The full report is available in PDF format at: http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~secfas/Gen_Ed_Prelim_Report.htm
Here is an excerpt:
4. Reason and Faith Religion is a fact of twenty-first-century life—around the world and right at home. Ninety-four percent of Harvard’s incoming students report that they discuss religion “frequently” or “occasionally,” and seventy-one percent say that they attend religious services. When they get to college, students often struggle—sometimes for the first time in their lives—to sort out the relationship between their own beliefs and practices, the different beliefs and practices of fellow students, and the profoundly secular and intellectual world of the academy itself.
Beyond these private struggles, religion is realpolitik, both nationally and internationally. Wars are fought around the world in the name of religion. Increasingly, policy makers understand that success in international affairs depends on appreciating the role that religion plays in many societies. Here at home, the United States is experiencing a cultural and political tension over religious issues that erupts in debates about the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, the display of the Ten Commandments on government property, school prayer, and same-sex marriage. Religious beliefs are also shaping vigorous debates concerning issues in science and medicine, such as evolutionary theory, stem-cell research, and abortion. These debates are not simply debates about morality or public policy. They also purport to be debates about the facts. A recent Science article reports that one third of American adults firmly reject the idea of human evolution (a number significantly higher than in European countries and Japan), and the rejection appears to b tied to religious conservatism. The boundary between the secular and non-secular today is confusing and highly fraught.
Harvard is no longer an institution with a religious mission, but religion is a fact that Harvard’s graduates will confront in their lives both in and after college. We therefore require students to take one course in a category entitled Reason and Faith. Let us be clear. Courses in Reason and Faith are not religious apologetics. They are courses that examine the interplay between religion and various aspects of national and/or international culture and society. Moreover, these courses do not center on ethics per se. At the conclusion of taking a course in The Ethical Life area, students will appreciate the nature of moral dilemmas and understand principled ways to grapple with them. In contrast, at the conclusion of taking a course in the Reason and Faith area, students will appreciate the role of religion in contemporary, historical, or future events – personal, cultural, national, or international.
Courses in Reason and Faith can vary widely. They may take up the relationships between politics and religion, science and religion, culture and religion, epistemology and religious faith, and more. They engage with a wide range of topics, from evolutionary theory and intelligent design to comparative religious cultures. These courses are not prescriptive: their aim is to help students understand the interplay between religious and secular institutions, practices, and ideas. They also encourage students to become more selfconscious about their own beliefs and values. By providing them with a fuller understanding of both local and global issues involving religious faith, the courses are intended to help students become more informed and reflective citizens.
Newly developed courses might include:
Religion in Closed Societies. In what ways do religious movements inform personal, ethnic, and political identities in closed and secular political societies? How does that contrast to religious movements that form the basis of closed political societies? Examples include: the Falun Gong movement in Communist China, Judaism in the former Soviet Union, Catholic liberation theology in El Salvador, and the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Religion and Democracy. How does religion function in open and democratic societies? What role does religion play in the contemporary American political landscape, and how does it compare to the role religion plays in other Western industrial democracies. The history of immigration, assimilation, secularization, and religious freedom are examined in the context of the United States post-September 11, the “Muslim” riots in Paris in 2005, the changing role of the Catholic Church, and the increasing influence of religious political parties in Middle Eastern democracies.
Religion and Science. Since the late nineteenth-century, science and religion in the West have been viewed as unlikely bedfellows and incommensurable epistemologies. At the same time, much natural knowledge has been developed in the service of religious beliefs or institutions, and many scientists profess a belief in God in one form or another. Using contemporary and historical examples (“intelligent design” vs. evolution by natural selection, the origins of life on earth, the Scopes Monkey trial, Einstein’s critique of quantum physics, Galileo’s condemnation, etc.), this course will examine the intellectual and philosophical conflicts between science and religion as a form of a shifting culture war between the spiritual and the secular.
The Wars of Religion. From the Hundred-Years War to the contemporary conflicts between militant forms of Islam and the industrialized West, warfare waged on religious grounds has formed the basis of much of world history. This course will examine the modern history of religious warfare, from the end of World War II to the present. Examples include conflicts between Muslims and Jews in the Middle East, Hindu-Muslim tensions in India and Pakistan, the Chinese annexation of Tibet, and the violence in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics.
Medicine, Spirituality, and Religion in Modern America. This course examines the intersections and clashes between medicine and spirituality in the contemporary United States. As Western scientific medicine has become more effective, more expensive, and more reductionist, the rise of “alternative” healing practices has grown dramatically. From Christian Science healing, to the scientific study of the efficacy of prayer, to mind-body practices such as yoga and tai chi, spiritual, non-western, and religious healing modalities have flourished in the last two decades. The course examines the philosophical, social, and cultural bases of beliefs about the body, health, and illness in contemporary America in order to understand the apparent contradiction between the parallel growth of scientific medicine and spiritual healing practices.
Reason and Faith is a category unlike any that Harvard has included in its general education curriculum, but even a casual review of the current course catalogue shows that courses in this area already proliferate. To give just a small sample of courses currently on offer that could be, or be modified to become, a general education course in Reason and Faith: History 1491: Religion and Popular Culture in 19th-Century Europe; Religion 1560: Religion and Society in 20th-Century America; Religion 1550: Religion and American Public Life; Government 90jm: Comparative Constitutionalism: Religion and State; African and Afro-American Studies 192x: Religion and Society in Nigeria; Social Studies 98ic: Why Americans Love God and Europeans Don’t; Human Evolutionary Biology 1355: Darwin Seminar: Evolution and Religion; Ancient Near East 138: The Bible and Politics; Religion 1820: Islam in South Asia: Religion, Culture, and Identity in South Asian Muslim Societies; Historical Studies A-27: Reason and Faith in the West.
Other topics for courses in this area might include: church and state; history of religion in the United States; the politics of religion in medieval Christendom; religion and the academy; philosophical attempt to reconcile faith and reason; gender and religious practices; global Christianity; the Vatican as a religious and secular institution.
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Your comments are welcome!
Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
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Who is the dreaded beast of Revelation?
Now at last, a plausible candidate for this personification of evil incarnate has been identified (or re-identified). Ken Gentry’s insightful analysis of scripture and history is likely to revolutionize your understanding of the book of Revelation — and even more importantly — amplify and energize your entire Christian worldview!
Historical footage and other graphics are used to illustrate the lecture Dr. Gentry presented at the 1999 Ligonier Conference in Orlando, Florida. It is followed by a one-hour question and answer session addressing the key concerns and objections typically raised in response to his position. This presentation also features an introduction that touches on not only the confusion and controversy surrounding this issue — but just why it may well be one of the most significant issues facing the Church today.
Ideal for group meetings, personal Bible study — for anyone who wants to understand the historical context of John’s famous letter “… to the seven churches which are in Asia.” (Revelation 1:4)
Running Time: 145 minutes
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“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981
Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.
The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.
“… a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine
Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese
Running Time: 28 minutes
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“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
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Download the Free Study Guide!
Just what is Calvinism?
Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
Running Time: 257 minutes
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