|The Rev. Dr.
Kristin Johnston Largen
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg
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2.321 Comparative Soteriologies:
An Interreligious Investigation of Salvation
v Monday, January 3rd-Wednesday, January 12th, 9:00-11:30 & 1:00-3:30
v Thursday Morning, January 13th, 9:30-11:30 am
Office Hours: by appointment
Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen
One of the most important topics in Christian theology is soteriology, the doctrine that seeks to explain how it is, exactly, that we are saved in Jesus Christ. This question is at the heart of Christian faith, as it encompasses one’s understanding of humanity, the person of Jesus, God’s relationship with the world, and the role of faith in human life. At the same time, in many ways, the answer to the question of salvation has only become more complex in recent decades, particularly in light of our ever-increasing awareness of religious pluralism. The challenge is clear: Christians today require a faithful, meaningful answer to the question of how Jesus saves, but in doing so, our postmodern context requires both a reexamination of the tradition and also a fresh articulation of it. In order to do this essential theological work faithfully, it is necessary to have some knowledge of non-Christian religions, and also to understand the means by which we might engage fruitfully in comparative dialogue. Therefore, in this course, students will re-examine the Christian understanding of what it means to be saved in light of a comparative study of how salvation is described and envisioned in other religious traditions. We will look at both the present-day and the end-of-life ramifications of salvation; and explore how a Christian articulation of salvation is both challenged and transformed through engaging non-Christian religious traditions. In this way, this course addresses the following stated objective of the M.Div. curriculum: “Be faithful to God’s Word and thoughtfully agile in its contemporary interpretations;” and as well as a stated goal for the M.A.R. program: “to provide an introduction to the crossroads nature of theology.”
Upon completion of this course, the students should be able to:
1) Demonstrate a basic knowledge of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam, with an emphasis on the main beliefs and practices of each
2) Constructively compare one of the above religions to one’s understanding of Christianity, and illustrate the ramifications such a comparison might have on one’s understanding of Christian soteriology
3) Demonstrate an understanding of the different facets of salvation as they have been articulated in Scripture & in the Christian tradition
4) Clearly express sophisticated theological reasoning in both written and oral communication
Strategies for achieving course objectives
Students will be expected to meet the following course requirements:
The students are expected to read all assigned readings carefully and thoroughly. The assigned reading consists of the following:
World Religions Today, edited by John Esposito, et. al
Al-Qur’an: A Contemporary Translation, by Ahmed Ali
What Christians can learn from Buddhism: Rethinking Salvation, by Kristin Johnston Largen
Theologies of Religions, by Paul Knitter
Students are expected to attend class regularly, listen to lectures attentively and take notes, and actively engage in class discussion [this means actual verbal participation]. Absences will be reflected in the student’s final grade. Missing more than two sessions of the class will be grounds for failure.
In this class, and in this seminary, we respect the rules of inclusivity, as stated in the academic catalog, pages 13-14. Please note that written work that does not conform to these standards will be returned for a re-write; and in the classroom, we will practice referring to both human beings and God in ways that are respectful of personhood and inclusive in terms of gender, race and class.
*A word about laptop computers: The use of a laptop in the classroom is a privilege, not a right, and this privilege can be revoked at any time during the semester by the instructor, if any student is found to be using his/her computer for personal business. Such action is a distraction to the class, and disrespectful both to the instructor and one’s classmates.
Timely completion of all assignments is expected of all students. Late work
may or may not be accepted, at the instructor’s discretion. A reduction in the
grade should be expected for late work.
a) Two hours pre-class online work:
Read the 4 chapters in WRT on Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism & Islam and post one page of notes, including questions you might have, and issues you hope to discuss further, on two of the chapters [not on all four, unless you want to!].
b) Talking-Point Papers:
At various times in the two weeks, the students are asked to bring to class a one-page response to a question that centers around the Christian theme of that session. These will be used to begin our discussion. [The questions can be found on the Course Outline section of the syllabus.]
c) Final Paper:
The final paper is a 10-15 page research paper on some aspect of Christian salvation as interpreted in light of a particular practice or belief in Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism or Islam. The paper should first give an overview of the Christian practice or belief around salvation that will be under discussion; then give a detailed explanation of the comparable belief/practice in the other tradition, giving particular attention to how it functions in its own context. Finally, the paper should show how the Christian belief/practice is both challenged & complemented by the belief/practice in the other tradition, and suggest some ways in which a transformation of understanding or new way of thinking about the Christian tradition might result.
1. Blackboard Posts: 10%
2. Class Participation: 20%
3. “Talking-Point” Papers: 20%
4. Final Paper: 50%
· Monday, January 3rd
v Morning: Introduction to the Course & the discipline of
v Afternoon: Salvation in the Christian Tradition:
Short paper topic: What is your foundational Scripture passage for understanding what “salvation” means?
· Tuesday, January 4th
v Morning: Knitter’s models: Discussion of Introducing Theologies of
v Afternoon: What is Hinduism?
· Wednesday, January 5th
v Morning: Hinduism videos
v Afternoon: Christian practices/beliefs concerning God
Short paper topic: In the Christian tradition, what does it mean to “see God,” and how does that relate to a Christian understanding of salvation?
· Thursday, January 6th
v Morning: What is Judaism?
v Afternoon: Christian practices/beliefs concerning the Church
Short paper topic: In the Christian tradition, what is the church, and how does it relate to a Christian understanding of salvation?
· Friday, January 7th
v Morning: What is Buddhism?
v Afternoon: Buddhism video
· Monday, January 10th
v Morning: Discussion of What Christians can Learn from Buddhism
v Afternoon: Christian practices/beliefs concerning human relationships
Short paper topic: What constitutes a uniquely Christian [or characteristically Christian] take on human relationships, and how does that relate to a Christian understanding of salvation?
· Tuesday, January 11th
v Morning: What is Islam?
v Afternoon: Islam video
· Wednesday, January 12th
v Morning: Discussion of the Qur’an
v Afternoon: Christian practices/beliefs concerning Spiritual Disciplines
Short paper topic: What are the unique hallmarks of a Christian life and how does that relate to a Christian understanding of salvation?
· Thursday, January 13th
v Morning: General Conclusions; thoughts on papers; practical ministry reflections
2.321 Comparative Soteriologies: An Interreligious Investigation of Salvation
Final Course Grade:________ Date:__________
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