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Course Descriptions — Theological and Religious Interpretation
Courses are for 3 credits unless otherwise noted.

TR105 Constructive Theology
Eleazar Fernandez
Introduces students to the nature and task of Christian theological construction, the basic issues related to theological method and the classical and contemporary interpretations on major doctrines, with the expectation that students will acquire the necessary hermeneutical tools for constructing their theological views.
Prerequisite: IS151. Required course for all master's degree programs

TR107 Christian Ethics
Sharon Tan
This is an introduction to ethical theory and ethical reflection that includes a critical study of various approaches to Christian ethics as they are expressed in biblical, classical and contemporary sources. It includes systematic analysis of moral reasoning and Christian responsibility and explores some contemporary ethical issues.
Prerequisites: IS151, CH161, CH261, CH461. Required course for all master's degree programs.

TR150 Theologies of Atonement
Tony Jones
This is a seminar on the various theologies of atonement present in the Christian and other religious traditions. Human beings since primitive times have desired to reunify with the Divine through atonement rituals and the theologies that justified them. Working with the draft of his forthcoming book, Did God Kill Jesus, Professor Jones will lead students through reading of various atonement theologies in the Judeo-Christian tradition, explore how other religions understand atonement and work with students to develop a theory of atonement that is congruent with the student’s theology.
No prerequisites

TR224 Paul Tillich and Contemporary Challenges
Eleazar Fernandez

This course explores the main themes and thrusts of Paul Tillich’s theology, examines his theological system and critiques his ideas in relation to the challenges that the church and society are facing in our contemporary times. This course fulfills the "systems of thought" requirement of the curriculum.
No prerequisites

TR235 The Church, Spirituality and the Arts
Wilson Yates
Thursday, 6:00-9:15 PM
Focusing on the visual arts, including painting, sculpture, the liturgical arts, architecture and other selected art forms, this course will examine their role in the life of the church and Christian spirituality. Historical considerations begin with the early church and move down through major historical periods. The three major Christian traditions of Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism will be examined with a consideration of current forms of “spiritual art” that are present outside of, or on the margins of, the church, including outsider folk art from both the Black and Hispanic worlds. The final focus will be on where we are today and the primary rationales for engaging the arts as a contemporary religious community.
No prerequisites

TR244 Theological Focus on Photography

This course will study up to 50 of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ most salient photographs in its holdings. Each of these photographs and their artists are essential to everyone’s “visual repertoire.” Students will examine these photographs at the MIA and in class with photographic and theological methods of reflection: analysis of technique as artistic expression; the artistic drive of photographers as a spiritual force; and how photographs serve as religious arts, revealing the human condition, people’s relationship to God and the immanent/transcendent presence of the Divine spirit. The course will focus theologically on art photography, digital photography, documentary photography, photojournalism and street photography, stemming back to 1845, through the Great Depression, and up to 2002.
No prerequisites


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TR247 Theology and Music
Phil Stoltzfus
How does the experience of music influence and shape our theological thinking? This course will go beyond the traditional field of church music to investigate how ideas derived from reflection on music (musical aesthetics) have been used by theologians to construct novel understandings of God and the life of faith from a variety of theological perspectives. Students will critically engage with the insights of figures such as Augustine, Hildegard, Schleiermacher, Barth, Küng, Ann Pederson, Heidi Epstein and Jeremy Begbie. Alongside these, we will explore in a non-technical manner both sacred and secular musical works (medieval, classical, jazz, popular) as avenues for opening us up to listen, feel and think in new and creative ways.
No prerequisites

TR248 Theological & Spiritual Reflections on 20th Century Art
Wilson Yates
This course focuses on theological and religious interpretations of the visual arts in the 20th and 21st centuries. We will treat the contributions of 20th century theologians, beginning with thinkers who initiated the contemporary theology and arts conversation, and examine how that conversation developed to the present time. Strengths and weaknesses of current theological approaches will be examined with a focus on what is central in theological reflection on the arts. In this process, we will develop a dialogical approach attempting to answer certain of the limitations of current theological treatments. We will also engage in a personal exploration of art in terms of our own spirituality and theology.
No prerequisites. Theology and the Arts elective

