivalism and fundamentalism on Mennonite thought, the Mennonite response to war and the character of Mennonite theology. Emphases on particular topics may vary from one term to another. Prerequisite: REL 273 or permission of instructor. This course may be taken as part of the Peace and Conflict Studies minor.

REL 360 Leadership in Church-related Organizations   (3)
In large, formal church-related organizations (i.e. World Vision and Habitat for Humanity) and small, informal ones (i.e. local congregations and neighborhood associations), persons of goodwill join together in the name of Christ to voluntarily serve those in need. This course suggests to students: 1) the composition of the church-related not-for-profit sector; 2) the contextual variables within that sector which suggest a need for Christian vision and leadership; and 3) the specific competencies required for involvement and leadership in church-related organizations. The following objectives are pursued: 1) to differentiate by mission and structure the various types of organizations which constitute the not-for-profit sector in general and church-related organizations in particular; 2) to investigate numerous opportunities for involvement in not-for-profit church organizations; and 3) to practice Christian communication and leadership within the not-for-profit sector through selective involvement with voluntary organizations. Throughout the course, such concepts as awareness, empathy, foresight, persuasion and stewardship are introduced and evaluated. This course is also listed as COM 360.

REL 362 Youth Ministry I: Theology and Programming   (3)
This course explores the theological foundations of youth ministry and their implications for programming in the church. The specific approaches of various theological traditions to youth ministry are explored. Attention is given to the development of adolescent spirituality and how an awareness of these characteristics affects the nature of the age-specific youth ministry approach.  Prerequisite: REL 100.

REL 364 Youth Ministry II: History and Praxis   (3)
This course takes a historical survey of the development of the concept of adolescence and subsequent progression of specific programs of youth ministry. The rise of the vocation of youth ministry is analyzed with its resulting praxis issues. The world of the adolescent is explored in its psychosocial and cultural realms. Prerequisite: REL 100.

REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence   (3)
This course surveys biblical teachings on war and peace and survey the variety of theological understandings throughout the history of the Christian church. The course treats both individual and international dimensions of peacemaking. Sophomore standing required. Prerequisite: REL 100. This course is one of the core courses in the Peace and Conflict Studies minor.

REL 385 Practicum   (3)
Students carry out an assignment in a church or other institution under the supervision of a minister or other director. Students meet with supervisor and teacher on a regular basis. May include readings and writing assignments as appropriate. For upper-level students.

REL 390 Independent Study   (3-5)
By arrangement.

REL 395 Religion Seminar  (1)
Seminar serves as capstone to the religion department majors and minors and enables students to integrate the learning from prior religion courses. Each participant in the seminar makes a presentation to the seminar which depicts her or his religious world view in conversation with these learnings. Seminar presentations emphasize integration, synthesis and analytical thinking. Prerequisite: upper-level standing.

June 2012