Theology Major and Minor
The CSB/SJU theology department’s course offerings are more comprehensive than those offered by most other theology departments at colleges and universities of comparable size. Students may take a wide variety of courses on Sacred Scripture, church history, historical theology, doctrinal theology, moral theology, liturgy, pastoral theology, world religions, comparative theology, and interfaith relations.
The Clemens Library at CSB and the Alcuin Library at SJU provide a theological collection that is unparalleled in the Upper Mid-West and is among the best in North America.
CSB/SJU students have the opportunity to study theology on campuses that are home to two of the largest Benedictine monasteries in the world, Saint Benedict's Monastery (for women) and Saint John's Abbey (for men). They may regularly interact with members of these monastic communities, a number of whom are on the CSB/SJU faculty, and join them for Eucharist and other liturgical prayer.
Along with Saint Benedict’s Monastery, Saint John’s Abbey, and Saint John's School of Theology, resources available to students include Benedictine Institute of Saint John's, Collegeville Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research, Hill Museum and Manuscript Library, Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, Koch Chair in Catholic Thought and Culture, The Saint John’s Bible, and Youth in Theology and Ministry.
Department of Theology
Goals for our major and minor, May 2018
- Understand the cultural or historical origins and development of scripture.
- Examine critical moments in the development of the Christian tradition.
- Explain the cultural or historical origins and developments of texts, practices, institutions,
or ideas in religion and theology.
- Apply theological methods and construct sustained theological arguments both orally and in writing.
- Examine another religious tradition and its relationship to Christianity.
- Demonstrate how theological sources and practices foster understandings of just or moral living.
- Recognize how components of the Catholic and Benedictine traditions inform the spiritual life
and provide an opportunity for dialogue with the contemporary church and world.
- Articulate how theological learning impacts their own lives.
Courses reserved for theology majors and minors
THEO 210 Historical Development of the Christian Church
As an introduction to the history of Christianity and the Christian church from the New Testament era to the present, this course traces key Christian figures, events, trends and projects against the larger socio-cultural backdrop of world history.
1. To provide students with a fundamental knowledge of the key events and figures in Christian history.
2. To provide students with a framework for contextualizing the thought of major theologians.
3. To help students understand the interplay between theology, power, and life in the Church.
4. To help students see how Church teachings develop over time.
THEO 220 Philosophy for Theology
The method, content and status of theological reasoning have always been influenced by the wider intellectual world in which it operates. This course will examine the nature of that influence by surveying major thinkers and developments in the history of Western thought that have played a formative role in Christian theology from Plato to the 20th century.
1. Students will be able to trace the chronology of the Western philosophical tradition.
2. Students will be able to articulate the connections between Western philosophical ideas and the development of
3. Students will be able to identify major philosophical thinkers who have influenced the development of theology
(including but not limited to, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, and Kant).
THEO 221 Thinking Theologically
This overview of topics within systematic theology – God, Trinity, Christ, grace, salvation, church, sacraments – has a twofold aim: (1) developing skills of theological thinking, speaking, and writing, and (2) providing a framework in which to place more specialized courses.
1. Introduce the major topics and thinkers of systematic theology in their historical contexts. These topics include:
the sources and methods of theology; the Triune God; the person and work of Christ; theological anthropology
(human nature, grace, and sin); the church; the sacraments; Christian theology of religious pluralism; and eschatology.
2. Through the reading of primary sources representing a wide range of historical periods the students will learn to
identify correctly an author’s argument, develop the ability to compare and contrast various theological positions,
identify some of the historical and philosophical factors which influenced them, and form a theological judgment
3. Relate traditional theological themes to contemporary questions (e.g., ministry in the church, religious pluralism and
4. Develop the skill of writing on theological topics, through short and long assignments.
THEO 300 Engaging Scripture
The goal of the course is to deepen students' familiarity with foundational, biblical texts and with the different ways these texts have been read through the centuries. Content will ordinarily include at least one major section from each Testament (Pentateuch or Prophets and Gospels or Pauline Letters) and the intertextual nature of the texts will be highlighted (e.g. "Abraham" in Romans 4; "Passover" in Eucharistic texts and so on). Students will also learn various hermeneutical methods used through the ages (e.g. patristic, historical-critical, reader-response, feminist, canonical, etc.).
1. Students will know the texts of the OT (at least Pentateuch or Prophets) and the NT (at least Gospels or Letters)
through extensive reading of those texts and will demonstrate this knowledge through exegetical and theological
papers on representative passages.
2. Students will understand the polyvalent character of Biblical texts and will study and employ a variety of methods and
approaches for their interpretation. These “methods and approaches” will be representative of the ancient church, the
historical critical method and postmodernism. Students will demonstrate their knowledge of these methods and
approaches through class discussion and through exegetical and theological papers.
3. Students will understand the canonical and the ecclesial contexts of the scriptures: i.e. the unity and intertextuality of
the various scriptural books, and the mutuality among texts, canon and churches. Students will demonstrate their
understanding through class discussion and through exegetical and theological papers.
THEO 390 Fundamental Moral Theology
This course seeks to introduce students to basic concepts and debates encountered in thinking about the moral life and to some fundamental contested issues in contemporary moral debate. The first part of the course focuses on fundamental moral theology and includes such concepts as human action, human agency, natural law, freedom, conscience, and the Christian moral life. The second part of the course focuses on application of Christian moral reasoning to contemporary issues.
1. Students will develop an understanding of human action as moral, as well as exploring basic issues in moral
psychology (desires, practical reason, virtues, etc.).
2. Students will gain a knowledge of the role of law, especially the role of natural law, freedom, and conscience,
in relation to human action and psychology.
3. Students will understand the specific and distinctive character of the Christian moral life, with attention to the place
of God, the sacraments, and Scripture in moral thinking.
4. Students will use their knowledge of moral theology to present and analyze contemporary moral debate on a
THEO 396 Theological Conversations
The Senior Capstone Course in Theology focuses on students integrating the theological education they have received thus far through a focused experience of research and discussion. "Discussion" will include formal presentations of research. "Research" will primarily involve students taking responsibility for their own ongoing education by learning more deeply what theology is, learning research methods, and bringing research to fruition in the writing of papers. A primary focus of research will include investigation of how theology correlates with other disciplines and ideas, and why theological inquiry remains critically important for church and society.
1. Students will demonstrate the ability to work independently on a theological research project of their own choosing.
2. Students will demonstrate the ability to integrate a variety of theological resources and perspectives both within
theology, and between theology and other disciplines.
3. Students will demonstrate the ability to present and discuss their work.
4. Students will demonstrate sensitivity to the question of theology's responsibility to respond to the needs of church and