History of Christian Theology

Course No. 6450
Professor Phillip Cary, Ph.D.
Eastern University
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Course No. 6450
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Course Overview

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.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    What Is Theology?
    For more than two millennia, Christians have explored a set of critical theological questions: Who is Jesus Christ? How does his life impact the lives of the faithful? This lecture offers a definition of the intellectual discipline that seeks to answer these questions: Christian theology. x
  • 2
    Early Christian Proclamation
    For the first believers, Christian faith was a quest to understand the nature of a single, remarkable person. In this lecture, you will gain an understanding of what the first members of this faith believed about Jesus as you explore the earliest recorded Christian hymns, prayers, and sermons. x
  • 3
    Pauline Eschatology
    Early Christians viewed themselves as living between the time of Christ's resurrection and Christ's return as redeemer and king. This lecture examines the theology of this expectation of the Second Coming—called "eschatology"—as it is presented in the writings of the apostle Paul. x
  • 4
    The Synoptic Gospels
    The Gospels are the four books of the New Testament that narrate the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Three of them, the synoptic Gospels, tell his story in roughly the same order. This lecture analyzes the subtle literary structure by which these narratives evoke an answer to the question, "Who do you think Jesus is?" x
  • 5
    The Gospel of John
    Unlike the synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John dwells at length on Jesus's divine identity. You explore the unique elements of John's message—including his famous prologue in which he declares that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh—and examine how the Gospel of John provides a foundation for later doctrines about Christ's divinity. x
  • 6
    Varieties of Early Christianity
    By the second century, the Christian church was largely non-Jewish, or Gentile. In this lecture, you take a closer look at some radical offshoots of Gentile Christianity, the Gnostics, and see how these controversial groups rejected Christianity's Jewish roots in favor of a more spiritual view of the universe. x
  • 7
    The Emergence of Christian Doctrine
    Here, you learn how the very idea of official church doctrine arose, as well as its opposite, "heresy." In response to Gnosticism and other rejected teachings, the mainstream church developed institutions such as the office of bishop, whose function was to maintain continuity with the tradition of teaching by the apostles. x
  • 8
    Christian Reading
    Looking back to Jewish scriptures, early Christians could not ignore the powerful relationship between the Jewish people and their God. You examine how early Christians created strategies to insert themselves into this grand story by interpreting the ancient teachings as bearing witness to Jesus Christ. x
  • 9
    The Uses of Philosophy
    You explore the profound interplay between two great forms of ancient thought: early Christianity and ancient philosophy. Agreeing with the philosophers' emphasis on reason, wisdom, and happiness, the church fathers adapted many themes from ancient thinkers, including Platonist metaphysics and Stoic moralism. x
  • 10
    The Doctrine of the Trinity
    You examine the most fundamental teaching proposed by the church fathers, the doctrine of the Trinity, which identifies the God of the Christian faith as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—a single divine essence that mysteriously manifests itself in three distinct, complete individuals. x
  • 11
    The Doctrine of the Incarnation
    The establishment of the doctrine of the Trinity paved the way for the development of a second key teaching, the doctrine of Christ's Incarnation. You examine the implications of this doctrine, which states that as the Son of the Father, Jesus is truly God, while as the son of Mary, he is truly human. x
  • 12
    The Doctrine of Grace
    The third fundamental doctrine proposed by the early church fathers states that believers become children of God by adoption, through the grace of Christ who is the Son of God by nature. Augustine develops this into a doctrine of the inner help of the Holy Spirit, which is necessary for salvation. x
  • 13
    The Incomprehensible and the Supernatural
    You move from the ancient world of the late Roman Empire to the Middle Ages as you consider a distinctive concept of Christianity: the incomprehensibility of God. This concept follows from the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity and is grounded in ineffable mysteries such as the eternal begetting of God the Son by God the Father. x
  • 14
    Eastern Orthodox Theology
    Next, you examine a second great development in medieval Christian history, the formation of a distinctly Eastern Orthodox version of Christian theology. You explore some of the hallmarks of Eastern Orthodox theology, including the veneration of icons, the transfiguration of Christ, and the energies of the Trinity. x
  • 15
    Atonement and the Procession of the Spirit
    In 1054, the Christian Church saw its first great schism: the separation between Eastern Orthodoxy and the Western church. You explore a fundamental principle that led to this schism: the doctrine of "double procession," which teaches that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from both the Father and the Son. x
  • 16
    Scholastic Theology
    In medieval universities, scholars such as Thomas Aquinas applied Aristotelian concepts of logic and science to the study of theology. You examine the result of the intellectual interplay: scholasticism, a distinctively Western deepening of the relationship of faith and reason that used a method of disputation to harmonize diverse strands in the theological tradition. x
  • 17
    The Sacraments
    Take a closer look at the practices of the medieval church as represented in the development of an important church institution—the seven sacraments. Derived from scripture and believed to be instituted by Christ, these sacred rites were seen as external signs that both signified an inner gift of divine grace and bestowed it on those who believe. x
  • 18
    Souls after Death
    While early Christians were more concerned with the second coming of Christ than with the fate of the soul after death, there eventually developed teachings about the Christian afterlife. In this lecture, you examine the development of these beliefs and see how they derived from a variety of sources, including Hebrew scripture, the New Testament, and Platonic philosophy. x
  • 19
    Luther and Protestant Theology
    The break between medieval Catholicism and Protestantism is marked most importantly by a single famous figure, Martin Luther (1483–1546). In this lecture, you examine how Luther came to make his break with the established church and examine some of his key teachings, including the idea that one is justified by faith alone. x
  • 20
    Calvin and Reformed Theology
    You begin to examine a second great movement of Protestant theology, the Reformed tradition. Founded by John Calvin, Reformed theology pioneers a new concept to Protestant thought, adoption, or the idea that God elects to make some people his children through the grace of Christ. x
  • 21
    Protestants on Predestination
    Calvin taught that God predestines some people for damnation as well as salvation. Later Calvinists incorporated this doctrine of "double predestination" into a system of eternal divine decrees governing all the events of time. Examine the development of these views as they appear in the classic five-point doctrine of Calvinism. x
  • 22
    Protestant Disagreements
    While the Reformed and Lutheran traditions of theology were very similar, they also diverged on several key points. One of these key points, which you explore in this lecture, is the nature of Christ's presence in the Eucharist, or the Lord's Supper. x
  • 23
    Anabaptists and the Radical Reformation
    A radical wing of Protestantism, the Anabaptists, diverged even further from the Catholic tradition when they could see no grounds for infant baptism in scripture. You explore the origins of these persecuted Christian communities and trace their development in today's Mennonite tradition. x
  • 24
    Anglicans and Puritans
    Now, you move from Germany and Switzerland to England to trace a further divergence within Protestant theology. You see how the Anglicans sought to find a middle way between Catholic practices and Reformed theology, while the Puritans desired a more thoroughly Reformed church divested of all traces of Catholicism. x
  • 25
    Baptists and Quakers
    Continue your consideration of English Protestantism with two new Christian communities: the Baptists and the Quakers. These traditions are known for their rejection of the state church, their persecution by governing authorities, and their championing of religious freedom. x
  • 26
    Pietists and the Turn to Experience
    In response to the dry arguments of Protestant scholasticism, the Pietist theologians of Germany advocated a focus on the inward, emotional experience of religious faith. In this lecture, you explore the teachings and practice of the Pietists and a similar but distinct group, the Moravians. x
  • 27
    From Puritans to Revivalists
    Continue your examination of Protestant traditions with an introductory look at American Revivalism. Beginning in the 18th century with the teachings of Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards, the Revivalists stressed the importance of a strong, deeply felt conversion experience as a critical part of salvation. x
  • 28
    Perfection, Holiness, and Pentecostalism
    You trace the further development of American Revivalism as it was influenced by the teachings of John Wesley, who proposed that through the process of sanctification, one could attain spiritual perfection. This notion became a key tenet of Methodism as well as in the Holiness movement promoted by Phoebe Palmer and led to the concept of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Pentecostalism. x
  • 29
    Deism and Liberal Protestantism
    You examine two traditions that grew out of the intellectual crisis of the 18th-century Enlightenment. The Deists sought to derive a "natural religion" from the teachings of Reason, while the liberal Protestants based their theology on inner experience, and especially the inner impression made on Christian consciousness by the historical Jesus. x
  • 30
    Neo-Orthodoxy—From Kierkegaard to Barth
    In the 20th century, neo-orthodox theologians turned from liberal theology's focus on consciousness to an Existentialist focus on the transformation of human existence. Examine how theologian Karl Barth pioneered this reimagining of faith, only to reject it later for a revision of the doctrine of election x
  • 31
    Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism
    You explore how Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism developed out of the concern that liberal theology was rejecting fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. Learn about Dispensationalism, whose doctrine of the end times was influential both in Fundamentalism and its offshoot, Evangelicalism. x
  • 32
    Protestantism after Modernity
    Modernity is both Protestantism's child and its challenge. In this lecture, you examine this central irony—how Modernity was produced by the habits of mind inculcated by Protestantism and yet, according to some theologians, may undermine the faith through its increased emphasis on secularization. x
  • 33
    Catholic Theologies of Grace
    Now, you return to the 16th century and pick up the story of modern Catholicism. Starting with the teachings of the Council of Trent, you trace the development of Catholic teachings on grace, its role in salvation, and its relation to free will. x
  • 34
    Catholic Mystical Theology
    In modern Catholicism, mystical theology means supernatural prayer directed toward a union with God in love. This lecture explores this tradition through the writings of St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross and in Rome's response to the mystical movement known as Quietism. x
  • 35
    From Vatican I to Vatican II
    You continue to follow the history of Roman Catholic theology in the modern period with an examination of the 19th-century council that defined the infallibility of the pope and the 20th-century council that opened up the Roman Catholic Church's relationship to the world, other religions, and other Christians. x
  • 36
    Vatican II and Ecumenical Prospects
    The Roman Catholic involvement in ecumenism, initiated in Vatican II, has major consequences for other Christians, especially Protestants. In this final lecture, you explore the notion that Protestants and Catholics have much to learn from each other as they continue to develop their traditions of faith. x

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Your professor

Phillip Cary

About Your Professor

Phillip Cary, Ph.D.
Eastern University
Dr. Phillip Cary is Professor of Philosophy at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, where he is also Scholar-in-Residence at the Templeton Honors College. After receiving his B.A. in English Literature and Philosophy from Washington University in St. Louis, Professor Cary earned his M.A. in Philosophy and Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religious Studies from Yale University. Professor Cary is a recent winner of the...
