Interfaith Minister Curriculum

Our INTERFAITH MINISTER PROGRAM is based on six groups of subjects or elements: 1) comparative religion (CR), 2) philosophy and religion (P), 3) practical ministry (PM), 4) spiritual counseling (SC), 5) nonprofit management (NM), and 6) social and environmental justice (SC). Our feeling is that a proper training program to become an Interfaith Minister should require comparative religion and practical ministry but should go well beyond those subjects. The Interfaith Minister of today and tomorrow needs a firm background in philosophy and religion as well as contemporary social and environmental justice. In addition, Interfaith Ministers need to be able to provide spiritual counseling and create, as well as direct one or more nonprofit organization.

A two-year Interfaith Minister Program cannot cover each of those elements comprehensively. Therefore, the Academy has only two introductory courses in nonprofit management and spiritual counseling as well as one introductory course in social and environmental justice in our Interfaith Minister Program. We do believe these topics are important to Interfaith Ministers so the Academy does offer various advanced programs for students who wish to engage in further study to improve their knowledge and skills.

We offer inexpensive in-person and online classes. The tuition cost is $100 USD per credit hour. There are no fees. Normally a student will take 12 credit hours each semester and the affordable $1,200 tuition cost is due at semester registration prior to the start of the semester.

In most of our online classes, our format is asynchronous, which allows students to move at their own pace within established time limits and then prepare written answers to one or more lesson study questions. An Academy instructor or course discussant will provide the students feedback on their written work. In some situations, answers can be one sentence but in other situations a good answer might require several paragraphs. For most in-person classes, students will cover two lessons per class session and develop answers to study questions prepared by the instructor. Oral feedback will be immediate and then the student will submit written answers to the study questions. The instructor or course discussant will provide written feedback to the students answers.

If you wish to see a brief description of a course, click on the course name in the following chart.

Module Number(Group-Module) YEAR 1 Courses  CREDIT HOURS
CR101 The Spiritual Brain 1
Skeptics and Believers 3
 P Understanding Evil 3
CR 102 Exploring the Roots of Religion 1
CR 103 Lost Christianities 2
CR 104 The Ethics of Aristotle 3
CR 105 Origins of the Ancient Civilizations 2
Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad 3
CR 106 Comparative Religion 3
P 104 Philosophy and Religion in the West 3
P 105 Great Minds of the East 1
CR  Great World Religions: Hinduism 2
CR  Buddhism 2
 CR Great World Religions: Judaism 1
CR  The Old Testament 2
 CR Psychology 2
CR Introduction to Jewish Beliefs and Practices 1
First Year Review and Ceremony
Students are asked to go to Torah Study and check out others religious experiences in various faith traditions.
YEAR 2 Courses and Lessons
 CR Great World Religions: Hinduism 1
 CR Great World Religions: Buddhism 1
 CR Buddhism 2
 CR New Testament 2
 CR Making the New Testament 1
CR 111 Lost Christianities 2
CR 112 History of Christian Theology 3
CR 113 The Christian Enigma: Back to the Message 3
CR 114 Great World Religions: Islam 1
NM 101 Introduction of Nonprofit Management 2
NM 102 Grants and Fund Raising 2
PM 101 Sermons and Ceremonies 2
PM 102 Ethics and the Ministry 2
SC 101 Introduction to Psychology in the Context of Religion 2
SC 102 Introduction to Spiritual Counseling 2
SJ 101 Introduction to Public Policy in the Context of Religion 2
Second Year Review, Graduation, and Ordination
Students are asked to volunteer in one or more charitable or religious based nonprofit organizations.


Year 1 Courses

The Spiritual Brain

Human beings appear to have spiritual brains capable of feeling deeply connected to something greater than themselves and that can develop intense beliefs about religion and God. The human brain can engage in practices such as prayer or meditation that result in powerful spiritual experiences that exist in every tradition and society. Spirituality also appears to have positive effects on people’s mental and physical health. Spiritual practices, beliefs, and phenomena are expressed and experienced in various ways, but no matter how human beings are spiritual, modern neuroscience offers insights into the meaning and nature of spirituality.

