Bible, Religion and Philosophy

Jo-Ann Brant, Department Chair, Professor of Bible, Religion & Philosophy, Honors Director
Keith Graber Miller, Professor of Bible, Religion & Philosophy
Paul Keim, Professor of Bible & Religion
Regina Shands Stoltzfus, Assistant Professor of PJCS
Bob Yoder, Campus Pastor, Assistant Professor of Youth Ministry


The Bible, Religion and Philosophy department offers the following programs:

The mission of the Bible, Religion and Philosophy department is to prepare our students to help the church tell its story in the most compelling way possible, to help the world tell a more truthful story about itself, and to equip our students with the skills needed to do real good in the world. To that end, the Bible and Religion major is designed to provide students with an introduction to biblical studies and the academic study of Christian and other religious traditions, while affirming their faith and orienting them toward the value that the Anabaptist tradition places upon the Bible and the church. The major requires courses on the content and methods of biblical study, church history, theology, ethics and philosophy, and culminates in a senior seminar in narrative theology and a senior thesis paper that develops work done earlier in the major into a mature and complete work. More information is available at the department website at

Career and post-graduate opportunities

A major in Bible and religion is of particular value to students contemplating graduate study in Bible, religion or theology, mission and service occupations in the church or broader pastoral work. A minor in theological studies and Christian ministries is designed as pre-seminary preparation or for work in other church ministries.

Recent graduates have gone on to become pastors, service agency directors, professors, hospital chaplains, teachers, journalists, public relations consultants, lawyers, farmers, computer analysts, musicians, artists, business executives, translators, and church administrators.

Regardless of their future occupations, majors are given a strong foundation for careful reading of texts, thinking theologically and strategically, considering the relevance of faith for their daily lives, and active participation in congregational life.

Major in Bible and religion

42 credit hours

  • Theoretical/Theological/Philosophical courses
    Rel 320, Christian Theologies3
    Phil 200, Introduction to Philosophy3
    Phil 320, Ethics and Morality3
  • Religious Studies (choose one)3
    Phil 307, Asian Thought
    Rel 220, Introduction to World Religions
    Rel 317, Islam
    Rel 323, Judaism
    Rel 315, Religion in Culture & Society
  • Church History (choose one)3
    Bibl 303, Story of the Early Church
    Hist 318, Anabaptist History
    Hist 321, Mennonites in America
    Hist 304, Renaissance & Reformation
  • Textual Studies
    Core 120, Engaging the Bible3
    Bibl 300, Jesus and the Gospels3
    Bibl 301, Hebrew Scriptures3
  • Praxis
    Rel 409, Senior Internship3
    Rel 410, Senior Seminar3
    Rel 411, Senior Thesis3
  • Electives9
    Other Bible, religion or philosophy courses, related courses (limit of 3 credits in PJCS) or a course at AMBS, in consultation with adviser

Student learning outcomes

Graduates in Bible and religion will:

  1. Provide a coherent account of the biblical narrative.
  2. Identify distinctive content of parts of the biblical canon.
  3. Provide a coherent account of the development of the canon.
  4. Demonstrate knowledge of core convictions of Christian tradition.
  5. Demonstrate knowledge of development and social function of core Christian institutions.
  6. Approach text using various and appropriate hermeneutical methodologies.
  7. Articulate hermeneutical assumptions.
  8. Articulate one's convictions and analyze one's religious experience using the conceptual language of contemporary theology.
  9. Place one's convictions and institutional affiliations within the broader context of Christian history.
  10. Identify moral presuppositions and arguments guiding one's values and behaviors.
  11. Demonstrate the ability to identify presuppostions about reality and the sacred that inform various religious traditions.
  12. Engage a variety of spiritual disciplines.

Planning guide

First year Goshen Core
Engaging the Bible (Core 120)
Second year Goshen Core
200-300 level courses in major, Bibl 301
Third year Goshen Core
Upper-level courses in major, Bibl 300
Related courses
Fourth year

Balance of Goshen Core
Balance of major
Course at AMBS

Planning and advising notes

Students are encouraged to focus their plan of study by selecting electives in the following areas: ministry inquiry, religious studies, theology, biblical studies, or philosophy. Suggestions are available from Bible, religion and philosophy department faculty advisers.