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History of Christian Theology is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 104.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent First Half; Second Half Faded I feel like this course trailed off as it progressed (although the last lecture did regain some of my interest). The first half, concentrating on Christian theology in the ancient world and medieval times, was stellar. The topics were engaging, the lectures captivating, and Professor Cary was at his best. At worse it was four star material but closer to 5. While the second half opened up strong (lecture 20 on the differences between Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism was one of the three highlights of the course; The other two being lectures 9 (Philosophy and religion) and 10 (doctrine of the Trinity)) it began to fade. Lectures spent too much time on different views of how a Christian is saved and the nature of God’s grace and the professor didn’t articulate the differences well enough in some cases. I know this was a theology course vs. worship but I would’ve preferred if he spent more time explaining other differences between the various protestant denominations (i.e. how does a Baptist worship session differ from a Methodist one vs. a Catholic, etc.). I would give the second half three stars. Three and a half stars would be my ideal rating for this course but TGC doesn't let us rate in half stars :-( Areas of the evolution and history of Christian theology covered in this course: - Theology taught in the New Testament books themselves (Paul and the gospels) - Creation of orthodoxy (and its triumph over differing early Christian schools of thought such as Gnosticism) - Incorporation of elements of western philosophy - Doctrines of the early church fathers in the first few centuries AD - Medieval Christian thought - Eastern Orthodox views/great Schism - Reformation: Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anabaptists, Anglicans, and Puritans - Protestantism in modernity: Baptists, Quakers, Pietists, Methodists, Revivalists, Pentecostalism, Deists, Liberal Protestants, Neo-Orthodoxy, Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism - Catholicism in modernity including Jesuits, Dominicans, and Quietists Some other minuses: 1- I was a little surprised that the formation of the Christian scriptural canon wasn’t described in more details (what books were deemed scripture and when) 2- There are times in which I wish the professor would’ve explained something in different terms to help me “get it” vs. just repeating a point numerous times (for example I wasn’t exactly following some of his descriptions of some of the differences between Lutheranism and the Reformed movement and though he would dwell on explaining a specific description, he would repeat the point in the same way for the most part without saying it differently to aid comprehension) My ultimate assessment of this course mirrors another one of his courses: "Philosophy and Religion in the West": outstanding start making it hard to stop listening but by the second half I was left more times than not asking, "just what did he mean there?" But I still leave with a positive impression for both courses and would still recommend them. Professor Cary is a great presenter!
Date published: 2018-09-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good overall view of Western Christian Theology Although at times this course seems to rush things, I found that the professor is very good at explaining many aspects of Christian Theology. I especially liked his lectures on modern movements in Christianity.
Date published: 2018-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I find this course to be presented well by professor Philip Cary. Besides being clear and articulate, he does it with passion and insight. I must confess however, that having purchased this course just last month, I have only completed a third of the course. My one disappointment is that this course is not available digitally.
Date published: 2018-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Hx Of Christian Theology Dvd's as described. No problems!! The review says i have to add more characters. So here they are. I hope this is enough!!
Date published: 2017-11-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good overview of Christian Theology for lay reader As a lay protestant with a 1950's Catholic parochial childhood education, I found the course to be a clear overview of Christianity. The lectures clarified much of what I had learned or heard about in bits and pieces over my lifetime, but never fully understood how they fit into the broad context of Christianity. Due to the density of the information I needed to use the outline to follow along with the lectures.
Date published: 2017-09-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from More Historical Less Personal Theology I would love to hear more about this history of theology, and some of that is in there. I don't mind that there is a strong sense of his faith, but I still expected a more historical approach. I got too much of a sense of his personal approach to faith to really feel like I was learning how Christians during different periods thought.
Date published: 2017-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History of Christian Theology I have enjoyed many of the Great Courses products over the last several years and this is one of my two favorite courses that I have taken. The other is How to Listen to Music by Professor Greenberg but this course is my favorite non Professor Greenberg class. I feel Professor Cary is engaging, very interesting and shows excellent knowledge of the material. This is a huge subject so it would be impossible to cover every facet of theology but I feel Professor Cary does an excellent job of keeping the class interesting and moving forward. I would strongly encourage anyone interested in the subject of Theology to take this course.
Date published: 2017-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History of Christian Theologyh This was an amazing course. I am so glad I listened. I will recommend it to others and I will listen again in the future to review.
Date published: 2017-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brief, But Thorough While the "class" lasts only 18 hours and covers some two thousand years of Christian thought, the presentation is carefully presented to enhance the connectivity of Christian thought throughout its development. Although lacking in depth and greater elaboration, "History of Christian Theology" gives the listener not only a concise, but understandable and coherent, starting point for further investigation into the evolution of Christian thought, but also the foundation for understanding and appreciating how Christian theology has evolved over the centuries.
