Proposal - Saint Mary`s College of California

SMC Core Curriculum Course Proposal Form
Electronically submit a copy of the course proposal form and attachments to
the Chair of the CCC. Please submit a separate copy of the proposal form for
each learning goal.
1. Name of Proposer: Dave Gentry-Akin
2. Email address:
3. Department/Program of Proposer: TRS
4. Name of Department/Program housing the course: TRS
5. Name(s) of Program Director/Department Chair (if not the proposer):
Michael Barram
6. Course Acronym, Number and Title: TRS 120: Topics: In the Face of Mystery:
Naming Toward God (This is a new experimental course, reviewed and
approved by department chair Michael Barram, which will be taught for the
first time in 2013-2014. Because it utilizes the department’s “Topics”
designation, TRS 120, it does not need approval by the Undergraduate
Educational Policies Committee).
7. Semester(s) in which course will be offered: Fall and/or Spring 2013-2014
8. How often is this course taught? yearly
9. Course Prerequisites (if any): TRS 097
10. Unit Value of Course: 1 (currently 3.5 Carnegie Units)
11. Proper Audience for the course (delete those that don’t apply): Sophomores
12. The Learning Goals for which the course is being submitted
(Courses may apply for at most one Pathways to Knowledge goal, and for as
many Engaging the World goals as is appropriate. Please complete a separate
proposal form for desired goal.)
Pathways to Knowledge
Theological Explorations
Expected Attachments
Syllabus: Course syllabus containing a course description and a list of
learning outcomes. The course’s learning outcomes should include coverage of
the Learning Outcomes associated with the Core Curriculum Learning Goal for
which the course is being proposed.
Teaching: A brief narrative (300 words) that explains how the course will
guide students toward achieving the Learning Goal. The CCC believes it would
be simplest both for the proposer and for the Working Groups if the narrative
addressed the Learning Outcomes one by one.
Learning: A brief explanation of how coursework (e.g., papers, exams,
videotaped presentations) will be used to measure student achievement of each
of the Learning Outcomes. Please address the outcomes directly and one by one.
1. Syllabus follows below.
2. Teaching and Learning:
2.1. Students should demonstrate an understanding of one or more aspects of
Christian tradition and/ or another religious tradition or traditions, acquired
through focused study in a sub-field of theology or religious studies.
2.1.1.Teaching: This course, “In The Face of Mystery”, deals with some of the
“foundational” questions in the sub-field of Systematic Theology, within the wider field
of Roman Catholic Theology, a recognized branch of the Christian Tradition. 1
“Systematic Theology”, as opposed to Biblical Studies or Christian Ethics, for example,
engages in reflection on the core themes and ideas of Christian revelation, using not only
the sacred scriptures, but also the writings of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church, the
dogmatic definitions of ecumenical councils, and the teaching of the popes and the
magisterium of the Church. These ecclesiastical sources are brought into dialogue with
contemporary culture and experience using philosophical tools and methods. The
ultimate goal of “systematic” theology is to make the Christian faith intelligible and
logically tenable to the contemporary seeker of truth. In particular, it seeks to help
believers better understand their own belief by helping them to bring to bear the wisdom
of the Church and the academy with the use of reason and reflection on their own lived
experience. This course consists of a focused study of the following foundational
questions: methods to be used, the nature of faith and revelation, and the Catholic
Christian understanding of God and the Trinity.
2.1.2. Learning: There are fourteen (14) learning outcomes for this course, articulated in
the syllabus below. Each of the weekly quizzes, as well as the research paper and the final
Other recognized branches of systematic theology include method, the question of faith and
revelation, the nature of God, the doctrine of the Trinity, the nature of Jesus Christ, the Church,
sin and grace, Mary and the communion of saints, the sacraments, and eschatology.
exam, are correlated with these fourteen learning outcomes, giving the student explicit
opportunities to demonstrate her or his mastery of a particular learning outcome.
2.2. Students should demonstrate an ability to explore religious questions from
a believer’s point of reference and from the critical perspective of the academy.
2.2.1. Teaching: By its very nature, Roman Catholic theology is “faith seeking
understanding”. As such, it understands both “faith” and “reason” to be ‘ways of
knowing”, two different ways—brought into correlation through the use of a particular
theological method—of more deeply understanding God, the world, others, ourselves, and
our place in the world. Put simplistically, “faith” might be called the domain of the
Church, and “reason” might be called the domain of the academy (though contemporary
epistemology has demonstrated that a kind of “faith” is also at work in the scientific
method, and theologians are certainly using the tools of reason in their theological
explorations. In this sense, the dichotomy between “belief” and “critical perspective of
the academy” is an artificial one, since believers are to be found among the members of
the academy, and since bringing critical questions to faith is at the heart of any serious
theological method). Thus, systematic theology is always moving back and forth between
explicit theological sources (the Bible, dogmatic definitions, papal teaching, etc.) and the
critical questions raised by human reason and experience (what is referred to in the
learning outcome as the “critical perspective of the academy”). This course in particular
relates Biblical and ecclesial teaching about Creation to the challenges and insights
coming forth from contemporary science, a field that is populated by people of faith as
well as by people for whom faith is not a consideration.
2.2.2. Learning: There are fourteen (14) learning outcomes for this course, articulated in
the syllabus below. Each of the weekly quizzes, as well as the research paper and the final
exam, are correlated with these fourteen learning outcomes, giving the student explicit
opportunities to demonstrate her or his mastery of a particular learning outcome.
