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  • religion major
  • youth ministries and recreation major
  • biblical studies minor
  • missions minor
  • theology and ethics minor
  • communication in church organizations program
  • peace and conflict studies minor
  • pre-seminary program
  • courses
  • departmental homepage
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    Religion courses

    In contribution to the mission of Bluffton University to provide a superior liberal arts program shaped by the historic peace tradition of Mennonite churches, the religion department of Bluffton University has four objectives:

    1. to teach the skill and value of critical thinking toward Scripture and toward historical-denominational traditions with an aim toward deeper commitments to God as known in Jesus Christ and greater critical appreciation for the students' own heritage;

    2. to expose all students at Bluffton University to Judeo-Christian history, literature and values in particular conversation with Anabaptist and Mennonite perspectives and traditions;

    3. to offer a program of in-depth study for those whose interests take them beyond the minimum exposure to religion in general education courses and that provides further skill in biblical interpretation, in assessing theological proposals and in passing on theological traditions; and

    4. to be a defining center of contemporary free church theology for both the academic community and the Anabaptist and Mennonite churches.

    To accomplish this four-fold mission, the religion department offers two majors, five minors, and a pre-seminary program, each of which reflects and is shaped by the peace church heritage and the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition while remaining in conversation with other Christian traditions. In addition, the religion department cooperates with the communication and theatre department on the Communication in Church Organizations Program. Students who are interested in Christian church, mission, and other ministry institutions may combine this program with a major in religion or communication.

    Those who plan to major or minor in religion should take LAS 210 instead of MAT 105 as their general education reasoning course. If a student does not test into pre-calculus, both of these courses are required.

    Majors
    Religion
    (39 hours)
    The major in religion serves the needs of a variety of students. While undergraduate studies do not substitute for seminary training, the major in religion provides an excellent foundation for those interested in church vocations or further graduate studies in religion. Students with other vocational interests will find religion an ideal complement to another major.

    Core: (10 hours)
    REL 220 World Religions (3)
    REL 273 Christian Theology (3)
    REL 322 Methods in Biblical Interpretation (3)
    REL 395 Religion Seminar (1)

    Jesus studies: (6 hours)
    REL 311 Jesus (3) (biblical focus)
    REL 311 Jesus (3) (theological focus)

    Exegetical Studies: (6 hours)
    REL 312 Exegetical Studies (3)
    (repeated with different text)

    History of Christian Thought: (6 hours)
    REL 320 Historical and Theological Studies (3)
    one of the following three
    REL 313 Catholic History and Thought (3) or REL 325 Sacred and Civil Religion in America (3) or REL 359 Mennonite History and Thought (3)

    Ethics: (3 hours)
    REL 274 Christian Ethics (3) or
    REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)

    Practical Theology: (8-9 hours)
    Two of the following five:
    REL 240 Principles in Christian Education (3)
    REL 242 Spiritual Disciplines in the Life of the Church (3)
    REL 243 Introduction to Youth Ministry (3) 
    REL 332 Christian Missions (3)
    REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry (3)
    REL 336 Discipling and Mentoring (3)

    One of the following four:
    REL 230 Christian Worship (2)
    REL 231 Music Ministry (2)
    REL 340 Religious Communication (3)
    REL 385 Practicum (3)

    Youth Ministries and Recreation
    (53 hours)
    The major in youth ministries and recreation is designed to prepare students for entry-level leadership positions in a variety of congregational, camp, para-church and recreational settings, that will offer an opportunity to develop and test ministry and leadership skills in a professional setting before committing to ministry, a seminary education or to further training in recreational professions.

    Communication: (6 hours)
    COM 185 Public Speaking (3)
    or COM 340 Religious Communication (3)
    One of the following:
    COM 195 Interpersonal Communication (3)
    COM 220 Communication and Conflict Transformation (3)
    COM 275 Organizational Communication (3)

    Psychology: (3 hours)
    PSY 214 Child and Adolescent Psychology (3)

    Recreation: (12 hours)
    REC 117 Introduction to Recreation (3)
    Nine hours from the following:
    REC 125 Games and Social Recreation (3)
    REC 215 Commercial Recreation (3)
    REC 225 Recreation Leadership and Program (3)
    REC 260 Outdoor Recreation (3)
    REC 337 Camping Administration (3)

    Religion: (32 hours)
    REL 230 Christian Worship (2)
    REL 240 Principles of Christian Education (3)
    REL 243 Introduction to Youth Ministry (3)
    REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry (3)
    REL 336 Discipling and Mentoring (3)
    REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)
    REL 385 Practicum: Camping and/or Youth Ministry (2)
    REL 395 Seminar (1)
    Six hours of:
    REL 312 Exegetical Studies (2 times) (3)
    One of the following:
    REL 313 Catholic History & Thought (3)
    REL 320 Historical & Theological Studies (3)
    REL 325 Sacred & Civil Religion in America (3)
    REL 359 Mennonite History & Thought (3)

    Minors
    Minors enable students to explore a selected area in religion while devoting the majority of their academic program to another discipline.

