Student Information

References and Resources

Course Syllabi for Fall 2020 - Coming August 2020

Academic and Theological Studies

There are two distinctly different methods of teaching religion in colleges and universities today. The academic approach is taught in public colleges and universities and emphasizes a tolerant but detached attitude toward the world’s religions. Many kinds of questions are explored, such as: “What do people believe and practice? How have their beliefs and practices changed over time? What texts do they regard as sacred and authoritative, and why are some texts deemed canonical while others are regarded as heretical? How do the ‘insiders’ of one religion view ‘outsiders’ from other religious traditions?” The approach is interdisciplinary, historical and comparative and it underscores the value in understanding many different religious perspectives.

The theological approach is found in seminaries and other schools with religious affiliations. A theological approach is often used in training students for careers in religion. It is a faith-oriented approach that asks different types of questions: “Which religion do I believe to be right or why is another religion inappropriate for me? Is there a religion that is right for all people? What is the proper moral approach to a positive religious life in my faith?”  This type of education supports a particular religious perspective and argues in support of the validity of faith claims. It speaks primarily to others who share similar religious commitments.

The Department of Religious Studies at the College of Charleston follows the academic rather than the theological style of teaching. Faculty here take a sympathetic and yet properly critical approach to all religious traditions and present them as both interesting and provocative. For more on the academic study of religion, see Why Study Religion?

Graduate School in Religious Studies or Divinity Schools