Course Description and Objectives
Broadly speaking, this course is an examination of the person within a Christian worldview. More specifically, we will consider the function of worldviews, the meaning of a Christian worldview, and the implications of a Christian worldview for the understanding of persons and their role in modern society. In as much as contemporary worldviews have been shaped extensively by developments in science, as well as by historical influences from philosophy, religion, and culture broadly defined, an interdisciplinary approach will be taken.
The belief that persons are more than simply physical bodies is ancient. Students in this course will (1) examine ways this belief has been expressed in religious and philosophical tradition, including exploration of the meaning of terms such as soul, mind, and consciousness, (2) discuss relevant research in the physical and behavioral sciences, and (3) consider the meaning of persons within a Christian worldview. In seeking these objectives we will review the historical relationship between science and religion, and we will consider the ways that scientists and philosophers have related the concepts of body, and mind, or consciousness, and soul. We will consider cosmological issues
including the “big bang” theory, the age of the earth, quantum physics, evolution, and design. We will look at new developments in genetics and reproduction, and their implications for our view of the person. And we will reflect on the way our view of ourselves is affected by and reflected in media and the arts. In all of this students will be encouraged to consider different perspectives taken by Christians, and to examine their own worldview and the meaning of personhood, as well as the implications of these for practical moral, ethical, and lifestyle decisions.
THE RESEARCH PAPER
The research paper should articulate your worldview, giving special attention to the “Who are we?” questions (e.g., “Who am I?” “Where am I?” “What’s wrong?” “What is the remedy?” etc.). You should also deal with at least three of the topical content areas covered in the course. That is, show how your position relates to at least three different areas such as philosophy, biblical anthropology, biology, evolution, genetics, neuropsychology, the new physics, technology, or some of the several cultural topics discussed. For example, in discussing modern genetics the answers to the “Who are we?” questions might be shown to determine one’s ethical and practical conclusions regarding genetic mapping, cloning, etc.. And conversely, developments in these areas might influence your answers to the basic questions about the person.
Your paper should contain references where appropriate (APA style is preferred), and a complete list of references at the end. However, since this is primarily a personal statement, references may not be necessary. N.B.
Further Comments on the Research Paper
Some possible points to consider
Worldview questions: “What is a worldview?” “Why is it important?” “What is my worldview, and how is it different from other worldviews?” “What is the role of tolerance, pluralism, and multiculturalism in our society and in my worldview?” “Who am I?” “Where am I?” “What’s wrong?” “What is the remedy?” “What time is it?” etc. “What does the ‘image of God’ mean?”
Cosmology: “How old is the Earth/universe?” “Is Genesis 1 to be taken literally?” “How long did God take to create?”
Human origins: “Did God create humans instantaneously or over a period of time?” “What do ‘pre-human’ fossil remains indicate (e.g., Neanderthal man)?” “Who were these creatures?”
Basis of the person: “What is the relationship between mind, soul, brain, body, etc.?” “Where is the person?” “What happens to the person at death, after death, and at the resurrection?”
The person and scientific advances: “How does ones view of the person affect the role they see for science in advancing human welfare, what are the ethical issues
, and what principles would you use to resolve these?”
- “Is the body sacred, or should we do all we can to improve it through surgery, medicine, and genetic intervention?” “Are all types of genetic intervention acceptable?” “Are all goals of genetic intervention acceptable? Why or why not?”
- “Should advances in modern medicine be used to alleviate all suffering, to the point of hastening death?” “If ‘extreme measures’ to save life, especially in the terminally ill, should have limits placed on them, what should those limits be? Isn’t it euthanasia to withhold help when you could give it?”
- “How far should couples (or singles) go to achieve pregnancy?” “What about surrogate mothers, test-tube babies, artificial wombs, etc.?”
Science and technology: “How does, or could modern physics change the way we see the world?” “How has the technological age affected our worldview and/or our view of ourselves, and how could it affect it in the future?”
Gender and sexuality: “What is the role of our gender and our sexuality in our personhood?” “Are sexuality and gender part of the image of God, or part of our fallen nature?”
The arts, media, and culture: “What worldview and view of the person are reflected in contemporary art, media, and culture generally?” “What does your worldview suggest would be an appropriate response to culture, or appropriate use of culture (including the arts and media)?”
Guidelines for grading research papers:
F – Does none of the following.
D – Shows minimal grasp of worldview concept and its application to the person
and controversial issues
of science and culture.
C – Presents information on worldviews and the person in well-organized format,
with adequate application to issues
in science and culture.
