RE 460 – Church in the Modern World

Winter Term, 2017

Wartburg College


Instructor: Walter C. Bouzard, Ph.D.
Office: Grossmann 101 D
Phone: 352-8235 (O); 352-2140 (H)
Office Hours:
M, F !:15-2:15 PM, T 9:35 - 11:25 AM
or by Appointment (see my schedule here)

Course Description: [from the catalog] “Synthesis of biblical studies, history, theology, and ethics for study of the church and its role in the (post) modern world. Writing intensive.”  


Course Schedule: Click here to jump down to the tentative course schedule.


Learning Outcomes: 

General outcomes:

  1. To read, think, write, and discuss critically issues and texts relative to present-day Christianity and its future.
  2. As Church in the Modern World is the capstone course for the religion degree, the course intends to evoke the highest quality of student work in terms of both participation and scholarly productivity.

Skill development outcomes:

  1. To develop further your ability to formulate theses and conduct scholarly research in the study of theology
  2. To prepare and present original research in the study of religion, using both writing and other media
  3. To develop further your ability to analyze a theological text, identify its main point or thesis, and assess its argument
  4. To practice applying theology and ethics to issues of social and vocational concerns

Cognitive Development outcomes:

  1. To understand and gain greater familiarity with Christian theology
  2. To understand the effect of the modern imago hominis on the life of the Christian church in North America
  3. To understand the ideas and consequences of the post-modern and post-Christendom paradigms for theology and ethics
  4. To understand the idea of and consequences of theologia crucis for the life of the Christian church in North America
  5. To understand the role and challenges of congregations and church-related institutions in contemporary America

Value Development outcomes:

  1. To reflect upon your personal approach to the study of theology and its relationship to your faith values
  2. To reflect upon the Christian church as a social institution and as a theological entity
  3. To reflect upon your religious or philosophical values and beliefs
  4. To reflect upon theological, ethical, and moral issues that arise in contemporary life and in society


Course Requirements:


Class Attendance and Participation: Attendance is required. A third unexcused absence will result in the grade reduction of the final grade by a full grade (e.g., from a A- to a B-).  A fourth absence will result in an automatic "F" for the course. Moreover, as a portion of the final grade depends upon class participation, absences are potentially doubly deleterious. Use your absences wisely. Students with more than two absences may petition for permission to be excused from the penalty; a decision will be rendered by a vote of their peers.



Written work: Students are required routinely to produce short response papers (usually two to three pages) to the assigned reading. The short essays will be assayed based on evidence of serious intellectual engagement with the readings as well as on formal matters such as style, grammar and spelling.  Students should bring a copy to at 7:45 AM the morning it is due. In addition, students are required to complete a major research paper.  Click here for a description of the research paper.  Drafts and the final version of the research essay shall be submitted to The class i.d. is 14270755 and the password is the case sensitive word "Senioritus."

 Evaluative Procedure: 


25% Class participation.  Of this 25%, 5% will be determined by the student’s self-evaluation, 5% will be determined by the student’s peers, and 15% will be determined by the instructor.  Generally speaking, class participation should be notably INFORMED by the readings, FREQUENT in quantity, and ROBUST in quality. To see the matrix used for student participation click here

bullet 30% Daily writing assignments (see above).
bullet 5% A rough draft of the term paper must be turned in by 11:59 pm on April 2. See the research paper description.
bullet 35% Final research paper. While it may appear to be mathematically possible to pass the course without completing a research paper, no student will pass the course without having turned in a paper that approximates the research paper description.
bullet 5% Presentation of research project. During the class session and the final examination period, students will present the fruits of their scholarly research. Click here for details.

Required Books:

   Bass, Diana Butler. Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2013.

  Brueggemann, Walter. Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014.

  Bussie, Jacqeline A. Outlaw Christian: Finding Authentic Faith by Breaking the “Rules.” Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2016.

  Hall, Douglas John. What Christianity is Not: An Exercise in Negative Theology. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2013.

  Lamott, Anne. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair. New York: Riverhead Books, 2013.

  McGrath, Alister E. Theology: The Basics. Third Edition. Malden, MA, Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. 

  Root, Andrew. The Promise of Despair. The Way of the Cross as the Way of the Church. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2010.

 Other course mechanics:


Wartburg Honor Code: The Student Senate of Wartburg College has adopted a formal Honor Code that includes the following statement: "By attending Wartburg College, students are demonstrating their dedication to the Honor Code. The Honor Code reminds students of their responsibility to promote academic honesty by opposing cheating and plagiarism and reporting dishonest work." In order to prevent any misunderstandings about the significance of the Honor Code for this course as interpreted by the instructor, please note the following: It is the policy of this instructor to reward any evidence of academic dishonesty (cheating, plagiarism, or other behaviors as defined by the Wartburg College Student Handbook) with an automatic “F” for the course. Since plagiarism, or theft of thought, is also a violation of the Honor Code, students should be especially sure than any written work that draws upon the work of another scholar is properly cited in footnotes.



Credit Hour: You may expect to spend at least two hours of time outside of class, completing homework and other assignments, for every hour you spend in class. You will likely want to spend more time than the minimum.



Language: Students should make an earnest effort to use inclusive language for God and humanity in all comments, oral or written, connected with this class. For example, use "humankind," "humanity," or "human beings" rather than "man" in the sentence "Man sins, God forgives." Likewise, students should avoid inappropriate use of capitalization when referring to God, as for example, in the expression "His Will", a phrase that is incorrect on three counts. Use of inclusive language is generally more correct (both ethically and grammatically) and, besides, it keeps us all from sounding like Neanderthals. More significantly, the liberating God of the Bible sets free both men and women, equally and without distinction. Written work that does not employ inclusive language is grammatically incorrect and will be assayed accordingly. While we are on the subject of language, please note:  the word Bible is always capitalized. There are no known exceptions. The adjective "biblical," on the other hand, is capitalized only if it appears at the beginning of a sentence.


Students Needing Accommodations: Qualified students with disabilities are protected from unlawful discrimination by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended. Students requesting academic accommodations due to disabilities must arrange for such accommodations by contacting Derek Solheim, Pathways Center Director. He can be reached at the Pathways Center, (319) 352-8425, or by e-mail Presenting documentation of a disability early is helpful and often necessary to secure needed materials in a timely way. Accommodations should be requested PRIOR to affected assignment due dates. Accommodations will not be provided retroactively. 



A word about E-MAIL: Students are welcome and encouraged to e-mail the instructor with questions and concerns about the course, just as they are encouraged and welcome to visit during office hours or to make an appointment. The instructor will make an attempt to respond to students--normally reasonably soon after receiving an e-mail. Note, however, that the instructor does not normally read his e-mail hourly (or even daily!). An e-mail sent at 12:30 am Sunday evening requesting information before 7:45 am on Monday, for example, is unlikely to be read in time. And yes, this really happened--on more than one occasion!



Cell phones and text messaging: Don't. Not in class. I get to answer the phone if it rings. I get to make random phone calls to random international countries if it rings a second time.


For, RE 460 The Church in the Modern World, your class ID is 14270755 and the enrollment password is Senioritus.


Chapel: I try to attend Wartburg chapel services on MWF at 10:15. This means that I am generally NOT available for conversation or consultation during the chapel time. Your success is this course naturally has nothing to do with whether or not you attend chapel. Nevertheless, you are most welcome to attend chapel services. Indeed, since our chapel services purport to have something to do with the "church in the modern world" it may behoove you to attend--if for no other reason--to consider our corporate gatherings in light of the critical theological categories taken up in this course.

Tentative Schedule:


Session Date



1 9-Jan Intro to class, syllabus,   What is the question?
2 11-Jan Where We Are?(Culturally & Religiously)   Bass, Christianity After Religion, pp. 1-63. Click here for the assignment.
3 13-Jan     Bass, Christianity After Religion, pp. 65-99. Click here for the assignment.
4 16-Jan     Bass, Christianity After Religion, pp. 103-198. Click here for the assignment.
5 18-Jan     Bass, Christianity After Religion, pp. 199-214. Click here for the assignment.
6 20-Jan     Bass, Christianity After Religion, pp. 217-69. Click here for the assignment.
7 23-Jan Improvements start with better theology!   Hall, Douglas John. "What is Theology?" Click here for the assignment.
8 25-Jan     McGrath, Theology, pp. xii-18. Click here for the assignment.
9 27-Jan   McGrath, Theology, pp. 19-35. Click here for the assignment.
10 30-Jan     McGrath, Theology, pp. 36-57. Click here for the assignment.
11 1-Feb   McGrath, Theology, pp. 58-76. Click here for the assignment.
12 3-Feb     McGrath, Theology, pp. 77-96. Click here for the assignment.
13 6-Feb     McGrath, Theology, pp. 97-115. Click here for the assignment.
14 8-Feb McGrath, Theology, pp. 116-136. Click here for the assignment.
15 10-Feb   McGrath, Theology, pp. 137-156. Click here for the assignment.
16 13-Feb McGrath, Theology, pp. 157-177. Click here for the assignment.
17 15-Feb McGrath, Theology, pp. 178-199. Click here for the assignment.
18 17-Feb A Thin Tradition: The Theology of the Cross   Essays by Hall, Forde. Click here for the assignment.
19 20-Feb Root, The Promise of Despair, xv-38. Click here for the assignment
20 22-Feb     Root, The Promise of Despair, 39-68. Click here for the assignment.
21 24-Feb Root, The Promise of Despair, 69-95. Click here for the assignment.

Winter Break! Do not come to class!

It would, however, be a truly excellent idea to tinker with your
term paper!
The proposal is due on March 14 and the rough draft is due on April 7!

22 6- Mar Root, The Promise of Despair, 97-124. Click here for the assignment.
23 8-Mar Root, The Promise of Despair, 125-151. Click here for the assignment.
24 10-Mar Given the absentee circumstance, those of you not otherwise committed to be off campus should work on framing your term project.
25 13-Mar Before you read the assigned text, click on the assignment below. Follow the instructions there and then read: Hall, Douglas John. "Rethinking Christ: Theological Reflections on Shusaku Endo's Silence. Interpretation 33 (Jl 1979): 254-267. Available online via Ebsco Host. Find it!  For the assignment click here.
  13-Mar Graven Award Convocation

Wartburg Chapel, 11:30 AM-12:30 PM
Dr. Diane Jacobson is professor emerita of Old Testament at   Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, MN where she taught from1982-2010.  She also served asDiane L. Jacobson director of the Book of Faith Initiative for the ELCA from 2008-2015. 
25 14-Mar Hall, What Christianity is Not, SKIM pp. 1-18; Read 19-41. Click here for the assignment.
26 15-Mar   Hall, What Christianity is Not, 42-58. Click here for the assignment.
Term paper proposal due by 5:00 PM. See the syllabus for details.
27 17-Mar Hall, What Christianity is Not, 59-95. Click here for the assignment.
28 20-Mar Hall, What Christianity is Not, 96-129. Click here for the assignment.
29 22-Mar   Hall, What Christianity is Not, 130-162. Click here for the assignment.
30 24-Mar   Brueggemann, Reality, Grief, Hope, 1-43. Click here for the assignment.
31 27-Mar     Brueggemann, Reality, Grief, Hope, 44-88. Click here for the assignment.
32 29-Mar Brueggemann, Reality, Grief, Hope, 89-128. Click here for the assignment.
33 31-Mar Brueggemann, Reality, Grief, Hope, 129-165. Click here for the assignment.
  2-Apr So that you might go to worship, the time for the rough
 draft of paper due to is now 6:00 PM
34 3-Apr Bussie, Outlaw Christian, 1-38. Click here for the assignment.
35 5-Apr Bussie, Outlaw Christian, 39-92. Click here for the assignment.
36 7-Apr Bussie, Outlaw Christian, 93-134. Click here for the assignment.   Term essay due by 5:00 PM.
37 10-Apr Bussie, Outlaw Christian, 135-186. Click here for the assignment.
  11-Apr RICE Day A silly name for a worthwhile activity.
38 12-Apr Bussie, Outlaw Christian, 187-249. Click here for the assignment.
11:30- 1:30 PM
Final Exam Hour Attendance during the final examination hour is required.
Don't even ask. Absences will be weighed very heavily
against the participation portion of the grade.