Date published: 2017-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just excellent He Is one of the most extraordinary teachers I have ever experienced. Even though I took my graduate degree in theology during the 60s, I have learned an enormous amount from Dr. Carey. As a teacher, I appreciate the art of his communication, the depth of his reflection, the breadth of his comprehension, and the passion of his presentation.
Date published: 2017-01-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Provides knowledge not covered in seminary I have several courses by Dr. Carey and I love his teaching style. Although he does have a theological perspective of his own, he does a good job of objectively covering the perspective of others so that his own perspective is not so apparent and does not significantly weigh the presentation to his own views. Although I have BA, MA and MDiv degrees from reputable schools of higher learning, and I have never had any classes by Dr. Carey with him there in person, I would have to put Dr. Carey down as one of the best teachers i have ever had. After listening to a few classes by him from Great Courses, I feel like I know him personally as a good man and personal friend. I am not a scholar, but I do believe even the best of scholars could learn something from this course.
Date published: 2016-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Kept My Interest Throughout AUDIO: CDs This is my third course with Professor Cary and it ranks up with the other two, if not a notch above. Though I have a few quibbles about this 2008 course, they are indeed minor. Professor Cary is a great presenter and his thirty-six lectures are well organized on “major developments in Christian theology…the tradition of critical reasoning about how to teach the faith of Christ” (Course Guidebook, Page 1). Though this course likely is most often sought out by believers, non-believers with an interest in religious matters and/or Western history and civilization will find Professor Cary a fine academic lecturer. The operative word in the course title is ‘History’, so, though Professor Cary does delve into theological matters, it is not so deep that one gets lost or bored. He guides us through developments over time on such matters as grace, salvation, atonement, holiness, and baptism, subjects that have engendered lively discussion and dispute over the centuries. Included are helpful discussions of historical context and key individuals and their contributions, as well as interesting relationships, such as that modernity is a product of the Protestant Reformation which produced “…an environment more suitable for low churches than high churches, favoring theologies of the Spirit and experience over theologies of the word and sacrament (Page 91)” that continues with us today. What I especially like about this course is how one can get not only a sense of unfolding over time, from the earliest Christians to the present, but also a better understanding of the distinctions maintained within Christianity, for example the focus of Eastern Orthodox, various Protestant persuasions, and Roman Catholicism. Professor Cary’s final lectures on Roman Catholic theology, Vatican II, and ecumenical prospects were especially well done in a course that necessarily devoted much more time to the often tangled web of Protestant theological developments. The course guide is quite good. Though the lecture summaries are sometimes shorter than I would like, they are always followed by good lists of suggested readings and excellent questions to consider. The timeline, glossary, and biographical notes are helpful, as is the exceptional annotated bibliography.
Date published: 2016-03-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from More of a sermon than a history of theology I was really turned off by Lecture 4, on the Synoptic Gospels. Cary preaches a sermon about Jesus, rather than talking about what Christians actually believed. Which Christians actually believed that all three of the Synoptics were asking Cary's breathy question, "Who do YOU say Jesus is?" This is Cary's theology, perhaps even the theology of his peers, but it's not the theology of the early Christians. I tried to go on to Lecture 5, to give him a chance, but I gave up at about 13:45 into that lecture. According to Cary: "In Genesis, God says, 'Let there be light.' He speaks his word, and there's light. This is before there is any air around, so it's not a spoken word echoing in the air." NO ONE in antiquity had ANY understanding of sound traveling through the air, or of sound not being able to travel in an airless environment. John's Gospel could not possibly be making a claim about the physics of God's spoken word. This course, at least up to Lecture #5, is a sermon propounding Cary's theology. It is not a history of theology. I'm going to request a refund. The course is badly titled.
