History of Christianity


Bishop's School
Diocese of Bethlehem
Fall 2008


Prof. Pavlac
e-mail: bapavlac(AT)kings.edu
Tel: (570) 208-5900, ext. # 5748
Fax: (570) 208-5988 
Office: Hafey-Marian 307
King's College
Office Hours: MWF 10-12
and by appointment

I. Description:

The History of Christianity is a rich, complex story, full of tragedy and triumph.  In order to cover essential materials in just a few weeks, this course selects some of the conflicts that have helped to shape the ecclesiology, theology, and practice of Christians through history and around the world.  The participant should gain a better awareness of the role of controversy and compromise in Christian history, as well as a deeper understanding of many significant beliefs, people, events and trends.

II. Requirements:

1. Attendance
People who are in the ordination process may only miss one session and still receive credit for the course.

2. Reading
You should prudently mark up, underline, highlight and/or otherwise annotate your texts as you study.

A. The Story of Christianity, Volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation by Justo L. Gonzalez ISBN-10:0060633158 and The Story of Christianity, Volume 2: Reformation to the Present Day by Justo L. Gonzalez ISBN-10:0060633166
Read the assigned chapters and sections before class, as assigned on the schedule, below.  Bring questions about the reading if you do not understand points or wish deeper explanations. Be prepared to discuss the reading in class, especially in light of that dayís topic. Keep in mind how the author uses biography to illustrate developments in the history of Christianity.

B. A Cloud of Witnesses: Readings in the History of Western Christianity by Joel F. Harrington, 2nd edition 2000 ISBN-10:0395968836
Read at least the introduction to each chapter and the introductions to each source in that chapter before class, as assigned on the schedule, below

3.  Weekly Reports on Sources
Also for each class, the instructor will assign or each student will pick one source or set of sources from A Cloud of Witnesses on which the student will give a brief (five to seven minute) report to the class.

As you read the sources, you consider the following questions:

For more on sources, see <http://staff.kings.edu/bapavlac/sources.html>.

For the report, present a brief summary of the above questions, if the sourceís introduction does not already include that information. More important, point out specific passages, phrases, or words in the source which illustrate the answers to the above questions.

4.  Report on Heresy, Schism, Confessionalization, Denominalism, Sectarianism, Fragmentation, etc.
Each student will pick a "church" from the Histories of Churches section on the Resources for the History of Christianity page <http://staff.kings.edu/bapavlac/Xty/hist.html>.  In the last class, each student will present a brief (five to seven minute) report about how and why that "church" separated from or began anew from other Christians.  Issues to be referenced should include key dates, personalities, political pressures, theological disputes, hierarchichal arrangements, social constraints, and ethnic or national differences.  You should do some research beyond what is presented on the given website(s), of at least two printed reference works, and two other substantial sources.  Each student should provide to the class, as an aid to understanding, a handout which includes key terms, descriptions, and bibliography. 

III.  Class Schedule:

September 20 Session 1 Introduction and Hierarchy, ca. A.D. 27-600: Who should lead?
An introduction to the course, the historical method, the methods and sources of the study of Church history. Second, the formation of a church leadership, from Jesus and the apostles, through bishops and councils, to the papacy.

September 27 Session 2 The Nature of the Christ, ca. 4 B.C.-A.D. 800: Who is Jesus?
While the Church was forming its leadership, Christians were trying to understand and describe who exactly Jesus was, from the Son of Man and Messiah, through the Nicene Creed and the Trinity, to the filioque.
Harrington, Chapter 1
Gonzalez v1.Preface, Introduction, 1-12, 17-20, pp. xiii-109, 158-186

October 18 Session 3 Empire, A.D. 313-1453: What is the relationship of Church to State?
With Constantine's legalization of Christianity, the Church became bound to political empires; from Rome and its continuation in Byzantium in the East, through the Carolingians, the Holy Roman Empire, and kingdoms of Christendom in the West.
Harrington, Chapter 2, 3
Gonzalez v1.13-16, 21-32, pp. 112-157, 189-341

October 25 Session 4 Reformation I, 1309-1648: How does the Church reform itself?
As the Late Medieval Church in the West failed to implement sufficient reform, the efforts of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the Anabaptists shattered Western Christendom.
Harrington, Chapter 4, 5
Gonzalez v1.33-34, pp. 342-375, v2.1-7, 14-15, 19-20, pp. 2-69, 128-141, 172-184

November 1 Session 5 Reformation II, 1528-1789: How does the Church reform itself?
The dynastic needs of the King of England initiated an unusual reformation in that kingdom; and Roman Catholicism redefined itself in opposition to Protestantism, which continued to diversify.
Harrington, Chapter 6
Gonzalez v2.8-13, 16-18, 24, pp. 7-125, 142-171, 217-231

November 8 Session 6 World Mission, 1450-1914: How do Christians evangelize non-Europeans?
With the Voyages of Discovery, Europeans came into contact, and, at times, domination of diverse peoples around the world; Christians needed to learn how to spread, and live, the Gospel in foreign lands; from the conquistadores, through SPCK, to the World Missionary Conference.
Harrington, Chapter 7
Gonzalez v1.35-36, pp.  378-414, v2.27, 30, pp. 274-281, 303-323

November 15 Session 7 Modernism, 1687-1925: How does Christianity deal with reason and science?
With the Enlightenment another powerful belief system came to rival Christianity, and, eventually, provided some Christians tools to reexamine their own foundations and history; from Deism, through fundamentalism, to the Scopes Trial.
Harrington, Chapter 8
Gonzalez v2.21-23, 25-26, 28-29, 35 (From World War I to the Great Depression), pp. 185-216, 234-371, 294-302, 372-376

November 22 Session 8 Ecumenism, 1914-present: What is the true Church?
As Christianity became a diverse world-wide phenomenon and in the wake of the Great War, some Christians began to approach cooperation and the healing of schisms, from the World Council of Churches, through Vatican II, to "The Gift of Authority."
Harrington, Chapter 9
Gonzalez v2.31-36, pp. 326-398

December 6 Session 9 Sexuality, 1930-present: How does sex matter to God?
With the rise of Womenís rights and the Sexual Revolution in the later 20th Century, Christians began to reevaluate accepted Biblical interpretations and practices about sex; from abortion and contraception, through womenís ordination, to the cultural war over homosexuality.
Harrington Chapter 10

Wm. Saunders, Contraceptive References in the Bible <http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0663.html>
The Episcopal Church, USA and homosexuality <http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_epis.htm>
Han's Bible Home Page [in the Wayback Machine] <http://web.archive.org/web/20000306211818/http://members.aol.com/hansss/bible-stuff.html> interesting interpretation using context.
Frank K. Flinn, "Joe Biden, abortion and the Catholic vote,"  Oct. 24, 2008 <http://news-info.wustl.edu/tips/page/normal/12819.html?emailID=21701> brief history of Roman Catholicism and abortion. 

December 13 Session 10 Summary and Review
A chance to reflect on the course, report on other significant conflicts in the past, and discuss what challenges face the Christian Church now and in the future.

IV.  Links:

Bible Study Resources History of Western Civilization Resources and Sources
Anglican Resources History of Christianity Resources
Significant People in the History of Christianity History of Churches/Denominations/Sects/Ecclesiastical Polities Rooted in Christianity

Although this syllabus presents the basic content of this course, the professor reserves the right to change anything (e.g. requirement, topics, assignments, due dates, grading policy, etc.) at his discretion.

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URL: http://staff.kings.edu/bapavlac/Xty/
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Last Revision: 6 November 2008