Develop and expand knowledge and understanding of Christian tradition through biblical studies, history, theology, and ethics.
About the Major
The Christianity major gives students the opportunity to explore the Christian tradition – and religion, in general – within the context of the Liberal Arts tradition so as to enhance personal and professional growth. This tradition gives students the freedom to think for themselves and to be held accountable for what they think. The Roberts Department of Christianity is committed to teaching Christianity in the context of the traditions of Western culture and to modeling Christian scholarship in the context of an historic liberal arts college. The Bachelor of Arts in Christianity provides a broad introduction to the classic disciplines of biblical study, history of Christian traditions, and Christian theology and ethics. The major emphasizes the development of critical reading, critical thinking, and critical expression, both written and oral.
Because of the types of questions asked and the emphasis on critical inquiry, the Christianity major is a popular second major for students interested in other vocational areas.
About the Minor
The Christianity minor includes the Introduction to the Old Testament, Introduction to the New Testament courses and nine additional hours in Christianity courses selected by the student.
Students who maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.75 on courses taken in the department may apply to pursue honors work during their senior year. Applications should be submitted during the spring semester of the junior year or the fall semester of the senior year. Students may be granted honors status following a review of the prospectus by members of the department. As part of the prospectus the student should request a member of the project to serve as "director." Members of the department will agree upon two additional members who will serve with the director as the honors committee. The honors project director and two other named faculty members will also serve as the oral review committee at the completion of the project.
Outreach and Engaged Learning
The department sponsors and supports the nationally-recognized honor society for the study of religion, Theta Alpha Kappa. Each year outstanding Christianity students are tapped for membership. The officers lead in planning successful annual events like Reformation week and the "I've Been Thinking" lectures.
Engaged learning happens in a variety of ways in the department. Faculty members have led summer Mercer On Mission trips to Brazil, Greece, Israel, and Liberia. Dr. Scott Nash has led an archaeological course in Greece many summers. During the regular semester, Dr. Paul Lewis incorporates service learning in his Christian Ethics in America course. In addition, he often takes students to Koinonia Farm in Americus, GA, which was founded in 1942 as an interracial community devoted to nonviolence. In the Baptist Traditions course, students dive into archival work and conduct oral history projects. The Eastern Religions, Western Religions, and Christianity in America courses are all known for incorporating site visits to different places of worship and guest visits from adherents of different traditions.
Students have the opportunity to participate in a Directed Independent Research course which includes a selection of problem area or project, survey of relevant literature, research, and a formal report of findings. The Senior Colloquium is a course of readings and discussion based upon topics selected by members of the department and essays prepared by senior-level majors in the department, under the direction of a member of the department. The Christianity departmental honors process is seen as one of the most rigorous within the College of Liberal Arts with students producing what might be the equivalent of a Master's thesis. Some recent honors projects have dealt with Lutheran and Catholic understandings of Justification by Faith, Sin in the works of Flannery O'Connor, and Christian Responses to Immigration.
In the Classroom
Students say they love the "family atmosphere" of the department. Professors are available to talk about course work but also about life and faith. Perhaps it is because of the common meal at the heart of Christian worship, but this is a department that feeds its students! Dr. Whitfield's students are unlikely to forget Passover Seders at his house. Dr. Wilson always hosts the junior and senior colloquium for lunch at his house during the "final exam." Other professors host meals for their classes at different times in the semester. After students have left Mercer, Christianity professors still keep in touch and nurture the relationships developed during the undergraduate study. Many have benefitted from the faculty's commitment to helping them figure out "what's next" for them.
Introductory classes usually host 25 to 30 students per section. Upper level courses may range from three people in the Advanced Greek Reading group to 30 in the popular elective courses like Christianity in America. Most, however, average around 18 students in a class.
Many Christianity majors go on to seminary and receive professional training for ministry. Some majors use the Bachelor's degree as the first step toward academic graduate study with a goal of teaching in a university or seminary setting. Others go on to academic graduate studies in various fields, including:
- Foreign or ancient languages
Christianity majors also go on to professional graduate studies in law or medicine or go directly into parish ministries or enter the work force.