Academic Programs 

  Thinking About Religion in the 21st Century   (TH-520-2) 
Winter/Spring 2003

This course will provide anyone interested in the dynamic of religion in the modern world the opportunity to explore a select set of themes surrounding pluralism, modernity, and congregational life.


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., starting January 30. 

Location:  This course will be at Round Hill Community Center, Greenwich, CT.  Nine sessions will be at the community center and the 10th will be at Hartford Seminary. 

Ian Markham, Dean and Professor of Theology and Ethics organized the course; members of the Hartford Seminary faculty will teach individual sessions.

Contact Information:

(860) 509-9500 

Course Syllabus
Class web site

The following is the course breakdown.  For further information on this course, please contact the Dean's office at (860) 509-9553.


Thursday, January 30

Ian Markham: A map of issues facing religion in the modern world.

Description: This session sets the scene for the next ten sessions. Students will be introduced to some of the key issues facing religion today: this will include an understanding of modernity and postmodernity and the differences between secularism, pluralism, liberalism, conservative, and fundamentalism.


  • Keith Ward, God, Faith and the New Millennium (Oxford: Oneworld 1999)
  • John Shelby Spong, Why Christianity Must Change or Die (Harper SanFrancisco 1998)
  • Ian Markham, A World Religions Reader 2nd edition (Oxford: Blackwell 2000)
  • Martyn Percy, The Salt of the Earth (Sheffield: Continuum 2001)


Thursday, February 6th

Scott Thumma: Trends and Challenges facing the Church.

Description: A brief introduction to four very contrasting trends and challenges: the internet, homosexuality, global Pentecostalism, and individual spirituality.



Thursday, February 13th

Yehezkel Landau:  Introduction to Judaism.

This class will explore basic elements of Jewish tradition and its understanding of the Holy. Topics will include Torah study, prayer, Sabbath observance, and interpersonal relationships.

Required reading: 

  • Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2001).


Thursday, February 20th

Jane Smith and assistant:  Introduction to Islam.

Description: Islam is probably one of the most important and simultaneously misunderstood religious traditions of our time. This introduction starts with a survey of basic beliefs and practices, followed by an examination of the nature and structure of Islam in America.


  • Jane Smith, Islam in America (New York: Columbia University Press 1999)
  • Andrew Rippin, Muslims. Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (New York: Routledge 1990)


Thursday, February 27th

Worth Loomis: Gobalization and Civil Society.

Description: A key feature facing the world is Globalization. However, the exact meaning of this term is a matter of some dispute. In addition, globalization is often perceived as very damaging for civil society and the place of religion within it. This session will explore the complexities of globalization and its implications for civil society.


  • Max Stackhouse and Peter Paris (eds.) God and Globalization, volumes 1-3 (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press 2000).


Thursday, March 6th

Heidi Hadsell:  Ethics and the Environment.

Description: Everything on the planet is dependent on the survival of the planet. Yet it is clear that the modern world is damaging the environment in ways that may prove to be irreparable. What is the Christian obligation to the environment? And what sort of theology can help us cope with the environment?


  • Lynn White, ‘The Historic Roots of our Ecologic Crisis’, in R. Gottlieb (ed.) This Sacred Earth (London: Routledge).
  • Anne Primavesi, Sacred Gaia (London: Routledge 2000)


Thursday, March 13th

Ian Markham: Concepts of God.

Description: One of the most fundamental concepts in religious is our understanding of God. In this session we look at the classical idea of God, which is found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and compare it with more modern accounts of God. We look at the question: how do we decide which account is right?


  • Peter Vardy, The Puzzle of God (Fount Collins)
  • W. Wainwright and W. Rowe, Readings in the Philosophy of Religion.
  • John Cobb and David Ray Griffiths, Process Theology. An Introductory Exposition (Philadelphia: Westminster 1976).


Thursday, March 20th

Kelton Cobb: Theology and Popular Culture.

Description: Theology has shaped and has been shaped by every aspect of life and popular culture is no exception. In music, in film, in fiction, we find theological themes recurring. This session is an introduction to this branch of theological analysis.


  • Eric Mazur and Kate McCarthy, God in the Details: American Religion in Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 2001).


March 27th Reading Week.

Thursday, April 3rd. 

Nancy Ammerman: Church and Community.

Description: At the heart of all Christian practice is the Church. And the ways the church functions as a community and relates to the broader community are at the heart of our experience of Church. The course concludes with an introduction to the different forms of being church and a critique of the impact of the Church on community.


  • Nancy Ammerman, Congregations and Community (Rutgers University Press 1997).


Thursday, April 10th, to be held at Hartford Seminary. 

Presentations from Students. 

An overview: the Journey so far. And where do we go from here?

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500