|The Rev. Dr.
Kristin Johnston Largen
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg
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2.362 Sin: The Seven Deadly Sins
Wednesdays, 8:30-11:30 am
Office Hours: by appointment
Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen
In Lutheran theology, sin is a central part of any discussion of human anthropology. It is an unavoidable reality of human existence; it is present in each one of us individually, and it is manifest in every aspect of our relationships, from our most intimate connections with family and friends to our most global connections that occur through economics and politics. It is impossible to understand theologically what it means to be a human being, and live a human life without an understanding of the doctrine of sin. Thus, this course seeks to engender such an understanding, and spark continued theological reflection on this topic through an analysis of what have been called “the seven deadly sins.” Such analysis will include careful consideration both of the specific forms sin takes in a human life, and also the contexts in which sin is identified and located, enabling the students to facilitate faithful and constructive discussions of sin in a variety of 21st century ministry contexts. In this way, this course seeks to address the following outcome for the historical-theological studies division, as stated in the catalogue: “Mastery of the historical-theological studies will enable students to attain a level of proficiency in working with a theological tradition so as to be able to continue to engage new questions and developments in contemporary theological and ethical arenas.”
Upon completion of this course, the students should be able to:
1) Analyze and discuss the various ways in which the doctrine of sin has been described in the Western theological tradition
2) Understand and appreciate the importance of context in both defining and describing what constitutes sin in a human being/human community
3) Develop and articulate one’s own theological arguments through clear, sophisticated written and oral communication
4) Integrate the study of theology into one’s own understanding of public ministry
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:
ü The Purgatorio, by Dante [Hollander translation]
ü Confessions, by Augustine
ü Sinning Like a Christian, by William Willimon [hereafter SLC]
ü Forgiven and Forgiving, by Bill Countryman
Students are expected to attend class regularly, listen to lectures attentively and take notes, and actively engage in both large and small group discussion. Repeated absences will be reflected in the student’s final grade.
In this class, and in this seminary, we respect the rules of inclusivity, as stated in Responsible Community Discourse Statement, which reads as follows:
As members of the seminary community engaged in ministry and ministry preparation, all are encouraged to cultivate a willing participation in verbal and written expression that seeks to acknowledge and respect inclusivity and diversity. Fostering such linguistic commitments honors the heart of the gospel, which affirms that a person’s worth includes, but also extends beyond the categories of age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, family affiliations, vocation, and physical, mental or emotional status.
Two priorities, therefore, guide the life of this community. First, all verbal behavior in corporate worship, classes, personal interactions, meetings, and convocations is invited to exhibit the highest linguistic expression, which is charitable, thoughtful, diverse, expansive and inclusive. Second, the same standards of excellence also apply to all written materials in the community: bulletins, written assignments, tests, seminary publications, scholarly works, Board of Directors’ materials and materials on the seminary’s web site.
Resources for assisting the process of strengthening a gospel-based linguistic community include the ELCA’s “Principles for Worship” and the ELCA Publishing Standards Manual, excerpts of which appear in the Faculty, Employee and Student Handbooks.
*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: forewarned is forearmed!
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) Theological Reflection Papers
Three times throughout the semester, the students will receive a question that they will answer using the classroom textbooks [and other theological resources as they so choose]. Each question will necessitate a three/four page response. The student will bring these papers to class on the due dates assigned, and will use them as a basis for small group discussions. They will be turned in to the instructor at the end of the class session. Each of these short papers will count 10% toward the final course grade.
b) Sin Project
For this project, the students will be broken down into small groups. Each student will be asked to choose a poem/picture/video clip or episode from literature that they feel communicates the complexity and depth of one of the seven deadly sins to a contemporary audience. The students will bring a one-page explanation of their subject, explaining why they chose it, and what elements are present that convey the meaning of their sin. Each student will bring enough copies of his/her subject & explanation for the whole group. The students will share these in small groups, and turn them in at the end of class. At the end of this project, then, each student will have a visual example of a variety of the seven deadly sins that he/she could use for teaching this material to an adult education or confirmation class. This assignment is worth 20% of the student’s grade.
c) Final Exam
The final exam will be a take-home exam, distributed to students on the penultimate day of class. It will be due at the start of the last class period. The exam will be worth 30% of the student’s grade in the course. Evidence of the assigned class reading should be readily apparent in your work!
In lieu of the final exam, you have three other options [if you are interested in one of these, please talk to me in the first few weeks of class, so we can set some parameters for your work]:
a. Write a confirmation or adult education curriculum for teaching the seven deadly sins
b. Write a Lenten sermon series [that’s right, seven sermons] on the seven deadly sins
c. Create an original, artistic portrayal of the seven deadly sins
d) Dialog Review
One of the long-term goals of this course is to inspire interest and enthusiasm for systematic theology that will continue on into the student’s public ministry. One excellent means of developing and sustaining such interest is through the reading of quality theological journals. To that end, one of the course requirements is a short review of any Dialog article from the past five years.
This review should be no more than 2-3 pages, and simply summarize the article read, including the main points of the author, and conclude with a short response by the student. This assignment is due on April 13th, but may be submitted at any point in the semester.
1. Theological Reflection papers: 30%
2. Final Exam: 40%
3. Sin Project: 20%
4. Class attendance & participation: 10%
February 2nd Class Introductions
Review of Syllabus
Introduction to the Doctrine of Sin
February 9th Introduction to Dante & the Divine Comedy, beginning with Hell
Begin discussion of Purgatorio
The Purgatorio, cantos I-XVIII [up to p. 408]:
The voyage to the mountain, up through Wrath
February 16th Discussion of Purgatorio
End in Paradise
The Purgatorio, cantos XIX-XXXIII:
Includes Sloth up through the Earthly Paradise
*First Theological Reflection Paper Due
February 23rd Introduction to the 7 Deadly Sins,
SLC , introduction, chapter 1
March 2nd PRIDE
SLC, chapter 2
Niebuhr chapter [to be handed out]
Two feminist articles [to be handed out]
March 9th ANGER
SLC, chapter 4
March 16th GLUTTONY
SLC, chapter 7
Confessions, books 1-6
March 23rd LUST
SLC, chapter 8
Confessions, books 7-10
*Second theological reflection paper due
March 30th Guest Lecturer
April 6th AVARICE
SLC, chapter 6
April 13th ENVY
SLC, chapter 3
* Dialog Review Due!!
April 20th SLOTH
SLC, chapter 5
*Third Theological Reflection Paper Due
April 27th From Sin to Repentance & Grace
*Sin Project Due
Forgiven and Forgiving, pp. 1-57
May 4th SPRING CONVOCATION
May 11th Forgiveness
*Take-Home Exam Due
Forgiven and Forgiving, pp. 57-131
2.362 Sin: The Seven Deadly Sins
Final Course Grade:________ Date:_____________
LUTHERAN THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AT GETTYSBURG
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