Bible and Religion majors are encouraged to take one course at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, IN. One course may be taken there as part of a full-time Goshen College registration. For AMBS course listings, see

Minor in Bible and religion

18 credit hours

  • Core 120, Engaging the Bible 3
  • One 300-level Bible course 3
  • Rel 316, Liberation Theology or
    Rel 320, Christian Theologies 3
  • Three additional Bible, religion or philosophy courses 9

Minor in philosophy

18 credit hours

  • Phil 200, Introduction to Philosophy 3
  • Phil 302, Ethics and Morality3
  • Phil 307, Asian Thought3
  • Three courses selected from the following: 9
    Engl 300, Critical Theory & Practice
    PJCS 332, Religion, Conflict & Peace or PJCS 350, Dynamics/Theology of Reconciliation
    Phil 400, Individual Readings
    Rel 315, Religion in Culture & Society
    Rel 320, Christian Theologies
    Rel 402, Christianity & Modern Thought
    Thea 245, Aesthetics

Student learning outcomes

Graduates with a minor in Philosophy will:

  1. Develop a knowledge base of philosophy, including classical and contemporary perspectives on major philosophical problems and methods of dealing with them.
  2. Develop analytical skills and recognize connections between philosophical themes.
  3. Construct and articulate coherent philosophical arguments, identifying and avoiding logical fallacies.
  4. Interact with intellectual philosophical texts in a way that is personal, reflective and integrative.

Minor in theological studies and Christian ministries

18 credit hours

  • Bibl 300, Jesus and the Gospels3
  • Rel 374, Congregational Ministries3
  • Rel 320, Christian Theologies 3
  • Rel 409, Internship 3
  • Courses selected from the following: 6
    Bibl 303, The Story of the Early Church (3)
    Mus 212, Song Leading (1)
    Mus 311, Topics in Music Literature: Church Music (2)
    Phil 302, Ethics and Morality (3)
    PJCS 370, Personal Violence and Healing (3)
    Rel 209, Field Experience (1-3)
    Rel 225, Spiritual Formation (1)
    Rel 322, Worshipping Communities (3)
    Rel 330, Religion and Sexuality (3)
    AMBS course, with approval from academic adviser

Student learning outcomes

Graduates with a minor in Theological Studies and Christian Ministries will:

  1. Articulate a biblical, historical and theological foundation for ministry.
  2. Exercise competent leadership through designing, implementing and assessing ministry experiences.
  3. Assess growth toward spiritual and personal maturity.
  4. Clarify and develop a ministerial identity.

Bible courses

BIBL 201 Elementary New Testament Greek 3
Basic vocabulary, verb structure and grammar of New Testament Greek; reading and translation in first chapters of the Gospel of John. Prerequisite: CORE 120.

BIBL 204 Hebrew Language and Culture 3
Students will work through a standard grammar of biblical Hebrew, building a working vocabulary of 600-800 words. Representative selections from the major genres of biblical Hebrew literature will be introduced. Attention will also be devoted to the cultural settings reflected in the texts. Offered alternating years with Bibl 201.

BIBL 213 The Story of the Early Church 3
This course will look at the first three centuries of the early church. Students will participate in constructing coherent and nuanced narrative by applying the principles of the Jewish tradition of midrash (retellings of Biblical stories for contemporary audiences) and effective contemporary story telling to Christian narratives using modern historiography, the insights of cultural anthropological studies, memory studies, and hagiography (biographies of saints). A Religious World course in the Goshen Core.

BIBL 300 Jesus and the Gospels 3
Study of the life and teachings of Jesus, focusing on the proclamation of the reign of God and Jesus' messianic identity as the Son of God. Examination of Jesus in his historical setting will be balanced with discussions of Jesus' call to discipleship and theological interpretations of the Gospels. Prerequisite: CORE 120 or consent of instructor. Bible and Religion majors are encouraged to add a one-hour depth credit.

