Kenyon College homepage Department of Religious Studies
Royal Rhodes 

R. W. Rhodes
Office: Ascension Hall 109
MWF 1:10 p.m.
Office Hours: MW 2:15-4:45 p.m.
PBX 5330 or 5656
or by appointment
E-mail: Rhodesr

RELN 220: The Faith of Christians

The success of this course will depend just as much upon your participation as upon the contribution of the instructor. It will not be successful, if you see yourselves merely as recipients of instruction. We shall be trying together to discover the fundamental principles of Christian beliefs within the wider context of the study of religion and to answer the sometimes very difficult questions that arise about this faith in its various forms in the modern scientific and technological world. It is not the purpose of this course to tell people what they ought to believe, but rather to do three things:

(a) to look at the biblical bases for Christian beliefs and at some of
the classical statements of these beliefs,
(b) to identify the urgent questions and challenges to these beliefs
that have arisen historically and in the modern world, and
(c) to consider the on-going relation of Christian texts, symbols, practices, and structures to changing cultural contexts.

To this end, the format of the course will be as follows:

1. For each week, readings from the Bible and from secondary sources are provided. It is important that you make yourselves familiar with these before the week begins.

2. The Monday and Wednesday sessions will be a general lecture, attempting to deal with the assigned topic and providing background.

3. Each Friday session will be devoted to questions and discussion, focusing on the assigned texts. Certain questions have been suggested for each week, but these are intended merely to start you thinking. You should come prepared with your own questions and comments.

4. There will be a quiz (Oct. 15) and a final exam (Dec. 17). Unannounced quizzes may also be given periodically.

These assignments will not be judged according to whether your beliefs are true or false, but according to whether you can state the problems in clear and straightforward language and can also suggest a rational means of dealing with them. Of course, you will be expected to be accurate about factual material. It is important for assignments to be completed on time; all late work will be penalized.
It should be clear from what has been said above that regular attendance is necessary for the successful completion of this course.
If you have specific physical, psychological or learning disabilities and require accommodations, please let me know early in the semester so that your learning needs may be appropriately met. You will need to provide documentation of your disability to Disability Services in the Student Affairs Office. Please call Erin Salva at 5145 to schedule an appointment so that verification can be provided to your instructors in a timely manner.


1.) Aug. 27 - 31 Faith Seeking Understanding

Reading: Genesis 22:1-19; Romans 4; Hebrews 11:1; James 2:14-26

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 5-65, 121-131

For consideration: What do we mean by "faith"? Are "faith" and "reason" opposed?


2.) Sept. 3 -7 God the Father/God the Mother

Reading: Deuteronomy 5:1-21; 6:1-15; 30:5-20; Psalm 115; Isaiah 44:9-20; 45:1-7

E. Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (Ch. 3), on reserve Julian of Norwich (handout)

For consideration: Could there be many gods?
Does God exist?
What is idolatry?
How could a good God permit evil?


3.) Sept. 10-14 Creation and Sacred Space: Garden and Sanctuary

Reading: Genesis 1-3; Psalm 74; 104; Job 38-39; John 1:1-18; Romans 8:22-23

C. S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew

For consideration: What do the stories of creation convey?
What is the Christian attitude towards nature?
What is meant by a "new creation"?


4.) Sept. 17 - 21 The Bible: Revelation and Revision

Reading: Exodus 19:1-20; 20; Psalm 1; 137; 1 Kings 19:10-14; Jeremiah 7:1-27; Matthew 5; 22:29-34; John 5:39-47; Acts 10:3-16; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 15:1-11; 2 Timothy 3:14-17

W. Countryman, Biblical Authority or Biblical Tyranny?

For consideration: What is the Bible?
Is the Bible the "Word of God""
Do revelation and reason conflict?
What constitutes "tradition"?


5.) Sept. 24 - 28 Jesus

Reading: The Gospel of Mark

Pelikan, Jesus Through the Centuries, chs. 1-7

For consideration: Who was Jesus? What did he teach and do?
Why did his death happen in the way it did?
Is the "historical Jesus" important?


6.) Oct. 1 - 5 The Risen Christ

Reading: Psalm 2; 22; Isaiah 50; John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:11-23

For consideration: What is meant by resurrection"?
What is meant by "incarnation"?
In what sense is Jesus "Son of God"?


7.) Oct. 10 - 12 Worship

Reading: Psalm 51; 150; Amos 5:18-27; Ephesians 2:19-22; Matthew 6:5-18; Luke 10:25-37; John 15:13-17

Cyril, On the Sacraments

See also: (Baptism) John 3:3-5; Acts 2:37-38; Romans 6:3-11
(Eucharist) Luke 24:13-35; John 6:48-58; 1 Corinthians 11:23-34

For consideration: What forms of worship have Christians used?
How is worship related to daily living?


Oct. 15 QUIZ


8.) Oct. 17 - 19 Creeds and Trinity

Reading: John 3:1-13; 16:5-15; Acts 2:1-21; 8:14-24; 15:28; Romans 8:1-28; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Genesis 18:1-15; Matthew 28:16-20

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, pp. 135-170

For consideration: How do the Creeds express/shape Christian faith?
Why are Christians Trinitarians?
What is meant by "spirit," or by "Holy Spirit"?
What is the role of the Spirit?
How is the Spirit symbolized?


9.) Oct. 22 - 26 Sin and Redemption

Reading: Isaiah 52:13--53:12; Matthew 20:20-28; 25:31-46; Mark 8:27-38; Luke 4:16-21; 24:13-27; John 12:30-36; 13:1-20; 1 Corinthians 15

O'Connor, Wise Blood

For consideration: What does "atonement" mean?
How are salvation and sanctification related?


10.) Oct. 29 - Nov. 1 Sin and Sexuality

Reading: Deuteronomy 23:17; 1 Kings 14:24; Leviticus 18: 19-23; 20:10-16; Romans 1:26-2:3; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Spong, Living in Sin?


11.) Nov. 5 - 9 Mystics and Spiritual Paths

Reading: Isaiah 6: 1-13; 1 Kings 19: 9-13; Mark 9: 2-13; Revelation 1

Pelikan, chs. 9-13

For consideration: How do Christians conceive history? The "Spirit" in history?
Why is Christianity called an "historical religion"?
What is the "End-Time?"


12.-13.) Nov. 12-Nov. 30 Christians and Society: Public/Private Faith

Reading: Pelikan, chs. 14-18


14.) Dec. 3 - 10 Conversion and Discipleship

Reading: Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37; 7:54-60; 9:1-15; 1 Corinthians 9:23-27; Ephesians 5:1-2

Wakefield, Returning


EXAM: Dec. 17


Along with the assigned readings, several books are recommended for reference purposes: Parrinder, A Concise Encyclopedia of Christianity; Cross, Dictionary of the Christian Church; Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, 3 vols.; Johnson, A History of Christianity; Pelikan, History of Christian Doctrine, 5 vols.; Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought.