How ought Christians to assess the validity of other religions? What do Christians say are the consequences for accepting or rejecting Christian claims to truth? Will heaven be populated by Christians only? Forming convincing answers to these questions requires one to think carefully about central Christian issues, such as the interpretation of the bible, the identity and significance of Jesus, the triunity of God, the purpose of Christian communities, and relations between Christians in diverse cultures. Claims made in Christian theologies of religions are some of the most hotly contested within Christianity and continue to have impact far beyond churches. This course begins with a brief survey of inter-religious beliefs about the final destiny of human beings. How do basic Christian assumptions compare with those from other religious traditions? Next, we critically examine Christian inclusivist, exclusivist, pluralist, and hybrid theologies of ‘other’ religions. Are these categories accurate enough to sustain the debate in its current form? What is lost in each of these approaches, and what is gained? Finally, students weigh the implications of these various theologies of religions for contemporary Christian missions. What might it mean for Christians to ‘share their faith’ with others? Throughout course discussions, participants are encouraged to develop their own views in conversation with other students, with the instructor, and with key theological voices in this ongoing debate.
Objectives of the Course
- To become conversant in the major contemporary models for Christian theologies of religions
- To explore the interconnections of Christian doctrines of Christ, the Trinity, ‘community,’ and mission, as they relate to theologies of religions.
- To develop questions and provisional frameworks for future theologies of religions.
BEFORE THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS
- Read Paul Knitter's, Introducing Theologies of Religions (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), pp. xi-246.
- Write a brief (3-page) answer to the following question: Which of Knitter's four models for a Christian theology of religions (viz., 'The Replacement Model,' 'The Fulfillment Model,' 'The Mutuality Model,' 'The Acceptance Model') do you find most compelling? Why? Bring your paper to class on Monday, June 8.
- Give a short description of the model you have chosen (no longer than one page).
- Give your reasons for your particular choice (no shorter than two pages).
- Use double-spaced pages, standard margins, 12pt. font, no title page; number and staple these pages (papers that are not stapled will not be accepted).
DURING OUR WEEK OF CLASSES (June 8-12, 9am-4pm)
- Attend and actively participate in our class discussions and exercises.
- Read the article or chapter assigned for each day of class.
- Lead two in-class discussions during the week of classes. These must be discussions on separate days. Topics for these discussions will integrate the day's readings and with the larger themes of the course, and will be announced during the first day of class. Students will sign-up for slots at that time.
AFTER THE COMPLETION OF OUR WEEK OF CLASSES
- Read Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki's Divinity & Diversity: A Christian Affirmation of Religious Pluralism.
- Write a brief (3-5 pages) review of Suchocki's book. Follow the instructions for this review that are listed near the end of this syllabus. Your review must be emailed to the course instructor at firstname.lastname@example.org, no later than midnight, Friday, June 26. No extensions will be granted; late submissions will not receive any credit.
- Write a research paper (20-25 pages) on the course topic that you find the most interesting. Follow the instructions for this research paper that are given near the end of this syllabus. Your paper must be emailed to the course instructor at email@example.com, no later than midnight, Monday, August 3. No extensions will be granted; late submissions will not receive any credit.
3-page paper on Knitter’s models
Attendance and active participation
Leadership of two in-class discussions
3-5 page review of Suchocki’s book
20-25 page research paper
Total Points Possible
20 (10 each)
June 8, 2009
June 26, 2009
Aug 3, 2009
A = 100-90% B = 89-80% C=79-70% F=below 70%
Do your own work. You may not plagiarize the work of others.
What is plagiarism? According to the Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for a Research Paper, no student may “submit another person’s work, lift paragraphs, sentences, or even a choice phrase from another writer, or make use of another person’s ideas (even if the student puts these ideas in his/her own words) without acknowledging the source. A related kind of dishonesty is to resubmit a paper which was done for a different course, even if it is the student’s own work. These practices are not permitted at Hartford Seminary. They will be reported to the Dean’s Office and may result in disciplinary action.”
Any written work in violation of this standard will receive NO credit, and may be grounds for a failing course grade.
You are wholly responsible for adhering to the guidelines in Hartford Seminary’s General Guidelines for a Research Paper. If you are ever unsure whether a specific writing practice is in violation of these academic standards, ask one of the Seminary’s Writing Consultants.