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Skeptics and Believers

Beginning with the 17th century, human thought, regarding intellectual and cultural authority of our greatest minds shifted from divine authority and past practices to reason. New questions about God, faith, and religion emerged. Truth was no longer revealed but had to be discovered by careful inquiry and thoughtful reason. This course explores the different conclusions reached by those great skeptics and believers as they shaped Western intellectual thought.

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Understanding Evil

Over the ages, we have defined evil in various ways and each perspective does have a remarkable impact on how we approach coping with the subject. For example, from the beginning of civilization we defined evil in terms of a great cosmic battle but later thought defined evil as an”unripe” or “missed the mark” action of an undeveloped person or society. One need only watch vampire movies to see the cosmic battle perspective on the big and little screen. In contrast, psychology and various training programs adopt an “unripe” and “missed the mark” perspective where education, training, drugs, and therapy become the answer to evil. Because evil is commonly what religion addresses, the topic is important and therefore this course explains various perspectives of what is evil. What is surprising are the many perspectives that exist and the implications of each perspective to religion.

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Origins of the Great Civilizations

The Bronze Age (3500 to 1000 B.C.) and Early Iron Age (1100 to 500 B.C.) civilizations provide a means to understand the role of religion in society. Although some might find these civilizations remote, their study reveals the fundamental contributions of the ancient Near East to later Western civilization.  What becomes clear is that religion was critical in shaping past and present civilization. This course presents the achievements and contributions from the early Sumer to Persia.

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Comparative Religion

Religion is a central feature of human life almost regardless of the culture. We see many indications of religion every day, but religion is surprisingly difficult to define or comprehend adequately. This course provides a systematic and comparative framework for understanding the complex and multidimensional nature of religion. It explores the many similarities that link all religions, as well as major differences among many of the world’s religious traditions.

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Philosophy of Religion

This course begins with some careful attention to what philosophy is and a careful demarcation of the sort of religion that the course scrutinizes philosophically. Attention is focused entirely on a religious tradition generally called “ethical monotheism.” Particular attention is focused on the notion of divine existence as an issue for what philosophers call “epistemology” or “knowledge theory.” The central questions of the course are: (1) Can humans know whether the claim “God exists” is true or not? (2) If so, how? (3) If not, why not?

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The Ethics of Aristotle

This course examines Aristotle’s views on ethics commonly called virtue ethics–most of which was presented in his Nicomachean Ethics. Often called “the philosopher of common sense,” Aristotle offers an extremely balanced account of many ethical questions. The goal of this course is to present his ideas and to suggest that his views on ethics still bear tremendous relevance for our own age and what the practice of religion can and should teach to its members.

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Philosophy and Religion in the West

This course is an historical examination of the interaction between philosophical traditions and religious traditions in the West. The course begins with the roots of the philosophical tradition in ancient Greece, examining how Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the neoplatonist  philosopher Plotinus dealt with issues concerning God, the soul, and the nature of the cosmos. The key concepts which this tradition contributed to Western religion are (1) the Socratic practice of critical inquiry, (2) the Platonist theory of intelligibility, and (3) the notion that the ultimate truth we seek to understand is timeless forms or essences which our souls perceive with the “mind’s eye.” From this notion comes the philosophical concepts of the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul, the Fall, and “going to heaven.”

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Religions of the Axial Period

The German philosopher termed the years 800–200 B.C.E. the Axial Age because of its pivotal importance in the evolution of human thought. This course explains the new thought of this age and why this revolution of thought, which occurred around the world, is so important to us today.

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Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad

Confucius, the Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad are among the most important and influential persons in history and are the subject of this course. They are remembered for the examples of their lives, their insights into the human condition and the nature of ultimate reality, which are contained in the religious movements they inspired. These four persons have deeply affected so many human lives and this this course examine these four figures both separately and comparatively. The course goal is to grasp the essential features of their lives and teachings and to explore the factors that contributed to their greatness. The course will address the similarities and differences in their messages, in the patters of their lives, and in the ways they impacted their followers and the rest of the world.

