May 22, 2024  
2022-2023 Academic Catalog 
2022-2023 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Theology & Religious Studies

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The discipline of Theology approaches religion from the perspective of faith, inviting students from all faiths and none to explore and wrestle with some of the perennial questions that believers and non-believers ask:  Is there a God?  How can we know God?  Can we proclaim that “God is love” in light of the Holocaust?  And ultimately, how should we then live?  The discipline of Religious Studies, more theoretical and anthropological than Theology (with its normative nature and focus on the divine and transcendent), uses the tools and methods of various disciplines in the humanities and social sciences to analyze religious phenomena and discover how they create meaning for persons and cultures. Religious Studies explores how religion interacts with other important dimensions of human life, such as politics, economics, and social constructions of race and gender.  While many scholars draw clear lines between the disciplines of Theology and Religious Studies, at Saint Mary’s College they are drawn together in a fruitful dialogue about religion as a – perhaps the – fundamental dimension of human life: vital, pervasive, and richly complex. 

The Department of Theology & Religious Studies offers courses that systematically and critically analyze a wide range of theological perspectives and ethical questions that are central in the formation of religious identity. As an integral part of the Catholic mission of Saint Mary’s College, we provide students with an opportunity to explore many facets of the Christian tradition: biblically, historically, theologically, ethically, and aesthetically. We offer courses in a wide array of world religions, especially since, in our increasingly diverse nation and our ever more global world, it is crucial that responsible citizens and future leaders understand the ideologies and faiths of their neighbors and dialogue partners.  We explore the myriad and pervasive dimensions of the phenomenon of religion in culture, particularly courses that focus on the intersections of religion and the critical issues of gender, race, and economics.  And, as an Hispanic Serving Institution, we offer courses that explore dimensions of Latinx religious experience and spirituality.

The exploration of these essential questions occupies an important place in a liberal arts education, training students in the skills necessary to think for themselves, to challenge preconceived notions, and to remain open to learning from the perspectives of others. As part of our Lasallian heritage and our understanding of what it means to be a person in light of God’s love and grace, revealed especially in the person of Jesus Christ, we join with the Christian Brothers in being concerned for the whole person, integrating faith and service, and fostering an existential commitment to the common good, solidarity, and a preferential option for our most vulnerable and marginalized sisters and brothers.


Thomas J. Poundstone, PhD, Associate Professor, Chair
Michael Barram, PhD, Professor
Anne Carpenter, PhD, Associate Professor
David Zachariah Flanagin, PhD, Professor
Paul Giurlanda, PhD, Professor
Marie Pagliarini, PhD, Associate Professor
Norris Palmer, PhD, Professor

The Theology & Religious Studies (TRS) Department plays a key role in the educational experience at Saint Mary’s College, offering not only a major and two minor courses of study, but also participating extensively in the College’s core curriculum-by providing courses designed to meet the Theological Understanding goal of the core curriculum. As part of the process of serious academic study, members of the department hope that, in addition to meeting specific core requirements, students will join us in taking pleasure in the study of theology and religion as they learn to converse insightfully and respectfully about it. Moreover, we hope that students will develop an appreciation for the depth and breadth of the Christian tradition while gaining an increasing awareness both of the mystery of life and of themselves as called by that mystery.

Learning Outcomes for Theology & Religious Studies Majors

Majors in Theology & Religious Studies will:

Core Curriculum

  1. MEET the outcomes for both “Christian Foundations” and “Theological Explorations” of the SMC Core Curriculum.

Major Content

  1. DEMONSTRATE an understanding of the biblical, theological, historical, and ethical components of the Christian tradition.
  2. DEMONSTRATE an understanding of the implications of the Catholic concept of the fundamental dignity of the human person.
  3. DEMONSTRATE an understanding of the worldview (e.g., beliefs, practices, etc.) of a non-Christian religious tradition.

Major Skills

  1. DEMONSTRATE an ability to employ contemporary theories and methods of biblical exegesis, systematic theology, and religious studies.
  2. DEMONSTRATE an ability to explain, analyze, and evaluate multiple informed perspectives in debates about theological and ethical issues.

Prerequisite Grade

TRS 097  (or its junior transfer equivalent, TRS 189 ) is a prerequisite for any upper-division theology and religious studies course; however, only a passing grade in TRS 097  (or TRS 189 ) is required, not a minimum grade of C-.


    Bachelor of ArtsMinor


      Theology & Religious Studies - Lower DivisionTheology & Religious Studies - Christian HistoryTheology & Religious Studies - ScriptureTheology & Religious Studies - Theology, Liturgy, and SpiritualityTheology & Religious Studies - EthicsTheology & Religious Studies - World ReligionsTheology & Religious Studies - Theology, Religion, and the ArtsTheology & Religious Studies - Religion and CultureTheology & Religious Studies - Intensive Inquiry CoursesTheology & Religious Studies - Internships and Independent Study

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