Religious Studies

Two students studying outside on the Peace Mall

Revealed Relevancy

Central College’s religious studies program helps students find relevancy in their lives.

Central College’s religious studies program infuses the core strengths of Central’s faculty to amplify biblical studies and world religion. By branching out from primarily Christian teaching emphasized at many colleges and universities, the religious studies program at Central gives students the unique opportunity to engage in study to understand society as well as themselves.

Students of the program have served communities as teachers in both schools and universities, as ministers, priests and missionaries, as lawyers and as employees and managers in various community-related services. Central also offers a pre-ministry program with an emphasis on Christian studies and ministry. Central students are engaged with research opportunities, both national and international, and with internships in preparation for work and graduate studies.

The Central Difference

Religious Studies Reimagined

In a time in higher education when humanities courses are getting cut, Central College has given religion faculty members the opportunity to reinvent the religious studies major into a relevant program. Religious studies are important courses to the culture, history and environment of Central.

Faith at Central

For more than 100 years, Central College has valued its covenant with the Reformed Church in America. The connection proves invaluable to students living out their faith through service, missions, and internships.


Central College is one of the most beautiful college campuses one will find. A perfect mix of old and new, the college's buildings reflect its history and its future. Central's distinctive library is a spacious and popular haven with more than 230,000 volumes, computer stations, a multimedia collection and an extensive online catalog.

Off-Campus Experiences

Central students can study off-campus — both internationally or domestically in the United States. These opportunities give students the chance to prepare to be global citizens, equipped to compete in the global job market. Students can check out experiences led by Central faculty or attend select academic programs across the world that provide opportunities for study, service, internships and other types of experiential learning. Options include experiences in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Central America, Ghana, England, the Scottish Highlands and more.

Ministry Opportunities

Campus Ministries offers mission trips over fall, winter, spring and summer breaks to destinations like Kansas City, New Orleans, Mexico, Haiti, China and Ethiopia. Students also have opportunities to serve in leadership roles with Campus Ministries.

Central College student

Beyond Central

Putting the “Hire” in Higher Education

  • Christian Warner ’20, Master’s Student, Van Andel School of Statesmanship, Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan
  • Eliot Weidenaar ’20, Student, Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan
  • Matthew Wells ’18, Doctorate Student, Baylor University, Waco, Texas
  • Aric Balk ’16, Co-Pastor, Parkway Community Church, Hicksville, New York
  • Ellen Balk ’16, Co-Pastor, Parkway Community Church, Hicksville, New York
  • Hunter Thorpe ’16, Judicial Law Clerk, State of Iowa Judicial Branch, Des Moines, Iowa
  • Clayton Larson ’14, Engineering Supervisor, Nexteer Automotive, Midland, Michigan
  • Colette Kotz Schippers ’13, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Grace Counseling, Pella, Iowa
  • Michelle DeBruin ’12, Director of Spiritual Services, Christian Opportunity Center, Pella, Iowa
  • Andrew Prather ’10, Master’s Student, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, Yonkers, New York
  • Kerry Van Hemert ’10, Director of Operations, The Bridge Church, Ottumwa, Iowa
  • Shaima Muhammad Shehneh ’07, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellow, Istanbul, Turkey

Sarah Hennesy ’91 Appointed to Minnesota Supreme Court

Sarah Hennesy ’91 to begin serving on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Prepared for Everything

A degree in religious studies gives students the skill sets to prepare them for ministry, law school, graduate school and more. Central College religious studies graduates can easily engage in any occupation with the ability to think on their feet, process analytically and think ethically and critically.

Other Opportunities

  • Campus Ministries
  • Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • InterVarsity Christian Fellowship
  • Bread for the World


Religious studies students also gain experience through internships that prepare them for future employment or entrance into graduate school. Recent internships include:

  • The Bridge Church, Ottumwa, Iowa
  • Second Reformed Church, Pella, Iowa
  • Third Reformed Church, Pella, Iowa

Graduate Placement

Many religious studies students go on to pursue master’s degrees and doctorates from a sampling of the institutions below.

  • Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan
  • Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey
  • Baylor University, Waco, Texas
  • Talbot School of Theology, La Mirada, California
  • Aquinas Institute of Theology, St. Louis, Missouri
  • University of London, London, England
  • Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary, Yonkers, New York
  • University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
  • Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa

Courses & Faculty

Religious studies at Central College includes courses in biblical studies, the history of Christian thought, world religions (such as Judaism, Islam Taoism and Confucianism), and ethics and theology, as well as courses in Christian ministry and doctrine. New courses include Race, Racism and Religion in America; Faith and the Search for Meaning; and Islamic Law, Theology and Philosophy.

Coursework emphasizes reading, critical analysis, distinguishing fact from fantasy, communicating (orally and in writing) and objectivity.

A member of Central’s religious studies faculty recently received his second Fulbright Scholarship; the first allowed him to study in Beirut, Lebanon, and the second in Amman, Jordan.

Learn more about this discipline in the course catalog.

Meet the Faculty

  • Terry Kleven, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Dr. Jacob and Gela Schnucker Sessler Chair in Philosophy and Religion and Professor of Religion
  • David Timmer, B.A., Ph.D., Adjunct Faculty
  • Elena Vishnevskaya, B.A., M. Div., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religion
  • Lori Witt, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Kenneth J. Weller Distinguished Professorship of the Liberal Arts and Associate Professor of History

Sample Coursework

First Year

  • Two 100-Level Religion Courses
  • Core Courses

Sophomore Year

  • Two 200-Level Religion Courses
  • Major Electives
  • Core Courses

Junior Year

  • Major Electives
  • Core Courses

Senior Year

  • Senior Thesis
  • Major Electives
  • Core Courses


Learn More

Want to find out more about Religious Studies at Central? Contact us to learn more about this discipline and our other strong academic programs.

Visit campus to observe classes and experience The Central Difference firsthand.


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