Although I have taught a variety of courses with different objectives in mind, there are some general goals that may be found in every class that I teach. One of my main aims for my students is to have a foundational understanding of the substance of the religion in question. For example, by the end of the quarter of my class “Christians in the World,” I want my students to be able to articulate some of the main differences between Catholics and Protestants. However, I do not want my students simply to be able to know the “who, what, when, where, why and how.” I also want them also to be able to answer—what I like to call—the “so what” question. In this case: what is the significance of the differences between Catholics and Protestants?
Second, I want our discussions to prompt my students to think about the great questions of life: how do we know what we know? What is evil? Do we have free will? What are the limits of language?
I often hear students, in one way or another, call into question the importance of metaphysics. They do not see how such issues are important for everyday life. The third goal, then, is for my students to realize why theological questions are paramount. I tell them that “how you think about the world shapes how you act in the world.”