Loma Linda University

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T. Richard Rice, PhD
Professor, Religion -Theological Studies
School of Religion
Member, Religion, SR, Faculty of Graduate Studies
Other LLU Classes Outside Of Schedule 
Interactive Teaching
 
10/2014

RELT 557 Theology of Human Suffering


Course introduction  Suffering is arguably the most profound and persistent problem that human beings face.  On one level, suffering is a simple fact of life.  Every organism on this planet faces pain, loss and death as part of its finite existence.  On an intellectual level, however, suffering raises perplexing questions.  If it is perfectly natural to suffer, why are we so disturbed when suffering comes to us?  Why do we feel violated when we suffer?  Why does suffering threaten the meaning of life?  And why do we feel a sense of outrage when others suffer?  Furthermore, why is suffering so unevenly distributed?  Why do some people suffer so much more than others?  Suffering poses particular challenges to people who believe in God.  It is far and away the most formidable obstacle to religious faith.  As is often said, suffering is the rock on which atheism rests.  Philosophers question the compatibility of suffering with the attributes of God.  If God is perfect in power and goodness, there is no logical way to account for it.  A good God would want to eradicate evil; an all-powerful God would be able to do so.  So, why does anyone suffer?  Theologians face additional questions about suffering. Why would God allow suffering in the world he created?  What purpose does it serve?  And why did Jesus have to suffer?  What was the meaning of his death?  The greatest challenges suffering brings us, of course, are personal rather than intellectual.  How can we live resourcefully and creatively in a world where suffering abounds?  How can we face our own suffering?  And what can we do to help others who suffer?

 

Course description  In this course we will approach suffering as both an intellectual and a personal challenge. We will examine it from the perspectives of philosophy, theology, and religion.  Ideally, by the end of the quarter we will appreciate more fully how complex and profound the problem of suffering is, and we will be equipped to face suffering—both our own suffering and the suffering of others—more courageously and resourcefully.  The following activities will help us achieve these objectives.

10/2014

RELT 617 Seminar in Religion and the Sciences


Course introduction: Religion is one of the most persistent and pervasive features of human experience.There has never been a culture without it. Religion typically expresses our most fundamental convictions and strongest motivations. It embodies our most ancient traditions, affirms our deepest values, quells our darkest fears, and fuels our highest aspirations.  In one way or another religion touches everything that it means to be human.  Science is one of the most powerful influences in the modern world.  Its success as a means of acquiring knowledge is stunning.  Its application has given us unparalleled mastery of our environment, enabling us to combat disease, and enriching and prolonging our lives. 

 

As the academic study of religion has grown over the past fifty years, the relationship between religion and science has developed into a discipline of its own, actually, into a variety of disciplines. Scholars in the natural sciences often come to conclusions that have serious implications for religion. Some take the position that science is not only a proven avenue to truth, but the only reliable source of truth.  As they see it, all other paths are tenuous at best, superficial and suspect at worst. Accordingly, science raises important questions about religion. What is the relation between religious convictions and scientific conclusions?  In what sense, if any, does religion provide knowledge? Scholars in the human sciences have questions about religion, too. While they recognize religion as a pervasive aspect of human experience, they hold widely divergent views as to what its function is and whether its effects on human experience are positive or negative. For some of them, religion is a valuable resource. For others, religion is a source of serious problems.

 

Not all the important questions come from science to religion. Religion raises pressing questions about science as well. Is scientific truth the only truth there is? Is the world accessible to scientific inquiry all there is to reality? Do scientific portrayals of the human do justice to the full range of our existence? And then there is the nagging question about the technological fruits of science. Are they an unmitigated blessing? For virtually everyone, then, the relation between religion and the sciences raises questions that beg to be answered. These questions are important for people who are serious about either religion or science; they are inescapable for people who are serious about both.

 

The relation between science and religion is more than an interdisciplinary question. For people, it is an important personal question. Can people with religious convictions embrace the methods and results of science? Can people with scientific expertise appreciate religion? For scholars who are also religious believers, the relation of science and religion thus poses questions on two interrelated levels.  One involves the way(s) they approach truth; the other concerns the beliefs they hold. How does one’s scientific work affect one’s approach to truth and the conclusions to which this approach leads? What impact do one’s religious beliefs have on one’s scientific work?

Course Description: This course will explore different ways of conceiving the relation between religion and various branches of scientific inquiry (hence, the title “religion and the sciences”). It will examine the interface between both religion and the natural sciences and religion and the human sciences. And it will approach the relation of science and religion as both an academic concern and a personal spiritual challenge. It will involve scholars from a variety of disciplines who have considered the relation between religion and scientific inquiry from both academic and personal perspectives.  Their presentations are designed to introduce students to the ways in which scientists from different disciplines pursue their work and the way they address the multi-faceted relationship between their scientific endeavors and religion.

 

The class will consist of a series of weekly discussions. A typical class meeting will begin with a presentation in which a senior scholar discusses the method(s) employed by the discipline he or she represents, the questions this discipline poses to religion, the sort of questions religion poses for it, and the impact of these questions on his/her own religious perspective.  Scientific knowledge raises a number of ethical questions, particularly in relation to the health sciences, so lecturers are encouraged to address these issues, too.

 

After the presentation, students from the class will initiate discussion by responding to the presenter’s remarks with questions and reflections of their own.  General discussion will follow. The evening will conclude with comments from the instructors. The tasks of the instructors are to facilitate discussion, to keep both sides of the issue (religion and science) “in play”; and to keep the conversation on track from week to week—showing how each week’s discussion contributes to the overall task of formulating a perspective on the general issues involving religion and science.

 

The basic purpose of the course is to help students to develop their own approach to religion and science issues. Students will complete two exercises designed to promote this objective: a class presentation related to an aspect of their academic concentration that raises religious and ethical issues, and a personal statement describing their approach to the relation between religion and science. The course as a whole presupposes a general familiarity with the Christian tradition, but students with various religious backgrounds and varying attitudes toward religion are welcome.

10/2014

RELT 707 Medicine, Humanity, and God


Course introduction. Behind Loma Linda University’s commitment to the health sciences stands a powerful religious vision. Seventh-day Adventists are a worldwide community of over 17 million members, more than ninety percent of whom live outside North America. The Church operates schools and hospitals in many different countries. Loma Linda University Health includes one of the church’s largest hospitals and, one of its largest educational institutions. Together, they reflect Adventists’ dual interest in health care and education, and they embody several important elements in the Adventist spirit—a commitment to excellence in all human endeavors, the conviction that physical and spiritual health go together, and the belief that knowledge finds its highest value in serving humanity.

The purpose of Medicine, Humanity, and God is to develop a Christian view of the practice of medicine. Since medicine is one of the healing arts, this calls for a theology of healing. And since a theology of healing rests on a Christian understanding of humanity, it also calls for a comprehensive perspective on human existence. Basic to the Christian view of humanity are the biblical notions of creation, sin and salvation—terms that correspond to concepts important to medicine—health, illness, and healing.

Health is the ideal state of human existence. A perfectly healthy person is everything a human being was meant to be. Everything essential to humanity is present to its fullest degree, and all aspects of human nature are perfectly arranged. Health is therefore the “original” condition of human existence and the ultimate goal of the healing process. Illness, sickness, and disease refer to the loss of health that all humans experience in varying degrees.  Depending on the way we define health, its loss has fragmenting, corrosive, diminishing, distorting, alienating effects.  Illness makes us less than we are meant to be.  It weakens the dimensions of our existence; it compromises our integrity.  It interferes with the relationships that are essential for human life, isolating the aspects of our existence that belong together. Healing aims at health.  It is the process of counteracting illness, mitigating its effects, and restoring or recovering our essential wholeness, including its physical dimension.  In their respective ways, the various healing sciences, including medicine, promote the recovery of the comprehensive, high-level wholeness that health involves. 

 

Course description.  The School of Religion in general commits itself to the goal of helping students in every religion course to: (1) Demonstrate knowledge and competent use of scripture. (2) Show understanding of Christian theology and history, with specific attention to Seventh-day Adventist life and thought. (3) Explain the interaction between ethics and religious commitments and beliefs. (4) Explore the ways in which faith relates to personal wholeness, professional practice, and witness. (5) Describe ways in which moral advocacy can shape society. 

 

In addition, this particular course approaches healing as a theological and professional concern. It promotes the view that medicine is a manifestation of God’s saving work in the world, is exemplified supremely in the ministry of Christ, and is central to the mission of the church. It encourages prospective physicians to see medicine as a religious calling and to foster hope and healing in their patients. Ideally, by the end of the quarter students will appreciate more fully the spiritual dimensions of illness and health and face the challenge of healing resourcefully.

10/2014 RELT 406 Sevent-day Adventist Beliefs and Life

Course introduction Every religious community has a unique and typically complex story to tell.  The Seventh-day Adventist Church had its beginnings in a mid-nineteenth century religious revival in the northeastern United States. It is now a world-wide community of more than 17 million members, over 90 percent of whom live outside North America. The SDA church has schools and hospitals in many different countries, and it operates the largest unified private educational system in the world. Loma Linda University was founded in 1905 as the College of Medical Evangelists.  It reflects the church’s commitment to both health care and education, and it embodies several important elements in the Adventist spirit—a desire to serve, a conviction that physical and spiritual health go together, and a commitment to excellence in all human endeavors. One purpose of this class is to reflect on these and other features of the Adventist community. Another objective of the class is to invite you to reflect on your own religious perspective. Religion deals with the central strands of our existence, so this class provides you the opportunity to reflect on the central story of your life, the beliefs and values that form your identity.

 

Course description  The specific purpose of this course is to review some of central aspects of Adventism, especially the doctrinal convictions and ethical commitments that shape the Adventist experience.  The two elements are closely related. Beliefs and values interact and come to expression in attitudes and actions.  By the end of the quarter you should have a good idea of the central dynamic that drives Adventism, both as a religious movement and as a personal way of life.
10/2014 RELT 539 God and Man

Course introduction

Who and what is God? Who and what are we? These questions are not only important, perhaps the most important questions we could ever ask, they are intimately related. In fact, many people see them as different aspects of the same comprehensive question. To ask about God is to ask about the essential meaning of human life; and probing the depths of human existence inevitably leads to the question of God.

This view of things appears in the famous opening of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.  “Nearly all the wisdom we possess … consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But, while joined by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern. In the first place, no one can look upon himself without immediately turning his thoughts to the contemplation of God, in whom he ‘lives and moves.’” Conversely, “it is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself.”

The expression, “Christian understanding of God and humanity,” therefore refers, not to two different themes, but to two facets of one fundamental theme, namely, the essential nature of reality and the place of humanity within it as seen from a Christian perspective. The qualification is important. Jesus Christ occupies the center of Christian faith, and in their attempts to grasp and express his significance, Christians came to see Jesus as an unparalleled union of the human and divine. Since the Christian community views Jesus Christ as the key to truth, our approach to the twin topics of God and humanity will be guided by the community’s confidence in him.

 

Course description.

The purpose of the course is to examine these essential aspects of religion through the lens of Christian faith. Though a graduate course in religion, it does not presuppose any specialized training in theological study. Rather, its approach to the major issues surrounding God and humanity is accessible to any reasonable, thoughtful inquirer. And it will focus on the most basic features of these aspects of these topics.

Over the course of many centuries, Christians have come to view God as the embodiment of various essential attributes, such as eternity, immutability, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, wisdom, holiness and goodness. They also describe God with reference to actions like creation and providence. Though highly influential, this approach to God does not, in the view of many, adequately reflect the biblical portrait of God. So, while noting the concerns of classical theism, we will also work toward a perspective of our own.

