History of Christianity


Bishop’s School
Diocese of Bethlehem
Fall 2011


Prof. Pavlac
e-mail: therev@brianpavlac.org
Office: Hafey-Marian 307
King's College

Office Tel.: (570) 208-5900, ext. # 5748
Fax: (570) 208-5988 

Office Hours: Monday Tuesday Thursday 8:30-10:45 am
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. Class particpation
This class provides an opportunity to learn about the history of Christiainity in all its diverse forms. The course requires various kinds of participation designed to promote learning and understanding the material.
First is preparation: doing ahead of the class meeting reading (see point #2), thinking, and writing about the past.
Second is conversation: asking questions in class about the material and talking about it with your fellow class participants. The Diocesan attendance regulation is that people who are in the ordination process may only miss one session and still receive credit for the course.
Third is presentation: delivering a thoughtful analysis of a primary source (see point #3) and a development in Christian history (see point #4).
Fourth is composition: writing a handout explaining one development in Christian history (see point #4).

2. Reading
You should prudently mark up, underline, highlight and/or otherwise annotate your texts as you study. Bring the books to each class.

A. Diarmaid MacCulloch, Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years, published by Penquin.
Read the assigned chapters and sections before class, as assigned on the schedule, below.  At a minimum, learn the "Key terms" (some of which may be associated with the Harrington text's readings) and find answers to the listed "Questions to consider." Bring questions about the reading if you do not understand points or wish deeper clarifications. Be prepared to discuss the reading in class, especially in light of that day’s topic. Due each class.

B. A Cloud of Witnesses: Readings in the History of Western Christianity, ed. Joel F. Harrington, 2nd edition 2000 ISBN-10:0395968836 or comparable versions.
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.  If possible, read all the sources assigned or in the text, but especially pay attention to the authors/readings listed in the schedule. Also you will be assigned a source for which you will make a weekly report (see point #3). Due each class.

3.  Weekly Reports on Sources
At the end of each class, the instructor will assign for each student one source or set of sources from A Cloud of Witnesses on which each student will give a brief (four-to-five minute) oral report at the next class.

As you read the sources, you might consider the questions found at <http://staff.kings.edu/bapavlac/evalsources.html>. If you do any extra research, point out in your report any useful information not included in the Harrington introduction or the MacCulloch text.

For the oral report, point out several specific passages, phrases, or words in the source which illustrate its historical significance or which you found particularly meaningful. The other participants in the class will note these in their texts. Due each class.

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 six 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 listing sources used. For information on how to cite sources see citation information at this linkDue in the last class, December 10.

III.  Class Schedule:

Saturday Mornings, St. Stephen's Pro-Cathedral, Wilkes-Barre, 9:30-11:30 am.

September 17 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.

  Key terms Questions to consider
MacCulloch, chapter 1, Greece and Rome logos; Christos; Messiah;
allegory; ekklesia; kuriake;

How do the different words for "church" express a tension within Christianity?

What was Plato's contribution to Christianity?

How did the Roman Emperor become divine?

MacCulloch, chapter 2, Israel Canaan/Palestine/Israel; Hebrews; Yahweh; Ark of the Covenenant; prophets; Adversary (Hassatan); Jews; Tanakh

What are the chronological problems of Genesis regarding the history of Israel?

How has history shaped the prophets?

September 24 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.

  Key terms Questions to consider
MacCulloch, chapter 3, A Crucified Messiah evaggelion/'Godspell'; Jesus; Messiah; 'Son of Man'; disciples; Apostles; Passion; Resurrection; Christos; Paul of Tarsus; epistles; revelation/apocalypse; Jewish Revolt;

Why were the stories of Jesus' birth created?

What is the misfit between the Resurrection and the Gospels for Christianity?

MacCulloch, chapter 4, Boundaries Defined Didache; Gnosticism; Marcion; canon; creeds; charismata; presbyteroi; episkopoi; Clement of Rome; Ignatius of Antioch; Monatanism;
Apologists; Justin; Irenaeus; Tertullian; heresy; Origen;

In what two respects were Christians first recorded as having been consciously different from their neighbors?

How were gnostics different from other Christians?

What were Origen's two important contributions to Christianity?

Harrington, chapter 1, The Ancient Church in Religious Context Hermas, The Shepherd; Martyrdoms of Perpetua and Felicitas


October 1 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.

  Key terms Questions to consider
MacCulloch, chapter 6, The Imperial Church Constantine; Eusebius of Caesarea; monasticism; Antony; Donatist Schism; Arianism; Council of Nicaea; Cappadocian Fathers; Nestorius; Council of Chalcedon;

What interested Constantine in Christianity?

What were the origins of monasticism?


MacCulloch, chapter 11, the West: Universal Emperor or Universal Pope?

Cluny; parishes; clerical celibacy; Pope Gregory VII; Investiture Controversy; Becket; Crusades; Cistercians; Canons Regular; What were the consequences of the papal construction of a universal monarchy?
MacCulloch, chapter 12, A Church for all People? Cathars; Waldensians; universities; scholasticism; Franciscans; Dominicans; inquisition; Thomas Aquinas; mysticism;

How did new devotion to the Eucharist follow from the Fourth Lateran Council?


Harrington, chapters 2, Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages and 3, The High Middle Ages Benedict of Nursia, Rule; Augustine of Hippo, Confessions; Boniface; Investiture Crisis; Peter Abelard, History of My Calamities


October 22 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.

