Saint John the Evangelist Seminary

A Commitment of the Evangelical Catholic Church for Academic Formation

Est. 2006





Mission Statement
History of SJTES
Degree Programs
Continuing Education
Online Learning
Faculty and Staff
Board of Directors
Consortium Members
Policies & Procedures
Photo Album
Contact Information














Website designed by:

Saint John the Evangelist Seminary


ST 571  World Religions     2 Credit Hours

Course Syllabus



Bishop James Wilkowski



Course Description:

This course will introduce students to the beliefs and practices of the world’s living religious traditions. Being a citizen in the 21st century requires that we learn about and respect the beliefs and practices of those religious traditions that have passed the test of time and continue to guide their followers.


Student Learning Outcomes:  At the conclusion of this class you should be able to do the following. Note that some of these are based on the content of the course while others describe skills you will develop in the class.

•   describe the varieties of living religious experience, belief and practice;

•   interpret religious texts within the context of the traditional beliefs of various religious traditions;

•   appreciate the varieties of religious belief and experience and the cultures in which they are found; appraise the various religious traditions of the world in terms of your personal philosophical and religious values;

•   organize and write original analytical and evaluative essays of four to six pages;

•   demonstrate the ability to think creatively, independently and critically about the varied issues, problems and concerns of religions around the globe.


Required Texts:

Huston Smith, The World's Religions
Robert E. Van Voorst, ed.,
Anthology of World Scriptures
Tao Te Ching (Dover)
Bhagavad Gita (Penguin)
The Bible (any translation you can read is fine)


Students will write two five (or more) page essays.  Understanding and appreciating the world's religious traditions involves more than being able to define terms or describe religious practices, as you will have done in the your readings.  Essays in the class will ask you to analyze and appraise the beliefs and practices of different religious traditions in light of your own beliefs and principles. The first essay, defining religion, will be due TBA The second essay, on the relationship between Judaism and Christianity, will be due TBA  Each essay and exam is worth 100 points. 

The first essay should (1) suggest a definition of what religion is (about a page) and (2) apply that definition to primal religions, Confucianism, & Taoism (about one page each).  I am not asking what the content of your religious views are but that you describe what definition you think describes religion itself.  Huston Smith suggests several aspects of religion that you might consider in writing your essay (pages 92-94).  An excellent essay will not only draw on the description of these traditions in Smith but will give illustrations from the writings of Confucianism & Taoism found in Van Voorst. 

The second essay: Adopt the perspective of a first century Jew—who might or might not be a follower of Jesus.  Describe the continuity between Judaism and Christianity: is Judaism “completed” or “fulfilled,” in Christianity (as Christians claim) or does Christianity require a significant reinterpretation (and possibly change or betrayal) of Judaism?  While I am interested in your opinion, be sure to reinforce it by discussion of specific passages from the assigned reading that support your view from both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.  In order to grade all students fairly, I will be particularly interested to see how you interpret the readings from the course syllabus, though you may supplement them with quotes from other parts of the Torah and New Testament.  Avoid reference to the “Old” Testament, since there is no “New” Testament in the first century.   Essays should be five (or more) numbered pages, typed (double-space), spell-checked, proofread. If you use quotations you must cite them properly (I am not fussy about which academic convention you use). Failure to number pages, cite quotes, or spell-check will result in the reduction of your essay grade.

Optional essay in lieu of final: (1) Write a critical essay discussing The 10 Commandments, The Last Temptation of Christ or Jesus of Montreal, and The Message, assessing the way that each film interprets the origins of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; or, (2) Extend the theme of the 2nd essay from the perspective of Islam—Does Islam flow logically from Judaism and Christianity, or does it require a significant reinterpretation of them?  or, (3)  Write a short biography of Abraham contrasting the way each of the three monotheistic traditions interprets his life.  5-7 pages, due on the last class meeting prior to the final exam.


Course Outline



class introduction
Primal Religions

Huston Smith chap. 1; Van Voorst, chap. 1
Huston Smith chap. 9
suggested viewing
: Whale Rider; Powwow Highway; Emerald Forest


Confucianism & Shinto
Huston Smith chap. 4; Van Voorst, pp. 177-78 (Shinto)
suggested viewing: The Joy Luck Club


Confucian Writings
Van Voorst, chap. 6
Huston Smith chap. 5
suggested viewing: A Great Wall


Tao Te Ching
Van Voorst, chap. 7; the Tao Te Ching
suggested viewing: Koyaanisqatsi


Hindus & Sikhs
Huston Smith chap. 2; Van Voorst, pp. 119-122 (Sikhs)
suggested viewing: Gandhi; Bend it Like Beckham(Sikhs)


Hindu writings
Van Voorst, chapter 2; The Bhagavad Gita  
suggested viewing: The Mahabharata (available RCC IMC)


Buddhists & Jains
Huston Smith chap. 3; Van Voorst, pp. 107-109 (Jains)
suggested viewing: Little Buddha


Buddhist writings 
Van Voorst, chap. 3
suggested viewing: Kundun


Judaism & Zoroastrianism
Huston Smith chap. 7; Van Voorst, pp. 199-207; 187-189
law:  Genesis 1-4; 12-18; 21-22; 27-33; Exodus 1-20:21; Leviticus 16; Deuteronomy 6:1-9; 32:48-52; 34; Joshua 23
suggested viewing:  The 10 Commandments


Judaism prophets
Deuteronomy 18:14-22; I Samuel 1-3; 8-9; 16-17; II Samuel 11-12; I King 17-21; II Kings 2; Isaiah 6:1-13; 53; Hosea (all); Jonah (all)
suggested viewing: Stranger Among Us
; Left Luggage


Judaism writings
Job 1-3; 42; Psalms 1; 8; 14; 22; 23; 42; 51; 73; 119:1-8; 132
Van Voorst, pp. 239-40
suggested viewing: Stranger Among Us; 
The 10 Commandments


Christianity, Matthew
Huston Smith chap. 8; Van Voorst, pp. 245-251
The Gospel According to Matthew
Zechariah 9:9-13
suggested viewing: Jesus of Montréal


Christianity: Romans, Revelation
Acts 9:1-19; 15:1-35  Romans (all)
Daniel 7, 12 (Hebrew Bible)
Revelation (read all, but skim chapters 4-20)
suggested viewing: The Last Temptation of Christ


Huston Smith chap. 6
suggested viewing: The Message


The Quran
Van Voorst, chap. 12
Huston Smith chap. 10
suggested viewing: Malcolm X


Final Project:  TBA







The Evangelical Catholic Church: A Welcoming Community of Faith Rooted in the Catholic Tradition

If you are having problems with our site notify Quest Network Services