Course Syllabus


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A book “forged in hell by the apostate Jew working together with the devil.”

--Anonymous, on Spinoza’s Tractatus

“Respectfully offer up with me a lock of hair to the manes of the holy rejected Spinoza!”

--Schleiermacher, 1799

Course Description 

What is the most fruitful model for thinking about God? There are a few perennial options, each of which have social, political, and ethical implications in addition to metaphysical ones. In the post-Enlightenment world a version of the pantheism model swept through philosophers and theologians, Jews and Christians, raising issues which, if possible, are even more pressing in our post-Christian context. The so-called Pantheism Controversy has the advantage of not only unpacking all the issues involved in the various models of God, but of also being a good story of the personal lives and relationships of a fascinating group of people. This course introduces students to the most pertinent writings from this controversy and engages theological and philosophical work, influenced by the controversy, from our own contexts.

Course Goals 

  1. to become familiar with the major figures of the Pantheism Controversy;
  2. to engage the central readings from the Pantheism Controversy;
  3. to think deeply about the issues raised in this controversy;
  4. and to weigh the merits of various models of anthropology and the doctrine of God that may be important in the contemporary theological scene but that are too infrequently part of the contemporary conversation.

Required Books

Students should obtain the following required readings for this course:

  • Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Nathan the Wise.
  • Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics.
  • Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited

  • Gérard Vallée, The Spinoza Conversations between Lessing & Jacobi (Lanham: University Press of America, 1988).

There are also required and recommended readings available in Canvas as PDFs or links, including:

  • Herder, God:  Some Conversations.
  • Immanuel Kant, “What Is Orientation in Thinking?”
  • Moses Mendelssohn, Morning Hours.

Paper Guidelines

Discussion Guidelines

Background Assignment Guidelines


Course Summary:

Date Details Due