Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Pivotal Moments in Christian History

UTC does not offer a general course on the History of Christianity. There are some specialized courses on the catalog, however, including "Early Christian Thought" and "Modern Christian Thought." I have become convinced that our department needs to have a general course for undergraduates that covers the basic narrative of Church History. So, I am thinking about offering a survey of the History of Christianity as a new course in the spring of 2014 or next year.

The challenge, as Miles Mullin and others have identified, is condensing the whole of Christian history into a single semester. Usually, courses on the History of Christianity at seminaries and graduate schools are broken up into two separate semesters. Often "The History of Christianity I" surveys the Early Church up to the time of the Reformation during a Fall semester, with "The History of Christianity II" picking up the narrative from the end of the Reformation to the present. As Mullin points out, it is very difficult to span two thousand years of religious history in one semester, and it is almost as challenging to find a textbook for students to use that is not overwhelming in details, laborious, or multiple volumes.

Despite these challenges, I am going to try teaching a one-semester course anyway. Although I have never taught Church History in this way, I am leaning towards taking the Mark Noll approach and focusing on special "turning points" in the History of Christianity, such as the Council of Nicaea, the East-West split, the Reformation, and so on. If I take this tactic, and I am allowed to teach this course, I will probably choose Noll's Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity as the textbook, which has recently come out in a third edition.

So, what should I call a one-semester course on the History of Christianity? This is another problem. Since this will most likely be an upper-level elective, no one at UTC will be required to take it. I will be competing against other offerings in our department, such as "Satanism, Witchcraft, and Spirit Possession" (this class always fills), "Holocaust and Genocide," and "Yoga and Tantric Mysticism." Would students use precious elective credits to take a course with a bland name like "The History of Christianity" or "Survey of Church History"?  In thinking about a title for my course, here's what I've come up with: "Pivotal Moments in Christian History." Let me know what you think. I would welcome suggestions for a different title.

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