TR249 Imagining God Through Art: Engaging Theology and Religious Imagination through the Arts
Humans have used art to express religious beliefs and practices throughout history. In art, people can explore their theological and religious beliefs, and ask questions about their beliefs and practices.  Art can help us understand and grow spiritually, morally, and theologically.  For example, contemporary graffiti artists around the planet are exploring social justice issues through the visual arts in public spaces. This course will explore ideas associated with theology, religion, spirituality and ethics in contemporary and historical art. It involves required readings, exploration of regional arts, online assignments and threaded conversations. We will engage with the arts as religious expressions, spiritual explorations, ethical declarations and theological efforts to connect the sacred with personal and communal experience. We will explore the arts in relation to spirituality and as sources for imaginative theological reflection. We will visit churches, museums and other locations where art involving religious, theological, spiritual and ethical connections might be found. In addition to a final research paper, students will be required to write short weekly reflection papers about what they see or experience in relation to the readings for the week. The required papers, online postings and online discussions will comprise the graded components for the course.
No prerequisites. Theology and the Arts elective

TR250 Bearing Witness: The Power of Story
Sarah Bellamy
How are artists conduits for healing, awareness raising and action around issues of race and social justice? This course will look at the power of theatre to promote social justice and equity through story, performance and post-play dialogue. We will focus on the plays slated for Penumbra Theatre Company’s upcoming season, looking specifically at the American 1950s and 1960s and the monumental change of the Civil Rights Movement. Penumbra is one of the nation’s leading African American theatre companies. Participants will study the scripts, accompanying theoretical and situational texts and engage with special programming at Penumbra.
No prerequisites. Leadership Toward Racial Justice elective; Theology and the Arts elective; Justice & Peace Studies elective

TR271 Theological Interpretation of the Arts

This course introduces students to the history of religion, theology and the arts as used in theological study, theological education and the life and worship of the church. Students will study the major theoretical approaches to theology and the arts. Stemming from this study, students will begin an initial development of their own theoretical approach to the arts, using ideas from theology, arts criticism and experiential learning.
No prerequisites. Required course for Theology and the Arts

TR272 Arts Practicum

In this experientially based course, students focus on their art forms and/or a particular art concern and its interpretation. Students will demonstrate ability through performing, exhibiting and/or interpreting the arts through a project. Through course discussions and comments, students will develop and put into practice project plans. Examples might include the creation of an art exhibit, a recital performance of music or dance, a poetry reading, a presentation integrating the arts in worship or a series of lectures for a selected audience on the arts in the life of faith and worship. The practicum assumes class participation, reading, critical reflection, project design, practice and a performance/presentation as appropriate before a group at the seminary or other designated settings.
Prerequisite: TR271, the equivalent of one full-time year of study (27 credits). Required course for Theology and the Arts

TR331 Antiracism Dialogue: Theory and Practice

Antiracism theory and practice from a relational theology perspective. The course employs a circle approach to antiracism dialogue, study and community formation. Explores the interpersonal dynamics of racism, focusing on institutional and systemic racism. Examines the notion of racism as violation, causing spiritual woundedness and material harm and, from the perspective of the sinned-against, raises questions about traditional understandings of forgiveness.
No prerequisites

TR338 Creation and the Boundary Waters
Anthony Jones

As our planet faces various ecological crises, Christian leaders much consider the oft-neglected doctrine of creation. Developing a robust doctrine of creation will be necessary to reverse the tide of consumption and waste that is endemic to 21st century living. Thankfully, there are a great many theological resources in this regard, both ancient and modern. Students will read various texts on creation, discuss them in a seminar format, and write a paper after the class meets. This course will take place in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness May 29 - June 3 and is limited to 7 students, with a minimum of 5 students. Students should be aware that this trip will involve both physical and intellectual rigors. A sports physical and/or doctor's approval is required, and additional trip fees will apply. No auditors.
No prerequisites.