If you need assistance with English grammar or word usage or if you would like feedback on the mechanics (e.g., structure, style, clarity) of your written work, please see the Hartford Seminary Writing Consultants. The Seminary provides this service at no cost to students.
If you seek feedback from a Seminary Writing Consultant, check with the Seminary office for contact information. (Keep in mind that consultants need plenty of lead time in order to provide their help.) You and you alone are responsible for submitting your written work to the course instructor by the deadlines listed on this syllabus.
Knitter, Paul. Introducing Theologies of Religions. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002. ISBN: 9781570754197.
Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity. Edited by Robert L. Gallagher and Paul Hertig. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2009. ISBN: 9781570758294.
Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki. Divinity & Diversity: A Christian Affirmation of Religious Pluralism. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780687021949.
The Myth of Religious Superiority: Multifaith Explorations of Religious Pluralism. Edited by Paul Knitter. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005. ISBN: 9781570756276.
Schedule for June 8-12 [subject to revision]
Class meets 9am-4pm each day (Lunch Break 12-1pm)
Monday, June 8
- Course Introduction
- Review of Paul Knitter's Models for Christian Theologies of Religions
- Discussion of Student Papers: Which model do you find most compelling? Why?
- What Happens After We Die? Views from major religious traditions
- 'The Replacement Model': Strengths and weaknesses
- Key Questions for Christian Theologies of Religions
Read for Tuesday: Roger Haight, "Pluralist Christology as Orthodox," in Paul F. Knitter, ed., The Myth of Religious Superiority, pp. 151-161 Tuesday,
- Sources of Authority in Christian Traditions
- Christian Understandings of Salvation
- Christian Views about the Identity and Significance of Jesus Christ
- Discussion of Roger Haight's "Pluralist Christology as Orthodox"
- Karl Rahner's 'Anonymous Christianity'
- 'The Fulfillment Model': Strengths and weaknesses
Read for Wednesday: Sallie King, "A Pluralistic View of Religious Pluralism," in Paul F. Knitter, ed., The Myth of Religious Superiority, pp. 88-101
Wednesday, June 10
- Systematic, Dogmatic, and Contextual Theologies
- Christian Views about the Spirit of God
- Discussion of Sallie King's "A Pluralistic View of Religious Pluralism"
- John Hick's 'The Ultimate'
- S. Mark Heims' 'Trinity and a Theology of Religious Ends'
- 'The Mutuality Model': Strengths and Weaknesses
Read for Thursday: Lesslie Newbigin, "The Gospel and the Religions," in Gallagher and Hertig, eds., Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity, pp. 33-45
Thursday, June 11
- Academic and Popular Theologies of Religions
- Christian Views about the Church/Christian Communities
- Discussion of Lesslie Newbigin, "The Gospel and the Religions"
- Sallie McFague on the Role of Christianity in Eco-theologies
- 'The Acceptance Model:' Strengths and Weaknesses
Read for Friday: Orlando E. Costas, “Captivity and Liberation in the Modern Missionary Movement,” in Gallagher and Hertig, eds., Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity, pp. 33-45
Friday, June 12
- Theologies of Mission
- Global Trends in Religion and Christianity in the 21st Century
- Discussion of Orlando E. Costas' "Captivity and Liberation in the Modern Missionary Movement"
- George Tinker's 'Colonizer's Categories of Cognition'
- Re-visiting Initial Impressions: Evaluating Christian Theologies of Religions
Instructions for Book Review (3-5 pages):
 State the thesis of Suchocki's book (no longer than 2-3 sentences).
 State the main point of each chapter (chs. 2-7, no longer than 3 sentences for each chapter).
 Answer the following question: 'Given her specific views of incarnation and salvation, must Suchocki actively support Christian missionary activity?' In your answer, demonstrate that you understand how her views on these three topics interrelate. Give reasons for your answer (no fewer than 2 pages).
Instructions for Research Paper (20-25 pages):
 Choose ONE of the following topics: (1) Jesus Christ in Christian Theologies of Religions (2) The Trinity in Christian Theologies of Religions (3) Religious Pluralism in the United States (4) Christian Theologies of Mission.
 Formulate a specific question to ask within the general topic you have chosen. E.g., To what extent do differences in scriptural interpretation account for differences in claims about the meaning of Jesus Christ for theologies of religions? What reasons do some theologians give for thinking that doctrines of the Trinity are central to theologies of religions; why might other theologians assign such doctrines only a secondary role? How do scholars describe recent changes in the religious pluralism of U.S. society? What bearing do colonial histories have on present-day theologies of mission? Students are strongly encouraged to solicit the course instructor's feedback on the design of their research question.
