Academic Study of Religion

Lesson Objectives

• Appreciate the way religion is taught in a public school setting

• Understand the difference between a Theologian and a Scholar

• Understand the evolution of Religious Studies (Comparative to Functionalist)

Key Terms

Normative/Descriptive distinction

Theologian (c.f. "Confessional Theology")

Scholar of Religion (c.f. "Religious Studies")



Religion in a Public School Setting

The Theologian & the Scholar

• A theogian does religion. A scholar studies religion.

• A theologian picks sides; a scholar does not.

• A scholar is interested in historical, philosophical, and sociological reasons

why a theologian or religious group makes a claim

• Not whether the theologian or religious group is right

Why Scholarship doesn’t compete with Theology (3 min vid)

• Different approaches with different goals

• Theology: shares personal beliefs as “Truth”

• Scholarship: shares peer-reviewed scholarship; makes no claims to “Truth”

• They appeal to different audiences (i.e. student vs congregant)

What does a Scholar of Religion do?

• Contextualize a social group's origins, texts, and claims

• Compare claims of a social group with the historical record

• Critique social power structures and how they are used

• Analyze the ways social groups perceive and simplify complex social problems • Resist social forces that aim to make religious authorities unquestionable