• Department of Religious Studies Students and Faculty
Department of Religious Studies

Understanding religion is an essential requirement for living productive and ethical lives.

» Welcome to Religious Studies

Religions address some of the most interesting and compelling questions in human life:

  • What is the nature of the world, of time and reality?
  • What is the true nature of human beings?
  • Why are we here, and how should we then live?
  • Who are we as a people, and who do we want to be? 

Religious statue The study of religion explores human understandings of these key issues from diverse places and cultures as they develop across changing circumstances and in encounter with each other. A key feature of the identities of individuals and communities, religions have tremendous power and impact on our personal lives and our local, national and global communities.  With their divergent worldviews, moral codes, and conceptions of the life’s meaning and purpose and the crucial roles religion plays in history, politics, law, the arts and so much more, understanding religion and developing interreligious literacy is an essential requirement for living productive and ethical lives as global citizens in our world today.

The Religious Studies Department at Chapman University offers courses that are global in scope and cover a broad range of religious traditions and contemporary ethical issues.  Courses explore not only diverse understandings of the nature of reality, the meaning of life and death, and the relationship of faith and reason but also how we might address contemporary challenges of social justice, war and peace, the environmental crisis, medical ethics, human rights and globalization. The study of religion is necessarily interdisciplinary, employing methods from textual studies and archeology to philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, sociology, economics, literary theory, and more, to analyze religious phenomena, ideas, practices and texts.  In this global and interdisciplinary study of the religions of the world, the department reflects the broad ecumenical and pluralistic interest of the Disciples of Christ, the founding denomination of the university.

About Us

Student abroad with a group of childrenA religious studies major is excellent preparation for graduate studies in a variety of fields, with religious studies majors consistently scoring among the highest on the analytic sections of graduate entrance exams like the GRE and LSAT. Our graduates have embarked on such careers as teaching, research, ministry, medicine, law, government, business, and journalism. Whatever your future holds, knowledge of religion will enhance your understanding of contemporary politics, history, art, culture, and so much more.  And whether you become a health professional or a teacher, a lawyer or a psychologist, an international business person or a politician, interreligious literacy will be an invaluable asset to you and to your future employers.

+ - The Griset Chair in Bible and Christian Tradition

The Griset Chair in Bible and Christian Tradition was the first endowed chair at Chapman University, established in 1984 in the name of Belle Griset, whose son Francis Griset served as a Chapman Trustee for many years. This Chair was held formerly by our esteemed colleague Prof. Marvin Meyer until his untimely passing in 2012.  Now as a visiting position, this Chair allows Chapman students the unique opportunity to take courses with leading biblical scholars from around the world.

2017-2018 Visiting Chair
James Charlesworth
Prof. James Charlesworth

James H. Charlesworth is Princeton Theological Seminary’s George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature. He has authored over 400 articles or book chapters, edited or co-edited more than 100 volumes, and written some 40 monographs. He specializes in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old and New Testaments, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, Jesus research, and the Gospel of John. As director of the Seminary’s Dead Sea Scrolls Project, he has worked on the Qumran Scrolls to make available, in cooperation with more than fifty international specialists, an accurate text with apparatus criticus, an English translation, and an introduction. He has excavated at Migdal, Bethsaida, Nazareth, Jerusalem, Khirbet Beza, Qumran, and elsewhere. Charlesworth has taught at Duke University, Hebrew University and the Albright Institute, both in Jerusalem, and the University of Tübingen. He served as distinguished visiting professor at Naples University and McCarthy Professor of the Pontificia Università Gregoriana in Rome. He has two honorary doctorates, honors from more than 18 countries, and numerous medals, including the medal from Brancoveanu Monastery in Sâmbãta de Sus, the Distinguished Achievement Citation from Ohio Wesleyan University; the Comenius Medal from Charles University, Prague, and the Pentecost Medal, presented by His Beatitude, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilus III. An ordained minister in The United Methodist Church, he serves as advisor to the denomination's World Missionary Council and preaches and lectures globally.

Past Visting Chairs

2016-2017 Visiting Chair
Prof. Paul N. Anderson

Paul N. Anderson serves as Professor of Biblical and Quaker Studies at George Fox University and as Extraordinary Professor of Religion at the North West University of Potchefstroom, South Africa. Author of over two hundred published essays and author or editor of a dozen books, Prof. Anderson is a co-founder of the John, Jesus, and History Project. His contextual introduction to the New Testament, From Crisis to Christ, offers new paradigms for biblical interpretation, and his books on John include The Christology of the Fourth Gospel, The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus, and The Riddles of the Fourth Gospel.  Several of these books are available for purchase in the lobby and he has graciously agreed to sign them after the lecture. He has also served as editor of the journal Quaker Religious Thought and is the New Testament editor of the Biblical Interpretation Series (published by E.J. Brill).