    Biblical Studies (19 hours)
    REL 311 Jesus (biblical focus) (3)
    REL 312 Exegetical Studies (9) Taken three times with different foci
    REL 322 Methods in Biblical Interpretation (3)
    REL 395 Seminar (1)
    One additional religion course outside of practical theology (3)

    Missions (19-20 hours)
    SOC 162 Anthropology (3)
    REL 220 World Religions (3)
    REL 311 Jesus (3)
    or REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)
    REL 322 Christian Missions (3)

    One of the following:
    PSY 262 Cross-cultural Psychology (3)
    REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry (3)
    REL 336 Discipling and Mentoring (3)
    REL 340 Religious Communication (3)

    One of the following four:
    LAS 342 Cross-cultural/Service Learning Experience * (4) (i.e., a second, with a practicum component)
    REL 385 Practicum in Christian Mission (3)
    REL 390 Independent Study in Missiology (3)
    HIS 245 Regional and National Studies (3)
    REL 395 Seminar (1)

    * Includes an opportunity to earn cross-cultural credit through the YES program.

    Theology and Ethics (19 hours)
    REL 311 Jesus (3) (theological focus)
    The other general education theology course (i.e., REL 273 Christian Theology or REL 274 Christian Ethics) (3)
    REL 313 Catholic History and Thought (3) or REL 325 Sacred and Civil Religion in America (3) or REL 359 Mennonite History and Thought (3)
    REL 320 Historical and Theological Studies (3)
    REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)
    REL 395 Seminar (1)
    One additional religion course outside of practical theology (3)

    Youth Ministry (21 hours)
    PSY 214 Child and Adolescent Psychology (3)
    REL 240 Principles of Christian Education (3)
    REL 243 Introduction to Youth Ministry (3)
    REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry (3) or REL 336 Discipling and Mentoring (3)
    REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3) or REL 311 Jesus (3)

    One of the following four:
    COM 275 Organizational Communications (3)
    COM 195 Interpersonal Communication (3)
    COM 220 Communication and Conflict Transformation (3)
    REL 340 Religious Communication (3)

    REL 385 Practicum: Youth Ministry (2)
    REL 395 Seminar (1)

    Pre-seminary program
    In order to prepare for seminary, the religion department recommends that students take the religion major supplemented by one of the biblical languages, usually New Testament Greek. If students select a different major or minor from the religion department or a major from a different department as preparation for seminary, then the department recommends a core of courses, which should be selected in consultation with the chair of the religion department. In addition to the these courses, the department further recommends participation in the Ministry Inquiry Program.
    Core:
    GRK 112, GRK 122 New Testament 1,2 (3,3)
    REL 273 Christian Theology (3)
    REL 274 Christian Ethics (3)
    REL 311 Jesus (3)
    REL 312 Exegetical Studies (one with Old Testament focus, one with New Testament) (3,3)
    REL 320 Historical and Theological Studies (3)
    REL 395 Seminar (1)
    Any course in practical theology

    One of the following:
    REL 313 Catholic History and Thought (3)
    REL 325 Sacred and Civil Religion in America (3)
    REL 359 Mennonite History and thought (3)

    Courses
    Greek

    GRK 111, GRK 121 New Testament Greek 1, 2
    (3 hours each)

    Hebrew
    HEB 111, HEB 121 Introduction to Biblical Hebrew 1, 2
    (3 hours each)

    Religion
    REL 200 Introduction to Biblical Literature
    (3)

    REL 220 World Religions (3)
    An introduction to the major religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism and Islam. The course will attempt to understand these world wisdom traditions on their own terms through a consideration of their origins, history, sacred texts and religious practices.

    REL 230 Christian Worship (2)
    An examination of how persons and groups have expressed Christian faith through worship. The course includes a historical survey of worship practices, a comparative study of current worship practices in various traditions, and an examination of how the various arts are used in and contribute to worship. Offered on demand.

