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>>Course Schedule<<

The calendar is an educated guess outlining the various activities we will undertake. Small or significant changes will be announced in class so that you can alter our tentative class plan as needed. If you are absent and if changes are made, you are still responsible for those changes. Print and bring all articles to class on day(s) they are to be discussed, and of course you should have read them prior to our discussion of them.

Class sessions
Topics & Deadlines
Week 1: Jan. 10, 12

Introduction to class and each other.

Review class policies and what we will be doing. Discuss learning and thinking—both critical and analytical.

Introduction to Paul’s letter to the Romans, to the epistles, to Paul.

Start into the letter: Chapter 1:1-17

  1. Syllabus, in its entirety
  2. Romans, in its entirety, in one sitting
  3. Romans chapter 1 (again)
Week 2: Jan. 17, 19

Romans 1: Paul introduces himself and presents his credentials. Begins his almost legal, or law-like, case against humanity. LAW

Due Tuesday, Jan. 17: Response paper #1, an explanation of the Gospel (or a gospel -- Matthew, Mark or Luke), using only the Gospel -- writing counts!

  1. Romans 1 and associated commentary from the Stott text
  2. Soul Searching, "Conclusions", by Christian Smith (handout)
  3. Design for Living (op-ed)
Week 3: Jan. 24, 26

Romans 2: The case against humanity. Verdict: CONDEMNED. LAW

Due Tuesday, Jan. 24: Response paper #2. Get your prompts here!

Romans 2 and associated commentary from the Stott text
Week 4: Jan. 31, Feb. 2 Romans 3: A righteousness apart from the law is revealed. MERCY Romans 3 and associated commentary from the Stott text
Week 5: Feb. 7, 9

Romans 4: Justified by faith, not works. Example? Abraham. MERCY

Due Thursday, Feb. 9: Response paper #3. Get your prompts here!

Romans 4 and associated commentary from the Stott text
Week 6: Feb. 14, 16

Romans 5: Born into Adam and death; re-born into Christ and life. MERCY

Due Tuesday, Feb. 14: Forgiveness valentines, and tales from our friends about what they believe, and on what they base that belief

Thursday night: Ross Douthat, columnist for the New York Times, 7pm, Science Auditorium. His topic: Bad Religion

Romans 5 and associated commentary from the Stott text
Week 7: Feb. 21, 23

Romans 6: Identity and motivations, and riding an elephant. GRACE

Due Thursday, Feb. 23 (extension): Response paper #3. Get your fresh prompts here!

  • Brainstorm ideas for the class's final project
  • Fill out feedback survey sheets
  • Read ahead through chapter 7 and as far as 8:4 to prepare for Rev. Moore
Romans 6 and associated commentary from the Stott text
Week 8: Feb. 28, March 1

Romans 7: What then is the purpose of the law? LAW

Tuesday in class: Rev. Billy Moore, also speaking in the Science Auditorium at 7pm, cultural events credit.

Due Tuesday, Feb. 28: Response paper #4. Prompts are here!

>>Monday, Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m., Interfaith Center: The Abrahamic Tradition

>>Thursday, March 1, 7 p.m., Interfaith Center: Interfaith dialogue and Christian missions

Romans 7 and associated commentary from the Stott text

NEXT WEEK is SPRING BREAK -- woohoo!!!!

Week 9: March 13, 15

Romans 8: Life, loss and suffering. GRACE

Due Thursday, March 15: Response paper #5. Prompts here (.pdf download)

Romans 8 and associated commentary from the Stott text

Final Paper Instructions (.pdf download)

Week 10: March 20, 22

Finish chapter 8; Romans 9-10: The sovereignty of and selection by God. LAW

Special guest on Tuesday: Rev. Jon Huggins, College chaplain

Due Thursday, March 22: Response paper #6. Prompts here (.pdf download)

Romans 9, 10 and associated commentary from the Stott text
Week 11: March 27, 29

Romans 11: Selection by God. GRACE

No class Thursday, March 29 (BC in Charleston)

