The Religious Studies and Philosophy Program offers students a major in Religious Studies and minors in Religious Studies and Philosophy.

Religious Studies Program Goals

The Religious Studies program at Bethany College is designed to achieve the following goals for its students:

  • Biblical literacy
    • Knowledge of biblical literature and familiarity with its influence on western thought and culture
  • Religious literacy
    • Knowledge of the intellectual, ritual, moral and practical dimensions of the world’s major religions;
    • Appreciation for those traditions as dynamic, historically adaptive traditions by which human communities seek ultimate meaning or identify/construct an ultimate horizon under which meaning-making occurs;
  • Cultural literacy
    • Awareness of the interaction and mutual influence among religions and other forms of human endeavor in the arts, politics, literature, ethics, etc.
  • Capacity for critical reading and thinking
    • Ability to master new concepts and complex information;
    • Recognize patterns and themes in and across difficult texts in the humanities;
    • Pose relevant, critical questions on the basis of such reading
  • Excellence in writing
    • Ability to produce well-organized, grammatically-correct, rhetorically-persuasive arguments

Religious Studies Program

The Religious Studies program at Bethany College focuses on the critical study of the Bible, its origins, transmission, and meaning, in terms of history, literature and culture. Courses seek to understand a wide variety of Biblical texts in their original historical and cultural contexts. In addition, critical analysis of the history of the interpretations of these texts is undertaken. In studying religion more generally, emphasis is placed on the cultural dynamics of religion and the ways in which religious practices and beliefs reflect, support, and generate a variety of cultural, ideological, and social issues. Courses approach the study of Bible using a multidisciplinary perspective that includes, but is not limited to, psychology, sociology, cultural studies, the physical sciences, and critical literary methods. Religion is understood as one of the fundamental expressions of societies and cultures to understand and give voice to the question, What does it mean to be a human being in this world? The Religious Studies program takes this question seriously and provides students with the opportunity to reflect on it.

The faculty in Religious Studies believes that students should think about and reflect on religion in a broad intellectual framework. To that end, majors are encouraged to take courses in a wide variety of academic disciplines and, whenever possible, to complete either a minor in another discipline or a second major. The department does not seek to teach any particular doctrine or dogmatic position. The study and analysis of both religion and the Bible are located very intentionally within a liberal arts and humanities context. In this way critical thinking is clearly at the heart of the Religious Studies major.

Bethany College has exceptional success in placing graduates in seminary programs. Recent graduates have attended Brite Divinity School, Candler School of Theology, Christian Theological Seminary, Lexington Theological Seminary, and the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Our graduates have consistently received excellent financial aid packages to these institutions. Not all Religious Study graduates, however, continue their education at seminary. The department has students who have continued their graduate education in social work, ethics, psychology and counseling programs, and medical school. The Religious Studies major provides a solid educational base for entry into a wide variety of graduate and professional programs. Many majors upon graduation choose not to move immediately into graduate programs. Some of these have worked with the Peace Corps, as copy editors for publishing houses, and with advertising firms.

Religious Studies majors have consistently held leadership positions on campus and have consistently been recognized with a variety of institutional awards. Religious Studies majors have served as Summer Peace Interns for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The department has a very strong relationship with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and provides students with opportunities for involvement and participation in a variety of church related matters. Religious Studies majors have been a strong presence in Bethany College's study abroad programs. Majors have spent semesters studying in England, Canada, Puerto Rico, and South America.

The discipline of philosophy involves the invention and analysis of the concepts we use to understand the world and our lives within it, taking a critical approach to the construction of human value and meaning. So understood, philosophy is a creative endeavor, liberating students per Alexander Campbell’s vision by nurturing in them the ability intelligently to construct a world of meaning for themselves, while enabling their understanding and critical analysis of worldviews –their own and that of others.   Philosophical inquiry into human nature, ethics, the world, and the structures of society and power sharpens students’ vision for a better world and prepares them for leadership and intelligent engagement as global citizens.