TR360 Film as Theological Text: Race, Class, Gender and Sexualities

This course examines the cultural medium of film as theological text. Theological inquiries are made into the meanings of grace, redemption, repentance, truth and the vocation of ministry by critically focusing on the re-presentation and re-production of race, class, sexualities and gender in film. A critical method rooted in theological, biblical and visual fundamentals, expanded by literary, cultural and theological social analysis, guides this study of film as theological text. Tentative films are Slumdog Millionaire, Sweet Land, Birth of a Nation, Malcolm X, Daughters of the Dust, Transamerica, Paris is Burning, Milk, Raise the Red Lantern, Snow Falling on Cedars, Broken Rainbow, Rabbit-Proof Fence and The Soloist. Students will see each film outside of class.
Prerequisite: IS151

TR408 Introduction to Feminist Theologies
What is feminist theology? What have feminist theologies contributed to the theological community and, perhaps more importantly, to women and men seeking alternative ways of seeing the sacred? We will explore works of feminist theologians in the period from the 1960s to the present. We will identify and discuss some characteristics of feminist theologies and reflect on how these theologies resonate with our own experience. There will be some lecture, and reading, writing, conversation and reflection will be main components of our time together.
No prerequisites. Required course for Women's Studies

TR421 Black Theology and Womanist Theology
Linda Thomas
The purpose of this course is to develop a critical understanding and interpretation of black and womanist theologies; to become familiar with their intellectual traditions; to put both disciplines in critical dialogue; to examine their commonalities and differences; and to see how they challenge our own perspectives.
No prerequisites. Women's Studies elective; Leadership Toward Racial Justice elective

TR501 Environmental Ethics

This course focuses on two fundamental questions: What is the theological significance of the natural world? How can Christian ethics address the question of our role in, and responsibility for, the natural environment? These questions will be considered in the context of scientific and practical knowledge of the natural world.
No prerequisites

TR509 Comparative Religious Ethics
Philip E. Stoltzfus

This course introduces students to ethical systems in the major, non-Christian world religions and includes some additional in-depth reading on one or more of those systems. There will be discussion of case studies and specific ethical issues, comparing the different ethical approaches in the different religions.
No prerequisites. Non-Christian Religion(s) elective

TR513 Theology of Spirituality & Nonviolence

This course will explore nonviolence as a distinct set of scriptural, philosophical and theological conversations throughout Christian history, also informed by broader religious traditions. At the same time, we will deepen our engagement with nonviolence as a spirituality—a rhythm of transformative practices involving personal, inter-personal and communal lifestyles. Finally, we will employ nonviolence as a resource for social analysis and strategy in the organization of people’s movements. In the classroom, we will engage in exercises derived from best practices in current nonviolence training; investigate experiments in nonviolence such as the Civil Rights Movement, People Power in the Philippines, the Occupy Movement, and the Arab Spring; and critically engage with the impact of nonviolence on our understandings of the meaning of Jesus, the concept of God and the nature of liberative empowerment for social change.
No prerequisites

TR514 New Encounters: Hospitality, Security and Peace in a Mobile World
Eleazar Fernandez
The increasing mobility of people is one of the main tenets of our globalized world. While this may be cause for celebration, there is another side to the flow of people that is alarming: the massive movement of people due to global market forces, political and religious conflicts, ecological crisis, etc. This has led to shifting demographics, new encounters of various sorts and exciting possibilities of forming more colorful communities, as well as pressing challenges. This course takes account of the flow of people and the challenges it brings: its impact on the countries of emigration and the countries of immigration policies, national security, ecology, health, cultural and religious encounters and human rights. Moreover, this course takes a theological reading of the issues and explores ways of helping faith communities and civil society respond creatively to the challenges.