    REL 231 Music Ministry (2)
    A practical study of methods and materials for the church musician. The course includes study and projects in hymnology, church choir repertoire, instruments in worship and administration of a church music program. Not offered every year;
    REL 230 is a recommended prerequisite. Also listed as MUS 231.

    REL 240 Principles of Christian Education (3)
    Christian education in the context of the church congregation is the primary focus of this course. An overview of the history, theology, use of the Bible, learning models and settings of Christian education will lead to a comprehensive case study by each student of one congregation's educational ministry. Designed for persons currently involved or those who may become involved in Christian education. Prerequisite:
    REL 200. Offered alternate years.

    REL 242 Spiritual Disciplines in the Life of the Church (3)
    The goal of this course is to expose students to biblical spirituality and historical models of spirituality. In addition to fulfilling the conventional requirements of a typical academic course, students will be encouraged to cultivate spiritual devotion in their own personal and corporate lives. Class assignments will require more than academic performance. They will also challenge students to reflect deeply on and to develop disciplines that will develop their spiritual lives. Offered alternate years.

    REL 243 Introduction to Youth Ministry (3)

    Youth ministry in the context of the church is the primary focus of this course. Who are the participants, what happens in youth ministry, why does it happen, where does it happen, and how does it happen are questions we will wrestle with together. Designed for persons currently involved or may become involved in youth ministry. Offered alternate years.

    REL 273 Christian Theology (3)
    The course surveys central doctrines of the Christian faith and develops a few doctrines in more depth. Topics include the nature and work of Christ, the nature of the church, eschatology, religious authority and creation. Emphasis on particular topics may vary. The overall focus of the course is to present these doctrines both from the perspective of the church of the so-called Constantinian synthesis and from peace church perspectives. Prerequisite:
    REL 200.

    REL 274 Christian Ethics (3)
    The first part of the course demonstrates how much of mainstream ethics reflects the church of the so-called Constantinian synthesis and then provides a peace church view of Christian ethics. The second part of the course will apply this learning to the spectrum of issues that confront Christians in the modern world. Prerequisite:
    REL 200.

    REL 311 Jesus (3)
    An investigation of one area in the study of Jesus. Course content will vary and will be announced prior to registration. Areas of investigation will include a discussion of the methodological problems involved in studying the historical Jesus and may concentrate on a theme such as: 1) a study of one of the Synoptic Gospels; 2) a study of the history of research on the historical Jesus in the 19th and 20th centuries; 3) Jesus images in literature; or 4) how Christology is treated in such specific theologies as black theology, feminist theology and womanist theology. May be repeated for credit with a different topic. Prerequisites:
    REL 200 and REL 273.

    REL 312 Exegetical Studies (3)
    An investigation of one particular book or selection of text in the Bible. Occasionally the focus will be on ancient texts outside of the Bible that are of particular importance for understanding the origins and nature of Christian and/or Jewish faith. The focal areas include (but are not limited to) the Psalms, the prophets, women in the Old Testament, the Gospel of John, the letters of Paul, the book of Revelation and the Dead Sea Scrolls. The topics will alternate and will be announced prior to registration. May be repeated for credit with a different topic. Prerequisite:
    REL 200 or permission of instructor.

    REL 313 Catholic History and Thought (3)
    This course studies Catholicism from its inception in the apostolic age to the present. It stresses the historical evolution, the theological and institutional expression and the contemporary situation. Contemporary challenges and dilemmas facing Catholicism will also be explored in their relationship to traditional Catholic perceptions of Christian faith and authority. Prerequisite:
    REL 273 or permission of instructor.

    REL 320 Historical and Theological Studies (3)
    An investigation of one area of church history or Christian theology. Topics will vary across the entire range of Christian history and will be announced prior to registration. While nor limited to the following, topics might include the history of monasticism, the theology of Martin Luther, the theology of John Calvin, Radical Reformation, black theology, liberation theology, feminist theology, atonement theology. May be repeated for credit with different topic. Prerequisite:
    REL 273 or REL 274 and sophomore standing, or permission of the instructor.

    REL 322 Methods of Biblical Interpretation (3)
    Examines various approaches to how Christians today read and interpret the Bible. Explores problems and possibilities associated with interpreting the Bible and looks at various principles and methods of interpretation that have been proposed. Examines how to read the Bible devotionally and how to lead Bible studies in a variety of settings, such as in youth groups, residence hall Bible studies and Sunday school classes. Prerequisite:
    REL 200.

