Religious Studies

REL - Religion course descriptions


Lori Witt (chair), Terence Kleven, Elena Vishnevskaya


Statement of philosophy

The educational mission of the religion program is to serve both the Central Core and religion majors and minors. All courses at the 100- and 200-level are open to non-majors at different stages of their education. The department also seeks to offer a balanced array of courses for majors and minors. 

Course offerings in religion cover four focus areas: Biblical Studies (Old Testament and New Testament), History of Christianity (Western, Eastern, American), Comparative Religious Traditions (Judaism, Islam, and Asian religions), and Modern Religions Thought (theology, ethics, and culture). In addition, the department offers courses in Christian Worship, Spirituality, and Ministry. Courses emphasize the historical development of religious ideas and practices. Students are taught to interpret texts rather than to amass pre-interpreted information. In addition to the standard religion major, a major with a Christian Ministries Emphasis is offered.


Major Communication Skills

A major in religion can verbally communicate at the level appropriate for the recipient of a Bachelor of Arts degree in core areas of a liberal-arts curriculum. 

To ensure achievement at the required level, the communication skills of religion majors will be monitored from the time of major declaration. An evaluation of the student’s abilities will be made in the earliest class possible and assessments and recommendations deriving from this evaluation will be discussed with the student and the student’s advisor. Where appropriate, evaluation and recommendation will continue through the course work in the major until such time the student is consistently performing at the desired level.



Religious Studies Major Requirements (33 credits)

1.  Biblical Studies—Complete at least one of the following:

      REL      110       Old Testament History and Religion (3)
      REL      111       Introduction to the New Testament (3)
      REL      210       The Prophets (3)
      REL      211       The Writings (3)
      REL      216       Jesus and the Gospels (3)
      REL      218       Pauline Epistles (3)                    
      REL      310       Readings in The Prophets (4)
      REL      316       Readings in Jesus and the Gospels (4)
      REL      317       Readings in Revelation and the General Epistles (4)


2.  History of Christianity—Complete at least one of the following:

      REL      150       The Christian Heritage (3)
      REL      222       Spirituality in the Christian Tradition (3)
      REL      252       The Reformation (3)
      REL      254       The Early Church (4)


3.  Comparative Religious Traditions—Complete at least one of the following:

      REL      135       Islam (3)
      REL      233       The Jewish Experience (3)
      REL      236       Islamic Law, Theology, and Philosophy (3)  
      REL      238       Taoism and Confucianism (4)
      REL      335       Readings in Islam (4)
      REL      336       Readings in Islamic Law, Theology, and Philosophy (4)


4.  Modern Religious Thought—Complete the following:

      REL      274       World Christianity (4)

5.  Complete the following:

      REL      499       Senior Independent Study (3-4)


6.  Complete REL electives (13-18 credits)

At least 8 hours in the focus areas, above, at the 300- level. No more than 3 credits of internship and 3 credits of independent study (excluding REL-499, senior independent study) may be counted toward the total.

Note: One course (3 credits) of the following may also be counted as religion major electives.

      HIST     220       Middle Eastern Civilization (3)        
      HIST     221       Biblical Archaeology (3)
      SOC     342       Sociology of Religion (3)
      Any PHIL course except PHIL 125
      Liberal Arts Seminars (LAS 410) taught by departmental faculty


Pre-Ministry Program

Central College continues the emphasis of the ecumenical Christian tradition in general, and the Reformed tradition in particular, to prepare students for a life of service to God and community, as well as to prepare some students for a professional vocation in the ministry.

The chaplaincy and the religion faculty work together to provide a period of reflection and discernment for students who are considering ministry, whether this be lay ministry (such as missions, church-related teaching, or para-church service) or ordained ministry that requires further graduate or seminary study. Pastoral and vocational counseling is offered by the chaplain, the director of the Christian ministries emphasis of the religion major, and other faculty members. In addition, pre-ministerial students usually complete either a major or a minor in religion in order to give them adequate grounding in scriptural studies, in church history, theology, and ethics, and in at least one world religion other than Christianity. The students also have an opportunity to complete ministry internships in churches and church-related organizations either locally or through Central’s off-campus programs. Students may also choose to receive spiritual formation from a designated mentor.

The variety of denominations represented by the faculty, students, and staff at Central College provides student with a rich exposure to various formulations of Christian teachings and practices. Although our aim is to provide students with an opportunity to study various church teachings besides their own, we also focus a particular student’s study on the Church teaching to which he or she is most accustomed. As parts of an educational institution, the chaplaincy, the Christian ministries emphasis, and the religion major encourage students to develop a strong sense of the centrality of education to ministry. We foster an integration of faith with training of intellectual qualities of mind in order to establish a student’s vocation on the best that is thought and known in Christian teaching and ministry.


Christian Ministries Emphasis

Students may choose to earn a Christian ministries emphasis within the Religion major. To earn this emphasis, students must complete all of the following courses in the process of meeting the requirements of the religion major (as detailed above):

REL 220 Christian Worship (3)
REL 397 The Ministry Internship (Arr) 

Contact the Christian ministries emphasis director for more details.


Religious Studies Minor Requirements (18 credits)

Complete 18 credits of REL courses with at least 12 credits of those at the 200-300 level, including: at least 3 hours in each of three of the four focus areas specified for the major: biblical studies; history of Christianity; comparative religious traditions; and modern religious thought.