BIBL 301 Hebrew Scripture: 3
Content of this course will alternate every other year with one of the following topics.
Prophets. A study of the important corpus of prophetic literature from the Hebrew Bible. Attention is given to historical, social, literary and theological features of the texts. Broad surveys of the prophetic writings will set the stage for close reading of selected oracles. Balancing the ethos of the Hebrew prophets with the demands these texts place on the contemporary audience keeps the Scriptural nature of this foundational material constantly in view.
Wisdom and Psalms. Alongside law, history and prophecy, the wisdom and poetry sections of biblical Hebrew writings give expression to the formative power of this significant literary, theological and social movement in ancient Israel. Primary attention will be given to the universal perspectives reflected in the books of Ecclesiastes, Proverbs and Job, with selective attention given to the wisdom corpus of the Apocrypha. Significant time will also be devoted to the laments, hymns, and pilgrimage songs of the book of Psalms. Prerequisite: CORE 120.

BIBL 309 Major Book 3
A study of a major biblical book as announced. Possible offerings include: Genesis, Gospel of John, Revelation of John. The course will examine the theology, major themes, literary structure and social world of the book being studied. It will introduce students to various methodological approaches to the book, current scholarship, as well as the place of the book within both the canon and contemporary religious thought. Prerequisite: CORE 120.

BIBL 321 Biblical Themes of Peace 3
A study of the themes and concepts that provide a biblical basis for nonretaliation and peace making. Particular attention is given to the nature of God's sovereignty, forgiveness versus vengeance and love of enemies. Prerequisite: CORE 120.

BIBL 324 Women in the Bible 3
An examination of the characterization of women in Old and New Testament narratives, their role in biblical societies and the early church and their representation in Judeo-Christian culture, particularly our contemporary culture. The course draws upon current research and exegetical strategies in Biblical studies. Prerequisite: CORE 120.

Religion courses

REL 203 Jesus at the Movies 3
How does retelling the story of Jesus in film either enhance or diminish our understanding of the gospel stories? Students will become literate in filmmaking techniques as well as narrative and dialogue and will evaluate the artistic and theological value of a selection of films. We will examine a range of Jesus films and also some Christ films (in which the main character is a self-sacrificing redeemer) and second coming films. A Religious World course in the Goshen Core.

REL 205 Religion in America 3
Given competing truth claims, how do we learn to appreciate religious diversity, open ourselves to new learning, and yet remain relatively grounded in faith? This course examines historical and contemporary religious life in the USA, with attention to conflicts that have arisen from the first European explorers to the present day. A Religious World course in the Goshen Core.

REL 206 Religion and Sports 3
This course explores the profound and ubiquitous interweaving of religion and sports in Western civilization. From its roots in classical Olympian festivals to its emergence as a multi-billion dollar modern industry, the active presence of religious themes in sports, from spiritual ordeal, to the ethos of fairness, to the manifestation of moral reward in victory, will be tracked and analyzed. Particular attention will be devoted to the ways in which sport interacts with Christianity in North America, both in the quasi-amateur context of intercollegiate athletics as well as the professional ranks of league franchises. A Religious World course in the Goshen Core.

REL 207 Religion and Politics 3
How does religion function as a force for transformation and change in society, or a source of stability? And how does the political world feed back into the world of faith? This course examines the impact of religious beliefs, religious practices, and religious communities on the broader world of politics: governance, social issues, and the organization of the polis. A Religious World course in the Goshen Core.

REL 209 Field Experience 3 (1-3)
A field placement in applied ministry or discipleship at a camp, retreat center, congregation or religious organization. Appropriate for credit by experience registration.

REL 220 Introduction to World Religions 3
This survey will focus on a particular theme or area of religious experience as a window into the world's major religious traditions. Possible themes include: death, the human condition, or worship and ritual. This course is designed to provide students with a basis for more advanced study of particular traditions or a place to begin making sense of religious diversity or different expressions of spirituality when they encounter them.

REL 225 Spiritual Formation 1
Various topical courses based on student and faculty interest aimed to foster spiritual growth among students for general life application or ministry skill development. Course examples include Prayer Disciplines, Wrestling with the Biblical Text, Leading Small Groups, Preaching, and Preparation for Inquiry (a strong recommendation for participation in Camping, Ministry and Service Inquiry Programs).

REL 310 Topics: 3
Lectures, research and discussion of specific topics in religion such as politics and religion, spirituality, religion and the media.

