Some 2,000 years ago, a man walked the earth who had a greater impact than any other person in history. Lowly born, he rose to prominence as he spread his vision of the redemption of the world. He attracted the attention of faithful disciples and suspicious local authorities. Eventually, he was tried, convicted, and executed.
Today, his story is known the world over. And yet, more than two millennia later, great thinkers and everyday people still struggle to answer a single question: Who is Jesus?
- Was he a wise sage who culled powerful teachings from centuries of Jewish tradition to create a new world vision of peace and love?
- Or was he indeed God himself, the embodiment of divinity on earth, sent to bring salvation and redemption from sin?
- Did his promise of salvation apply to all humankind or was it limited to only a few followers? And how could one participate in that promise?
Since the earliest days of the faith, questions like these have been at the heart of Christianity. Over the centuries, they have led to fierce debate and produced deep divisions among the faithful. These questions have driven profound acts of faith and worship and incited war and persecution. They have contributed to the building of nations and the shaping of lives and have deeply influenced some of the greatest thinkers of Western philosophy. To ponder questions like these is to understand the very shape of the Western world and to comprehend the remarkable power Christian faith has in the life of believers.
Now, in The History of Christian Theology, you have an opportunity to explore these profound questions and the many responses believers, scholars, and theologians have developed over more than 2,000 years. Through this 36-lecture course, award-winning Professor Phillip Cary of Eastern University reveals the enduring power of the Christian tradition—as both an intellectual discipline and a spiritual path.
Through this course, you will gain thought-provoking insights into a set of teachings that changed the world and discover how, by learning about the diverse beliefs and practices within the wider Christian community, you can enrich your own experience of this great faith.
More Than 2,000 Years of Christian Thought
You trace this epic story as it unfolds through the various teachings and divisions in the Christian faith. The History of Christian Theology begins at the very dawn of Christianity, as you examine some of the earliest examples of scripture recorded by the first communities of the faithful. You see how, over the centuries, these teachings developed into the orthodox teachings of the mainstream church as well as the divergent doctrines taught by splinter groups branded as "heretics."
You explore the causes and outcomes of the split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church during the Middle Ages and examine the explosion of the many Protestant groups that resulted from the Reformation in the 16th century.
Finally, the course takes you into the modern era, with a survey of the evolution of Christian thought in today's society—the ongoing story of how faith persists in an increasingly secularized world.
In each lecture, Professor Cary illuminates the conceptual structure of Christian theology as it is shaped by particular thinkers and movements and as it is connected to spiritual practices such as prayer, worship, the use of sacraments, and the contemplation of religious icons.
Through his lucid and engaging explanations, Professor Cary provides intriguing analyses of these ideas in their unique historical, social, and biographical contexts to help you understand the power of each tradition within its particular time and place. The result is a sweeping yet in-depth survey that probes some of the most common questions about Christian faith as it has developed over the centuries.
Answers to Your Questions about Christianity
What makes Catholics think differently from Protestants? How do different Christian denominations view the role of free will in salvation? Why did the Eastern Orthodox Church split off from the West? Are the divisions within Christian faith and worship inevitable or can they be mended in the future?
In designing this course, veteran Teaching Company Professor Phillip Cary has sought to address these and other questions about Christian faith in its various forms—questions he received from customers of his previous Teaching Company courses on religion.
To answer these questions, Professor Cary weaves together intriguing insights from a wide range of intellectual disciplines, including religion, history, and philosophy. Through this course, you gain these benefits:
- An understanding of the meaning of faith for today's Christians. The best way to understand one's own faith is to understand the faith of others. In this course, you explore how the differences among today's Christians first arose and why these differences mattered so much to previous generations of believers that they have left their mark on Christian life to this day.
- A fascinating overview of the history of the Christian church. From the Nicene Council to the Reformation to Vatican II, this course highlights the major events of church history and provides a valuable and enlightening complement to other courses on Western history.
- An appreciation of the philosophical depth of Christian thought. Professor Cary examines the intellectual rigor that underlies Christian theology and explores the sometimes fruitful, sometimes contentious relationship between religion and philosophy. Through this course, you gain a deeper grasp of the role of Christian theology within the larger intellectual history of the West.
"Outward Words Shape Our Inner Hearts"
As Professor Cary explains, the concepts of Christian theology are more than just words on a page or abstract tenets. They are "outward words that shape our inner hearts."
As you take this journey through the development of Christian thought, you meet the many faithful who have committed themselves to the teachings of Jesus and encounter the diverse ways faith shaped their lives. You see how
- Christian faith determines not only what we believe, but also what we fear. As Professor Cary explains, our faith shapes our psyches. Catholics worry about whether their "good works" are good enough; Calvinists anxiously seek proof that their faith is real; Lutherans fear they may have already lost salvation. You see how the theologies of these different traditions shape the different kinds of anxiety that Christians experience and how these beliefs are manifested in spiritual practice.
- Christian faith is a life-or-death issue. For true believers, faith is not just a matter of outward observance or intellectual conviction. With the meaning of their existence at stake, Christian believers will suffer persecution and even death before they will deny their faith. From the martyrs of the early church to the Anabaptists of the Reformation, you witness how Christians throughout history have faced torment, suffered execution, and fled their homelands to preserve their faith.
- Christian faith is a voice that speaks within. In Christianity, faith is a deeply personal experience. It has been a powerful voice of inner experience, from visionary encounters with Jesus by the 16th-century Spanish mystic Theresa of Avila to the practice of listening to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit that is widespread among contemporary American evangelicals.
Christianity in the Modern World—and Beyond
As you come to understand the complex path of Christian belief throughout the centuries, you contemplate crucial questions about today's Christian church: What will happen to Christianity in the future? Can faith survive in an increasingly secular world? How does theology remain connected to traditions of religious practice?
Professor Cary provides unique insights into the current condition of modern Christian practice—informed by its complex intellectual and social history—and offers a tantalizing glimpse into the future of the faith in which Christians of all denominations grow spiritually by understanding their differences as well as what they have in common.
Join Professor Cary for an enriching and thought-provoking journey into the fascinating and inspiring world of Christian thought. Whether you're interested in a deeper understanding of your own faith or you're curious about the role of Christianity in the larger social and intellectual history of the Western world, The History of Christian Theology will enrich and transform your understanding of this powerful spiritual tradition.