PHIL 3220-01, Spring 2012

Christian Thought

HUM 134, 11am- 12:20pm

Instructor: Mark A. Tietjen (

Office: TLC 2250 (x.96294)

Office hours: T 1 – 2pm, W 8am-noon


Course Description

                An estimated one-third of the world’s population considers itself Christian, including the majority of those who live in the southeastern United States. This course will examine the central themes of Christian Thought, attending both to classical and contemporary voices, ranging from St. Anselm and St. Thomas Aquinas to Simone Weil and Nancey Murphy.

This course does not presuppose prior knowledge of Christianity, nor personal commitment to any religious faith. The approach here will be similar to other courses in the philosophy program in that it does not presuppose the truth of the positions under consideration, yet will require that students and professor alike consider each position with fairness and charity. Thus, this is not a “Sunday school” class where students are expected to hold any of the beliefs under consideration, but rather, similar to my own courses in seminary, it is committed to the highest level of serious, critical inquiry. (It is worth noting that there is no completely neutral perspective of inquiry or, as Alasdair MacIntyre puts it, “no presuppositionless point of departure,” (Dependent Rational Animals, 77). Thus, students taking this course will enter it with assumptions about Christian Thought, theistic or atheistic or agnostic in nature. This is perfectly acceptable and very human. The question is whether the student is aware of these presuppositions and if one is willing to subject them to critical reflection.)


Learning Outcomes

(adapted from A. McGrath’s ‘mission statement’ in Christian Theology: An Introduction)

1.       examine the development and defense of the leading ideas of Christian thought;

2.       recognize and describe the basic vocabulary of Christian thought;

3.       list, classify, and contrast the leading thinkers who have shaped Christian thought through the centuries;

4.       evaluate philosophical problems raised by religious belief and Christian thought in particular.


These course-specific learning outcomes contribute to the departmental learning outcomes of the Philosophy Program by enabling students better to

1.        discuss the general historical development of the discipline of philosophy;

2.        ask philosophical questions and differentiate their types;

3.        exhibit critical thinking skills.


Course Requirements

                                                Exam 1                                                                  22%

                                                Exam 2                                                                  22%

                                                Exam 3                                                                  22%

                                                Term Paper                                                        24%

                                                                Bibliography and thesis                                (6%)

                                                                Paper                                                    (18%)

                                                Participation                                                      10%


Grading Scale.  A (90% or above); B (80 to 89%); C (70 to 79%); D (60 to 69%); F (59 or below)



                Exams will cover material immediately preceding them, and they will likely include definitions and short and long essay. No hats, cell-phones, or bathroom breaks are permitted.


Term Paper

                Students are to choose a topic from Ellen Charry’s Inquiring after God (e.g. Christian friendship or forgiveness) and find two additional scholarly sources outside that text that treat that topic theologically. Based upon the interaction of those two sources and the classical and contemporary sources from Charry’s text (four sources total), students are to write a 1500-1750 word paper. Students are expected to develop and articulate a clear thesis that involves some argument about the texts and then to defend this argument by offering textual support. Students may approach this in a number of ways; they may juxtapose theologians’ views and defend why one is superior to the others. Or students may try and defend a hybrid conception of some theme in Christian thought by drawing from features of the texts under consideration.

                An annotated bibliography of each source—both textbook and outside, as well as a thesis statement are due electronically Monday, March 27th, by 9am. (Late bibliographies and late papers will receive 10% deduction from the grade per day late.) Annotations should be between 150-200 words for each source being used, including Charry’s sources. (Annotations above or below this count will not be counted toward the grade.) A thesis statement should be no more than 1 sentence and should present a clear position or argument the student wishes to explain, extrapolate, and defend. Often students find it helpful to formulate a thesis by beginning with the phrase: “I argue that…”.

                Final Papers are due electronically Monday, April 16th, by 9am (for penalties, see above).



