Academic Programs 
      

 Are We All Bound for Heaven?: Christian Theology and Other Religions
TH-635-2
 Fall 2002


This course explores the theological issues surrounding interfaith.  Following a brief survey of the extent of the diversity in religion (both historically and today), the course concentrates on theological issues.  The first issue is soteriology: are non-Christians ‘saved’?  Along with ‘Pluralism’, ‘Inclusivism’, and ‘Exclusivism’, the course examines various alternatives.  The second issue is similarity and difference.  Critics and advocates of Hans Kung’s global ethics project are discussed.  The third issue is truth, mission, and dialogue.  What are the limits to dialogue?  Does a commitment to dialogue entail a commitment to relativism?  How should Christians interpret the great commission to go and convert the world?  These and other questions will be explored. 


Meeting Day, Time and Dates:
 

Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on 9/10, 10/1, 10/22, 11/12 and 12/10   (D.Min. Schedule)
Location: Room  205

Professor Ian Markham


Contact Information:

phone: 
(860) 509-9500 
email: 

Course Syllabus
Class web site
 

Preliminary

Cohn-Sherbok, Dan, Interfaith Theology. A Reader (Oneworld) Required.
D’Costa, Gavin, Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered (Orbis)
Hick, John, An Interpretation of Religion (Macmillan)
Kung, Hans, Global Ethics (Required).
Knitter, Paul, The Myth of Christian Uniqueness (Orbis)
Lochead, David, The Dialogical Imperative (Orbis)
Markham, Ian (ed.) A World Religions Reader 2nd Edition. (Oxford: Blackwell)
Markham, Ian Plurality and Christian Ethics. 2nd Edition. (New York: Seven Bridges Press)
Netland, Harold, Dissonant Voices (Regent’s College Publishing)
Race, Alan, Christians and Religious Pluralism (SCM Press)
Young, Serinity, An Anthology of Sacred Texts by and About Women

Topics to be covered:

Section 1. The Extent and Nature of Religious Diversity. A brief survey of the variety and some sense of the key historical narratives that shaped this variety.

Section 2. Soteriology. The pluralist, inclusivist, and exclusivist debate. John Hick’s pluralism project. Those that are attempting to create alternatives (e.g. Mark Heim).

Section 3. Similarities and Differences. Different strands within each traditions has certain similarities with strands in other traditions. Key ideas such as social justice, concept of God, life after death are explored. Particular attention is paid to Hans Kung’s Global ethics project. The issues of spirituality and interfaith are discussed.

Section 4. Dialogue, Mission and Truth. The reasons for dialogue and the problems involved in dialogue are explored. The relationship of dialogue to mission. The different understandings of what mission involves. And the issues of ‘truth’ in religion and the relationship between truth and mission/dialogue are explored.

Aims of the course:

To equip students with the resources to think theologically about the issue of religious diversity;

To enable students to understand the complexity of religious traditions and facilitate thinking about the similarities and differences across and within traditions;

To encourage students to clarify for themselves the relationship of mission and dialogue to the issue of truth.

 

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of the course students will have understood the main contours of the debate within Christianity about the Christian theology of other religions;

At the end of the course students will have a grasp of the similarities and differences across and within religious traditions;

At the end of the course students will have cultivated their evaluative skills sufficiently to form a view on the relationship of mission and dialogue to truth.

 

Method/s of Delivery:

The structure of the day will have a combination of the following: lecture input, and seminar discussion around set reading.

Method of Assessment (please address how each learning outcome will be evaluated):

Book Review of A Global Ethic: The Declaration of the Parliament of the World's Religions by Hans Kung (Editor), Karl-Josef Kuschel (Editor) (assesses learning outcome number two).

15 page paper on the topic of the Christian Theology of Other Religions and the implications for truth, mission, and dialogue (assesses learning outcome one and three).

Assessment Date:

Book Review to be handed in October 22 2002.

Final paper to be handed in by January 6 2003.

Structure of Sessions

September 10 2002:

Global metaphysical and religious diversity. From atheists to animists and everything in between. The numbers, the power, and the changes. Encountering atheism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

October 1 2002:

Christians making sense of diversity. Exclusivism, Inclusivism, and Pluralism. Alternative models.

October 22 2002:

Differences and Similarities (Part 1): liberal v conservative; life after death; social justice; concepts of God. The Global Ethics projects. Similarities as the liberal western allusion cultivated by the Enlightenment (the MacIntyre attack).

November 12 2002:

Differences and Similarities (Part 2): spirituality and interfaith worship. Do we share enough to pray together? Theological obstacles to praying together. The theoretical and the applied.

December 10 2002.

Mission, Relativism, and Truth. What sense do we make of the injunction to go out and convert the nations of the world? Can we decide which tradition is true?

