The Rev. Dr. Kristin Johnston Largen
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg


LTSG Home Page
Largen home page



2.362   Sin:  The Seven Deadly Sins



Spring 2011

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.”








Course Outcomes

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:


  1. Required Reading: 

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




  1. Class Attendance & Preparation: 

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!





  1. Class Assignments:

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%


Course Outline: 


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

                                                                   [No class]



May 11th                                         Forgiveness

            *Take-Home Exam Due

            Forgiven and Forgiving, pp. 57-131























Descriptive Report



2.362 Sin:  The Seven Deadly Sins

Spring 2011




Course Objectives





Analyze and discuss the various ways in which the doctrine of sin has been described in the Western theological tradition





Understand and appreciate the importance of context in both defining and describing what constitutes sin in a human being/human community





Develop and articulate one’s own theological arguments through clear, sophisticated written and oral communication





Integrate the study of theology into one’s own understanding of public ministry







Final Course Grade:________                            Date:_____________









A Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
©1996-2006 Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg