The Department of Theology has designed a sequence of courses that acquaint students with questions of a universal nature, and assist them in articulating thoughtful responses formulated in light of the Catholic tradition and Christian faith. These courses contribute to the students’ liberal arts education at the University through the development of writing, reading, and critical thinking skills.
The first course, "The Christian Theological Tradition," introduces students to the theological frameworks that Christians have historically used to address questions of faith and human existence. The core readings for the course are from the Bible and from classic writers within the Christian tradition. The course provides students with an opportunity to reflect critically on the Catholic and Christian traditions within the context of contemporary life. Finally, it provides students with a basic level of theological literacy to prepare them for the second and third-level courses.
The second-level (200-numbered and 300-numbered) courses invite students to practice theology by engaging at a deeper level in the discipline of “faith seeking understanding.” Courses at this level focus on a particular area of the Christian tradition, namely: the Bible, historical theology, systematic theology or moral theology. Students critically examine core elements of the tradition, such as classic texts, concepts, persons, and events while remaining mindful of the contemporary context. Through these courses, students learn the skills and methods of the discipline. These second-level courses then serve as a foundation for the interdisciplinary “Bridge Courses” at the next level.
The "Bridge Course," as the third course in the Faith and the Catholic Tradition sequence (400-numbered), will provide an opportunity for students to draw upon their entire program of studies. Serving as the culminating point for the curriculum, the Bridge Course prepares students to build connections between their studies in the liberal arts and the broader world for which their St. Thomas education has prepared them. A principal concern of the course is to guide students toward experiencing a sense of vocation in their professional, familial, and social lives. Because no single course can be expected to address all such areas, students will be offered three different types of bridge courses exploring different aspects of the broader world they are preparing to serve.
- The first type of bridge course will address vocation in careers and in the professions and will be thoroughly interdisciplinary in nature and in many cases will be team-taught. These courses will develop a theological reflection on a specific profession (for example, medicine, law, management, and education). Other courses of this type will address the intellectual vocation of various academic disciplines, bringing theology into dialogue with academic disciplines such as art history, English, or psychology. Such courses will appeal especially to majors in disciplines that prepare students for a wide variety of careers. We will give priority to developing as many courses of this first type as we can, although we will always be limited by the availability of faculty who are prepared to address the particular concerns of the professions and the particular academic disciplines from a theological perspective.
- A second type of bridge course will cultivate in students a sense of vocation to serve the common good by bringing a theological viewpoint to bear upon significant contemporary social issues such as poverty, war and peace, marriage and family, and social issues related to gender. These courses may be team-taught. As involved citizens, all students will have some part to play in addressing such issues. Learning how to focus what they have learned at St. Thomas in a manner that will illuminate such social issues will strengthen their ability to act justly and wisely as they participate in public affairs.
- A third type of bridge course will prepare students to understand and address the complex religious issues emerging in the context of contemporary multicultural and global social conditions and interactions. These courses will be taught from a theological perspective and will focus on ecumenical and/or inter-religious study and dialogue (for example, courses in world religions). These courses may be team-taught. Developing a nuanced understanding of such issues is becoming increasingly important in political, professional, and economic areas of life. Enabling students to bring the fruit of their undergraduate study to bear upon such issues will prepare them to meet pressing contemporary needs.
The three levels of courses form an integrated sequence in the Faith and Catholic Tradition core area requirement. The first course introduces the tradition of Christian theological reflection. The second-level courses invite students to "do" theology—that is, to engage in reasoning about faith. In the third-level courses, students bring theological concepts and methods into dialogue with other disciplines.