  Key terms Questions to consider
MacCulloch, chapter 16, Perspectives on the True Church 'blood libel'; indulgences; 'Babylonian Captivity'; Council of Konstanz (Constance); conciliarism; nominalism; Devotio Moderna;
Lollardy; Hussites; humanism; Reconquesta; Spanish Inquisition; Erasmus;

How did the papacy reconsolidate its authority after the 'Babylonian Captivity?'

How did humanism and biblical translation promote the Reformation?

What was the purpose of the Spanish Inquisition?

MacCulloch, chapter 17, A House Divided Martin Luther; Diet of Worms;
Zwingli; Anabaptists; Henry VIII;

What were the disagreements between Lutherans and Zwinglians on the Eucharist?

How did Calvin further disagreement about the Eucharist?

How did the rule of the Stuarts and Civil War change the Church of England?

Harrington, chapters 4, The Late Middle Ages and the Renaissance and 5, The Reformation Era Bernadino da Siena, On Vanity; Bernard Gui, Manual of Inquisitor; Theresa of Avila, Life; Ignatius Loyala, Spiritual Exercises


October 29 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.

  Key terms Questions to consider
MacCulloch, chapter 18, Rome's Renewal Jesuits; Council of Trent; Witch Hunts;

How was Mary's church in England a forerunner of the Reformation?

What is puzzling about the Witch Hunts?

Harrington, chapter 6, The Confessional Age George Fox, Journal; Witches at Chelmsford; Cotton Mather, Witches; Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary; Wesley


November 5 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.

  Key terms Questions to consider
MacCulloch, chapter 19, A Worldwide Faith Treaty of Tordesillas; de las Casas; Virgin of Guadalupe;

What was the role of Franciscans and Dominicans in the Spanish world empire?

How did Africans in the New World adapt their faiths to Chrisitianity?

MacCulloch, chapter 20, Protestant Awakenings Pilgrims; Church of Massachusetts; Roger Williams; 'Non-Jurors'; Latitudinarians; Pietism; Moravians;
Methodism; Evangelical Revivial; John and Charles Wesley; Great Awakenings; Baptists;

What was the unique form taken by the Puritan's church in America?

What role did toleration take in the founding of Maryland and Pennsylvania?

How did John Wesley create a new religious movement?

Harrington, chapter 7, North American Christianity to 1860 Jonathan Edwards;
Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography;
Frederick Douglass, Autobiography


November 12 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.

  Key terms Questions to consider
MacCulloch, chapter 21, Enlightenment: Ally or Enemy?

Freemasonry; Spinoza;
Quakers; Maurists; deism; skepticism; Jansenism; Kant;
Napoleon's Concordat; materialism

What were the origins of Freemasonry?

What were some of the results of tolerance in Amsterdam?

How did gender roles change in the Enlightenment?

How was socialism a reaction to the industrial revolution?

MacCulloch, chapter 22, Europe Re-enchanted or Disenchanted ultramontanism; Syllabus of Errors; Immaculate Conception; Kierkegaard; Kulturkampf;
Oxford Movement/Tractarianism;
Tübingen; agnostics; Theosophy; modernism; fundamentalism

How did people perceive the appearances of Mary in the nineteenth century?

How did the Tractarians rebrand the Church of England?

How did reassessment of the Bible in the nineteenth century challenge churches?

Harrington, chapter 8, Nineteenth-Century Europe Schleiermacher; Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum; John Henry Newman, Aplogia Pro Vita Sua


November 19 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."

  Key terms Questions to consider
MacCulloch, chapter 23, To Make the World Protestant 'Clapham Sect'; missionary societies; China Inland Mission;
Sevent-Day Adventism; Jehovah's Witnesses; Church of Christ Scientist; Mormonism; Pentecostalism; premillennialism

Why were new African churches founded?

How did the Miaphysite churches in Egypt and Ethiopia cope with European imperialism?

How did Korea's Christianity begin?

MacCulloch, chapter 24, Not Peace but a Sword Ulster; Christeros; Vatican State; German Christians; 'Confessing Church'; Pope Pius XII; 'Social Gospel'; World Council of Churches; Lambeth Conference; 'Oneness' Pentecostalism; National Association of Evangelicals

What were the Christian reactions to fascism and nazism?

How was Anglicanism hindered in ecumenism?

What two defeats slowed the growth of Americn Evangelicals and Pentecostals?

Harrington, chapter 9, The Twentieth Century Scopes Trial; Falwell, Listen America!; Torrey, "Will Christ Come Again?"; Barmen Declaration


December 3 Session 9 Sexuality, 1930-present: How does sex matter to God?
With the rise of Women’s 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 women’s ordination, to the cultural war over homosexuality.

  Key terms Questions to consider
MacCulloch, chapter 25, Culture Wars Pope John XXIII; Vatican II; liberation theology; minjung theology;
'Moral Majority';
Pope John Paul II; magisterium;
Evangelical Fundamentalism;

What changes did Vatican II propose?

Why was the Anglican Church best placed to oppose Apartheid?

How have the changing attitudes toward family since the 1960s affectedt the church?

How has the increasing practice of cremation affected Christianity?

Harrington, chapter 10, Western Christianity and Contemporary Society M.L. King, Jr., "Letter from a Birmingham Jail";
Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk; Wildung Harrison, "Theology of Pro-Choice: A Feminist Perspective"


See also: Wm. Saunders, Contraceptive References in the Bible <http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0663.html> and The Episcopal Church, USA and homosexuality <http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_epis.htm>

December 10 Session 10 Reports and Review

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.

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

Compare this course to one taught at King's College.

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Last Revision: 2011 September 25

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