Religious Studies

high school

The Religious Studies Department seeks to reinforce St. John’s mission to educate the whole student – intellectually, emotionally and spiritually (course descriptions follow). We believe a student enriches his education when theological exploration is part of his experience, and when he engages his mind and imagination. With this two-part goal in mind, the Religious Studies program supports rigorous academic learning and provides opportunity for meaningful experiential learning. Grounded in critical thinking and personal reflection, the Religious Studies curriculum provides a  theological foundation to better inform the student’s faith experience. Each student is encouraged to respond to course material by: 1.) discovering the mystery of God in his life and in the life of his greater community; 2.) pursuing meaningful relationships, both in and out of the classroom; 3.) committing himself to the pursuit of justice and peace 4.) honoring diversity and multiculturalism; 5.) deepening his spiritual life through scripture and prayer; and 6.) developing his character by asking what it means to live an ethical life.

Faith and the Hebrew Scriptures

Faith and the Hebrew Scriptures - College Prep [1/2 credit]

[First Semester] Prerequisites: None

This introductory course on Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament explores the story of the covenantal relationship between God and the People of Israel. Students will investigate literary styles and techniques used to communicate this relationship, as well as the historical and cultural contexts of each book in the Hebrew Scriptures. Themes include: creation, covenant, exodus, suffering, bearing witness, worship, and prophecy.

Jesus and the Gospels

Jesus and the Gospels - College Prep [1/2 credit]

[Second Semester] Prerequisites: None

This introductory course explores the humanity and divinity of Jesus, and the Gospels as written testimonies of faith. Students will explore how each of the four evangelists reflected on the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Topics include: Jesus' Jewish roots, his teachings, parables and miracles, his vision of the Reign of God, and his challenge to the social moral order, all of which lay the foundation for the early Church.

The Early Church

The Early Church - College Prep [1/2 credit]

[First Semester] Prerequisites: None

The Church curriculum engages students in a year-long, systematic ecclesiology - study of the Church. The first semester investigates the early Church as revealed in the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Paul in the New Testament. Students will then explore significant church developments, emerging from the early Church Fathers through the hierarchical Medieval Period, which ultimately give rise to theological controversies that call out for ecclesial reform. Theological themes include: models of church, church councils, authority & dissent. Doctrinal themes include: Trinity, Incarnation and Resurrection.

The Modern Church

The Modern Church - College Prep [1/2 credit]

[Second Semester] Prerequisites: None

The second semester of this year-long survey course begins with a study of various responses to the calls for reform of the sixteenth century, particularly the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent. The theme of ecclesial reform culminates in a careful examination of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and its transformative impact on the church's current understanding of itself and its presence in the world. The course also features an overview of contemporary Catholicism with special emphasis on its sacramental theology. Theological themes include: discipleship, church councils, and the social mission of church.

Relational Dynamics: Questions of Identity

Relational Dynamics: Questions of Identity - Accelerated [1/2 credit]

[First Semester] Prerequisites: None

This course engages students in theological reflection on the mystery of the relational dynamic inherent in self, others, and God. Critical thinking and candid class-discussions, stimulated by focused reading and written reflection, engender growth in honesty, trust, and risk-taking - attributes necessary for our living as relational beings. Topics include: identity, communication, human sexuality and the changing social paradigms that inform our relational lives.

Social Justice

Social Justice - Accelerated [1/2 credit]

[Second Semester] Prerequisites: None

The course examines the notion of justice in human culture. Students explore the current social issues we encounter in our local, national, and global societies, and the Catholic Church's response as articulated in her formal Social Teachings. The dignity and fundamental human rights of every person are re-affirmed in these teachings. References are made to papal encyclicals, pastoral letters of the U.S. bishops, and documents from the Second Vatican Council.

*Please Note: During second semester junior year, students must take either Social Justice or Social Action.

