The Theology and Social Justice program helps students grow as gracious Christians and Biblical Peacemakers by equipping students with practical, hands-on skills and the analytical abilities to be effective agents of change in their workplaces and communities.
The habits, attitudes, and skills you will develop in the Theology and Social Justice courses include:
- Understanding biblical texts in relation to God's call to justice and peacemaking.
- The ability to reflect on theological paradigms and theories of justice as they relate to present social concerns.
- The capacity for leadership in the church and society in promoting social justice.
- The ability to form appropriate strategies to respond to the effects of poverty, violence, war, sexism, and discrimination on families, society, and the world.
The habits, attitudes, and skills you will develop in the Great Conversation courses include:
- A commitment to the primacy of Scripture for Christian faith and life.
- The ability to articulate the development of church doctrine over time and the contributions of particular Christian traditions and communities.
- Attentiveness to God’s active presence in one’s own life, the lives of others, and the world.
- The ability to listen and learn from the whole church by critically engaging global voices in theology.
- Capacity for engagement in practices of solidarity and social justice through Gospel witness in the world.
Theology and Social Justice | Choose 18 Credits*
BIB/SOC 621 | OT Prophets’ Cry for Justice | 3 Credits
This course examines the Old Testament prophets and their call for social justice. It offers opportunity for an in-depth examination of the prophets’ exhortations and teachings on God’s justice for the Israelite community. Particular attention is given to the Minor Prophets, including Amos, Hosea, and Micah. Reflection on this prophetic literature provides an opportunity to delineate the significance of the prophetic cry for justice for the Church today.
BIB/SOC 642 | Jesus & the Poor: Biblical Perspectives on Economic Justice | 3 Credits
Howard Thurman’s question, “What, then, is the work of the religion of Jesus to those who stand with their backs against the wall?” is a perennial one. This course begins in the New Testament with a study of Jesus’ relationship with the poor and his sayings regarding poverty, wealth, and discipleship. Topics also include exegeses on key biblical passages regarding economic justice in both the Old and New Testament and an examination of contemporary successes and failures of the local and global Christian Church to end economic oppression. The course explores the implications for applying a biblical ethic of justice to individual Christian discipleship and corporate church witness.
HST 650 | Women in Church History | 3 Credits
This course explores the lives and roles of women throughout church history, including biblical history. It will examine historical and social contexts of various women identified as having an impact on theology, biblical interpretation, cultural influence, and social justice. Individual women’s lives will be discussed in terms of their response to God’s call, their commitment to the Christian faith, and their contributions to the overall Christian Church. Another goal of the course is to provide analysis of the methods and resources women in various times and cultures used to have their voices “heard.” Students will be able to identify the diverse views of church leaders toward women’s roles as this course examines the support, obstacles, and beliefs of the historical Church. The final course section focuses on the current status of women in the Church and reflection on global challenges for women in the 21st century.
SOC 623 | Social Policy, Leadership and Community Change | 3 Credits
Creating social justice requires leadership skills and an understanding of the nature of the development of systems change. This course focuses on the history of social change movements, the development of social policy, and the role of the church in promoting justice in society. Students learn to recognize the roles of power and relational dynamics in the development of systemic struggles that ultimately lead to social policy and societal change. Students will have the opportunity to organize and implement a project that utilizes their leadership skills in the area of social justice in a local or larger community setting.
SOC 625 | Foundations in Christian Social Ethics | 3 Credits
This course is an introduction to the basic themes in Christian theology as they relate to contemporary social issues and public policy. The course provides a Christian global perspective that relates theology and ethics to ministry and service in the public realm. Topics include a survey of existing justice and moral theories that relate to cultural analysis and ministerial practice. Areas that will be explored include power, government, war, wealth and poverty, gender, and diversity. The goal is to provide students with both theological and ministerial tools to address important social issues in their churches, community, and larger society.
