College of Arts and Science
This course examines how intense debates and furious prose helped define many of modern Christianity’s most widely agreed upon tenets of faith. Through close readings of theological treatises laced with profanity, insults, and outrage, we shall explore how central Christian theological convictions about baptism, the nature of Jesus, gender roles, sin, salvation, and other topics were constructed through argumentation and compromise. Though some theological disputes were settled politely through votes at church councils, even these peaceable compromises often emerged through a spate of insults and red-faced polemic. We shall read and discuss some of the most colorful–and enduringly influential–cases of theology developing through brash confrontation, from the Luther Insult Generator to the fiercely angry articulations of Christian theology in contemporary America. Students will learn to understand the logic and purpose behind these vehement arguments in their historical context and practice evaluating competing claims about complex issues such as the Trinity, the path to salvation, and sin. Graded on A-F basis only.