TR522 Theories of Justice and Reconciliation
Phil Stoltzfus
This course is designed to be the foundation course for the Justice and Peace Studies concentration. It will cover philosophical, theological, legal and economic conceptions of justice and reconciliation and will explore the relationship between justice and reconciliation.
No prerequisites. Required course for Justice & Peace Studies; Leadership Toward Racial Justice elective

TR526 Hammering at the Gates of Heaven: Religion, Science and Certainty in Modernity
Matthew Johnson
In this course students will be exposed to the multi-faceted exchange between science and religion, primarily in the form of the Christian faith in modernity. They will be introduced and encouraged to explore the issues surrounding the nature of authority, the nature of scientific and religious language, and competing truth claims, as well as different models for envisioning the relationship between these two fundamental dimensions of human culture. We will pay close and careful attention to the issues that are likely to find their way into the political and public domains, such as the Creationism versus Evolution debate (more like debacle), as well as the implications of scientific discoveries, modern cosmology, interpretations of Genesis, biblical and theological hermeneutics, etc., for the faith of the "person on the street." In addition, we will explore a variety of significant implications embedded in this discussion which directly and indirectly impinge upon theologies of liberation and contextual theologies in spite of the tendency to overlook this particular area of investigation as a serious source for these theological approaches.
No prerequisites

TR533 Theological Ethics of H. Richard Niebuhr
Paul Capetz and Faculty

H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962) is one of the most important figures in American theology in the 20th century. Through reading and discussion of primary texts, the seminar examines Niebuhr’s theological and ethical thought, as well as his use of historical and sociological categories for the interpretation of human life in its religious and moral dimensions.
No prerequisites

TR536 Ethics of Reconciliation
Sharon Tan

We will explore the theological and social ethics of reconciliation, specifically the notions of forgiveness, repentance, justice and community. In the first two-thirds or so of the course, we will focus on theory in readings, writing, lecture and discussion. In the last portion of the course, we will apply this to specific issues in reconciliation, e.g., domestic violence, racial justice, political conflict.
No prerequisites

TR537 Justice: Social, Legal, Economic
Sharon Tan

In this seminar, we will explore different conceptions of social justice and how law and economics — dominant expressions of justice in today’s society — might reflect these different conceptions. We will read and discuss liberal theories of justice and their critiques and discuss how positive and natural law theories and economic systems relate to concepts of justice and morality.
No prerequisites

TR545 Process Thought and Christian Faith: The Theology of John B. Cobb Jr.
Jeanyne Slettom
An in-depth study of the works of preeminent Christian process theologian John B. Cobb Jr. from his early theoretical works to his ethical writings on ecology, economy, evolution and religious pluralism. Cobb spent his early career focusing on the interpretation of Christian faith through the lens of philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, then increasingly turned his attention to writing for laypersons on socioeconomic issues relating to the common good. Dr. Cobb has agreed to some interactive participation with students of this course.
No prerequisites. Systems of Theological Thought elective

TR553 Theology & Ethics of James Cone
Paul Capetz
This seminar will examine the theology and ethics of James Cone, the founder of "Black Theology." We will study classic texts representative of Cone's theological development, analyze his theological method including the norms and sources informing his theology and seek to come to terms with the understanding of Christian faith he proposes in response to the racism and oppression that black people in America have had to suffer.
No prerequisites

TR572 Vocation and Virtue (Good Work)
Sharon Tan

This course brings together themes in moral agency, institutionalism, virtue and vocation in examining the role and identity of a “professional” in today’s workplace. We will explore the generally common constraints and freedoms that individuals in different professions experience in the workplace in their pursuit of their ideals and goals. In addition, we will examine the work place as an arena in which to develop virtue and live our vocation and citizenships.
No prerequisites

TR608 Christology

Christology is arguably the most critical topic of theological discourse for Christian faith since it treats of the decisive significance attributed to Jesus by the church. Historically, however, the shape of the christological question has undergone development from ancient to modern times. Whereas the classical formulation of the christological question concerned the relation between divinity and humanity in Jesus, the modern formulation of the question has revolved around the relation between the so-called “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith.” In this seminar, we will examine this historical shift in the formulation of the christological question and study certain influential constructive proposals for understanding how Christians today should understand their central christological confession that “Jesus is the Christ.”
No prerequisites

TR610 Theology of Religions
Eleazar Fernandez

Brings to the students’ attention the evermore pressing reality that we are living in a religiously plural world — a world whose very survival demands that communities must learn to live with each other — and invites them to take a critical account of the basic theological premises of the Christian faith vis-à-vis the claims of other religions. It is the hope of this course that students will be able to articulate a theology of religions that is adequate to our pluralistic context while remaining faithful to their respective religious heritage.
No prerequisites