B – In a well-organized and logical format, presents information on worldviews and the person with carefully thought-out application to several areas of controversy
in science and culture, revealing in the process a good understanding of the relevant scientific or cultural background.
A – As above, plus, argument and expression must be of the highest quality plus the student’s creative insights and supporting evidence are clearly expressed.
Points will be deducted for spelling, grammatical, or typographical errors.
As this is a research paper, “supporting evidence” and “revealing a good understanding of the relevant scientific and cultural background” means that your chosen position should be based on factual information. Of course you may also cite other reading you have done, including popular media where appropriate. Not everything needs to be documented (e.g., scientists’ claim that the Earth is very old). However, where the claims are controversial
(e.g., “Garden of Eden found!”), or particularly significant (e.g., the biblical basis of your position), documentation should be given. Indicate your full sources in the reference section at the end of your paper.
Worldview Reflection/Application(Questions about the lessons taken in the course)
Lesson 1: What is the role of faith, belief, and certainty in my worldview?
Lesson 2:What are the important questions my worldview must answer?
Lesson 3:Is my mind separate from my body?
Lesson 4:How important is your body in your worldview?
Lesson 5:Are body, soul, and spirit separate?
Lesson 6:What happens to the body, soul, and spirit at death?
Lesson 7:How does my brain relate to who I really am?
Lesson 8:How does my worldview affect the way I relate to other people? Do I consider their worldview when I do this?
Lesson 9:What is my view of multiculturalism and the related concepts of diversity and pluralism?
Lesson 10:Can I give a coherent explanation of my worldview, one that would be understood by someone with a different worldview?
Lesson 11:How do scientific theories and evidence fit into my worldview?
Lesson 12:How does my worldview answer the questions of cosmology? Does it matter which scientific theory I support?
Lesson 13:How does Genesis 1 fit into my worldview?
Lesson 14:What would change in my worldview if I believed God created through a long slow process rather than a short fast one?
Lesson 15:Does my belief in the bible depend on refuting evolutionary theory, the big bang theory, or evidence for an old earth?
Lesson 16:Does my worldview have a clear idea of the origin of the earth as well as animal and human life? In my worldview beliefs concerning origins, what’s important and non-negotiable and what is secondary and open to modification?
Lesson 17:Are we evolving in any sense of the word?
Lesson 18:How does my worldview deal with questions like these involving advances in human knowledge and the application of this knowledge to human beings? Does my view of the person help in answering these questions?
Lesson 19:Does your worldview, especially your view of the person help answer these questions? Does any of this information modify your worldview? That is, does the changeability of human characteristics, or the role of genes in behavior, modify the way you see human nature or the image of God?
Lesson 20:How does your worldview explain evil and innocent suffering?
Lesson 21:What is the right to life based on in your worldview? When does a human being become, or cease to be, a person?
Lesson 22:Can you see how your position on the mind/body problem can influence your approach to abortion and euthanasia? (Hint: If the body is separate from the mind (or soul or spirit), and secondary to it, then if the mind is not functioning, the body is expendable.)
Lesson 23:Does your worldview contain a belief in the “right to die?” Why or why not?
Lesson 24:How important is sex in your view of the person, and what is its purpose according to your worldview?
Lesson 25:How important is a clear gender identity or distinct social roles in your view of the person and your worldview?
Lesson 26:How important is the task of “renewing culture” in your worldview?
Lesson 27:What place do your health related behaviors (diet, sleep, exercise) have in your worldview? Are they important or merely incidental?
Lesson 28:Is a homosexual orientation a “blemish” on the image of God or is it merely incidental?
Lesson 29:How does your worldview define marriage and family?
Lesson 30:What’s the purpose of education in a Christian worldview?
Lesson 31:What does the area of sport say about our culture? What is an appropriate response from a Christian worldview?
Lesson 32:What’s the place of work in a Christian worldview?
Does your worldview have anything to say about economic systems?
What is the ultimate authority in your worldview?
What is the role of government?
Would you disobey the law? Under what conditions?
What makes humans unique?
Can science help me understand God?
Lesson 33:Are the arts important or just a frivolous entertainment? Why?
Lesson 34:Does your worldview lead you to take a particular position on art, especially so-called modern art (e.g., abstract, non-naturalist paintings and sculpture)?
Lesson 35:What is my position on television, movies and theatre? How do I decide what is objectionable? Acceptable? Recommended?
What does a consideration of television, movies, and theatre teach me about my worldview and the worldview of our culture?
How can Christians redeem television, movies and theatre?
Lesson 36:What is the proper relationship between a Christian and popular culture in areas such as music?
Lesson 37:What is a Christian attitude to the environment, including animals, and how should it affect my behavior?
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