Religious Studies 330

RELN 330: History of Christianity

Prerequisite: RELN 200 or RELN 202

Credit Hours: (3)

This course examines the history of Christianity, understood both as institution(s) and as intellectual tradition. From its origins until today, Christianity has presented itself in various, usually competing, forms. We will strive to understand the intellectual issues at stake in various ages, what it was like to be an average Christian rather than a theologian, and how outsiders (such as Romans or Jews) viewed the Church.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

Tracing the historical development of Christianity from the end of the first century through the late twentieth century, the course will be divided into seven major sections. Any such chronological schema has its drawbacks, but should illuminate more than it obscures.

I. The Formation of Catholic Christianity (70-312)

  • The Piety of the Persecutors: Roman Civil Religion
  • Roman Persecution of Christians
  • The Beginnings of Speculative Theology: Gnosticism
  • Development of Orthodoxy
    1. Formation of the Christian Bible
    2. Development of Trinitarian Doctrine
    3. Hermeneutical Issues
  • Women's Spirituality
    1. Acts of Paul and Thecla
    2. Martyrdom of Felicity and Perpetua

II. The Age of the Christian Roman Empire (312-590)

  • Conversion of Constantine
  • The Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon and their opponents
  • Rise of Monasticism
  • Foundations of the Papacy
  • Tensions between East and West

III. The Christian Middle Ages (590-1250)

  • Decline of the Roman Empire and the Rise of Islam
  • Gregory the Great: the First Medieval Pope
  • Charlemagne and Christendom
  • Scholasticism: Philosophy and the Bible
  • Flowering of Medieval Women's Mysticism
  • The Crusades

IV. The Age of Reform (1250-1648)

  • Necessity of Reform?
  • Predecessors to Luther: Wyclif, Hus, Erasmus
  • Martin Luther and the Reformation in Germany
  • Luther's Continental Legacy: Calvin, Meno, et al.
  • The Reformation in England: A Via Media
  • Ignatius of Loyala and the Council of Trent

V. The Age of Reason and Revival (1648-1789)

  • The Enlightenment's Critique
  • The Rise of Pietism
  • The Great Awakening in America: Jonathan Edwards
  • Critics of Reason: Blaise Pascal

VI. The Age of Progress (1789-1914)

  • The Oxford Movement
  • Missionary Expansion
  • Second Great Awakening
  • "Culture Protestantism"
  • Fundamentalism and American Culture

VII. 20th Century Movements (1914-present)

  • The Bombshell on the Playground of the Theologians: Barth
  • Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church in Nazi Germany
  • Christianity in the Third World: Liberation Theology
  • Developments in America: Charismatics and Evangelicals
  • Feminism and Theology
  • The Ecumenical Movement

For each age we will discuss both popular and elite manifestations of Christianity, using the tools of history, sociology, and theology analysis. Where appropriate, we will seek to include the perspectives of outsiders on the Christian movement (Muslims on the Crusades, for example).


Detailed Description of the Conduct of Course

The course format will include a combination of broad lectures and detailed discussion of particular texts. Students will be required to hand in a short précis each week, based on the week's reading, a practice which forces the students to come prepared and to read closely.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

a. The student will gain an outline of Christian history and its various backgrounds from the end of the first century to the present.
b. The student will be able to trace the historical development of the major contemporary expressions of Christianity, including Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the various major branches of Protestantism.
c. The student will gain some knowledge of how Christianity has appeared from the outside throughout history.
d. The student will become familiar with the diverse solutions offered in Christian history to theological problems which before have seemed capable of only one explanation.
e. The student will enhance his or her critical reading, writing, and thinking skills through the close reading and analysis of the texts.


Assessment Measures

Weekly written assignments will record both attendance and participation. Tests will contain both objective and essay questions, with a large weight being given to the identification of specific texts and discussion of their significance. A final exam and/or final term paper will be required.


Other Course Information

This course fulfills a core requirement for Philosophy and Religious Studies majors with a concentration in religious studies. It may also be used to fulfill a department elective for all Philosophy and Religious Studies majors.


Approval and Subsequent Reviews

January 27, 1997 New Course Approved by VPAA
April 17, 1998 Reviewed Kim Kipling
September 25, 2001 Reviewed Kim Kipling