THEO 331: Christian Understanding of God

by Father Thomas Dowd

Course outline

This course outline is also as a PDF document.

Lectures: Wednesday, 6:00 pm to 8:15 pm, H-629

Instructor: Fr. Thomas Dowd, (514) 925-4300 x260, dowd@hotmail.com

Office hours: By appointment only.

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

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

Stuff to know for the final document now available!

Final exam date, time and location: Wednesday, April 29, 7 pm to 9pm, H-607

Study day at Tim Hortons (corner of Guy and deMaisonneuve), Monday April 20, 10am to 4pm


Course description

This course is the exploration of God as ultimate reality in Christian history, and in the context of contemporary issues such as world religions, gender, and new forms of language about God. 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 broad survey of different viewpoints in order that each student might come to a more complete understanding of different Christian theological viewpoints about God through history and across denominational lines.

Rather than simply provide a text, this course will follow a special methodology. Each week the professor will lecture on a set of topics as found in the calendar below. These lectures will be recorded, and the audio recordings (along with any visual materials) will be posted to a special course website. The students may refer to these materials in the preparation of their exams.


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.

January 7 — Clarification of terms: “Christian” and “understanding”; A survey of theological “isms”

January 14 — Atheism, agnosticism, fideism and faith; The attributes of God knowable to reason alone

January 21 — Roots: the Hebrew understanding of God

January 28 — The revelation of God in Jesus: incarnation and pneumatology

February 4 — The articulation of classical theism: early church councils

February 11 — The development of classical theism: middle ages + renaissance

February 18 — Mid-term exam (50%)

February 25 — READING WEEK

March 4 — Responses to classical theism: Enlightenment to today

March 11 — Outstanding issues: God and time, feminist critiques, pluralism

March 18 — Christianity and Islam on God

March 25 — The Christian understanding of God: who God is

April 1 — The Christian understanding of God: how God acts

April 8 — The Christian understanding of God: how we relate to God