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Uniquely, Christianity asserts that its central figure, Jesus Christ, was not only a man but also God. The central elements of its creed—that there are three persons in one God, for example—are often difficult to accept or understand.
It emphasizes belief rather than law and ritual practice. And it is highly susceptible to paradox:
These apparent contradictions arise from the complex character of Christianity's claims about God, the world, and above all, Jesus of Nazareth, whose death and resurrection form the heart of the good news proclaimed by this religious tradition.
"The lectures concentrate on the basics," says Professor Johnson. "They seek to provide a clear survey of the most important elements of this religious tradition and a framework for the student's further study."
Professor Johnson is the author of several hundred articles and reviews as well as 21 books, including The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels (1996).
In his course, you will consider fundamental issues including:
This course introduces Christianity as a world religion. The obvious first questions to ask are: "What is a religion?" and "What is a world religion?"
The word religion can be defined as "a way of life organized around experiences and convictions concerning ultimate power."
A world religion has experience and convictions that successfully organize a way of life beyond local, ethnic, or national boundaries.
Beginning as a sect of Judaism in an obscure province of the Roman Empire in the 1st century, it became the official religion of the empire by the 4th century and dominated the cultural life of Europe for much of its history.
Although Christianity's influence has declined in Europe and North America, it continues to expand worldwide. In the First World, Christian fundamentalism struggles with modernity. Yet, in the 21st century, Christianity is poised for a possible renaissance in developing nations, where millions of new followers are drawn to its central and powerful claim: the resurrection of Christ.
Professor Johnson's synthetic approach provides first an overview of the Christian story, how it understands history from creation to new creation—and the relation of scripture to that history, and the Christian creed: what Christians believe about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the church.
He explains Christian practice as expressed, in turn, by the structure of the community and its sacraments, by the struggles of Christians to find a coherent and consistent moral teaching, and by various manifestations of Christianity's more radical edge in martyrs, monks, mendicants, missionaries, and mystics.
Professor Johnson's lectures also deal with internal and external conflicts:
By the end of this course, students will have a grasp of:
Harold McFarland, editor of Midwest Book Review, writes about this course: "If you want a good understanding of Christianity from a historical perspective—where it came from, where it is going, how its doctrines have come about and how they have changed, this is one of the best places to acquire that knowledge."
Ph.D., Yale University
Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory University's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. Professor Johnson earned a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Yale University, as well as an M.A. in Religious Studies from Indiana University, an M.Div. in Theology from Saint Meinrad School of Theology, and a B.A. in Philosophy from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.
A former Benedictine monk, Professor Johnson has taught at Yale Divinity School and Indiana University, where he received the President's Award for Distinguished Teaching, was elected a member of the Faculty Colloquium in Teaching, and won the Brown Derby Teaching Award and the Student Choice Award for teaching. At Emory University, he has twice received the On Eagle's Wings Excellence in Teaching Award. In 2007 he received the Candler School of Theology Outstanding Service Award. His most recent award is the 2011 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for the ideas set forth in his 2009 book, Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity.
Professor Johnson is the author of more than 20 books, including The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels and The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, which is widely used as a textbook. He has also published several hundred scholarly articles and reviews.
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