SOC 655 | Violence Against Women: Theological and Social Issues | 3 Credits
This course addresses the problem of violence against women from a Christian theological perspective. Violence against women is defined in both legal and spiritual language that provides a description of the problem and a framework for addressing this important issue. The course will provide an analysis of current theories and practices. Topics include violence against women as an international human rights issue, the responsibility of the Church in its prophetic role to provide a response, and exploring the biblical basis for addressing this issue.
THE 724 | Life and Theology of Martin Luther | 3 Credits
This course explores Luther’s life, theology, and subsequent impact on society. The course is divided into three areas of study. The initial focus is a discussion of Luther in historical context. The medieval antecedents and early 16th century theology and social life provide a backdrop for Luther’s entrance onto the European religious and political stage. The second area is an examination of Luther’s dialectical theology. This course will explore his views on the sacraments, faith, government, women, vocation, and the role of government and just war. The final area for study includes an analysis of modern interpretations of Luther’s theology. A look at contemporary Luther studies includes an overview of current “hot” topics and possible applications of his theology in the area of social justice.
THE 726 | Wesleyan Theology | 3 Credits
This course explores major theological themes of Wesleyan theology through the examination of primary materials. While focusing on Wesley’s theology of salvation as expressed in his sermons, the course also includes exposure to Wesleyan thought on such matters as the doctrine of God, anthropology, the person and work of Christ, the Church, ministry, the sacraments, and eschatology. In addition, consideration is given to the development of early Methodism in its historical context, its relevance for contemporary Methodist traditions, and its potential contribution to the Church at large. A secondary purpose of this course is to impart to the student an appreciation of the field of Wesleyan Studies and its present-day interpreters. This course meets the requirements for students preparing for United Methodist ordination.
THE/SOC 732 | Life, Theology, and Ethics of D. Bonhoeffer | 3 Credits
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a significant 20th century theologian, pastor, prophet, and martyr. This course examines Bonhoeffer’s response to Nazism from a historical and theological perspective. The primary areas of study include: a description and analysis of Bonhoeffer’s hermeneutic and ethical reflections on the significance of his call to discipleship and on his perennial question, “Who is Christ for us today?” His spirituality will also be discussed as a foundation for His ethics. Readings include Cost of Discipleship; Ethics; Letters and Papers from Prison and other selected writings representing Bonhoeffer’s theology and ethics. This course is cross-listed.
Great Conversation | 18 Credits
BHT 521 | Being in the Story | 3 Credits
The entire biblical story or metanarrative stretching from creation to eschaton articulates a vision of God’s intentions for this world, beginning with creation, and continuing after the fall, as the Creator works through Israel, Jesus, and the church for the world’s redemption, until that day when there will be a new heaven and new earth, in which righteousness dwells. This narrative vision of the missio Dei provides a non-negotiable framework within which we live out our faith.
A clear understanding of this biblical vision is of great value for interpreting individual biblical texts, especially for those engaged in pastoral leadership, which typically involves interpreting Scripture in various contexts. Without a solid grasp of the foundational biblical vision of reality we are in danger of (mis)reading Scripture in light of our own contemporary assumptions. This course, therefore, aims to help Christian leaders grasp the basic contours of the overarching story the Scriptures tell, with a focus on exploring the logic of salvation as holistic—for the whole person, and even the entire created order.
BHT 522 | Being in the Word | 3 Credits
The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are crucial to the life and ministry of all followers of Christ. They are central to the preaching and teaching ministry of the church. Furthermore, the Scriptures undergird our ethics at work and home. They reveal to us the nature of God, what it means to be fully human, and our role in the mission of God. But in order for Scripture to play the formative role that it is designed to play, we must know these Scriptures well. Moreover, to know these Scriptures well we must understand the context in which they were composed. This is true not only of the popular books of the Bible, but also for the parts of the Bible that are often ignored. This class will the introduce students to the Bible in all its complex and multifaceted glory. Students will gain an understanding of the major sections of the Bible (the Torah, the histories, the Psalter, the Prophets, The Gospels, the Letters of Paul, etc). They will discern the major themes in these texts and their relevance for ministry in the 21st century. They will also discuss issues of authorship, setting, and the major interpretative approaches to these texts throughout church history. The goal is to open up the whole Bible as a resource for ministry and spiritual formation.