Date published: 2016-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "Who am I to Judge?" DVD Review. Caveats first: I am not religious, and know very little about Christian theology. Thus, unlike a number of other reviewers, I cannot compare Prof. Cary's discussion with my own understanding. Also: Prof. Cary makes it clear that he is deeply religious (he is a Lutheran), and that he is teaching the course from that perspective. This course is primarily an explication, not an assessment, of religious doctrine. Given all that, I highly recommend the course for any interested in the subject. Prof. Cary presents a remarkably rich, complex, broad and deep picture of the changing strands of Christian teachings through time. He concentrates on the expected major topics (the trinity, the incarnation, the afterlife, sources of Christian teachings, the relative importance of faith, works, and grace, the development and doctrines of the various denominations of Christian belief, and many others) as well as a myriad of somewhat less crucial concerns, as understood by the great theologians throughout history, and as parsed by many commentators upon them. While I am impressed by (most) Great Courses professors, Prof. Cary's fluency with thousands of years of history and commentary is remarkable. I found Prof. Cary's lecture style to be straightforward and clear, with a well-modulated voice, and he is always deeply engaged with his subject. He does repeat himself fairly often, in somewhat different words, but for me this helped get across his often abstract points. The only possible negative here is that his enthusiasm not infrequently achieves the level of a sermon. I just decided not to let this bother me. Despite my high rating, I was left with a number of significant questions and concerns about the material: - Almost no time is given to the Christian view of what exactly constitutes a good life. How is a good Christian to live? My admittedly limited religious knowledge indicates that how to live was the major concern of Jesus; the turn to an emphasis on what to believe was effected later, by others, and especially by Paul. - There is little consideration given to the question of how the many original thinkers viewed the origin or basis of their original thoughts. Did they believe that their doctrines were discovered or invented? That they represented truth, or simply one possible interpretation? If truth, did they believe they were directly inspired by God? And if so, what did they believe about those who disagreed with them? On the other hand, if they were simply offering an interpretation, did this not mean that there is a choice of acceptable beliefs? What do the many Protestant denominations believe, for example, that God thinks of the other denominations? - There is also little consideration given to the relative importance of the various doctrines, and especially to the question of whether the theologians were sometimes focusing on trivial or meaningless points. As one who is not part of this tradition, I mean this with sincere respect. But it did strike me that the sardonic comment that theology considers questions such as "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" was at times a valid concern. - Prof. Cary explicitly denies the relevance of the study of the historical Jesus to Christian teaching. To me, this seems incredible. On what is Christianity based, if not on the historical Jesus? The fact that we have very limited information on this does not, it seems to me, diminish its relevance. - Having taken Prof. Bart Ehrman's course on "Lost Christianities", I feel that Prof. Cary gives very short shrift to the many competing and conflicting streams of early Christian belief. He comes across, at least to me, as assuming that the truth of what became orthodox belief was always clear to the mainstream. - Towards the end of the course, and especially in the final lecture, Prof. Cary allows himself to express some limited personal criticisms of current doctrines which he does not accept, from a religious rather than a scholarly perspective. This, clearly, does not belong here. Interestingly, I note that my 2009 review of Prof. Cary's course on Augustine was extremely negative. Maybe I'm maturing. In any case, I do recommend this course, with the reservations noted. I also very strongly recommend all of Prof. Ehrman's courses, which are uniformly superb, and which present closely related material from a very different point of view.