All students are expected to make quality contributions to class discussion on a regular basis. Students who respond to questions or show intellectual engagement through asking good questions will receive high participation grades. Students who do not speak, who speak but BS because they have not read, or who fail to bring their readings to class, will earn poor participation grades. Every time a student fails to bring assigned reading to class, 1 pt will be docked from this grade. Do not rely on the participation grade for an easy ten points. If you are deficient in any of the ways mentioned you should expect several points taken off. Students who excessively fail to bring readings to class will be asked to leave class and counted absent.


Required Texts

1.       (IG) Ellen T. Charry, Inquiring after God: Classic and Contemporary Readings (978-0-631-20544-9)

2.       (PC) Søren Kierkegaard, Practice in Christianity (978-0-691-020631)


Course Policies and Structure

                Attendance will be kept, and it is students’ responsibility to keep up with their attendance and make sure their understanding of their attendance record coincides with the professor’s.


Absences: Students should obviously attend all classes, but are permitted to miss up to three without

penalty (no questions asked, etc.). Every absence after the third (up to the sixth) will result in a 5% reduction of the final grade. At seven absences a student will be given a failing grade for the class. I will do my best to let you out on time, so do your best to be on time. Students who leave class and do not return will be counted absent. Students who leave class and return should not make a habit of this; if they do, they will be counted absent.

Tardies: Each tardy counts as half an absence. Thus, 2 tardies = 1 absence.

Perfect Attendance: students who have zero absences and zero tardies (and who do not leave class early) will have 2 points added to their final grade.

Texting and other Disturbances: Students engaged in Texting, Facebooking, surfing, IMing, using

the cell phone, or any other class disturbances, may be counted absent. All electronic

devices should be in a locked and upright position (turned OFF) for the duration of class. If there is an emergency situation where someone is expecting a call, the professor should be notified prior to class and students should receive the call outside the classroom.

Automatic withdrawal: I will withdraw all students on the day of their seventh absence. If this occurs after the W date, that student will receive a WF.

Extra Credit: Students should not plan to rely on extra credit as a way of achieving a desired

grade in this class, though opportunities may be given throughout the course of the semester.

Miscellaneous: Papers submitted in other courses (whether college, high school, etc.) may not be

submitted again for this course.

Honors Conversion: Any student wishing to receive honors credit for this course must get the

approval of the professor and complete all the necessary paperwork within the first two

weeks of class. No honors forms will be signed after this point. I understand this is not

the policy of the honors program; it is the policy of the Philosophy Program.


Cheating and Plagiarism

                The Department of English and Philosophy defines plagiarism as taking personal credit for the words and ideas of others as they are presented in electronic, print, and verbal sources. The Department expects that students will accurately credit sources in all assignments. An equally dishonest practice is fabricating sources or facts; it is another form of misrepresenting the truth. Plagiarism is grounds for failing the course. Neither whole papers nor parts of papers submitted in other courses (whether college, high school, etc.) may be submitted again for this course.



Jan         10           Welcome; syllabus review

                12           Introduction to Theological Inquiry, IG xvi-xxx


17           Theological Study, IG chp. 1

                19           Theological Study, IG chp. 1


                24           Scientific Study, IG chp. 2

                26           Scientific Study, IG chp. 2


                31           Discernment, IG chp. 3

Feb        2              Discernment, IG chp. 3


7              Work, IG chp. 4

9              Work, IG chp. 4


14           EXAM 1

16           Friendship, IG chp. 5


21           Friendship, IG chp. 5

                23           Marriage, IG chp. 6


28           Marriage, IG chp. 6

Mar        1              Affliction, IG chp. 7        

**March 2, last day to withdraw with “W”

6              Affliction, IG chp. 7

8              Repentance and Forgiveness, IG chp. 8


13           Repentance and Forgiveness, IG chp. 8                

15           EXAM 2

**spring break**

                27           TBA

                29           TBA


Apr         3              PC 1-22

                5              PC 23-36


                10           PC 36-53

                12           PC 53-68


                17           FILM

                19           FILM


FINAL EXAM: Tuesday, Apr 24, 11:00-1:30 pm


*Any part of this syllabus is subject to change at the instructor’s discretion; advance notice will be given should the syllabus change.