TR637 Theology of Rudolf Bultmann
Paul Capetz
Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) was not only the 20th century’s most influential New Testament scholar but also one of its most important systematic theologians. Bultmann’s proposal for demythologizing the New Testament evoked a storm of controversy among pastors and theologians regarding what it means to proclaim the Gospel in the modern world. His synthesis of historical-critical exegesis of the New Testament, existentialist philosophy and Protestant theology is an achievement with which every serious student of Christian theology must come to terms. This seminar will examine the historical, philosophical-hermeneutical and systematic aspects of Bultmann’s theology through a careful reading of some of his major primary texts.
No prerequisites. Systems of Theological Thought elective

TR650 Theology in Contemporary Film
Jann Cather Weaver
Discerning theological dimensions in contemporary film requires learning to read a film's theology, not imposing one's theological views upon a film. This course will introduce students to the tools of "seeing" the theology/ies in contemporary film, enabling students to grapple with different theological perspectives. We will also discuss the social context of each film. As we examine the films, the films will in turn examine our lives of action and belief. This is not a film studies course. Tentative films: Sweet Land; Departures; Avatar; Daughters of the Dust; There Will Be Blood; Lars and the Real Girl; The Butler.
No prerequisites. IS152, TR271 and a Bible course and/or a theology course would be helpful background; Theology and the Arts elective

TR675 Seminar on Unitarian Universalist Theology
Carol Hepokoski
In this course, we will explore historical and contemporary theological themes within Unitarian Universalist thought and practice. Throughout the course there will be structured opportunities for theological reflection, conversation and analysis of selected topics. Special attention will be given to theological resources from historically under-recognized groups within Unitarian Universalism.
No prerequisites

TR714 World Religions

Understanding that other faiths may offer insight into our own, this course provides an overview of major world religions. Judaism, Islam, West African practices, Hinduism and Buddhism receive specific focus, with students examining the relationship between culture and religion in these traditions. Special attention will be given to how people live out their beliefs through ritual, artistic expression and social conduct. Field research in the growing local multifaith community will be included.
No prerequisites

TR718 Hinduism

Hinduism is now a growing religion in America. With its understanding of the multiple faces of God, connections to yoga and rich art traditions, the oldest major world religion has much to teach us about dynamic theology, spirituality and sensuality as part of religion. This course will explore Hindu history, practices, scripture and beliefs through readings, discussion and experiential learning. Visiting a temple, meditation, yoga and music and dance concerts will be a part of class learning. Comparison to your own religious tradition will be an active part of our conversation.
No prerequisites

TR720 Zen Buddhism

A special transmission outside scriptures — no dependence on words and letters, direct pointing to the human heart and mind, seeing into one’s true nature and the attainment of Buddha hood. With these brave words attributed to Bodhidharma, Buddhism entered China. We will follow the course of this lively stream of Buddhism as it flows through China, Japan and North America. We will give careful, sustained attention to selected primary texts as well as landmark secondary interpretations. Complementing our textual study will be an engagement with some of the spiritual practices of Zen Buddhism: concentration and mindfulness, koan study and ink painting, tea ceremony and poetry.
No prerequisites
Register now as a non-degree student

TR721 Buddhism and the Arts

The core teachings of Buddhism are illuminated by its arts. Trace the evolution of the “Dharma” from the sculpture and empty cushions of early Buddhism, through the spacious poetry and painting of China and Japan, to the practical arts of tea ceremony, flower arranging and jazz. As the images of the Buddha migrate across the generations, why did he open his eyes and smile?
No prerequisites

TR722 Theological Voices from a Global Perspective
Eleazar Fernandez

Our era has witnessed the emergence of various theological voices, especially theological voices long muted and buried, that need to be taken seriously by the church and the theological community. Students in this course will be exposed to various theological voices around the world as to their context, method and content and encouraged to engage critically with them, with the hope that these voices enrich and widen their theological views.
No prerequisites