REL 315 Religion in Culture & Society 3
(Cross-listed from Soc 315) An analysis of the social, cultural and political contexts that profoundly affect religious institutions and expressions, and upon which religion has an influence. Course includes such topics as meaning and belonging, modern individualism, dynamics of religious collectives and the impact of religion on social change.

REL 316 Liberation Theologies 3
Focuses on three contemporary theologies of liberation (Latin American Liberation Theology, Black Theologies and Feminist Theologies) as they are developing in the Americas. The course examines similarities and differences among these three theologies - in conversation with Womanist and Latina theologies - as each addresses specific theological questions raised by the people of God in historical and contemporary situations of exploration and oppression. The course also has a praxis component.

REL 317 Islam 3
An introduction to Islamic religion, culture and civilization. An historical survey will introduce the origins and early development of Islam, its rapid spread and flourishing and its interactions with the Western world. A thorough understanding of the core religious beliefs of Islam will be emphasized, through the examination of primary and secondary texts, rich media resources, guest speakers, and a field trip to a local mosque, with an opportunity to speak with the imam and other members of the community. Some of the contemporary issues facing Muslims around the world and in North America will be discussed.

REL 318 Anabaptist/Mennonite History 3
(Cross-listed from Hist 318) Introduction to Mennonite history and thought. About one-third of the course is devoted to Anabaptism. Special attention given to distinctive Anabaptist religious ideas, changes in Mennonite religious ideas and practice in Europe, migrations, contrasts in social-communal practices among Mennonites and related groups.

REL 320 Christian Theologies 3
A thorough introduction to theology, examining Christianity's basic theological features and themes (e.g. human nature, Christology, atonement, the nature of the church, eschatology). An excellent course for those committed to Christian faith as well as skeptics and those along faith's margins. Careful attention will be paid to both historical development of theology as well as contemporary credibility. Prerequisite: CORE 120 or consent of instructor.

REL 321 History of Mennonites in America 3
(Cross-listed from Hist 321) Emphasis on Mennonites as a people developing and interacting with the larger American society, using themes such as migration, community formation, beliefs, acculturation and pacifist citizenship in war and peace.

REL 322 Worshiping Communities 3
An introduction to the forms, styles, and history of Christian worship. Content includes a survey of the liturgical year and the major traditions of Christian spirituality. In addition, students will reflect on themes ranging from public and private forms of worship to the aesthetics of worship spaces. Students will also have the opportunity to actively reflect on how social realities and political concerns can be resources for discipleship, spiritual growth, and corporate worship.

REL 323 Judaism 3
An introduction to the essential beliefs, texts and religious practices of Judaism. The course will survey biblical and talmudic foundations, sketch historical development in Jewish life, thought and religion, and explore Jewish identity. Central concepts such as God, Law and Israel will illuminate the customs, rituals and values of contemporary Judaism. The class will visit a local synagogue and engage in conversation with the rabbi and members of the Jewish community. Special attention will be devoted to an appreciation of the deep continuities that exist among the "peoples of the book" as well as recognition of the unique contributions each has made to contemporary world culture.

REL 328 Spiritual Writings of Women 3
A survey of women's writings about the spiritual journey. Includes a range of medieval through 20th-century women. Examines women's use of their experiences as one source of theologizing.

REL 330 Religion and Sexuality 3
An exploration of the meaning and purpose of human sexuality in the context of Christian (and other) religious faith(s) and in relation to culturally based attitudes. Topics addressed will include body phenomenology, body theology, gender issues, historical developments, sexuality and spirituality, singleness, marriage, friendship, sexual violence, and a variety of other theological, ethical and relational issues. The course draws extensively on feminist models, themes and authors.

REL 374 Congregational Ministries 3
This pre-seminary course will introduce students to the basic contours of Christian congregational ministries: public ministry (preaching, worship leading, etc.), pastoral care, church administration, and service in the broader community. Attention also will be paid to leaders' own spiritual development, the power of pastoral ministry and its attendant risks, the dangers of transference and counter-transference in counseling relationships, and the sociological dynamics and functions of religious institutions. Designed for those considering active involvement in pastoral ministries.