 Read at least THREE of the texts listed in the 'Course Bibliography' (see below), under the heading of your general topic.
 Write a 20-25 page research paper in which you analyze, evaluate, and learn from the texts you have read on your topic.
Divide your paper into the following clearly-marked sections:
(1) INTRODUCTION (No longer than 2.5 pages): State clearly the more specific research question you are asking (no more than 2 sentences). Then say briefly why this specific question is important or especially interesting to you (no more than 1 page). Next, tell your reader which books/articles you have consulted, and how you will organize your presentation of their impact on the research question you are asking (no more than two paragraphs)
(2) ANALYSIS (14-16 pages): Present your analysis of the texts you have read for your paper. An analysis is not a mere report of what someone else has said. You must convey, in your own words, both what the author says and why and/or how she or he says it. How does the author support the major claims of the text? Do not use quotations excessively. That means: use them infrequently; and when you do use them, make sure they are brief.
(3) EVALUATION (2-3 pages): Evaluate briefly what you have read - i.e., say what you think is particularly valuable in what you have read, what is lacking in it, etc. How well does the author support his or her major claims?
(4) CONCLUSION (2-3 pages): On the basis of your research, what answer (however tentative) can you give to your research question? Lastly, what additional questions would you ask, were you to continue your research yet further? Why would you ask those particular questions?
Your paper must be formatted and printed using standard margins, 12 pt. font-size, with a title page and complete bibliography. Cite all sources according to the form and standards of the Hartford Seminary General Guidelines for a Research Paper. Include page numbers. Do not include the title page and bibliography within the page count.
Jesus Christ in Christian Theologies of Religions
Christ the One and Only: A Global Affirmation of the Uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Edited by Sung Wook Chung. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.
Haight, Roger. The Future of Christology. New York: Continuum, 2007.
Hick, John. The Metaphor of God Incarnate: Christology in a Pluralistic Age. 2nd edition. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.
Kraemer, Hendrik. Why Christianity of All Religions? Translated by Hubert Hoskins. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962.
Newbigin, Lesslie. The Finality of Christ. Richmond: John Knox Press, 1969.
Pinnock, Clark H. A Wideness in God's Mercy: The Finality of Jesus Christ in a World of Religions. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Samartha, Stanley J. One Christ - Many Religions: Toward a Revised Christology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991.
The Trinity in Christian Theologies of Religion
D'Costa, Gavin. The Meeting of Religions and the Trinity. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000.
Dupuis, Jacques. Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997.
Heim, S. Mark, The Depth of the Riches: A Trinitarian Theology of Religious Ends. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001.
Newbigin, Lesslie. Trinitarian Doctrine for Today's Mission. Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1998.
Ogbonnaya, A. Okechukwu. On Communitarian Divinity: An African Interpretation of the Trinity. New York: Paragon House, 1994.
Panikkar, Raimundo. The Trinity and the Religious Experience of Man: Icon-Person-Mystery. (also known as Trinity and the World Religions) Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1973.
Religious Pluralism in the United States
Eck, Diana L. A New America: How a 'Christian Country' Has Become the World's Most Religiously Diverse Nation. San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 2002.
McCarthy, Kate. Interfaith Encounters in America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007.
Niebuhr, Gustav. Beyond Tolerance: Searching for Interfaith Understanding in America. New York: Viking, 2008.
Smith, Christian and Melinda Lundquist Denton. Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Smith, Jane Idleman. Muslims, Christians, and the Challenge of Interfaith Dialogue. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Wuthnow, Robert. America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005.
Christian Theologies of Mission
Braaten, Carl E. That All May Believe: A Theology of the Gospel and the Mission of the Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.
Byerly, Timothy. The Great Commission: Models of Evangelization in American Catholicism. New York: Paulist Press, 2008.
Muck, Terry and Frances S. Adeney. Christianity Encountering World Religions: The Practice of Mission in the Twenty-first Century. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic Press, 2009.
Newbigin, Lesslie. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989.
Ramachandra, Vinoth. The Recovery of Mission: Beyond the Pluralist Paradigm. Carlisle: Paternoster Press, 1996.
Sanneh, Lamin. Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture. 2nd, revised edition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008.
Schroeder, Roger P. What Is the Mission of the Church? A Guide for Catholics. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008.