BHT 523 | Being Human | 3 Credits
What does the fact that God became incarnate as a human being in Jesus Christ reveal about God’s priorities for what it means for us to be human persons? What do the Christian scriptures and the historic church have to say about what it means to be human? How do we nurture and attend to our basic human qualities in imitation of our Lord Christ?
This course will lead students through an exploration of what Christianity has to uniquely contribute to the conversation of what it means to “be human.” It will assist students in developing a framework for discerning and integrating formational insights from various fields of study that contribute to human flourishing, emphasizing that to do so is to attend to and cooperate with the redemptive work of the Holy Trinity. It will also provide students with opportunities to explore and reflect on classic Christian practices of nurturing attentiveness to and cooperation with God’s work in their own lives and in the world at large.
BHT 524 | Being Christian | 3 Credits
Reflecting on the formative era of the Christian church, this course takes up the conversation about what it means to be and to become Christian. Much like today, the early church found itself in a religiously plural context, which shaped the development of Christian identity. In this course, students will consider how Scripture, context, and spirituality shaped early Christian communities, the formation of doctrine through early church councils, and the ways in which these conversations continue to shape the church throughout the world today.
BHT 525 | Being Church | 3 Credits
In this course students enter into the ongoing conversation on the nature of God’s restorative grace in human life, with a particular focus on the church as the people of God. Through a focus on the theological perspectives of the Catholic and Protestant Reformations and the Great Awakening, the course moves toward contemporary understandings and application of such questions as how people come into a restored relationship with God and what it means to be to people of God in today’s world.
BHT 526 | Being Mission | 3 Credits
Dietrich Bonhoeffer posed a question to the church of the early twentieth century: “Who is Jesus Christ for us today?” This perennial question shaped Bonhoeffer’s ecclesiology and understanding of church mission. This same question provides the course framework for exploring God’s call to the church from the nineteenth century through our time. The course is organized around conversations focused on the relationship of historical theology, church mission, and culture.
Reflections on current trends, and exploration for application to student church context are a central theme of the course. Within these course conversations are topics that are revisited in each century and unit of study. These themes include: racial and gender identity, social change movements, the relationships of worship and service, spirituality, ecumenism, and church leadership. Strategies for understanding these historical theological themes include reading primary texts that bring “alive” the conversations that were occurring during these time periods. Emphasis is on critical analysis and interpretation of the central Christological question, and application to contemporary church mission.
Additional Courses | 8 Credits
SOC 735 | Social Policy Conference | 3 Credits
This course provides students with an opportunity to put into practice their knowledge, and skills as a social change practitioner. Students will identify one topic that has spiritual, social and communal relevance for those who have been socially, economically, and/or politically marginalized. Subjects for study may include any contemporary social concern. Students will become a task force that studies the identified subject, plans a strategy to create social change and then works together to implement this change. They will work to create change in social policy on both a local and State level. Their expertise and practice strategies will be presented at the BT Roberts Symposium that takes place biennially in the spring semester.
Integrative Capstone | 2 Credits
This course is designed to serve as the capstone for the M. A. in Theology and Social Justice degree program. The goals are for students to review their learning experiences including all course requirements, electives, internship, policy conference research, and spiritual formation activities. Student reflections and analysis are integrated into the preparation of a professional portfolio and social justice church mission plan. This course provides an opportunity to demonstrate expertise in the areas of leadership and social policy development, understanding of the intersections of Christian spirituality and biblical theology for the work of justice building, and shaping creative strategies for impacting current social concerns both on the local and global level.
Contextual Ministry | 3 Credits
Field education courses provide the student with hands-on professional training from capable practitioners and educators. Students will develop professional understanding and competence in ministry. Each course provides time for on-site training, personal and peer-reflection, and classroom instruction. Personal and spiritual formation is a continuing aspect of field education.
Total Credits: 44
*SOC 623, 625, and 655 are required. You will choose courses through academic advising.