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Music Through the Eyes of Faith

This syllabus is a guide for a class that explores the role of music, culture, and diversity in the way we worship God.

Course Syllabus

Course Description

How do music and faith intersect? What role does diversity play in worship and music? Does culture play a role in faith development? Hard questions to ask and even harder perhaps to answer––these and many more questions will focus our discussion on how the role of music, culture, and diversity shape the way we worship God. Part of the course will include visits to area church services and class guests who will speak about their own faith journey and the impact culture and music played in their development and understanding of how and why they worship God.

Required Texts

Achebe, Things Fall Apart

Best, Music Through the Eyes of Faith

The Purpose of the First-Year Seminar

In FYS, the faculty seek to offer you opportunities to explore and investigate various questions, topics and concerns that are of interest and importance to you and your world––questions, topics, concerns which touch on some of the hopes and fears of human existence, and perhaps your own existence. In so doing, we will read and discuss texts from a variety of disciplines in such a way as to introduce you to the kinds of learning you will pursue here at Hope College. Expect these classes to be intellectually challenging, especially as they prompt us to examine or reexamine our own beliefs and basic convictions. I hope that this class will be a place of safety in which we together are willing to take risks in the search for truth.

In the effort to foster both the sense of courage necessary to undertake this search and the sense of humility necessary to confront our own ignorance, these classes will stress two features: (1) the active involvement of students in their own learning, and (2) the willingness of students to work with their fellow students and collaborate in this pursuit of truth. I believe it vital that students take a very active role in the pursuit and exploration of the questions of the class. Only if one is actively engaged in the questions and concerns of the class will those questions and concerns take on significance in our lives. But such active engagement does not need to be pursued alone (though sometimes it does). Given the different strengths, talents, interests, and intellectual abilities among the persons in this class, each person has much to contribute, and by working together and drawing on our different abilities collaboratively, we enhance significantly the prospects of coming a little closer to the truth.

Consequently, to move toward these goals of active involvement in learning and the collaboration in the search for truth, this course has been set up as a seminar. According to The Random House College Dictionary a seminar is “1. a small group of students, as in a university, engaged in advanced study and original research under a member of the faculty and meeting regularly. 2. a meeting of such a group. 3. a course or subject of study for advanced students. 4. any meeting for exchanging information and holding discussions.” As a student in this college seminar course, you need to conduct yourself differently from the way you have conducted yourself in other classes. You will still be reading, thinking, discussing, and writing but you will be much more responsible for the conduct and direction of the class. You will be doing research, and you will be meeting regularly with other students for discussion and exploration. The quality of these meetings and discussion is not to “out argue” others during the discussion or even to convert anyone. Rather the purpose is to search and explore with each other and to learn from each other in order to gain a deeper understanding of the subject and ourselves in relation to that subject. In doing so, we will further develop abilities of critical thinking, speaking, listening, writing, utilizing resources, and considering diverse viewpoints. This kind of course can be different, demanding, and maybe even a bit scary, but ultimately I think it can be very exciting and rewarding. I am looking forward to coming to know you and working with you.


Grades are a necessary evil in college. They serve as a way for professors to communicate with students about their progress in the respective class, and show where performance needs to be improved. Unfortunately, our culture invests grades with the wrong kind of power. We tend to personalize them, see them as punishments or rewards, and not as learning opportunities. This is an important lesson to learn in college: you are not your grades! An A, B, C, D, or F in a particular class is only a shadow of who you are as a student; infinitely more important is the choices you make to improve your abilities and to learn all you can from a class.

That being said you will obtain a grade based on your successful completion of three major components of this course:

•  Your constructive and scholarly input into class discussions

•  Your written and other work that you turn in over the course of the semester

•  Your class presentation, details of which we’ll discuss as we go.

Academic Integrity

It is unethical and a violation of academic integrity to copy from the work of others or to submit the work of others as if it were our own. This includes, of course, any material available electronically.  All sources need to be acknowledged. A full discussion of plagiarism, including ways to avoid it, can be found at  

General Expectations

•  Regular class attendance. Your presence matters, because you are an important contributor to the seminar experience. More than two absences will lower your grade.

•  On time arrival at class. Being on time is a matter of courtesy to others, for arriving late is a distraction and interferes with the work of the class. Two tardies equal one absence…so set your alarm!!!

•  Acceptance of responsibility for what occurs in classes you have missed. This includes handouts, notes AND assignments. If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to obtain these materials from classmates.

•  An engaged and focused commitment to the discussions, reading, writing, talking, exploring. This involves settling into activities and discussions quickly, staying focused on the work at hand, honestly and sincerely exploring the concerns and questions.

•  Paying attention and not talking while others are speaking. This is a matter of courtesy and respect to others. There will be times when someone asks a question, or tries out a response, or explores an idea which someone else may find easy, or repetitious, or boring, or irrelevant, or whatever, and this someone may not feel obliged to answer. But this does not entitle one to start whispering to one’s neighbor or to scribble messages to each other. Each person speaking in the context of the class is to be treated with respect.

•  On time completion of all reading and writing assignments. This is a matter of responsibility to yourself.   Much of what we do builds on what has come before. Thus falling behind in the reading and writing can interfere with your learning. Try to stay on top of assignments. If for some reason you do fall behind (like three exams and four papers in a two day period) come to class anyway. Your presence in class matters and you can still contribute to the life of the class.

•  Two to three hours of preparation out of class for each class session. This preparation may include reading, writing, and thinking––and often will include all three. Don’t congratulate yourself if you spend less––you will be cutting corners.

•  Personal ownership of all required texts and bringing them to class each time.

Class Schedule Subject to change drastically! 

Week                   Topic                                                 Textbook Reading Assignments

1                             Introductions                                    Best- Chapter 7 pp. 143-158

2                            Worship, Faith and Music                No additional reading assignment

3                            Worship, Faith and Music                Best - Ch. 3 pp. 63-106

4                            Pluralism and Diversity                    No additional reading assignment

5                            Pluralism and Diversity                    Best - Chapter 1 pp. 11-38

6                            Creativity and Christianity               No additional reading assignment

7                            Art and Architecture                         Best - Chapter 5 pp. 107-116

8                            Excellence                                           Best-Chapter 6 pp. 117-141

9                            Quality-getting deeper                      No additional reading Assignment

10                          Quality-getting deeper                      Achebe-Chapters 1-7

11                          Things Fall Apart-Part One              Achebe-Chapters 8-13

12                          Things Fall Apart-Part One              Achebe-Chapters 14-19

13                          Things Fall Apart-Part Two             Achebe-Chapters 20-25

14                          Things Fall Apart-Part Three          No additional Reading Assignment

15                          Class Presentations

16                          Class Presentations