Romans 11 and associated commentary from the Stott text; Read also this account from the New York Times of what might happen in a war with Iran
Week 12: April 3, 5

Romans 12: In view of God’s mercy, a response. LIFE

Due Tuesday, April 3: Response paper #7. Prompts here (.pdf download)

Romans 12 and associated commentary from the Stott text
Week 13: April 10, 12

Romans 13: Submission to authority and love in community. GRACE

No class Tuesday, April 10 (student scholarship symposium)

Due Thursday, April 12: Response paper #8. Prompts here (.pdf download)

Romans 13, 14 and associated commentary from the Stott text
Week 14: April 17, 19

Romans 13, 14 &15: Forgiveness and forbearance. GRACE

Due Thursday, April 19: Smooth drafts of your final papers (Dr. Carroll will look for only big problems, huge gaps and deficiencies; but no 'rough', half-baked papers, please)

Romans 15, 16 and associated commentary from the Stott text
Week 15: April 24

Romans 16: Woman's rights, and a message for Jason

Wrapping up and finishing out; celebrating radical grace and freedom from the law

Due Thursday, April 26: Final papers to Dr. Carroll (printed, no email)

FINAL EXAM: Due Monday, April 30 (sent via email, and available here)

pepp patty

keep your eyes on the prize!


Martin Luther said that anyone serious about his or her faith should memorize Paul’s letter to the Romans. It is perhaps the single most important book in the Bible because it gives meaning or explains the events chronicled in the New Testament books prior to it. The gospels describe the key events of the faith – the crucifixion, the resurrection; Romans explains their significance. In this course we will examine Paul’s letter verse by verse, line by line, and as we do so, we will encounter three of the most basic questions people ever ask:

  • Is God there?
  • Does he care?
  • Is he fair?

We will critically examine these questions. We will analyze how Paul presents the questions and their answers. This intellectual, spiritual, and at times emotional journey will force us to as critical questions about law, justice, mercy, and grace. We will bring up Paul himself on charges of misogyny, homophobia, and for being pro-slavery. These accusations, which have been a sort of theme in criticism of the letter, will force us to take a thoroughly interdisciplinary, trans-disciplinary approach. Philosophy, religion, history, anthropology, sociology, psychology and the natural sciences all will be brought to bear on our interrogation of Paul’s argument, in which the apostle seeks to carefully lay a foundation for the Christian faith, a foundation centered on Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

Are we seeking truth? Hmm . . . Yes and no. Ultimately, the existence of God is a matter of faith, not truth, at least truth as a discrete, provable (or dis-provable) fact. But then science isn’t even searching for truth. Like the sciences, we will be searching for a set of principles that enable us to see the disparate and apparently chaotic mass of phenomena as a coherent whole, or at least to critically examine and analyze Paul’s principles seeking these same goals. A premise or pre-supposition of the course, then, is that design is an argument for the existence of God, a premise that was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Course goals

Conscious and close analytical reading of assigned texts is central to whatever learning takes place in this course. Our effort will be to learn how to read more effectively so that as much as possible of the original author’s ideas become available to enrich our own thinking, and, perhaps, behavior.

A closely related goal is the development of critical and analytical thinking skills. Students will present in-class summaries of, references to, and evaluations of ideas encountered in required readings and in class discussion itself. In turn, the response of the instructor and other students will stimulate and demand collegial but also critical responses to ideas as they are presented.

More generally, our goal will be to begin a focused and sustained analysis of some of the basic questions our species has asked since whenever self-reflexive consciousness became a part of our being. We do not need to set as our goals the discovery of final answers; rather, our goal is to understand and interrogate one attempt at an answer, Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Writing requirements

You will be writing throughout the semester, realizing that writing IS thinking. It’s difficult to write every day; it’s difficult to write poorly every day. As your writing improves, so will your thinking, which will produce yet better writing. A virtuous cycle. The course asks you to write in three basic forms or formats: two-page response papers, a deep analysis of roughly 10 pages, and very short, discussive comments to the class blog,

These various writing assignments will invite you to engage in the pursuit of course goals as outlined above. The response papers should not be considered an informal diary of cryptic, vague thoughts, randomly recalled as they are inspired by a muse. Rather, they should be a deliberate and systematic analysis of ideas written in complete sentences and well-developed paragraphs.

