Monday, 14 October 2013

Modern Christian Thought Revised

For the last two weeks, I have been revising my Spring 2014 course, REL 3620: Modern Christian Thought. I have taught this course two times at UTC, but I keep changing the format because of the difficulty of the material.

Usually, a course on Modern Christian Thought covers 19th- and 20th-century theologians, most of whom are affiliated with Liberal Protestantism. But every time that I have taught this course, students have complained about the difficulty of the readings, particularly from Schleiermacher, Hegel, and Tillich. Since there are no prerequisites for this course at UTC, many students struggle to understand the primary-source readings, and so I keep making adjustments.

I have decided to start the timeline of the course at the Reformation, with readings from Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and John Calvin. We will then tackle the English Reformation, the Catholic Reformation, Puritanism, Arminianism, early evangelicalism, and the Enlightenment during the first half of the semester. In the second half, we will study Kant, Kierkegaard, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Ritschl, Harnack, Barth, Bultmann, Tillich, Niebuhr, Bonhoeffer, Liberation Theology, Feminist Theology, and end with Postmodernism. Students will write a research paper on one of these theologians or theological movements and present their research to the class. I will follow up the presentations with further material on that particular thinker or theological movement, filling in missing information or reiterating important points that I want the class to know.

In the past, I have used five primary-source readers from Fortress Press's "Making of Modern Theology" series (Formerly, I used readers from Schleiermacher, Harnack or Hegel, Bultmann, Barth, and Bonhoeffer). I am trying new texts for the Spring 2014 semester: Justo Gonzalez's A History of Christian Thought: From the Protestant Reformation to the Twentieth Century, volume 3, revised edition (Abingdon, 1987), and Alister McGrath's The Christian Theology Reader, fourth edition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011).

Gonzalez's book contains some excellent chapters, especially on the Reformation. Some of the middle chapters on Lutheranism, however, are, in my opinion, too detailed on the theological advancements made in the wake of the Reformation. The book also would benefit by adding a chapter at the end as a way of updating the reader on the theological mood since the 1980s. Overall, it is an informative textbook for the period that I want to cover. I have not used McGrath's anthology before, but I am excited to incorporate it into this course. The readings are very brief (often one page), and examine a number of important theological themes, from a multitude of diverse theologians throughout the history of Christianity.

Yesterday, I finished writing online quiz questions from thirteen of the chapters in Gonzalez's book (I have written about the advantages of online quiz questions here). For the McGrath book, I will take questions from the readings for the midterm and final exams, rather than creating separate online quiz questions.

Below is my newly-revised syllabus. Take a look, and let me know if I need to make any further amendments.

Required Texts:        

  • Justo Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought: From the Protestant Reformation to the Twentieth Century, volume 3, revised edition (Abingdon, 1987)
  • Alister McGrath, ed., The Christian Theology Reader, fourth edition (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011)

Course Requirements:

1.        Exams (25% x 2 = 500 total points)
Students will take two examinations that are based on the readings, lectures, class discussions, and presentations. None of the exams, including the final, are comprehensive. All exams must be taken—notifying me within 24 hours if you have a legitimate reason why you cannot be present to take the exam—and no tests will be dropped. 

2.        Online Reading Quizzes (13% or 130 points)
Students will take 13 online quizzes on the assigned readings in Justo Gonzalez, A History of Christian Thought: From the Protestant Reformation to the Twentieth Century. The online reading quizzes consist of 10 multiple choice or true/false questions. All online quizzes are open book, but must be taken alone (honor system). Also, you are not allowed to share any information with other students concerning the quizzes (honor system). It is highly recommended that you complete the required reading before you take the assigned quiz.

To take the appropriate quiz, go to “Assignments” in your Blackboard account and click on the appropriate quiz (Note: you may not print the quizzes). Quizzes will generate from a bank of questions—so they will vary from student to student. Quizzes have a thirty-minute time limit. If you encounter technical difficulties (computer shut off, etc.), you may go back to the quiz—but the clock does not stop ticking, so please use a reliable computer and find a location with adequate internet access. Once thirty minutes have elapsed, the quiz will automatically terminate, even if you haven’t finished inputting all your answers.

Quizzes can be taken at any time up until the beginning of the class (9:25am) on the day that they are due (see schedule below for due dates). 

3.        Research Paper (25% or 250 points)
Each student will write a research paper on a particular theologian, summarizing the theologian’s life, theology, major works, and contribution to modern Christian thought. Papers should be 3,500 words in length (give or take 500 words), double-spaced, 12 point font, and utilizing both primary (written by the theologian) and secondary (written about the theologian) sources. The paper should use a minimum of five secondary sources (academic books and journal articles—avoiding websites and general dictionaries). Papers will be assessed a 10% penalty for each day late.

Evaluation for research papers will be based on the following:

Style (20%)
-          Does the student show a mastery of grammar and syntax?
-          Is the paper free from spelling errors?
Introduction (10%)
-          Is there a clear introduction in the paper?
-          Does the student provide a clear thesis?
Conclusion (10%)
-          Is there a clear conclusion in the paper?
-          Is the conclusion sufficiently long enough to explain how the paper has answered the research question the student chose?
-          Does the conclusion recapitulate the reasons for taking a particular point of view, evaluating the importance of those reasons?
The Body of the Paper (30%)
-          Are the paragraphs grouped by main points that contribute to answering the research question?
-          Does the first sentence of the paragraph introduce its topic, helping the reader to know what to expect?
-          Is there sufficient evidence—statistics, specific names or dates, primary-source quotations, etc.—that supports the main point in the paragraph?
-          Does the student use quotations properly by quoting only primary sources and not secondary sources, instead, paraphrasing a secondary-source author and citing him or her?
Content (30%)
-          Is there a summary of the theologian’s life?
-          Does the student use a sufficient number of primary and secondary sources in the paper?
-          Does the student accurately describe the theologian’s theology?
-          Does the student describe the theologian’s major works?
-          Is it clear what contribution the theologian has had on modern Christian thought?

