TH 1301, Introduction to Theology

Spring 2024, Mondays and Wednesdays 12:20 (Section G) and 1:45 (Section H) in Reinbolt 201

Instructor: Dr. Todd Hanneken,, 210-431-8050
Office hours in Zoom ( and Reinbolt 303a, Mondays through Thursdays, 11:00am–12:00pm and 3:20-4:20pm and by appointment through RattlerNavigate, email, or Canvas messaging.

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to the academic study of theology in Christian traditions, engaged with other traditions. The course introduces students to fundamental ideas, terminology, cultural contexts, literature, and texts that hand down human questions and understandings of God and what it means to be God’s people. This course fulfills the core requirement for a first theology course. Dr. Hanneken’s sections in particular explore the enduring questions of the Jewish and Christian traditions, from ancient Israel to the world today. The variety of views will be explored in their historical contexts. We will also explore the variety of ways in which we go about asking questions and seeking meaning.

Required Course Materials

Todd R. Hanneken, Theological Questions (Atla Open Press 81; Chicago: Atla, 2022).

Please budget about $20 or a trip to a public library to acquire a travel guide for the travel project.

Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course the student should be able to:

Activities and Responsibilities

Quizzes: The quizzes are designed to gauge comprehension, analysis, and retention of readings and lectures. There is emphasis on learning from mistakes, so there will be opportunities to answer questions again (or modified versions). Whenever you don’t know something, go back to your notes or the reading to identify what you misunderstood and how to avoid making a similar mistake again. Quizzes can be rescheduled if missing the regular time is unavoidable and the quiz is rescheduled as soon as possible, no later than when the quiz is reviewed in class. For planned absences this generally means taking the quiz earlier than the scheduled time. Quizzes must be taken in the classroom unless alternative arrangements are made.

Exams: The midterm and final exams will be cumulative and will focus on retention, comprehension, and synthesis of points from the quizzes.

Presentation: Each student will make one ten-minute presentation on a topic drawing from a religious tradition other than Christianity. See the Presentation Rubric for expectations and grading scale. The topics are randomly assigned. Switching topics is allowed, but extensions will not be possible. See the Presentation List for assignments, dates, and a brief description of each topic. Note that the presenter should meet with the instructor a week in advance of the presentation.

Travel Plan to Visit a Sacred Space: Students will plan a trip to visit a sacred space. Research will include the variety of beliefs about the history and nature of that space, as well as practical matters of planning travel to a foreign culture. The assignment will be separated into five stages, each of which will culminate in a written submission in Canvas. Each assignment should be one’s own ideas and own words with quotation marks for words that are not one’s own and citations for ideas that are not one’s own. Students may be expected to explain and discuss ideas presented as their own. Plagiarizing from artificial intelligence is no different from plagiarizing from human intelligence.


What follows until the schedule should be standard for all your classes at St. Mary’s.

University Policies

All university policies apply to this course, including the following.

This course adheres to the University grading scale.

LetterPercentQuality Points
FBelow 600.00

This course adheres to University academic policies and procedures.

This course adheres to the policies for academic dishonesty and misconduct, as described in the Student Code of Conduct.

This course adheres to the University attendance policy.

This course adheres to the University diversity statement. St. Mary’s University embodies the Marianist spirit of educating the heart and mind. The University draws on the example of Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, founder of the Society of Mary, to create an environment that lets students thrive and where diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential. The intersectionality of our diverse experiences and characteristics are valued in all spaces within our community. Thus, we all must be committed to building an inclusive learning environment that values the individual experiences of every student in this course and where each has an opportunity to learn, engage in dialogue, question, and contribute to their fullest potential.

This course adheres to the policies for study days and final exams. There will be two study days, Wednesday, May 1 and Thursday, May 2, during which students prepare for final exams. Classes do not meet during Study Days. All major reports and assignments should be scheduled to be completed before Study Days. Study Days are not to be used as dates on which papers are to be turned in, examinations are to be given, quizzes are to be scheduled, mandatory review sessions are to be held, or for any other class-related activities, other than office hours. Faculty may conduct voluntary review sessions at which no new material is presented on these days. The only exception to the study day policy is for Thursday night classes- Thursday night final exams are scheduled on day-two of Study Days (May 2). Final exams will be held on Friday, May 3 and Monday-Wednesday, May 6-8. The final exam schedule can be found at

St. Mary’s University is committed to providing a safe, equitable, and fair environment where students can pursue academic excellence. Policies and procedures have been developed to foster and sustain such an environment and apply to all courses offered at the university. Students need to be aware of these policies and procedures, which can be found at

Please become familiar with these important policies and procedures, which include:

This course adheres to the University Disability Statement. In accordance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act, Student Accessibility Services is the designated office responsible for coordinating all accommodations and services for students with disabilities at St. Mary’s University. St. Mary’s University supports equal access of qualifying individuals with documented disabilities to all educational opportunities, programs, services and activities. If you have a documented disability, or a condition which may impact your performance and want to request disability-related accommodations, you must first register with the Office of Student Accessibility Services, located in the Student Counseling Center (in the Center for Life Directions Building) in room 139. Please stop by the Student Accessibility Services Office, call 210-431-5080 or email to set up an appointment to meet with the Student Accessibility Services staff.