2015-2016 Visiting Chair
Prof. Lee Martin McDonald

An internationally renowned New Testament scholar, Dr. McDonald has written or edited 27 books and more than a 150 refereed articles and essays in prominent journals and major academic publications. Six of his books focus on the origins of the Bible, one of which has become a standard textbook for graduate and doctoral students in many academic institutions across the USA, Canada, and Europe. He is president emeritus of the Acadia Divinity College, the graduate school of theology at Acadia University, and dean of its faculty of theology in Nova Scotia, Canada. The past president of the Institute for Biblical Research, Dr. McDonald holds academic degrees from Harvard University and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

2014-2015 Visiting Chair
Donald A. Hagner

Prof. Hagner is George Eldon Ladd Emeritus Professor of New Testament at Fuller Seminary and has had a long and distinguished career in New Testament Studies with an extensive list of publications on a wider range of topics, including acclaimed commentaries on Hebrews and Matthew and his comprehensive The New Testament: A Historical and Theological Introduction(2012). He has delivered a number of distinguished named lectures, his international reputation affirmed by the many awards he has received and the considerable time he has spent at Cambridge University as well as the University of Tubingen, the Pontifical Institute, and other universities in Sweden, France, Australia, Germany, Singapore, and Italy over the years. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Manchester, England.

+ - Faculty

The Religious Studies Faculty members are dedicated teacher-scholars engaged in cutting edge research in their fields, who bring that expertise into the classroom.  Nationally and internationally recognized for their scholarship and award-winning teachers, religious studies faculty members include the Director of the Rodgers Center for Holocaust Education, the Director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute, the Dean of the Wallace All-Faiths Chapel, and the holders of the Visiting Griset Chair in Bible and Christian Studies and the Stern Chair in Holocaust Education. Meet our faculty.

+ - Academic Requirements

The requirements for the Religious Studies programs are designed to be flexible and can be tailored to each student’s individual interests and personal and professional goals.  The major is streamlined to facilitate students’ double-majoring or minoring in a second field. Requirements for the major and minor include foundation courses introducing students to the study of religion and the religions of the world; the junior-senior seminar, and electives selected from three areas:

Scriptures and traditions

Philosophy and theology

Religion, ethics and society

Majors also select an individualized area of concentration, working closely with faculty advisors and culminating in a capstone research project.

Learn more about specific academic programs.

+ - Just some of our Graduates

  • Caitlin Ruderman (2017)
    Plans to work and take prerequisites to enter combined MSW and Masters in Nutrition in 2018.
  • Cameron Gardner (2017)
    Pursuing the Chapman Masters in International Studies, in the 4 + 1 program
  • Sydney Murdock (2016)
    Attending Chapman Law School
  • Alexandria Beatificato (2016)
    Pursuing a Master’s Degree in Religious Studies at Cal State Long Beach
  • Marilyn Love (2015)
    Currently pursuing her PhD in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at UCLA
  • Rachel Stainton (2014)
    MA in Religious Studies, University of Edinburgh 2016
  • Honah Thompson (2014)
    Masters in Social Work with Emphasis on Health, UC Berkeley, 2017
  • Cambria Findley-Grubb (2013)
    Fulbright Research Fellow 2013-2014, Halifax, Nova Scotia
    Community Engagement Fellow, United States Fund for UNICEF, Santa Monica, 2014-present
  • Annie Truex (2012)
    Successful Actress, appearing in film, television series, and commercials www.annietruex.com
  • Nicole Tellier (2012)
    Ph.D. in Political Science, Vanderbilt University
    Currently Foreign Service Officer, State Department, serving in Beijing
  • Amanda Whiddon (2011)
    JD, Loyola Marymount University, 2014
    Currently Business Representative, SAG/AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists)
  • Rachel Bennett (2010)
    Assistant to the Dean, Wallace All Faiths Chapel, 2010- 2013
    Masters in Social Work, University of Denver, 2015
    Currently Independent Living Coach for Middle High, United Way’s Bridging the Gap program serving 18-21 year olds who have aged out of the child welfare system.
Group of people posing for photo.

Why Study Religion?

See what the American Academy of Religion has to say.