THEO 201: Introduction to Theological Studies

by Father Thomas Dowd

Course outline

This course outline is also available for download as a PDF document.

Lectures: Monday and Wednesday, 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm, FG-B060 (1616 St Catherine Ouest, SGW)

Instructor: Fr. Thomas Dowd, (514) 925-4300 x260,

Office hours: By appointment only.

Department: Theological Studies, SGW campus, D-annex, (514) 848-2424 ext. 2475

NEW! Stuff to know for the mid-term document now available!

NEW! Stuff to know for the final document now available!

Exam period: Final exam (50%) AUGUST 9, 2010, in class!

Course description

The course introduces the student to the structure, nature and method of theological studies and the relation of these studies to the other sciences. While the course focuses on Christian theology, it does so in a spirit of ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue. The course does not advocate what should be believed, but provides a survey of the philosophical and historical origins of theology in order that each student might come to a better understanding of the impact theology can have in contemporary society and even in their own lives.

The course is divided into two parts. In the first half, the course will examine the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of theology as a genuine intellectual exercise (not necessarily in that order). The second half of the course will be used to examine features of post-modern society and show how theology can and does contribute to some of the issues facing our culture today.

Required texts:

The texts may be purchased from the professor in paper form. Other course notes and announcements, as well as exam preparation materials, may be posted on the web site of the course. Students will be informed in class if such material is available.

Please bring a Bible with you to class (both Old and New Testaments, preferably with Apocrypha).

Workload and assessment

Each student is expected to attend the lectures and is responsible for the material taught during those lectures. Students are highly encouraged to form study groups to be able to complete each others’ lecture notes. The final grade will be determined by two exams, a mid-term and a final (each worth 50%).

The conversion table for converting number grades to letter grades is as follows:

A+ 95-100 B+ 80-84.5 C+ 67-69.5 D+ 57-59.5
A 90-94.5 B 75-79.5 C 63-66.5 D 53-56.5
A- 85-89.5 B- 70-74.5 C- 60-62.5 D- 50-52.5

The failing grades are as follows:

FNS: this is your grade if your total is below 50%; the “NS” refers to the fact that there is no supplemental exam

FNS-DNW: this is your grade if your grade is below 50% and you did not write the final exam (this is the meaning of the DNW)

NR this is your grade if you wrote neither the mid-term nor the final; your grade is therefore zero

Students with disabilities are expected to apply to the Office for Disabled Students should they require special consideration for the course. Students unable to meet the evaluation requirements due to illness or other personal causes should speak with the professor to see if alternate arrangements can be made.

Schedule of topics and exams

Note: the order of these topics may be rearranged by the teacher should this prove necessary. As well, the teacher reserves the right to introduce substitute topics.


June 28 — Presentation of the course

  • Why do theology?
    • definitions: St. Anselm, Bernard Lonergan
  • Who’s who in theology (major contemporary theologians)
  • Audio, part 1
  • Audio, part 2

June 30 — The “what” of theology

July 5 — The “where” and “how” of theology

  • The “where” of theology

    • Major Christian subdivisions
    • East vs. West theology
    • Liberal vs. conservative?
    • The “third church”?
  • “How”: theology as a recipe (sources and methods)
    • The sources of theology (ingredients)
    • The methods of theology (the recipe itself)
  • Audio, part 1
  • Audio, part 2

July 7 — “How”: theology as a recipe (the role of philosophy in theology)

  • the importance of philosophy to theology
  • breakdown of philosophical disciplines
  • historical development of philosophy
  • Audio, part 1
  • Audio, part 2

July 12 — “When”: history of theology (first millennium A.D.)

July 14 — “When”: history of theology (second millennium A.D.)

July 19 — Mid-term exam (50%)


July 21 — Theology and ideology

  • a core religious problem: the mystery of suffering
  • the what, how, and why of suffering
  • cultural reactions to suffering: denial of death
  • responses to the problem: ideology vs. theodicy
  • theology and the pursuit of happiness
  • Audio, part 1
  • Audio, part 2

The next 4 weeks will cover a selection of topics exploring the relationship between theology and culture. We will decide which topics in class, based on student interest. Possibilities include:

July 26 — Theology in a scientific and technological age

July 28 — Theology in a culture of “well-being”

Aug 2 — Theology and feminism

Aug 4 — Theology of the body

theology in a scientific and technological age
theology in a society of plenty
theology and the fine arts
theology in a culture of “well-being”
theology and feminism
theology of the body
theology and the law of the land
theology and history

July 26, 28, August 2, 4 — Topics in theology and culture

August 4 — Course evaluation

August 9 — FINAL EXAM

  • pursuing further studies in theology
  • theology and career opportunities
  • finding your vocation
  • review for the final (time permitting)