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Great Minds of the East

The men and the women whose ideas shaped the traditional cultures of Asia have an impact on the inhabitants in the East and increasingly in the West. Therefore, a basic understanding of Asian thought is indispensable for anyone traveling to that part of the globe, trying to make sense of international politics, or interacting with people and products with roots in Asia, or even for those who simply want a fuller picture of the human condition. It is not possible anymore to study only Western thought and history and then claim one knows the major intellectual thought of the world. Not only is the variety and richness of the Eastern intellectual tradition breathtaking but is essential to understand in an ever closer world society. This course is an introduction to the most significant thinkers in Asian history. It is eclectic, with attention given to influential figures in philosophy, religion, history, literature, political science, and technology.

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Great World Religions: Judaism

The purpose of this brief course is to explain Judaism as it is understood by its past and present adherents.

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Introduction to Judaism

This course presents the religious aspects of the Jewish civilization as it evolved. Judaism is about the Torah, the Jewish Bible, the Talmud, and other important writings but it is also a living variety of traditions that people live now as they have in the past.

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The Old Testament

This course is an introduction to the history, literature, and religion of ancient Israel and early Judaism. The course provides insight into the fundamentals of the Jewish faith and the books that have shaped the Christian tradition.

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The Great World Religions: Christianity

Christianity is one of religion’s great success stories. Beginning as a sect of Judaism in an obscure province of the Roman Empire in the 1st century C.E., it became the official religion of the Roman Empire by the 4th century, dominated the cultural life of Europe for much of its history, and now counts more that two billion adherents throughout the world. This course provides a sense of Christianity as a whole in its most essential features. This brief introduction to Christianity provides a clear survey of the most important elements of this religious tradition and a framework for the student’s further study.

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Year 2 Courses

Great World Religions: Hinduism

This course is an  introduction to Hinduism, one of the world’s great religions. The lessons are investigations into a variety of important dimensions of Hinduism that address fundamental questions of interest to serious students of comparative religions. The lessons move chronologically through the history of Hinduism–from its earliest precursors through its classical manifestations to its responses to modernity. Along the way, the salient aspects of Hindu life are discussed and placed in historical and theological context.
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Great World Religions: Buddhism

This brief course surveys the history of Buddhism–from its origin in India in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.E. to the present day. The course introduces students to the astonishing vitality and adaptability of a tradition that has transformed the civilizations of India, Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan and has now become a lively component in the cultures of the west.

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The course begins by exploring the religious and cultural world of the Buddha in ancient India. To understand the Buddha’s contribution to the religious history of the world the student must understand the context in which the Buddha lived. In ancient India, before the time of Buddha,  problems were expressed in the Vedas, the body of classical Hindu scriptures. The Vedas introduce us to scholars and ritual specialist who searched for the knowledge that would free them form the cycle of death and rebirth. The Buddha inherited this quest for knowledge and directed it to his own distinctive end.

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The New Testament

The New Testament is undoubtedly the single most important book in the history of Western civilization, whether seen as a religions book of faith or as a cultural artifact. It is probably also the most widely disputed and misunderstood. This course approaches the New Testament from a historical perspective, bracketing questions of belief and theological truth to acquire a historically rich grounding for our understanding of these foundational documents. The course begins with with the historical context in which the New Testament was written, considering both the world of Greco-Roman pagan cults and the world of early Judaism-examining, that is, the beliefs, scared spaces, liturgical practices, and distinguishing features of the religions surrounding the birth of Christianity.

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The Making of the New Testament

This course answers  basic questions about the New Testament: what books does it contain, when were they written, by whom, for what purpose, how were they copied and transmitted, and when and why were they collected as a canon of Scriptures.