TR725 Theological Voices of Minorities in the United States
Eleazar Fernandez

The time for silence is over; the long time “absents” in the history of the United States are now raising their voices. A challenge is before us to respond to these voices and take account of how we do theology and ministry. This course accepts the challenge by exposing students to the history, struggles, hopes and theological voices of racial minorities in the United States.
No prerequisites

TR726 Judaism and Islam
The mother and sister religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam have both a rich history and relationship. Study of the history, theology and culture of these traditions may provide deeper insight into their impact on our world. This course will do so, with attention to both traditional interpretations, but also mystic Kabbalah and Sufi understandings and modern feminist views. Attention to the arts will provide important insights into how these religions existed and affected their communities.
No prerequisites

TR736 Introduction to Judaism for Christians
Amy Eilberg
This course will offer Christian students an introduction to Judaism tailored to their particular needs for Jewish knowledge. The course will focus primarily on post-biblical Jewish sacred text, theology and practice, as well as a brief overview of Jewish history and contemporary trends in the American Jewish community. Emphasis will be placed on the recognition and transformation of the supercessionist narrative, replacing it with a view of Judaism as a separate, authentic and evolving religion.
No prerequisites. Non-Christian religion(s) elective

TR748 Taoism

Among the world religions, Taoism occupies an unusual place: it spans the gap from primordial shamanism to 21st century systems theory; it fosters both scientific rigor and mystical rapture. This investigation of the “Nature Religion” of China will explore its many transformations. The last two units will consider how three friends (Alan Watts, Ken Cohen and Al Huang) transplanted Taoism to America. Learning methods include primary and secondary texts, small group discussion, lectures, discussion, calligraphy, guest speakers and field trips. Students will learn Taoist spiritual practices including breathing, standing meditation, T’ai Chi and Chi Gong.
No prerequisites

TR749 Buddhism in America
Ted Tollefson
This course will explore the influx of traditional forms of Buddhism into America from 1842 to the present, as well as the emergence of what appears to be a new form of socially engaged, ecologically aware "American Buddhism."
No prerequisites. Non-Christian religion(s) elective

TR750 Global Christianities: Trends and Challenges
Eleazar Fernandez
This course introduces students to how Christianity has changed and is expressed globally. Christianity is growing despite rumors of its decline -- but it is growing in different ways and in different places. This growth is more pronounced in the southern hemisphere or the global South. But this is not the end of the story, for the Christianity of the global South has come to the global North through migration, and migrants and immigrants are redefining Christianity in the global North. All this will be studied in the course and assessed in relation to the life, mission and history of the church.
No prerequisites. Global Justice elective

TR771 Approaches to the Study of Religion and Religious Communities
This course introduces students to major approaches to the study of religion as a human phenomenon and to research methods for studying actual religious communities.
Prerequisite: IS151. Required course for M.A.R.T.

TR815 Evolutionary Spirituality: At the Confluence of Science, Religion, and Mysticism
Corrina Thomas
In this course we will gather to be inspired at the confluence of Religion, Science and Mysticism. We will engage with the deep wisdom offered by our various faith traditions and the awesome revelation of science. An evolutionary spirituality is a worldview through which we see each person and all of creation as living images of the divine and active participants in the process of evolution, which are inter-related and inseparable from the Source of all life. It is only in discovering our deepest identity of oneness and by reclaiming the sacredness of all matter, that we will find hope, healing and harmony for ourselves and for our world. This course will help us explore and answer some of the fundamental questions of our existence, in regard to our origin, destiny and purpose.
No prerequisites.

TR820 Reimagining the Church: Ecclesiology, Mission and Ministry for Our Contemporary Time
Eleazar Fernandez

This course introduces students to the classical as well as the various contemporary models of the church or ecclesiologies. Then these ecclesiologies will be critiqued in light of the tradition and contemporary challenges the church is facing. Furthermore, students will engage in reconstructing or re-imagining an ecclesiology that is not only faithful to the Christian heritage, but also responsive to the current context, both globally and locally.
No prerequisites

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