Date published: 2015-10-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not always 'history' I have listened to this series of lectures 3 or 4 times, most recently in June 2015. Although there is excellent content, it isn't always easy to extract it from the verbiage and editorializing. It was tough for me to 'rank order' my reaction--my ratings really fall in between what I have posted (3+ for Content, rather than 4, for example). From my point of view, this course isn't so much 'history' as an exegesis of the development of one theological tradition from the mid 3rd century CE forward to the mid 20th century. Granted this tradition dominated theology for a millennium. And, in fairness, Prof Cary does include Reformation theology and its importance, but he keeps 'circling back' to the former emphasis, and spends a considerable amount of time reflecting later theological developments into it. There was also too much discussion of how the various Vatican Councils modified Catholic teaching and practice--a summary would have been fine. With respect to the organization of the content: I found it quite confusing, and at times, annoying. It would have been better for him to take one strand of the content and follow it through, rather than jumping back and forth so much. The descriptions of the various Protestant 'holiness/Pentecostal' traditions were interesting, but in my view not really 'theology' as such. After all, did/do these faith traditions significantly change basic Protestant theology, or do they represent modifications to Protestant practice? Instead of devoting so much lecture time, I would have preferred a summary at the end of the main body of the course. I also question the need for Prof Cary to discuss ecumenism or his desire for a closer contact between Catholics and Protestants. It didn't add to the content in my view. With respect to his discussion on Liberal Theology/Modernity: Which 'liberal theology' and 'modernity' was he referring to? It seemed to me that he got stranded in the 18th century for the most part with this element of the course. Again, he 'mixed and matched' the content in a way that was difficult to follow. I also didn't really hear anything about the Progressive Protestant tradition of the mid-50s to the present day. This is more than 'practice' by the way: it involves new interpretations of scripture as well as implications for practice. Given that this is a 36 lecture course, it would have been really helpful to have had a matrix included in the Course Handbook, that clearly delineated the various theological traditions/developments being discussed, with their key elements, approximate dates, and main proponents/detractors. I have other courses by this professor, and in the main, my reactions are similar.
Date published: 2015-06-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great presentation skills, poor content The lecturer was clearly chosen for his presentation skills which are great indeed. However, the content is kind of patchy. Overall impression of a series of unrelated essays and disconnected thoughts. He clarifies nothing but rather makes it even less comprehensible and his impressive presentation skills make it much worse because it takes time to realize that he's been talking for an hour without saying anything you could take away.
Date published: 2015-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good introduction to Christianity. I am a convert to Christian faith and was so eager to learn the theological ideas of different strands of Christianity. Professor Cary did an excellent job in presenting these lectures. His mellifluous voice makes you listen to the lectures without feeling boredom or fatigue. I started to appreciate Jesus more after listening to these lectures.
Date published: 2015-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Phillip Carry's "History of Christian Theology" I first encountered Professor Carry's presentational style on another lecture series #History of the Western Intellectual Tradition#. There is something about his mannerisms and overall execution that make the course material come to life! History of Christian Theology is no exception. If you're interested in the intellectual history of Christian ideas, then I can think of no better place to begin than here. Professor Carry presents the material like a true scholar--with zeal and lack of personal prejudice. I have given the course 5 stars for a very good reason...Phillip Carry is an excellent teacher!
Date published: 2015-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2014-11-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not a favourite of mine... There's indeed a lot of valuable material in this wide-ranging course, but several factors are distracting, of real concern, including the professor's halting, sometimes seemingly-confused manner when he can't easily get his words out. The lecturer displays many irritating tics: interjects "um" very frequently, makes relentless sweeping hand and arm movements.. and he needs to change his shirt more often please! But maybe I'm wrong and in fact he has a wardrobe full of identical blue and green shirts? Oh yes -- he invented a word new to me: "livingness" (he said it twice in lecture 11) And he pronounces "hypostatic" with a "ch" (as in "chair") sound at the beginning. Dr Cary refuses to speak aloud the Jewish name of God (Y-H-W-H, which is generally accepted as "Yahwey"), and states very firmly that it is "the name you can't say if you're a good Jew". Hmmm... it strikes me as very strange and silly for a non-Jewish professor lecturing on Christian theology to refuse to say the name out loud. Despite all the bumps and glitches, the course gets a thumbs-up from me, on the basis of its content. I would recommend that after watching (or listening to) each lecture, you read the Guidebook to review.
Date published: 2014-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview Great course. Professor Cary did a wonderful job of pulling all the bits and pieces of Christian doctrine, as well as the major theological thinkers and the different Protestant sects, that I have heard about over the years, and created a cohesive whole. It was exactly what I was looking for. And he did so in a knowledgeable, unbiased, and enthusiastic manner. Thank you very much. Although I am an nonreligious person, I was touched by his somewhat plaintiff ending seeking a return to Christian doctrine as a way of saying who and what you mean by defining yourself as a Christian. However, there was no questioning of whether that doctrine was something that was meaningful, believable, or relevant to our times. This is my 3rd course by Dr. Cary and definitely my favorite.