To give you a sense of the kinds of writing you will be doing, below are a few possibilities for writing emphases in your response papers. The list is not comprehensive, but should help you begin thinking about what to write (and how to write):

    1. Consider significant arguments that cause you to think, to recognize a new perspective on or a new analysis of some idea/issue. In this type of response, you would define what the key idea is and then explain or analyze how and why that idea is significant to other parts of the article or to larger issues under discussion in the class. In this type of paper, you will not re-tell, re-phrase or merely summarize what you have read. Instead, you will explain and analyze what ideas in the passages are provocative, new, troubling, brilliant and/or insightful. Identify and react to these “must be grasped” ideas, concepts and perspectives to retrieve from the article its essential ideas. Include why they are significant.
    2. Think about and comment on some of the implications of one or more specific ideas in the article: implications for other articles we have read and their key ideas; for your own understanding of the idea discussed in the article or for related ideas you have previously held; for values and beliefs related to our culture; for your own understanding, values, beliefs, and behaviors as any one or more of those relate to some as part of “happiness” or a good life.
    3. Once we’ve read a few articles, I will ask you to write about how you see how two or more of the articles’ ideas interact. What is it you have noticed? Why is it intellectually engaging? What are some questions and issues that have arisen directly from readings or class discussion that you want to pursue further?
    4. Look at your own life; the life you observe among your friends and peers; the life you see in our culture. What elements of the “good life” do you NOW see as potential parts of the good life because of readings and class discussion?
    5. Given our readings and class discussion, what old ideas about a “good” in life appear somehow less good (or more good) than before? Explain. What NEW ideas are germinating, creating new perspectives on possible “goods” in life or new ways of looking at “old” goods? Give examples, and analyze why these new ideas seem like possible goods worth pursuing.

For all of the ideas and themes above, DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE NIGHT BEFORE TO WRITE YOUR PAPERS. As Ernest Hemingway put it: “All first drafts are sh--.” And remember rule one of and for writing: “Sit your butt in the chair.”

Revisions of earlier ideas/analyses will also be required. You will get fair warning on when these will be due, and which papers you are to revise. These revisions (think ‘re-VISIONing,’ seeing anew) are critical, both for discussion and for your own journey.

You will get much more help with the writing projects as the semester unfolds.

What you will need (required):
  • Romans, by R. W. Stott (in the Berry bookstore)
  • Bible, preferably New International Version, but any version is acceptable

What you might want to check out (not required, but recommended):

N. T. Wright's website


N. T. Wright discussing Romans and discussing here, as well.

Updates on Pauline scholarship:

General resource website for Romans


  • Romans, part of the New Interpreter's Bible, N. T. Wright
  • Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part 1 (Chapters 1-8) and Part 2 (Chapters 9-16), N. T. Wright (Westminster John Knox Press)
  • Romans: Encountering the Gospel’s Power, John Stott (InterVarsity Press)
  • Romans, F. F. Bruce, part of the Tyndale New Testament commentary series
  • Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, F. F. Bruce
  • The Epistle to the Romans, Leon Morris (Eerdmans)
  • The Epistle to the Romans, Karl Barth (Oxford University Press)
  • Encountering the Book of Romans: A Theological Exposition, Douglas J. Moo (Baker Academic)
  • Commentary on Romans, NIV Application Commentary series, Doug Moo.

