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Introduction to the Study
of Church History

Introduction to Church History.png
Course Summary

The Christian church is an evolving institution, which has constantly acted and reacted in terms of its own developing sense of identity, and in terms of its historical and social context. In this way, the theology and the ecclesiology of the church have come to assume their current shapes. This introduction to the study of church history equips students with methods of historical inquiry applied to an analysis of the church’s doctrinal and institutional evolution as a framework for other theological study and more advanced historical study. It is a Core unit and forms part of a Major in Church History within the Master of Divinity award.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this unit students will be able to:

  1. identify the major developments and critical turning points in the history of the Christian churches from their origins to the present;

  2. explain the causes and outcomes of significant historical events and trends within the Christian churches throughout history;

  3. analyse the problems, opportunities and attitudes of past Christians in

      their interaction with the societies in which they lived;

  4. evaluate the contribution of selected people and movements to the

      development of the church’s thought and structures;

  5. interpret primary and secondary historical documents in their social

      context in the development of a coherent historical argument in written form.

Course Content

  1. Approaches to Historical Inquiry

  2. The Early Church (to 500)

    1. Expansion of the Church

    2. Doctrinal Development

    3. Institutional Development

    4. Relation of Church and State

  3. The Medieval Church (500-1500)

    1. The Holy Roman Empire and the Conversion of Europe

    2. The Church of the East and Crusades

    3. Institutional Decline and Renewal

  4. The Reformation (16th century)

    1. Renaissance and Reform

    2. Protestant Reformation: Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Radicals, English Reformation

    3. Catholic Reformation: Councils, Popes, Monastics 

  5. Challenges and Responses (1600-1900)

    1. Spiritual Challenges: Puritanism, Pietism, Evangelical Revivals, Oxford Movement

    2. Intellectual Challenges: Deism, Biblical Criticism, Science and Religion

    3. Social Challenges: Christian Socialism, Salvation Army, Vatican I

  6. The Modern Era (1900-present)

    1. Universal Christianity: Missions, Ecumenism, Vatican II

    2. Church and Society: Confronting Totalitarianism, Secularism, Globalism

    3. The Church in Australia or New Zealand: an Overview

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