The Christian understanding of humanity has developed considerably over time, particularly in response to the rise of various scientific approaches to human life and behavior. Another purpose of the course is to bring modern views of the human into conversation with central elements in the biblical view, such as creature, image of God, and sin, along with related ideas like sexuality, community, and mortality.

Along with increased understanding of these two important themes, this course also pursues two other objectives. It promotes an appreciation for theological reflection—the thoughtful analysis of religious convictions. And it also invites students to reflect on their own religious perspective.  Because religion deals with the central strands of our common existence, a class like this provides an opportunity for you to consider the central story of your life, the beliefs and values that shape your identity.

10/2014 RELT 615 Seminar in Philosophy of Religion

Course introduction.  The School of Religion in general commits itself to the goal of helping students in every religion course to: (1) Demonstrate knowledge and competent use of scripture. (2) Show understanding of Christian theology and history, with specific attention to Seventh-day Adventist life and thought. (3) Explain the interaction between ethics and religious commitments and beliefs. (4) Explore the ways in which faith relates to personal wholeness, professional practice, and witness. (5) Describe ways in which moral advocacy can shape society. 

 

Course description. Religion is one of the most persistent and pervasive features of human experience.It embodies our most ancient traditions and expresses our deepest values.  Philosophy is the quest for rational understanding.  It subjects our beliefs and experiences to careful scrutiny and supports its conclusions by appealing to evidence and developing carefully constructed arguments.  Philosophy of religion examines religious phenomena—beliefs, practices and experiences—from a philosophical perspective.

10/2014 RELT 716 God and Human Suffering
Course Introduction
The experience of suffering is arguably the most profound and persistent problem that physicians face. Behind every illness there is a suffering person, and behind a suffering person there is often a suffering family. Consequently, every physician faces questions like these: How can I treat the sufferer(s) as well as the illness? What can I do to relieve suffering when clinical efforts reach the limits of human knowledge and the limits of human nature?

 

Suffering is also a challenge for medical professionals because it is a universal experience. (a) On one level, suffering is a simple fact of life.  Every organism on this planet faces pain, loss and death as part of its finite existence. (b) On an intellectual level suffering raises perplexing questions.  If it is perfectly natural to suffer, why are we so disturbed when suffering comes to us?  Why do we feel violated when we suffer? Why do we feel outrage when others suffer? (c) Suffering poses particular challenges to people who believe in God.  It is far and away the most formidable obstacle to faith—“the rock on which atheism rests.”  (d) Philosophers question the relation of suffering to God.  If God is perfect in power and goodness, there seems to be no explanation for suffering.  A good God would want to eradicate suffering and an all-powerful God would be able to do so.  So, why does anyone suffer? Why is suffering so unevenly distributed? (e) Theologians face additional questions about suffering. Why does God allow suffering in the world he created?  What purpose does it serve?  And why did Jesus have to suffer?  What was the meaning of his death?  (f) The greatest challenges suffering brings are personal rather than intellectual. How can we live resourcefully and creatively in a world where suffering abounds?  How can we face our own suffering?  And what can we do to help others who suffer?

 

Course description The School of Religion in general commits itself to the goal of helping students in every religion course to: (1) Demonstrate knowledge and competent use of scripture. (2) Show understanding of Christian theology and history, with specific attention to Seventh-day Adventist life and thought. (3) Explain the interaction between ethics and religious commitments and beliefs. (4) Explore the ways in which faith relates to personal wholeness, professional practice, and witness. (5) Describe ways in which moral advocacy can shape society.

 

In addition, this course invites prospective physicians to confront the dark reality of suffering and learn to foster hope and healing in their patients.  The basic framework of the course is Christian faith, which presents God’s love as the essential resource for meeting the personal and intellectual challenges that suffering brings. Ideally, the course will help students appreciate more fully the complexity and profundity of the problem of suffering, and face the experience of suffering courageously and resourcefully.
Administrative Teaching Roles
 
5/2006 Doctrine of God
A review of the current discussion around the openness of God and related issues.