 

FACT SHEETS
SECULAR HUMANISM

A SELECTED SUMMARY OF BELIEFS:

1. The rise of science has eliminated the need for the God hypothesis. For example, God is not responsible for the weather.
2. Metaphysical arguments between religions are impossible to resolve. No one knows, nor can find out, whether the ultimate reality is an Allah, a Trinity, or Brahman.
3. Religion is deeply destructive, violent, and intolerant.
4. Instead we need to recognize that there is no ultimate meaning to life. As human beings, we face extinction when we die. We must impose our own meaning on life.
5. We ought to work hard to create a better world for ourselves and each other.

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Galileo ................................................................................... 1564 - 1642 CE Persecution of Galileo by the Roman Catholic Church .......... 1632 CE
Charles Darwin ....... 1809 - 1882 CE
Karl Marx .......... 1818 - 1883 CE
Sigmund Freud ....... 1856 - 1939 CE
Emile Durkheim ..... 1858 - 1917 CE
Formation of the National Secular Society in England ...... 1866
Bertrand Russell ..... 1872 - 1970 CE
Rise of the Feminist Movement ....... 1960 onwards
'Honest to God' published ....... March 1963 CE
Publication of Salman Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses' ..... 26 September 1988 CE
Fatwa issued against Rushdie ......... February 14 1989 CE

 

FACT SHEETS
HINDUISM:

A SELECTED SUMMARY OF BELIEFS

1. 'Hindu' is a European term for the many and varied religions of India. Generalisations are very misleading. The following beliefs are shared by most of those acknowledging the authority of the Vedas.

2. The basics of Hindu theology and philosophy took shape during the Vedic period (1500-600 BCE). Initially the major gods were:

Agni - the god of fire, linked with sacrifice.
Indra - the warrior god, linked with thunder.
Varuna - the god of the sky, linked with the day and water.
Rudra - the mountain god.
Dyauspitr - the father of heaven.
Surya - the god of the sun.

These gods were linked with natural phenomena. As the tradition developed, the following deities became more important.

Brahman - the cosmic soul, the highest deity.
Vishnu - the god who controls the fate of humans.
Shiva - the destroyer god - a source of both good and evil.
Sarasvati - consort to Brahman and the goddess of knowledge and truth.
Lakshmi - wife of Vishnu and the goddess of fortune and beauty.

2. The universe is interconnected across time and space. Rocks, plants, animals and humans are all inter-related.
3. People are reborn: the location of the soul and body are determined by karma.
Karma is the moral law of cause and effect.
4. The purpose of society is to offer maximum opportunity to those who are close to moska (release). Hence the existence of the caste system which ranks the Brahmins as the highest caste.
5. Each person has a self which is linked with Braham (the cosmic-self). The various gods and godesses are expressions of Brahman.

 

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Indus Valley Civilisation .............................................. ca. 2750 BCE
Aryan Invasions ............................................................. ca. 1500 BCE
Vedas recorded ............................................................. 1200 BCE
Upanishads written ....................................................... 800 - 400 BCE
Mahavira & Buddha challenge orthodox Hinduism ... 600 - 500 BCE
Mahabharata, Ramayana & Bhagavad Gita written ..... 500 -200 BCE
Laws of Manu written ................................................... 200 BCE - 200 CE
Life of Shankara, leading philosopher ......................... 788 - 820 CE
Life of Ramanuja, leading philosopher ........................ 1017 - 1137 CE
Muslim empire in India ................................................. 1175 CE
Beginning of British rule .............................................. 1818 CE
Life of Mahatma Ghandi ............................................... 1869 - 1948 CE
Indian Independence and Partition of Pakistan ............ 1947 CE

 

FACT SHEETS
BUDDHISM

A SELECTED SUMMARY OF BELIEFS:

1. The Buddha lived in northern India during the sixth century BCE; he discovered the four noble truths.
2. The four noble truths are:
3. There is suffering.
4. The cause of suffering is desire.
5. Cease desiring and you will cease suffering.
6. The eightfold path leads to cessation of suffering.
7. The eightfold path is: Right Belief, Right Resolution, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Means of Livelihood, Right Endeavor, Right Mindfulness, Right Meditation.
8. It is possible to attain Nirvana (enlightenment) by living life according to the principles of the
Buddha.
9. There is no self or soul.