4.        Presentation (2% or 20 points)
Each student will participate in an individual or group presentation on an assigned theologian (see signup sheet and dates) and the contribution that this thinker has made to Christian theology. The format of the presentation is left up to the discretion of the presenter(s). The presentation should be 15 - 20 minutes with an additional five minutes allotted at the end for questions by the class and the professor. The presentation will be assessed by the professor, and based on the following:

5.        Attendance and Participation (10% or 100 points)
It is essential that you attend classes regularly and come prepared to take notes on the lectures and participate in class discussion. You are allowed two skips without penalty. I will take attendance until five minutes after the hour. Students arriving after that time will be counted absent. For every absence in excess of two, your attendance and participation grade will be reduced by 20 points. 

6.      Grading Scale
900-1,000         A
800-899           B
700-799           C
600-699           D
Below 600       F

7.        Course Assignments and Values
Exams                                                            50%
Online Quizzes                                                13%
Presentation                                                     2%
Research Paper                                                25%
Attendance and Participation____________       10%

Tentative Schedule

1/7       Introduction
1/9      Lecture:                       The End of Scholasticism
Reading/Quiz 1:          Gonzalez: Chapter 1 (pp.13-28)

1/14     Lecture:                       Martin Luther
Reading:                    Gonzalez: Chapter 2 (pp. 29-69)
1/19      Lecture:                      Martin Luther (continued)       
Reading/Quiz 2:          McGrath: 1.12, 2.15-2.16, 4.24, 6.32-6.34, 7.12-7.13, 8.17-8.20
1/21     Lecture:                       Ulrich Zwingli
Reading/Quiz 3:          Gonzalez: Chapter 3 (pp. 70-85); McGrath: 8.23-8.24
1/23     Lecture:                       The Anabaptists
Reading/Quiz 4:          Gonzalez: Chapter 4 (pp. 86-102)
1/28     Lecture:                       John Calvin
Reading:                     Gonzalez: Chapter 6 (pp. 133-177)    
1/30     Lecture:                       John Calvin (continued)
Reading/Quiz 5:          McGrath: 1.13, 2.17-2.18, 5.19, 6.36-6.38, 7.17, 8.26-8.27
2/4       Lecture:                       The English Reformation
Reading/Quiz 6:          Gonzalez: Chapter 7 (pp. 178-195); McGrath: 7.18
2/6       Lecture:                       The Catholic Reformation
Reading/Quiz 7:          Gonzalez: Chapter 8 (pp. 196-247); McGrath: 1.17-1.18, 2.19, 2.25,
                                                6.39, 8.28

2/11     Lecture:                       Divisions within Protestantism
Reading/Quiz 8:          Gonzalez: Chapter 10 (pp. 266-299); McGrath: 1.14, 2.21, 2.24, 2.26,
                                    3.29, 4.25, 5.20, 6.40, 6.43, 7.19-7.20, 8.29

2/13     Lecture:                       Early Evangelical Thought
Reading/Quiz 9:          Gonzalez: Chapter 11 (pp. 300-317); McGrath: 2.29-2.31, 5.23, 6.45,
                                                6.47-6.48, 8.30, 10,18-10.19

2/18     MIDTERM EXAM      
2/20     Lecture:                       Life Before 1600 and the Enlightenment
Reading/Quiz 10:        Gonzalez: Chapter 12 (pp. 318-346); McGrath: 1.16-1.18, 2.32, 3.30,

2/25     Lecture:                       Immanuel Kant
Reading/Quiz 11:        Gonzalez: Chapter 13 (pp. 347-386); McGrath: 1.19, 1.22-1.23,  2.34-
                                    2.35, 4.31,

2/27     Presentation:                Soren Kierkegaard
Reading/Quiz 12:        Gonzalez: Chapter 14 (pp. 387-410); McGrath: 1.20, 1.21, 7.22

3/4       Presentation:                F. Schleiermacher 
Reading/Quiz 13:        Gonzalez: Chapter 16 (pp. 428-471); McGrath: 3.31, 4.27, 5.24-5.25,
3/6       Presentation:                G.W.F. Hegel
Reading:                      McGrath: 2.42, 3.33, 4.36, 5.29, 5.32, 6.50, 6.55, 7.25-7.26, 8.31, 9.7

3/11     Spring Break              No Class
3/13     Spring Break             No Class

3/18     Presentation:                Albrecht Ritschl
            Reading:                      McGrath: 4.28
3/20     Presentation:                Adolf Harnack
            Reading:                      McGrath: 1.23

3/25     Presentation:                Karl Barth
            Reading:                      McGrath:1.24, 2.41, 3.32, 6.51, 7.24, 9.4
3/27     Presentation:                  Rudolf Bultmann 
            Reading:                         McGrath: 2.43, 10.20
4/1       Presentation:                Paul Tillich
            Reading:                      McGrath: 1.29, 4.35
4/3       Presentation:                Reinhold Niebuhr
            Reading:                      McGrath: 6.53
                                                Research Paper Due

4/8       Presentation:                Karl Rahner
            Reading:                      McGrath: 2.45,  9.6
4/10     Presentation:                Dietrich Bonhoeffer
            Reading:                      McGrath: 1.28

4/15     Presentation:                Liberation Theology
            Reading:                      McGrath: 1.32, 3.35, 7.28
4/17     Presentation:                Feminist Theology
            Reading:                      McGrath: 1.31, 3.43-3.44, 4.38-4.39, 5.37
4/22     Reading Day

Final Exam: Thursday, April 24, 8-10am

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