Department of Religious Studies
Fostering global citizenship through the study of the ideas & practices, power & impact of religion in our world.

Our Mission

The Religious Studies Department offers a major designed to address some of the most interesting and compelling issues in human life and to foster global citizenship through interreligious literacy and an interdisciplinary understanding of religion’s power and impact in our world. Courses in religious studies examine the histories, texts and traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, and indigenous and new religions.  Courses explore diverse understandings of the nature of reality, the meaning of life and death, and the relationship of faith and reason, as well as contemporary challenges of social justice, war and peace, the environmental crisis, medical ethics, human rights and globalization. In this global and interdisciplinary study of the religions of the world, the department reflects the broad ecumenical and pluralist interests of the Disciples of Christ, the founding denomination of the university.

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»Welcome to Religious Studies

Religious StudiesReligions address some of the most interesting and compelling questions in human life:

  • What is the nature of the world, of time and reality?
  • What is the true nature of human beings?
  • Why are we here, and how should we then live?
  • Who are we as a people, and who do we want to be? 

The study of religion explores human understandings of these key issues from diverse places and cultures as they develop across changing circumstances and in encounter with each other. A key feature of the identities of individuals and communities, religions have tremendous power and impact on our personal lives and our local, national and global communities.  With their divergent worldviews, moral codes, and conceptions of the life’s meaning and purpose and the crucial roles religion plays in history, politics, law, the arts and so much more, understanding religion and developing interreligious literacy is an essential requirement for living productive and ethical lives as global citizens in our world today.

TorahThe Religious Studies Department at Chapman University offers courses that are global in scope and cover a broad range of religious traditions and contemporary ethical issues.  Courses explore not only diverse understandings of the nature of reality, the meaning of life and death, and the relationship of faith and reason but also how we might address contemporary challenges of social justice, war and peace, the environmental crisis, medical ethics, human rights and globalization. The study of religion is necessarily interdisciplinary, employing methods from textual studies and archeology to philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, sociology, economics, literary theory, and more, to analyze religious phenomena, ideas, practices and texts.  In this global and interdisciplinary study of the religions of the world, the department reflects the broad ecumenical and pluralistic interest of the Disciples of Christ, the founding denomination of the university.

A religious studies major is excellent preparation for graduate studies in a variety of fields, with religious studies majors consistently scoring among the highest on the analytic sections of graduate entrance exams like the GRE and LSAT. Our graduates have embarked on such careers as teaching, research, ministry, medicine, law, government, business, and journalism. Whatever your future holds, knowledge of religion will enhance your understanding of contemporary politics, history, art, culture, and so much more.  And whether you become a health professional or a teacher, a lawyer or a psychologist, an international business person or a politician, interreligious literacy will be an invaluable asset to you and to your future employers.

+-Christ and the Cosoms, The Great Debate and 2016 Griset Lecturer Keith Ward


Wards BookPublic Lecture:  “Christ and the Cosmos”
February 29, 2016
Wallace All-Faiths Chapel
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Drawing on the resources of Indian religious thought and Western Idealism, this lecture will seek to provide a new and illuminating way for Christians to see Christ in the light of new scientific knowledge about the size and age of the cosmos.



ShermerPublic Lecture:  “Has Science Made God Obsolete?: The Great Debate”
March 7, 2016
Memorial Hall
7:30 p.m.

You’re invited to a special evening with Dr. Keith Ward vs. Dr. Michael Shermer





Keith WardGriset Lecturer 2016:  Keith Ward

The Religious Studies Department is very pleased to have British theologian, philosopher, and priest in the Church of England, Keith Ward, as this year’s Griset Lecturer in Christian Ethics. Prof. Ward is a fellow of the British Academy and Emeritus Regius Professor of Divinity at Christ Church, Oxford University.  He has written extensively on science and religion and on comparative theology and ethics, having published more than 40 books and delivered distinguished lectures around the world, and is regularly interviewed on the BBC. 

Learn more about Prof. Ward, can get a taste of his lecture style, and watch this series of lectures he delivered at Gresham College.