 

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Life of Buddha ............................................................ 536 - 476 BCE
First Buddhist Congress ............................................. 473 BCE
Second Buddhist Congress ........................................ 363 BCE
Reign of Buddhist Emperor Asoka ........................... 273 - 236 BCE
The rise of the Mahayana Tradition .......................... 236 BCE
Life of Nagarjuna, leading philosopher .................... ca. 200 CE
Expansion to Vietnam, China, Korea, Java,

Japan, Burma & Sumatra ............................................ 220 - 552 CE
First Buddhist Monastery established in Tibet ......... 749 CE
Rise of the Japanese Zen sects .................................. 805-6 CE
Life of the poet Mila .................................................. 1040 - 1123 CE
Jodo Shinshu sect comes to America with
immigrants 
from Japan ............................................... 1898 CE

Zen Buddhist society formed in New York .............. 1931 CE

 

FACT SHEETS
JUDAISM

A SELECTED SUMMARY OF BELIEFS:

1. There is one God (Yahweh) who has a covenant relationship with the Jewish people.
2. God's requirements for his people are set out in the Torah. Holiness is obtained by observing the Torah.
3. God acts in history to protect his people; and in the future God promises to vindicate his people through his Messiah.
4. Major concerns which are facing contemporary Judaism include the holocaust and the founding of the State of Israel. Various groups have reacted in different ways to the problems posed by these events.

 

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Exodus from Egypt ....................................................... ca. 1200 BCE
Life of King David ........................................................ ca. 1013 - 973 BCE
Fall of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) to Assyria ...... 722 BCE
Fall of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) to Babylon ...... 586 BCE
Maccabean Revolt .......................................................... 168 BCE
Romans conquer Jerusalem .......................................... 63 BCE
Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans .................... 70 CE
Completion of Mishnah ................................................. 220 CE
Completion of Babylonian Talmud ............................... 480 CE
Life of Rashi ................................................................... 1041 - 1105 CE
Life of Maimonides ....................................................... ca. 1135 - 1204 CE
The founding of the Zionist Movement ....................... 1897 CE
The Holocaust ........................................................ 1933 - 45 CE
The establishment of the state of Israel ....................... 1948 CE

 

FACT SHEETS
CHRISTIANITY

A SELECTED SUMMARY OF BELIEFS:

1. It is utterly implausible to believe that we are nothing more than collections of atoms, in a meaningless universe, facing extinction at death.

2. Instead there is a Creator God, who has been revealed in the person of Jesus the Christ.

3. Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew who lived in Palestine approximately 2000 years ago. He died as a criminal on a cross, but rose from the dead three days later.

4. Jesus is the incarnation of God. God is a trinity of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Trinity involves a separateness in a complete unity.

5. Humans have a tendency towards selfishness, which God in Christ can overcome through the atonement.

6. At death, God desires a relationship of love to develop for eternity in heaven. However those who persist in selfishness will not be forced to respond. This is known as hell.

7. For Christians, the scriptures are made up of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the New Testament. There is some disagreement between Christians over the status of a small number of books called the Apocrypha.

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Life of Jesus of Nazareth d. 30 CE
Life of Paul the Apostle d. 65 CE
Last book of the New Testament written 95 CE
Council of Nicaea 325 CE
Life of St. Augustine.....354 - 430 CE
Council of Chalcedon 451 CE
Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox separate 1054 CE
Life of St. Thomas Aquinas 1225 - 1274 CE
The Reformation 1500 onwards
Life of Martin Luther 1483 - 1546 CE
Vatican I 1869 - 1870
Vatican II 1962 - 1965
Life of Martin Luther King Jr. 1929 - 1968


FACT SHEETS
ISLAM

A SELECTED SUMMARY OF BELIEFS

1. There is one God: all idolatry and polytheism is completely and utterly mistaken.
2. Muhammad is the prophet of God, to whom God has given the final and absolute revelation.
3. The Qur'an is the word of God.
4. Muslims are required to observe the five pillars of Islam. These are:
5. Witnessing to the faith.
6. Ritual prayer.
7. Fasting during the month of Ramadan.
8. Charity.
9. Pilgrimage to Mecca.
10. On Judgment Day, the unbelievers and the believers will be separated. The Believers will be given the delights of the garden; the unbelievers will face the punishment of hell.

 

HISTORICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Birth of Muhammad ... 570 CE
Night of Power & First Revelations ...609-10 CE
Hijra: Departure from Mecca to Medina ... 622 CE
Conquest of Mecca ... 630 CE
Death of Muhammad ... 632 CE

Abu Bakr succeeds Muhammad

Umar succeeds Abu Bakr ... 634 CE
Early Conquests (Damascus, Jerusalem, Egypt, Persia) ... 636 - 640 CE
Uthmann succeeds Umar ... 644 CE
Qur'an canon established .. 650 CE
Ali succeeds Uthmann ... 656 CE
Ummayyad Caliphate ... 661 - 750 CE
Life of Al-Ghazali ... 1058 - 1111 CE

 

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500  info@hartsem.edu