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COURSE NUMBER: THEO 373
COURSE TITLE: Christian Theology Engages other Religions
NAME OF INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Doug Harink
CREDIT WEIGHT AND WEEKLY TIME DISTRIBUTION: credits 3 (hrs lect 3 - hrs sem 0 - hrs lab 0)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: What about "other religions"? This course engages issues that are raised by the encounter of the Christian faith with other religions. We explore biblical and theological perspectives on the reality of multiple religions, addressing such questions as revelation, truth, pluralism, salvation, mission, tolerance and politics.

This course does not fulfill theology foundations requirements.

Prerequisites: THEO 250 and PHIL 230
REQUIRED TEXTS:
  • Gerald R. McDermott and Harold A. Netland, A Trinitarian Theology of Religions: An Evangelical Proposal (New York: Oxford UP, 2014).
  • Muthuraj Swamy, The Problem with Interreligious Dialogue: Plurality, Conflict and Elitism in Hindu-Christian-Muslim Relations (London: Bloomsbury, 2016).
  • The Bible (Any scholarly modern translation: The NRSV is used in the lectures).  Please bring a Bible to each class during the term.
  • Other readings may be assigned from time to time.
MARK DISTRIBUTION IN PERCENT:
Term assignments40%
Book report25%
Final Exam25%
Participation10%
100%
COURSE OBJECTIVES: Plurality of religions has become a fact in modern western societies, and a pervasive reality in a world of rapid travel, global communications and mass media. Canadians are aware of the “universe next door,” whether through contact with neighbours, friends or classmates from different cultures and/or religions, or through awareness of the beliefs and practices of more distant neighbours. Canadian culture is itself an experiment in “principled pluralism,” where (in principle) we affirm and celebrate the multitude of cultural and religious backgrounds of our First Nations as well as those of early and recent immigrants, rather than reject them or homogenize them into a uniform culture. We call it multi-culturalism. This multi-faceted pluralist context, nationally and globally, poses both challenge and promise for Christian witness in the modern world.

In this course students will be introduced to issues that the encounter with people of other cultures, “religions” and ways of life in North America and around the world raise for Christian faith. We will critically examine the very idea of “religion” itself as a western European concept. We will learn how the fact of non-Christian peoples and ways of life poses intriguing and complex theological questions, challenges, and possibilities for Christians seeking to understand and engage them. We will examine how the Christian scriptures and basic Christian doctrines enable us to engage the plurality of beliefs and ways of life. Our goal is to develop a Christian theology of religions and cultures oriented by Christian belief in the triune God of Israel and in the unique and universally normative reality and truth of Jesus Christ, as attested by the Church’s scriptures and creeds. On this basis we will shape a theology which enables us to be appreciative and critical in our study of other religions and cultures and to engage their members with openness, humility, grace, and confidence.

By completing this course students may expect to gain:
  • critical understanding of the idea of “religion” in historical, colonial and post-colonial context
  • familiarity with the main theological issues posed by the fact of religious plurality
  • awareness of the variety of Christian approaches to the theology of religions
  • biblical and theological orientations for a Christian perspective on religious plurality
  • practical orientations for Christian engagement with peoples of other faiths
COURSE OUTLINE:
  • Introduction to issues in the theology of religions
    • Readings: Jan 8:  McD-Netland, Preface (pp ix-x); Swamy, Preface (pp ix-x)
      •  Jan 10: Swamy, Introduction
      •  Jan 15:   McD-Netland, Chapter 1
      • Jan 19: Film series: Huston Smith
  • Biblical perspectives on plurality, cultures, religions
    • Readings: Jan 22: McD-Netland, Chapter 3 (note: not Chapter 2)
      •  Jan 29:  Various Old Testament texts; handouts
      • Feb 5:     Various New Testament texts; handouts
      • Feb 9:  Film series: Huston Smith
  • Theological perspectives on plurality, cultures, religions
    • Readings: Feb 12:  McD-Netland, Chapter 2
      • Feb 26:   McD-Netland, Chapter 4
      • Mar 5:    McD-Netland, Chapter 5
      • Mar 9:  Film series: Huston Smith
      • Mar 12: McD-Netland, Chapter 6
  • Engaging “other religions”?
    • Readings: Mar 19:   Swamy, Chapters 1-3
      • Mar 26:   Swamy, Chapters 4-6
      • Apr 4:   Swamy, Chapters 7-9 & Conclusion
      • Apr 9:  McD-Netland, Chapter 7
      • Apr 13: Film series: Huston Smith
  • Conclusions and further questions
    • `  Apr 16: Open discussion


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