Any course approved for the core must provide data for the assessment of Core
curriculum learning goals at an institutional level. Via this proposal a
chair/program director agrees to oversee the submission of the student work
necessary for the assessment of the learning goals. If the proposal is from an
instructor, that individual agrees to oversee submission of work from
appropriate sections of their course.
Similarly, while courses, and individual sections within courses, may vary, the
Core should provide somewhat consistent experiences within each Learning
Goal. To this end, by submitting this proposal a chair/program
director/instructor agrees that instructors of Core courses will participate in
assessment exercises.
TRS 120: Topics
In the Face of Mystery: Naming Toward God
Dave Gentry-Akin, M. Div., STL, STD
Department of Theology & Religious Studies
Saint Mary’s College of California
Course Description:
“Theology”, quite simply, means “thinking about God”. Coming from two
Greek roots, “theos”, meaning “God”, and “logos” meaning “a word about”,
theology is “a word [or words] about God”, the attempt to think, logically and
systematically, about who God is and how God relates to our world. In the
Catholic tradition, following Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109), we
understand theology as fides quarens intellectum, or “faith seeking
understanding”. Thus, faith and reason are, for the Catholic intellectual,
integrally related as two sources for coming to know about God. As Blessed
Pope John Paul II writes in his encyclical, Fides et Ratio, “Faith and reason are like
two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and
God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to
know Godself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also
come to the fullness of truth about themselves.” So the journey of understanding
God is also intrinsically related to the search for truth, the search to understand
the mystery of the human person, and, ultimately, the search for selfunderstanding.
This course will explore these ideas in a thoughtful and systematic way using the
methods and sources of the Catholic intellectual tradition. As such, this course is
intentionally designed to meet the learning outcomes for an upper division
course in the learning goal of the SMC goal curriculum for “Theological
Understanding”: 1) the course will consist of “focused study in a subfield of
theology”, namely, some of the questions surrounding method, the nature of
revelation, God, and Trinity from within the broad field of Roman Catholic
systematic theology, and 2) students will explore profound religious questions
from both an “existential”, or “believer’s frame of reference” as well as one that
fully employs the scholarly tools for criticism and analysis that a part of the
academic discipline of Roman Catholic theology.
Learning Outcomes:
At end of this course, students will be able to:
1. define the term “theology” as understood in the Roman Catholic context.
2. identify the key sources of theology in Roman Catholicism (the Bible, the
Fathers of the Church, the teachings of ecumenical councils and popes, the
writings of theologians).
3. describe three classic paradigms of theology (Augustine, Aquinas, and
Neo-Scholasticism) and analyze the strengths and limitations of each
4. identify and critique five contemporary approaches to theology
(transcendental, hermeneutical, analytical, correlational, liberationist)
5. identify five critiques of classical theology posed by intellectual
movements of the Twentieth Century and analyze their claims.
6. Define the concept of “Revelation” as understood in Catholic thought
7. identify the concept of faith, distinguish the difference between faith and
knowledge, and describe the properties of faith
8. explain the notion of “Tradition” as a source of doctrine
9. explain the concept of the “magisterium” and compare and contrast the
difference between teaching understood to be “infallible” and teaching
which is not so understood
10. describe the relationship between God and Christ as understood in
Catholic theology
11. define the concept of “natural theology” and compare and contrast this
concept to that of “revelation”
12. distinguish among various classical ways of conceiving of God, e.g.
Deism, Theism, Panentheism, and assess the strengths and limitations of
each model.
13. articulate the Christian understanding of the Triune God and how the
persons of the Trinity are similar to and distinct from one another.
14. articulate some ways in which the doctrine of the Trinity has been
received in our contemporary context and compare and contrast those to
more classical ways of understanding the Trinity.
Means of Assessment:
Weekly quizzes
Midterm and Final Exam
One paper of 8-10 pages in which the student will be asked to choose a
20th century Roman Catholic theologian from an approved list. The
student will research this theologian, placing her or him in the context of
20th century theological developments and movements, and appraise the
contributions, strengths, and limitations of this theologian’s thought.
Possible texts
Starred texts would most likely be used in their entirety, while chapters would be drawn
from among the other listed texts. Other texts may be substituted depending upon what
is available at the time that this course is taught (Fall 2013).
Buckley, Michael J. At the Origins of Modern Atheism. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1987.
Burrell, David. Knowing the Unknowable God. Notre Dame, IN: University of
Notre Dame Press, 1986.
Congar, Yves. “The Meaning of Tradition”, Sec. 1 vol. 3 of Twentieth Century
Encyclopedia of Catholicism. New York: Hawthorn, 1964.
Dulles, Avery. Models of Revelation. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1983.*
Johnson, Elizabeth A. She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological
Discourse. New York: Crossroad, 2002.
Jones, Serene and Paul Lakeland, eds. Constructive Theology: A Contemporary
Approach to Classical Themes. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005.
Kaufman, Gordon. God the Problem. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972.
LaCugna, Catherine Mowry. God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life. San
Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991.*
Lonergan, Bernard. Method in Theology. New York: Crossroad, 1972.
McFague, Sallie. Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age.
Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1987.
Moltmann, Jürgen. The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God. New York:
Harper and Row, 1981.
Murray, John Courtney. The Problem of God. New Haven: Yale University Press,
Rahner, Karl. Foundations of Christian Faith. New York: Crossroad, 1982.
Schüssler Fiorenza, Francis and John P. Galvin, eds. Systematic Theology: Roman
Catholic Perspectives. Second edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011.