    REL 325 Sacred and Civil Religion in America (3)
    The course will survey developments in American religion from the earliest permanent settlements by Europeans to the present. Particular attention will be given to those aspects of the American religious scene which have contributed to the evolution of Civil Religion. Examples of these phenomena might be the New England Theocracies, the Revolutionary War, the Benevolent Empire, the Civil War or the separation of church and state. Prerequisite:
    REL 273 or permission of instructor.

    REL 332 Christian Missions (3)
    Course will study how God works in the world to bring about reign of God and transform human lives and how churches participate in that mission. Students will survey major eras in the history of Christian missions, learn to recognize contemporary "types" of mission strategy and develop the biblical and theological basis of Christian mission. They will examine how to share a message that truly is good news for people suffering violence and oppression, people who want to protect their cultural and religious traditions from Western culture, and people in the increasingly pluralistic "post-Christian" West itself. The course will make regular use of case studies. Prerequisite:
    REL 220.

    REL 334 Foundations of Christian Ministry (3)
    Addresses fundamental ministry issues on the personal and professional level, including one's call to ministry; the theological principles of ministry; the balance of priestly and prophetic roles in the ministry; and the character, integrity and ethics of the ministering person. The course will examine identity issues, congregational systems theory and collegiality issues, both in terms of gender issues and working in multiple staff situations. Prerequisite:
    REL 273.

    REL 336 Discipling and Mentoring (3)
    Examines ways of encouraging and nurturing people in their faith development. Students will analyze, critique and implement methods of discipleship and mentoring in both one-on-one and small group contexts. Course gives attention both to foundational/theoretical issues and practical issues.

    REL 340 Religious Communication (3)
    This course is an introduction to the theory and practice of religious communication in its sermonic, liturgical, deliberative and promotional forms. The course surveys homiletic theory from St. Augustine's On Christian Doctrine to contemporary narrative approaches to preaching and explores the role of religious language in congregational worship, decision-making and public relations. Attention is given to such current communication issues as the impact of electronic media on religious messages, the use of gendered language in religious texts and the tension between intimacy and inclusiveness in public worship contexts. Students in the class write sermons, create responsive readings, plan congregational worship services and business meetings and design church promotional materials. Prerequisite: junior or senior status

    REL 359 Mennonite History and Thought (3)
    The course surveys the history and meaning of Mennonitism from its inception to the present. Topics may include Mennonite origins in the Anabaptist Reformation of the 16th century, Mennonites in colonial North America, the movement westward with the frontier, the Quickening of the 19th century, the schisms of the 19th and 20th centuries, the impact of such American phenomena as revivalism and fundamentalism on Mennonite thought, the Mennonite response to war, the character of Mennonite theology. Emphases on particular topics may vary from one term to another. Prerequisite:
    REL 273 or permission of instructor.

    REL 360 Leadership in Church-related Organizations (3)
    In large, formal church-related organizations (i.e. World Vision and Habitat for Humanity) and small, informal ones (i.e. local congregations and neighborhood associations), persons of goodwill join together in the name of Christ to voluntarily serve those in need. This course will suggest to students: (1) the composition of the church-related not-for-profit sector; (2) the contextual variables within that sector which suggest a need for Christian vision and leadership; and (3) the specific competencies required for involvement and leadership in church-related organizations. The following objectives will be pursued: (1) to differentiate by mission and structure the various types of organizations which constitute the not-for-profit sector in general and church-related organizations in particular; (2) to investigate numerous opportunities for involvement in not-for-profit church organizations; and (3) to practice Christian communication and leadership within the not-for-profit sector through selective involvement with voluntary organizations. Throughout the course, such concepts as awareness, empathy, foresight, persuasion, and stewardship will be introduced and evaluated. This course is also listed as
    COM 360.

    REL 373 War, Peace and Nonviolence (3)
    This course will survey biblical teachings on war and peace and survey the variety of theological understandings throughout the history of the Christian church. The course will treat both individual and international dimensions of peacemaking. Sophomore standing required.

    REL 385 Practicum (3)
    Students carry out an assignment in a church or other institution under the supervision of a minister or other director. Students will meet with supervisor and teacher on a regular basis. May include readings and writing assignments as appropriate. For upper-level students.

    REL 390 Independent Study (3-5)
    By arrangement.

    REL 395 Seminar in Religion (1)
    Seminar serves as capstone to the Religion Department majors and minors, and will enable students to integrate the learning from prior religion courses. Each participant in the seminar will make a presentation to the seminar which depicts her or his religious world view in conversation with these learnings. Seminar presentations will emphasize integration, synthesis and analytical thinking. Prerequisite: upper-level standing. Offered alternate years.