The Serbian Orthodox Church at Ráckeve, Hungary,
built in the 1400s.
HISTORY | THEOLOGY | THOUGHT
Fall 2011 | Tuesdays, 6-9pm | 116 S. Michigan Bldg., 205.
Peter O’Leary, instructor
Christianity has been the dominant religious and cultural idiom of the West for the past 1700
years, defining the West’s history, politics, literature, and spirituality. Because of this
supersaturation, much of Christianity’s texture and depth is taken for granted,
misunderstood, or lost. In this course, we will examine scripture, theology, mysticism, and art
toward recovering some of Christianity’s hidden knowledge, especially from the complex
vantage of the United States, the most successful and powerful Christian nation in the history
of the world.
For this course you will write three essays (5-7 pages). These essays will concern material
covered in class, as well as topical material to be found in newspapers and current events.
Additionally, you will be responsible for finding three representations of material or ideas
from the Christian world in current events and/or popular culture. Each sighting will include
a brief description of the representation, along with a brief commentary on its significance.
(No more than two paragraphs.)
Passing this course will be based on your essays, your sightings, and your participation. If you
fail to complete any one of these, you will be in danger of failing the course.
ATTENDANCE & CLASSWORK POLICY
Regular attendance and class participation is required. You are allowed two absences. Miss
this class more than two times and you will receive no credit. There is no difference between
an excused absence and an unexcused absence. Furthermore, if you miss portions of class
that add up to more than two classes (i.e., more than six hours of class time), you will receive
Additionally, you are expected to have done the readings for class. Bring textbooks to class.
Late work will not be accepted without prior request.
SAIC prohibits “dishonesty such as cheating, plagiarism, or knowingly furnishing false
information to the School” (Students’ Rights and Responsibilities, Student Handbook).
Plagiarism is a form of intellectual theft. You plagiarize when you present another’s work as
your own, even if you does not intend to. It will not be tolerated in this class. The penalty for
plagiarizing may also result in some loss of some types of financial aid (for example, a No
Credit in a course can lead to a loss of the Presidential Scholarship), and repeat offenses can
lead to expulsion from the School. To find out more about plagiarism and how to avoid it, you
can (1) go to the portal, select the “Services” tab, and click on “Plagiarism” under “Academic
Advising and Student Success”; (2) go to the SAIC Web site, select “Departments, Degrees,
and Academic Resources,” then select “Libraries,” then select “Flaxman Library,” and then
click on the plagiarism links under the “For Our Faculty” tab; or (3) read about it in the
Student Handbook under the section “Academic Misconduct.”
Any student in need of accommodations because of a disability should first contact SAIC’s
Disability and Learning Resource Center (DLRC) as early in the semester as possible. The
DLRC can be reached by phone (312.499.4278) or by email firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff at the DLRC
will review the student’s disability documentation and work with the student to determine
reasonable accommodations. The DLRC will then provide the student with a letter outlining
the approved accommodations, which must be presented to the student's instructors before
any accommodations will be implemented.
LAPTOPS & CELLPHONES
Use of either laptops or cellular telephones is prohibited in class. You can check e-mail,
phone messages, or text messages during the break.
The following texts are required for the course. Copies of these books are on sale at the
Barnes & Noble at State & Jackson. Books can be ordered through the DePaul University
Bernard McGinn, The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism (Modern Library, 2006)
Marvin Meyer, The Gospel of Thomas (HarperSanFrancisco, 1992)
Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam (Picador, 2005)
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Christianity & Evolution (Harcourt, 1974)
Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1930) (Penguin)
Linda Woodhead, Christianity: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2004)
Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church (James Clarke, 1968)
The Way of a Pilgrim, trans. Helen Bacovcin (Image, 1992)
September 6, 2011
View: From Jesus to Christ, part I.
September 13, 2011
Read: The Gospel According to John
Read: Woodhead, chapter 1, “Jesus: the God-man”
View: From Jesus to Christ, part III
September 20, 2011
Logos as gnosis
Read: The Gospel of Thomas
Read: Woodhead, chapter 4, “Mystical Christianity”
Read: McGinn, Section 14, “Mysticism and Heresy”
View: From Jesus to Christ, part IV
September 27, 2011
Trinitarian Mysteries I: Revelation
Read: Lossky, chapters 1 & 2, “Divine Darkness” & “God in Trinity”
Read: McGinn, Section 6, “Living the Trinity”
Read: Woodhead, chapter 2, “The signs and symbols of Christianity”
Sighting 1 due today.
October 4, 2011
Trinitarian Mysteries II: Christos-Logos
Read: McGinn, Section 7, “Encountering Christ”
Read: Lossky, chapters 4 & 6, “Uncreated Energies” & “Image and Likeness”
Read: Wikipedia entry on “Nicene Creed”
October 11, 2011
Christendom: Empire & Schism
Read: Woodhead, chapter 3, “The Church and Biblical Christianity”
Read: “The East-West Schism” on Wikipedia
Read: Lossky, chapter 9, “Two Aspects of the Church”
Read: McGinn, Section 3, “Prayer, Liturgy, and Sacraments”
Section 5, “Mystical Itineraries”
First essay due today.
October 18, 2011
Mystical Christianity: Expressions
Read: The Way of a Pilgrim.
Read: Lossky, Chapters 10 & 11: “The Way of Union” & “The Divine Light”
View: Icons from Sinai
October 25, 2011
Read: McGinn, Section 4, “Inner and Outer Practices”
Section 10, “Positive and Negative Ways to God”
Section 13, “Union with God”
View: Into Great Silence
November 1, 2011
Reformation I: Logos Made New
Read: Weber, The Protestant Ethic, part I, “The Problem”
Read: Woodhead, “Modern Christianity: the West”
Read: Wikipedia entry on “Protestant Reformation”
Sighting 2 due today.
November 8, 2011
Reformation II: Modernity
Read: Weber, The Protestant Ethic, part II, “The Practical Ethics of the Ascetic Branches of
Read: Robinson, The Death of Adam, “Introduction”
November 15, 2011
Christianity as Protest
Read: Robinson, The Death of Adam, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer” & “Psalm Eight”
View: The Shakers
Second essay due today
November 22, 2011
Modern Christianity I: the Problem of Evolution
Read: Teilhard, “Christology and Evolution”
Read: Stephen M. Barr, “The Design of Evolution” (link)
Read: Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, “The Designs of Science” (link)
Read: Stephen M. Barr, “The Miracle of Evolution” (link)
Read: Michael Behe, “Scientific Orthodoxies” (link)
November 29, 2011
Modern Christianity II: 20th-century Manifestations - Apocalypticism
Read: Teilhard, “How I Believe,” “Christ the Evolver” & “The God of Evolution”
Read: Robert T. Miller, “Darwin in Dover, PA” (link)
Read: C.C. Lovelace, “The Sermon” (PDF)
Read: Wikipedia entries on “Branch Davidians” and “David Koresh” (links)
View: “Waco: The Rules of Engagement.”
December 6, 2011 | no class – critique week
Third essay due today.
December 13, 2011
Modern Christianity III: American Politics – Civil Rights and Race
Read: Martin Luther King, Jr., Sermon, April 3, 1968, “Mountaintop” (PDF)
Read: Barack Obama, Dreams of My Father (excerpt) (PDF)
Read: Michelle Goldberg, “A Christian Plot for Domination?” (link)
Sighting 3 due today.
Home | Christianity: History, Theology, Thought