REL 402 Christianity & Modern Thought 3
(Cross-listed from Rel 410) A seminar examining and assessing narrative theology and ethics. An attempt to state faith in meaningful terms by understanding the principles and structures of narrative and habitually using them. This course also serves as the senior seminar for Bible and religion majors, and only seniors are allowed in the course. Participation for non-Bible and religion majors requires the consent of the professor.

REL 405 Spiritual Care and Healing 3
Especially oriented towards the professional caregiver, this course emphasizes the interaction of spiritual factors with physical and emotional ones in the lives of helpers and their clients. Course enrollment includes a commitment to regularly practice one of the classical spiritual disciplines as a source of spiritual renewal and healing.

REL 409 Religion Internship 3 (1-3)
Approved intern or work experience related to studies in religion. Examples are Ministry Inquiry Program, supervised work in campus ministries, church agencies, chaplaincy or congregational programs.

REL 410 Religion Senior Seminar 3
Advanced work in principles and problems of religious studies through the examination and assessment of narrative theology and ethics. Constant attention is given to meaningful articulation of faith. (See Rel 402, Christianity and Modern Thought).

REL 411 Senior Thesis 3
This course will meet as a regularly scheduled course. Students will develop a research project based upon material with which they have worked in an earlier Bible or Religion course. One professor will supervise all the students registered in the course. Assistance may be solicited from other professors with more expertise in an area. Students will work at an advanced level using principles and methods of research and situate their work within the context of the story of Religion and Christian faith. Students will polish their composition and oral presentation skills.

Philosophy courses

PHIL 200 Introduction to Philosophy 3
An introduction to the major problems of philosophy such as the nature of knowledge and reality, the relation of faith and reason, moral reasoning, politics and aesthetics. Discussion of the problems is driven by self-examination of each student's reasoned ideas and the contributions of major philosophers from a variety of traditions.

PHIL 202 Philosophy, Wonder and Existence 3
A recurring issue in philosophy is the relationship between the body and the soul. One approach to this perplexing problem is to separate or dichotomize these two features of human existence, contending that we are fundamentally material beings or most essentially spiritual beings. This course asks students to confront the body/soul question (or mind-body problem) through the careful reading of seminal texts in philosophy, psychology, theology, and literature. Critiquing what Blaise Pascal and Soren Kierkegaard describe as a culture of distraction that avoids metaphysical questions, course readings and assignments invite students to existentially confront and personally engage with central philosophical questions. While interdisciplinary in nature, this course serves as a primary introduction to the field of philosophy through the lens of a salient and enduring issue. A Religious World course in the Goshen Core.

PHIL 203 Living Ethically 3
Living Ethically will focus on ethical decision-making as well as ethical being, drawing on historical and contemporary forms and structures in ethics as well as contemporary applications of ethical frameworks. Students will be encouraged to identify the bases for their own ethical processes and discern whether there is a distinctively Christian/religious way of living ethically, and if so, what the distinguishing characteristics of such living might be. Moral reasoning and character-formation will be addressed as well as both personal and social ethics. A Religious World course in the Goshen Core.

PHIL 204 Environmental Ethics 3
This course will focus on ethical decision-making as well as ethical being, drawing on both ancient and contemporary applications of ethical frameworks. Students will bring their own ethical issues into the course and help shape its basic trajectories. The course will also address questions of vocation/calling, from a religious perspective, and how that notion is related to ethical being. A Religious World course in the Goshen Core.

PHIL 302 Ethics and Morality 3
A study of the nature of moral claims and the bases for ethical principles.The course draws on both moral philosophy and on Christian ethical reflection, addressing the development of character as well as the patterns and methods for both individual and corporate decision-making.

PHIL 307 Asian Thought 3
The main aim of this course is to introduce the student to the questions, methods, goals and character of Asian philosophies and to instill in him or her a sensitivity to the profundity of thought that informs Asian history and culture.

PHIL 310 Topics in Philosophy 3
Study in specific areas of philosophic thought such as ancient/medieval, logic, modern philosophy, theory of knowledge, theory and problems of reality.

PHIL 400 Individual Readings in Philosophy 3 (1-3)
Students take initiative to develop a plan with a department faculty member. By consent of the faculty member only.