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Theology and Philosophy Program

Bachelor of Arts — Program Overview

Are you a deep thinker, always mulling over questions like, "What’s the meaning of life?” Do you have a knack for debate, while still respecting others with different views? You might consider majoring in theology — the point where faith and learning intersect.

At Briar Cliff, theology majors do some serious soul-searching and confronting of issues that effect us all — like poverty, equality and care for the environment — through the lens of our Roman Catholic and Franciscan heritage. Not Catholic? Don’t worry, you’ll be challenged to examine the world in light of your own faith and tradition.

Professor

Specialize your degree.

Make sure your theology degree is tailor-made to fit your needs, by choosing one of these four tracks:

  • THEOLOGY TEACHER: Do you want to teach religion or catechism in Catholic schools? Take this track, which combines the theology and education majors, and earn a “Religious Teacher” certificate issued by the Diocese of Sioux City.
  • THEOLOGY STUDIES: This track provides a strong academic foundation for joining the priesthood, a religious order, or other future work in service to the Church. 
  • BIBLICAL THEOLOGY: Choose this track if you want to concentrate on biblical studies, especially beyond Briar Cliff in graduate school. You’ll examine the sacred texts of Judaism & Christianity, and develop interpretive & analytical skills necessary for contemporary theological inquiry.
  • THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS: If you’re thinking about combining your theology degree with another major, this track is for you. You’ll gain a solid foundation in Christian teachings that will help you in whatever career path you choose; from art to business to social work.

Challenge yourself, and others.

Present and defend your research at the annual Great Plains Undergraduate Theology Conference, where you’ll bounce your ideas off some of the top theology and religious studies undergraduates from across the region.

See the world. Make a difference.

Theology is about more than research and debate (although there will be plenty of time of that). You’ll also have the chance to embark on mission trips to some of the world’s most impoverished places, spearhead local volunteer efforts with BCU’s campus ministry program, or land a volunteer internship for class credit. Because, as Saint Francis said: “Preach the gospel at all times. And when necessary, use words.”

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Core Theology and Philosophy Program Courses

PHIL 110 - Logical Thinking

An introduction to principles of good reasoning. Shows how to assess arguments, how to formulate cogent arguments and how to recognize and avoid logical fallacies. Read more »

PHIL 220 - Philosophy of Religion

Philosophical treatment of a number of topics relative to God and religion, including: arguments for the existence of God, the problem of evil, faith and reason, religious experience, death and human destiny. Prerequisite: Sophomore status Read more »

PHIL 300 - History of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval

PHIL 300 History of Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval 3 sem. hrs. Survey of ideas from the history of ancient and medieval philosophy. Primary focus on Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas. Examines influential philosophical views on ethics, self, world and God. Prerequisite: Previous coursework in philosophy or instructor approval Read more »

PHIL 410 - Metaphysics

Idealism and materialism; substance, change and personal identity; freedom and determinism; causality and God as first cause of being. Read more »

THEO 115 - Foundations of Christianity

This course will explore the essentials of Christian faith and practice, particularly as they are expressed in Roman Catholic Christianity. Students will be invited to reflect on the meaning of faith, the relevance of the message and mission of Jesus Christ for the contemporary world, and the role of personal spirituality in everyday life. Offered in spring for honors students. Read more »

THEO 116 - Church in the World

This course will explore the history of the Christian church beginning with the foundations described in the Gospels and the Book of Acts. Students will learn about the crises, personalities, and cultural contexts that shaped the Christian Church in ages past and brought about the current state of denominational plurality and doctrinal differences. Since THEO 203 - Protestant Churches considers the development of the Protestant Churches after the Reformation, this course gives special attention to the past few centuries of the Roman Catholic Church. Additionally, students will learn about the various ecumenical dialogues that have begun in the last several decades in an attempt to restore some of the unity of the early Christian Church. Spring offering for honors students Read more »

THEO 223 - Old Testament

This course is a study of the formation and composition of the Old Testament as an inspired record of the progressive revelation by God to Israel and the faith response of God's people, as well as preparation for the revelation of/in Christ. There is a special emphasis on basic theological themes and their applications to the lives of the people of God today. Read more »

THEO 224 - New Testament

A study of the formation and composition of the New Testament, and a survey reading of the New Testament literature exemplifying essential messages and themes and their implications for the lives of Christians today. Read more »

THEO 245 - Catholic Social Teachings

The social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church promote the dignity of the human person and the centrality of the family for authentic human existence. Students will engage the major social teaching documents of the church in order to notice both the development of that teaching in the 19th and 20th centuries and the continuity of that teaching with the Gospels and with the Christian tradition. Students will also consider how those teachings, as well as other important human rights documents provide the necessary foundation for the work for justice in the world. Offered odd years. Read more »

THEO 255 - Christian Spirituality and Prayer

If theology is "faith seeking understanding," as St. Anselm has said, one cannot "do" theology without also having a significant faith life. Hence, this course has both an academic and a developmental focus. Students will read the great spiritual masters who have shaped Christian spirituality as they learn about the various Christian traditions and practices of prayer. During the course of the semester, students will be invited to reflect on their own spirituality and to consider how it shapes both their theological studies and their Christian praxis. Offered even years. Read more »

THEO 310 - Ministry

This course introduces students to both the theoretical and the practical aspects of ministry. Students will be invited to reflect on the shape of their own call to ministry, whether it be as spouse and parent, lay person in the church, ordained minister, or consecrated religious, as they participate in service learning projects that allow them to experience doing ministry first-hand. Prerequisite: at least one 100 or 200 level THEO course, or consent of instructor. Read more »

THEO 325 - Liturgy and Sacrament

Sacrament and liturgy are central elements of the Christian encounter with and response to God's gift of salvation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This course uses an historical approach to the development of the Christian ways of worship, placing that development within the theological concepts of sacrament and ritual as the Roman Catholic Church understands them. Prerequisite: at least one 100 or 200 level THEO course, or consent of instructor. Read more »

THEO 361 - Pentateuch

The Pentateuch or Torah, the first five books of the Bible, is foundational to Jewish and Christian understandings of God's covenantal relationship with humans and creation. Informed by ancient and modern religious thought, students will engage with the stories and religious practices of the ancient Hebrews, investigate their connections to Ancient Near Eastern literary and material (archaeological) cultures, and consider the impact of the Pentateuch on the theology and practices of Judaism and Christianity, exploring theological themes of creation, sin, covenant, purity, liturgy, and community. Prerequisite: THEO 223, or consent of instructor. Read more »

THEO 362 - Prophets

The Latter Prophets of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament are records of revelation given to individual prophets over the course of at least five hundred years, from Isaiah through Malachi. Investigation of the prophets' cultural context and use of poetic communication will inform careful analysis of the prophets' messages of salvation and calls for social justice. Prerequisite: THEO 223 - Old Testament, or consent of instructor. Read more »

THEO 363 - Gospels

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) offer striking portraits of Jesus' vocation and saving death, providing insight into Jesus' ministry to the marginal and the implications of Jesus' parables and calls for transformation in view of the coming of the kingdom of God. The Gospel of John adds depth to the portrait of Jesus as divine, making claims that are the basis for Christian understandings of the Trinity. A critical treatment of the historical context and literary genres of the Gospels will inform careful exegesis, including comparison and contrast of the sources and extra-biblical texts and material culture. Prerequisite: THEO 224, or consent of instructor. Read more »

THEO 364 - Paul

Paul, "the apostle to the Gentiles," left us a plethora of letters, providing stimulus for Christianity's mission to diverse cultures and providing foundational theological principles that have kindled rich theological inquiry and discussion. An evaluation of Paul's life, including his pre-Christian years and his extensive travels, and an examination of the recipients' cultural background and communal concerns will provide the foundation for careful exegesis of the Pauline letters. Prerequisite: THEO 224, or consent of instructor. Read more »

THEO 405 - Christology

This course introduces the student to the ways that Christians have expressed their belief that God has accomplished our redemption through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, whom Christians call the Christ. Beginning with the primary source for our knowledge about Jesus, the New Testament, especially the Gospels, students will learn about the person of Jesus, the doctrines of Incarnation and Trinity, and the various ways that Christians have attempted to explain Jesus' work of salvation through the centuries. Prerequisite: THEO 115 or THEO 116, and THEO 224, or consent of instructor. Offered even years in spring. Read more »

THEO 491 - Senior Seminar

Students will write a thesis that focuses on a particular area of interest to the student. The process of selecting a topic, constructing a bibliography and a thesis statement, writing the paper and presenting the project to a wider audience will be directed by the faculty. Prerequisite: Senior standing as a Theology major in the Theological Foundations track, Theology Teacher track, or Theological Studies track, or senior standing as a Theology minor. Read more »

Additional Program Requirements

 The Theological Foundations Track requires THEO 245 or 255, 325, 405, 491 and four THEO electives, two of which must be 300-level or higher.

 The Biblical Theology Track requires THEO 480 and three of the following: THEO 361, 362, 363, 364; plus three elective courses from the 300-400 THEO level. It is strongly recommended that one elective be a biblical language course.

 The Theology Teacher Track requires a major in K-12 education, icnluding a semester of student teaching in K-12 religion classes. Course requirements include THEO 245 or 255; 325, 405, 491, plus four elective THEO courses, three of which must be level 300 or above.

 The Theology Studies Track requires THEO 245 or 255; 310, 325, 405, 491, PHIL 110, 220, 300 and 410, plus four elective THEO courses.

 For additional requirements and curriculum information, download the latest University academic catalog.