Theological Foundations

Course Syllabus (PDF)

The Christian theological tradition extends back two millennia, formed and reformed by the lives, writings, and thought of countless women and men as they encountered God. Catholicism has always been a complex, living tradition that encompasses a wide range of vibrant cultures, economic disparities, and intense intellectual disagreements.  This course serves as an overview of the Catholic theological tradition and an introduction to the academic discipline of theology.

Through the completion of this course, students will (1) gain an outline of the Catholic theological tradition—its sources, its teachings, its history, and its ethics. Students will (2) learn to identify specifically Catholic approaches to enduring questions of human life.

Theology is an academic discipline with rigorous standards for intellectual inquiry. Theologians employ skills related to many fields: history, philosophy, literature, sociology, psychology, and other sciences. Through our study of the Catholic theological tradition, this course introduces students to theological methods and practices. Students will (3) gain the ability to analyze religious texts, explore the origins and transformations of theological teachings, employ theological reasoning in the connections and tensions between various doctrines, and examine moral practices arising from the theological tradition. Additionally, through study and discussion, students will (4) significantly improve their ability to write and speak in sensitive and intelligent ways about religious matters—an increasingly important set of skills in an increasingly diverse world.

As an instructor, I do not presume that any/all of my students are Catholic or Christian. In line with Carroll’s Mission Statement, we will study the Catholic tradition in a hospitable manner that strives toward ecumenical bonds. The academic study of Christianity/Catholicism as a theological tradition does not require any specific faith commitment—there is room for everyone in the conversation. Part of what this course will teach, then, is an intellectual approach to religious questions that will allow all students to benefit from their study, regardless of personal religious commitments.


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