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The Historical Jesus

From the late Roman empire, through the Middle Ages, down to the Reformation, and into our own day, no institution has wielded such economic, political, and cultural power as the Christian church. And behind it all stands Jesus, a man who continues to be worshiped throughout the world, by over a billion people today. Jesus of Nazareth is undoubtedly the most important figure in the history of Western civilization. The course presents a discussion of the four Gospel of the New Testament, which everyone agrees are the principal sources of knowledge about Jesus. These books were nor written as dispassionate histories for impartial observers. The authors of the gospels were not eyewitnesses to the events they narrate as they were writing several decades after the events they describe.  The gospels tell stories that the authors had heard–stories that had been in circulation year after year among the followers of Jesus.

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History of Christian Theology

This course surveys major developments in the history if Christian theology, which is the tradition of critical reasoning about how to teach the faith of Christ. Taking the centrality of Jesus Christ as the distinctive feature of Christianity, it focuses on theological concepts by relating them to Christian life and experience, including especially practices of worship. The course begins with the first Christian theological writings: the books of the New Testament, the earliest of which, the letters of Paul. The course proceeds to examine the theology of the early church, how it read the Jewish scriptures and how it used Greek philosophy, as well as how the very idea of official Christian doctrine and its opposite, heresy, arose in response to the large variety of early Christianities. The survey of ancient Christian theology concludes in Part I by presenting three key doctrines: Trinity, Incarnation, and grace.

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Lost Christianities

Prior to the establishment of orthodox Christian faith, the Christians of the second and third centuries held a remarkably wide range of beliefs. Although some of these beliefs may sound ludicrous today, at the time, they seemed not only sensible but right. Some Christians maintained that there were two Gods, or twelve, or thirty, or more. Some Christians claimed that Jesus was not really a human being, or that he was not really divine, or that he has two different beings, one human and one divine. Some Christians believed that this world was not created by the true God, buy by a malicious deity as a place for punishment for human souls, which had become entrapped here in human bodies. Some Christians believed that Jesus’ death and resurrection had no bearing on salvation, and some Christians believed that Jesus had never actually died.

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The Christian Enigma: Back to the Message

This course looks at the possibility of an alternative vision or interpretation of the Jesus message that is spiritual in character.
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Great World Religions: Islam

Islam today is the second largest and fasted-growing world religion, with majority populations in 56 countries spanning North Africa to Southeast Asia and significant minorities in Europe and the United States. Despite its more than 1.2 billion adherents, many in the West know little about the faith and are familiar only with the actions of a minority of radical extremists. Islam has had a significant impact on world affairs, both historically and in the contemporary era. Therefore, it is important to understand not only what it is that Muslims believe, but also how their beliefs are carried out both privately and publicly, both as individuals and as members of the Muslim community. Like most major religions, Islam is no monolithic. Nevertheless, Muslims share certain core beliefs, the practices, interpretations, images, and realities of Islam that vary across and space. The focus of this course will be to better understand Islam’s role as a religion and as a way of life.

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Introduction to Nonprofit Management

Often Ministers are called upon to management nonprofit organizations such as large and small churches but also service organizations such as housing for the poor and educations institutions. This course is a basic introduction to nonprofit management. The Academy offers a large set of courses for those interested in pursuing this aspect of being a minister.

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Getting Grants and Fund Raising

Managing nonprofit organizations requires money and that means fund raising and applying for grants. This is a short course on how to raise funds properly and how to apply and manage grants.

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Sermons and Ceremonies

Ministers preform a variety of ceremonies but the most common is a weekly service. This course teaches students how to conduct such a service and gives them practice in developing a quality sermon. In addition, students are shown how to do other services such a baby naming, funerals, celebrating major events of life, and so on.

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Introduction to Psychology

This course introduces a student to the important academic subject of psychology. Counseling is a major part of what a minister must do and the foundation of counseling is psychology. The Academy offers a set of courses on counseling for those ministers who wish to focus on this aspect of being a minister.     

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Spiritual Counseling

This course covers psychological principles and clinical skills used in pastoral and spiritual counseling. 

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Ethics and the Ministry

Ministers are held to a high standard of ethics as is appropriate for a profession that should be an ethical role model in society. However, ethics is a complex subject and even more complex to live on a daily basis. This course explains the basics of ethics, stresses the pitfalls that ministers must avoid, and the ethical standard that should be how they live their lives.

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