Other Romans resources:

  • Stuff you need to know:

    Professor: Dr. Brian Carroll
    Office: Laughlin Hall 100
    Office phone: 368.6944 (anytime)
    Home page:
    Blog: Wandering Rocks

    Office hours: MWF 10-noon; 2-4 | by appointment | walk-ins welcome


    • Attendance: You are required to be in class. Recognizing that illness or personal problems may, rarely, cause one not to be able to come to class, two absences and/or latenesses are allowed before your course grade is affected. Unless credible, extreme circumstances arise that cause more than two absences, any absence beyond the two will deduct a point from the professionalism/participation portion of the course grade.

    You are required to bring relevant readings, journal entries, and other materials to class as outlined elsewhere on daily syllabus. Failure to have copies of assigned reading materials could also result in professionalism/participation deductions.

    • Distractions: Distractions, including digital devices: I am easily distracted; ringing cell phones, therefore, will be lobbed out of the classroom window or run over with a truck. Texters will be publicly humiliated. Late arrivals will be stared down unmercifully. In short, be professional and civil, pay attention and don’t distract anyone, including the professor. If you are unsure what “civil” means, the professor would be happy to elaborate.

    • Preparation: Complete the assignments and be ready to tackle the activities of the day. Be ready to discuss and debate ideas, approaches and opinions.

    • Deadlines: When an assignment is due, it is due. Turn in whatever has been done by deadline. If we have out-of-class assignments, they will be accepted for up to one week after deadline, but late assignments will be penalized. Remember, penalized work is not necessarily the same as 0 (zero) points. Complete out-of-class assignments and learn from them, even if they are turned in late. After an assignment is more than a week late, however, that work is not eligible for points. Please note: If a student misses a class when an assignment is due and that student has a legitimate excuse, the professor will accept the late assignment without penalty at his discretion. The professor defines what constitutes a legitimate excuse and reserves the right not to grant full credit for assignments turned in under these circumstances.

    Academic integrity: Because academic integrity is the foundation of college life at Berry, academic dishonesty will result in automatic failure on the assignment in question. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following: cheating, unauthorized collaboration, plagiarism, fabrication, submitting the same work in multiple courses, and aiding and abetting. For definitions of these terms, please consult the instructor. Additionally, violators will be reported in writing to the Provost. Students who are sanctioned for violating the academic integrity policy forfeit the right to withdraw from the class with a grade of “W.”

    How you will be graded:

    Response papers 50%
    Final paper 20%
    Discussion participation, class activities, blog posts 20%
    Professionalism 10%

    A theory about human nature and grading: Most human beings turn out average work most of the time. Many can do superior work. Of that many, most could do excellent work. The factors involved are obvious: native intellect, gifts from the gods, interest, desire to succeed, desire to learn, discipline, and shear hard work. The first two are beyond our control. The others are within our control.

    To compute your final grade, add up your point totals, apply the appropriate percentages, then refer to the grading system summarized here:

    59 and below

    Definitions of the grades can be found in the Berry College Bulletin. “A” students will demonstrate an outstanding mastery of course material and will perform far above that required for credit in the course and far above that usually seen in the course. The “A” grade should be awarded sparingly and should identify student performance that is relatively unusual in the course.

    Berry Viking code
    Academic dishonesty in any form is unacceptable because any breach in academic integrity, however small, strikes destructively at the college’s life and work. The code is not just policy, it is foundational to the academic environment we enjoy and in which scholarship thrives. It is in force in this classroom.

    For the complete Viking Code, please consult the student handbook. In short, each student is “expected to recognize constituted authority, to abide by the ordinary rules of good conduct, to be truthful, to respect the rights of others.” The College’s mission, in part, commits to a community of integrity and justice. During an era when ethics are sometimes suspect, there seems no higher goal toward which students ought to strive than that of personal honor.

    Students with special needs
    If you have special needs of any kind, including learning disabilities, please let me know. Come discuss it with me. I want to make sure on the front end that we prevent any problems associated with the course. Martha Van Cise, director of the Academic Support Center, suggests: “Students with disabilities who believe that they may need accommodation in this course are encouraged to contact the Academic Support Center in Krannert Room 301 as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.”

    Finally, I believe we are here for a good time, not a long time, so let’s have some fun!

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