Religious Studies 216
Contemporary Religious Thought:
Faith, Suspicion, and Modernity

Fall 2003
MWF 10:00, Steiner Hall 306

Prof. Tyler Roberts
Department of Religious Studies
Office Hours: MW 1-3 and by appointment
Steiner Hall 203
x-4472; robertst@grinnell.edu

SYLLABUS | DISCUSSION FORUM


Course Description
A study of 19th and 20th century theologians and philosophers of religion, focusing on their criticisms and reconceptualizations of religion in light of the intellectual currents, social changes, and historical events of the period. In addition to learning about particular religious and philosophical thinkers, a major goal of the course is to give you the opportunity to develop your ability to engage in critical argumentation-to carefully and fairly listen to or read the arguments of others and to take and defend clear positions, in discussion and in writing, of your own.

Course Requirements and Grading

1) Class Participation (30% of final grade):
i) Class attendance. More than two unexcused absences during the course of the semester will have a significant adverse effect on your final grade.
ii) Regular participation in class discussions. You are expected to have done all the assigned reading for each class session and to come to class (with the readings in hand) having formulated specific questions and/or observations about the reading that you are ready to discuss in class.
iii) Small groups. Most weeks we will devote a day to small group discussions. Peer evaluation of this work will contribute to your participation grade.
iv) Blackboard Assignments: On the Friday preceding each week's readings, I will post reading-guide questions on our Blackboard site (beginning Sept. 5). By 10:00 p.m. on either Sunday or Tuesday night of the following week, you should post a response to one of the reading guide questions. Responses should be relatively brief, about a paragraph. Generally, they should respond directly to one of the questions posed by the Reading Guide; in some cases, though, you may want to pose and discuss briefly one of your own questions. Your responses should show that you have considered a particular question and have engaged the reading. Whether or not you post a response for a given day, you should read all the responses posted for that day.

2) Papers (45%). Three papers will be due during the course of the semester, a paper on Graham Ward's book (due on Sept. 12, 5:00 pm), a paper on either Kierkegaard, Marx, Nietzsche or Freud (due on Oct. 17, 5:00 pm), and a final paper on one of the topics we cover during the second half of the semester (due Dec. 12, 5:00 pm). Writing assignments will be handed out in advance of the papers.

3) Final Exam (25% of final grade). The final will be on Dec. 19 at 9:00 a.m..

Reading and Assignment Schedule
Week 1

Aug: 29: Intro

Week 2: Enlightenment Religion
Sept. 1: Graham Ward, True Religion, Introduction and Chapter 1
Sept. 3: Ward, Chapter 2
Sept. 5: Immanuel Kant, "What is Orientation in Thinking?" *
Recommended, Claude Welch, Protestant Thought in the 19th Century, Chap. 2*

Week 3: Dawn of Modern Theology I: Schleiermacher
Sept. 8: Ward, Chapter 3, pp. 73-97
Sept. 10: Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion, First Speech.*
Sept. 12: Ward, Chapter 3, pp. 97-113
Paper #1 Due by 5:00 pm

Week 4: Dawn of Modern Theology II: Kierkegaard
Sept. 15: Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, pp. 5-53
Sept. 17: Fear and Trembling, pp. 54-81
Sept. 19: Fear and Trembling, pp. 82-123

Week 5: Suspicion I: Religion and Power
Sept. 22: Karl Marx, "On the Jewish Question," pp. 26-35 *
Sept. 24: Marx, "On the Jewish Question," finish *
Sept. 26: Marx, "Contribution to Critique of Hegel" *

Week 6: Suspicion II: Genealogy of Religion
Sept. 29: Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, Preface and First Essay
Oct. 1: Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, pp. 84-119pp.
Oct. 3: Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, pp. 120-end

Week 7: Suspicion III: Religion and Psyche
Oct. 6: Sigmund Freud, "Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices"
Oct. 8: Freud, The Future of an Illusion, Chapters 1-4
Oct. 10: The Future of an Illusion, Chapters 5-10

Week 8: Theology Against Modernity
Oct. 13: Karl Barth, "The Revelation of God as the Abolition of Religion"*
Oct. 15: Rudolf Bultmann, "New Testament and Theology," pp. 1-15*
Oct. 17: Bultmann, "New Testament and Theology," pp. 15-43*
Paper #2 Due by 5:00 pm

Week 9: Suspicion and Faith
Oct: 27: Paul Ricoeur, "The Critique of Religion" *
Oct. 29: Rowan Williams, "The Suspicion of Suspicion"*
Oct. 31: Ricoeur, "The Language of Faith"*

Week 10: Judaism, Modernity and Shoah
Nov. 3: Martin Buber, "The Love of God and the Idea of Deity"*
Nov. 5: Irving Greenberg, "Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire"*
Nov. 7: Steven Kepnes, "Reading Job as Textual Theodicy"*

Week 11: Religion and Politics
Nov. 10: Leonardo and Clodovis Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology, Chapter 1*
Nov. 12: Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, "Scripture in the Liberation Struggle"*
Nov. 14: Cleo McNelly Kearns, "Kristeva and Feminist Theology"*

Week 12: Religion and Science
Nov. 17: John Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science, Chapters 1-2
Nov. 19: Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science, Chapters 3-4
Nov. 21: Polkinghorne, Belief in God in an Age of Science, Chapter 5

Week 13: No Class

Week 14: Religion and Postmodernism
Dec. 1: Kepnes, Ochs and Gibbs, Reasoning After Revelation, pp. 9-27
Dec. 3: John Caputo, On Religion, Chapter 5
Dec. 5: Ward, True Religion, Chapter 4

Week 15: Review

Required Texts
Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion
Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
Freidrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals
John Polkinghorne, Belief of God in an Age of Science
Graham Ward, True Religion

Required E-Reserve Readings
Karl Barth, "The Revelation of God as the Abolition of Religion"
Leonardo and Clodovis Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology, Chapter 1
Martin Buber, "The Love of God and the Idea of Deity"
Rudolf Bultmann, "New Testament and Theology," pp. 1-15
John Caputo, On Religion, Chapter 5
Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, "Function of Scripture in the Liberation Struggle"
Irving Greenberg, "Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire"
Cleo Kearns, "Kristeva and Feminist Theology"
Steven Kepnes, "Reading Job as Textual Theodicy"
Steven Kepnes, Peter Ochs and Robert Gibbs, Reasoning After Revelation, pp. 9-27
Immanuel Kant, "What is Orientation in Thinking?"
Paul Ricoeur, "The Critique of Religion" and "The Language of Faith"
Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion, Speech One
Claude Welch, "The Eighteenth Century Background"
Rowan Williams, "The Suspicion of Suspicion: Wittgenstein and Bonhoeffer"

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