This course adheres to all emergency adaptations declared by the University.

Preliminary Schedule

Unit 1: Introductions

Week 1, January 10-17, Introductions

Wednesday, January 10, Introduction to this class


Screen notes: Introductions

Wednesday, January 17, Introduction to the academic study of theology

Unit 2: The Israelites

Week 2, January 22-24, The Israelites 1

Monday, January 22, Who are the Israelites?

Reading: Theological Questions 2.1 Who are the Israelites?

Presentation: The Life of the Buddha

Screen notes: Who are the Israelites?

Wednesday, January 24, What kind of god do we have?

Reading: Theological Questions 2.2 What kind of god do we have?

Presentation: Pantheism

Screen notes: What kind of god do we have?

Week 3, January 29-31, The Israelites 2

Monday, January 29, Theodicy: Is God just?

Travel Project Stage 1 due noon

Reading: Theological Questions 2.3 If there is only one God and that god is good, how does evil exist?

Presentation: The Four Noble Truths

Presentation: Trimurti: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva

Screen notes: Theodicy

Wednesday, January 31, Israelite Practice

Reading: Theological Questions 2.4 How should we live our lives?

Presentation: The Eightfold Path

Screen notes: Israelite Practice

Unit 3: Early Judaism and Christianity

Week 4, February 5-7, Early Judaism and Christianity 1

Monday, February 5, How did the Greeks and Romans change the meaning of life?

Reading: Theological Questions 3.1 What changed with Hellenistic and Roman rule?

Presentation: Reincarnation

Screen notes: Afterlife

Wednesday, February 7, Where is the world going?

Reading: Theological Questions 3.2 What does God have planned for this world?

Presentation: Islamic Eschatology

Screen notes: Eschatology

Week 5, February 12-14, Early Judaism and Christianity 2

Monday, February 12, Who is Jesus?

Travel Project Stage 2 due noon

Reading: Theological Questions 3.3 Who is Jesus of Nazareth?

Presentation: Life of Muhammed

Screen notes: Jesus of Nazareth

Wednesday, February 14, Why did Jesus die?

Reading: Theological Questions 3.4 Why did Jesus die?

Presentation: Homer, Odyssey Book 11

Screen notes: Soteriology

Week 6, February 19-21, Early Judaism and Christianity 3

Monday, February 19, What will Jesus do in the future?

Reading: Theological Questions 3.5 What will Jesus do in the future?

Presentation: Major Jewish Holidays

Screen notes: Judgment Day

Wednesday, February 21, Are we ready?


Week 7, February 26-28, Midterm Exam and Travel Project

Monday, February 26, Midterm

Wednesday, February 28, Sacred Space and Human Culture

Unit 4: Christendom

Week 8, March 4-6, Christendom 1

Monday, March 4, What if the Roman Empire isn’t so bad after all?

Wednesday, March 6, What is the Church?

Reading: Theological Questions 4.2 What is the Church?

Presentation: Maimonides

Screen notes: Ecclesiology

Week 9, March 18-20, Christendom 2

Monday, March 18, What about the Jews?

Wednesday, March 20, How should Christian life be practiced?

Unit 5: Reformation

Week 10, March 25-27, Reformation 1

Monday, March 25, Who were the protestant reformers?

Travel Project Stage 3 due noon

Reading: Theological Questions 5.1 What changed with the Renaissance leading to the Reformation?

Presentation: Sunni and Shi'i

Screen notes: Who were the Protestant Reformers?

Wednesday, March 27, What did they protest?

Reading: Theological Questions 5.2 Whom do you trust with big decisions?

Presentation: Hadith and Fiqh

Screen notes: Scripture and Tradition

Week 11, April 3, Mary and Marianists

Wednesday, April 3, Mary and Marianists

Reading: “Mary, Mariology, and Marianists” in Theological Questions Supplements

Presentation: Mary in Islam

Screen notes: Mary, Mariology, and the Marianist Family

Week 12, April 8-10, Reformation 2

Monday, April 8, Do my actions affect my salvation?

Reading: Theological Questions 5.3 What do I have to do to be saved?

Presentation: Nirvana

Screen notes: Faith and Works

Unit 6: 20th and 21st Centuries

Week 13, April 15-17, 20th Century 1

Monday, April 15, What happened in the 20th century?

Travel Project Stage 4 due noon

Reading: Theological Questions 6.1 The historical context of 20th century Christian theology

Presentation: Karl Marx

Screen notes: Major Documents of Vatican II

Wednesday, April 17, How does faith hold up to reason in the 20th century?

Reading: Theological Questions 6.2 Faith and/or reason?

Presentation: Richard Dawkins

Presentation: New Age Movement

Screen notes: Faith and Reason

Week 14, April 22-24, 20th Century 2

Monday, April 22, Is Christianity useful?

Wednesday, April 24, What can I do to make it more useful?


Final Review and Exam

Monday, April 29, Review for Final Exam and Course Evaluations

Travel Project Stage 5 due noon

Wednesday, May 1, Study Day (no class meeting)

Final Exam

Day and time announced by Registrar, Bring midterms