Rembrandt's Sacrifice of Isaac

Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary

Gary Pence


Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly." Yet the beliefs of Christians can abuse children and kill the human spirit. In this course we will critically examine Christian notions about such issues as human nature, sin, authority, discipline, self-denial, nudity, and sexuality and the Biblical texts cited in support of those notions. Students will be invited to identify and explore the anxiety, pain, and injury they have experienced because of Christian doctrines and beliefs taught in their churches and families of origin. They will construct ways to describe, preach, and teach a Christian faith that does not kill or maim, a faith that offers health and wholeness.



  1. Deeper knowledge and acceptance of self.
  2. Increased confidence in listening and responding to self and others.
  3. Appropriation of more salugenic faith perspectives.
  4. Increased integration of your faith with your personal and relational life.


  1. Repertory of biblical and liturgical texts, theological loci, and common beliefs and practices that may do harm.
  2. Effects of harmful religious beliefs and practices on child development and adult relationships.
  3. Basic psychological principles of healthy child-rearing and positive human relationships and theological principles that support them.
  4. Awareness of your assumptions and commitments and how these are likely to impact your care giving and care receiving.


  1. Gain increased alertness to the implications for health and wholeness of biblical and theological precepts.
  2. Gain capacity either to reframe abusive or damaging precepts in salugenic terms or to eliminate them from your practicing theology.
  3. Gain capacity to help parishioners and others wounded by religious beliefs and experiences.
  4. Take care of yourself and thrive whatever your life situation.



SESSION 1  Our Own Religious History
SESSION 2  Perspectives on Healthy Religion
SESSION 3  Reading the Bible
SESSION 4  Biblical Literalism and Homosexuality
SESSION 5  Gnosticism and Body Shame
SESSION 6  Exclusivism, Ethnocentrism, and Racism
SESSION 7  Patriarchy and the Subjugation of Women
SESSION 8  Religious Torment of Children
SESSION 9  Sin, Atonement, and Guilt
SESSION 10   Original Sin and Punitive Parenting
SESSION 11   Religion and Mental Illness