Rel 329 “Science and Religion: The Great Debate.”

Students have the extraordinary opportunity to take a one-unit 3 week seminar course with Prof. Ward Rel 329 “Science and Religion: The Great Debate.” Though he is exceedingly well published on this topic, he will be delivering a brand new set of lectures at Chapman, incorporating his latest thinking on topics such as cosmology and creation, evolution and the meaning of the universe, miracles and the explanatory power of science, consciousness and death, and much more. Course details.

+-The Griset Chair in Bible and Christian Tradition

The Griset Chair in Bible and Christian Tradition was the first endowed chair at Chapman University, established in 1984 in the name of Belle Griset, whose son Francis Griset served as a Chapman Trustee for many years. This Chair was held formerly by our esteemed colleague Prof. Marvin Meyer until his untimely passing in 2012.  Now as a visiting position, this Chair allows Chapman students the unique opportunity to take courses with leading biblical scholars from around the world.

CALL FOR NOMINATIONS!

2014-2015 Visiting Chair
Donald A. Hagner

HagnerProf. Hagner is George Eldon Ladd Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Fuller Seminary and has had a long and distinguished career in New Testament Studies with an extensive list of publications on a wider range of topics, including acclaimed commentaries on Hebrews and Matthew and his comprehensive The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction(2012). He has delivered a number of distinguished named lectures, his international reputation affirmed by the many awards he has received and the considerable time he has spent at Cambridge University as well as the University of Tubingen, the Pontifical Institute, and other universities in Sweden, France, Australia, Germany, Singapore, and Italy over the years. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Manchester, England.

2015-2016 Visiting Chair:
Prof. Lee Martin McDonald

McDonaldAn internationally renowned New Testament scholar, Dr. McDonald has written or edited 27 books and more than a 150 refereed articles and essays in prominent journals and major academic publications. Six of his books focus on the origins of the Bible, one of which has become a standard textbook for graduate and doctoral students in many academic institutions across the USA, Canada, and Europe. He is president emeritus of the Acadia Divinity College, the graduate school of theology at Acadia University, and dean of its faculty of theology in Nova Scotia, Canada. The past president of the Institute for Biblical Research, Dr. McDonald holds academic degrees from Harvard University and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

+-Faculty

Religious studies faculty at the faculty research fairThe Religious Studies Faculty members are dedicated teacher-scholars engaged in cutting edge research in their fields, who bring that expertise into the classroom.  Nationally and internationally recognized for their scholarship and award-winning teachers, religious studies faculty members include the Director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education, the Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute, the Dean of the Wallace All-Faiths Chapel, and the holders of the Visiting Griset Chair in Bible and Christian Studies and the Stern Chair in Holocaust Education. Meet our faculty.

+-Academic Requirements

The requirements for the Religious Studies programs are designed to be flexible and can be tailored to each student’s individual interests and personal and professional goals.  The major is streamlined to facilitate students’ double-majoring or minoring in a second field. Requirements for the major and minor include foundation courses introducing students to the study of religion and the religions of the world; the junior-senior seminar, and electives selected from three areas:

  • Scriptures and traditions
  • Philosophy and theology
  • Religion, ethics and society

Majors also select an individualized area of concentration, working closely with faculty advisors and culminating in a capstone research project.

Learn more about specific academic programs.

+-Our Graduates

A Religious Studies Major is excellent preparation for graduate studies in a variety of fields, with religious studies majors consistently scoring among the highest on the analytic sections of graduate entrance exams like the GRE and LSAT. Our graduates have gone on to graduate study at prestigious universities and programs and embarked on such careers as teaching, research, ministry, clinical psychology, medicine, law, government, business, and journalism.

Whatever your future holds, knowledge of religion will enhance your understanding of contemporary politics, history, art, culture, and so much more.  And whether you become a health professional or a teacher, a lawyer or a psychologist, an international business person or a politician, interreligious literacy will be an invaluable asset to you and to your future employers.  

Chapman University Alumni Site