Social Action

Social Action Accelerated [1/2 credit]

[Second Semester] Prerequisites: none

This course provides students with structured opportunities for meaningful community service and for personal reflection on the lessons gained from it. In support of the academic component, course participants contribute three hours of service a week throughout the semester at various social agencies including day-care centers, nursing homes, soup kitchens, and hospitals. Students reflect regularly on their service experience by way of journal writing, support group sessions, and meetings with their respective faculty advisers.

*Please Note: During second semester junior year, students must take either Social Justice or Social Action.

Ethics

Ethics - Accelerated [1/2 credit]

[First Semester] Prerequisites: None

This course examines the motivation, process and effects of moral decision-making. Grounded in the question, "do universal ethical principles exist," students explore a number of theoretical structures that inform our moral decisions: sources of ethical behavior, models of moral development, the role of conscience in ethical choices, and the place of the Catholic faith in moral dialogue. Students then apply these theoretical concepts to controversial moral issues that include: the pro-life/pro-choice debate, euthanasia, capital punishment and genetic engineering. Throughout the course, students are encouraged and expected to examine their own criteria for moral decision making in light of class material.

Science and Religion

Science and Religion - Accelerated [1/2 credit]

[Second Semester] Prerequisites: None

Science and religion are two dominant forces shaping our modern world. The popular view is that science and religion are in conflict with each other. But is this actually the case? What if science and religion are parallel ways of understanding reality or perhaps dialogue partners in a complex but common search for truth? Can science and religion ever be integrated? This course explores the relationship between science and religion beginning with an inquiry into two important controversies, the Galileo affair and Darwin’s theory of evolution. We will also investigate topics including science vs. pseudo-science; verification and falsification in science and religion; modern cosmology and divine creation; biblical miracles and quantum mechanics; human freedom and divine action.

 

World Religions

World Religions - Accelerated [1/2 credit]

[Second Semester] Prerequisites: None

This course explores the teachings and practices of non-Christian religious traditions from the east (Buddhism, Taoism and Shintoism) as well as the west (Judaism and Islam). The collected wisdom of each tradition is examined in the hopes of answering such questions as: "What is it that is truly important in our lives as humans? How should we understand ourselves? What gives meaning to human life?" In carrying out this investigation, students seek to understand the nature of religion itself and what it means to be religious in the modern world. Finally, while the course focuses on non-Christian traditions, Christians are encouraged to reflect upon their own faith life in the light of these teachings.

Religion and Psychology

Religion and Psychology - Accelerated [1/2 credit]

[Second Semester] Prerequisites: None

This course introduces students to psychology, the scientific study of the mind and human behavior, and how it intersects with our understanding of faith, spirituality, and religion. Topics include perception, attention, memory, consciousness, emotions, human development, disorders and the biological systems that underlie them. Students will examine how they affect our everyday understanding of the world and our behavior within it. 

Introduction to Western Philosophy

Introduction to Western Philosophy - Accelerated [1/2 credit]

[Second Semester] Prerequisites: None

Built on the theme of The Problem of God, this one semester survey course examines the development of philosophy and its influence on theology in the Western tradition. Students begin their study with the Greek philosophers (such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle), journey through the Medievals (such as Anselm, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas), and progress up to the Moderns (such as Descartes, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard). At its heart, the course aims to ignite within students a genuine love of wisdom, and a lifelong desire to pursue truth.

Spirituality: Traditions and Practices

Spirituality: Traditions and Practices - Accelerated [1/2 credit]

[Second Semester] Prerequisites: None

This course identifies key teachings in spiritual thought throughout history. Students will learn the historical roots of spirituality as well as practical application of those traditions. A special emphasis will be placed on exploring the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, who encouraged people to meet God and, in the process, answer the questions, “What should I do?  Who am I called to be?  What does God desire for me?” Students will be encouraged to move through experiencing God in your daily life, learning about Ignatian prayer, living a simple life, finding friendship and facing hardships, making good decisions, and discovering how to be a comtemplative in action. Throughout the course students will be encouraged to use journaling as a practical tool for understanding the historical perspective as well as their physical expressions of spirituality, and to integrate these spiritual traditions with their own personal faith and prayer life through a variety of prayer experiences.

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