Date published: 2014-09-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Review of "History of Christian Theology" Dr. Phillip Cary's lectures on the "History of Christian Theology" offers the viewer an overview of how Christian doctrine evolved and the key theological differences of various Christian denominations and religious groups. Dr. Cary is an excellent teacher in that (1) he focuses on major turning points in theological development without gravitating to lesser theological discussions, (2) provides an objective overview of theological development without interjecting a lot of personal opinions, (3) teaches the subject matter in a clear manner to maximize learning by viewers, and (4) uses an engaging style of teaching that keeps the viewer interested in the subject matter and eager to learn more.
Date published: 2014-06-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A historical review of Christian theology Professor Cary does an excellent job of historically reviewing Christian theology. It was a little more detailed than I wanted in places, but interesting. This is the third lecture series I have enjoyed by Prof. Cary. I found the series to end abruptly. I would have liked a more big picture review at the end, as well as at points in the middle.
Date published: 2013-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Overview This is the second course I have taken with Professor Cary and he maintains his excellence in this one too! My objective in undertaking the course was to gain a deeper insight into the various perspectives within Christianity and Professor Cary delivers this insight in a clear, insightful and deeply informative way. He takes you on a chronological journey that allows you to gain a clear understanding for example of the way Greek philosophy was wedded to Christian teaching to create a powerful synthesis and theology that endured for more than a 1000 years; see Augustine in particular. The course also covers the development of Protestantism from the Reformation and also gives a helpful overview of Orthodox teaching situated in the "East" ie eastern half of what was the Roman Empire. The latter part of the course traces developments within these major "divisions" of Christianity and helped me tremendously to understand how for example Baptists, Quakers and Anabaptists developed their distinctive perspectives. Thoroughly recommended and the accompanying coursebook was detailed and helpful. Great course!
Date published: 2013-07-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lot's of Material - Very Good Course Overall, I think that the course was very informative and well presented. If you're interested in this subject, I would strongly recommend getting the course notes for future reference. I do have three minor criticisms (none that come close to causing regret for time or money spent on the course). The first, is that the course seems to skip around a bit. I suppose that is somewhat unavoidable in attemptiong to address parallel paths of development between the eastern and western churches, as well as Catholicism and Protestantism. Second, the professor does come off a bit snooty and therefore doesn't really invite a dialectic with his audience. Some of the other professors I've listened to are better at raising questions and in engaging the listener in critical thinking. This is more cut and dry... "here's what they thought, and here's what they said"... Third, the professor takes great pains to avoid any implication that theological development was ever influenced by anything less than altruistic motives. The result is that huge swathes of theological history through the middle ages and into the period of the reformation are not fully appreciated from the perspective of the people living through that dynamic and dangerous time. Giving the professor the benefit of the doubt, his approach does lead to less controversy, but I think that it does so at the expense of a truer cultural perspective of the period. It also, incidentally, supports the professor's position that "ordinary" people can't go back to foundational theological basics which might diminish the "importance" of theology relative to religious faith. All in all, I would recommend (and have) both the course and the instructor to others.
Date published: 2013-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Comprehensive While all the world's great religions have their doctrines, Christianity, I read somewhere, is a religion of "what you believe" vs. other religions that may emphasize conduct or sacred "laws". Theological doctrines are thus very important to Christians, and in no other religion it seems is the identification and removal of heresies viewed as so imperative to so many believers. As a practicing Christian, I wanted to know just what exactly do we Christians believe in, and how did these doctrines originate and evolve, and Professor Cary's lectures were just what I was looking for. In this course we encounter all the mystery and complexity of Christian theology -- the doctrines of the Incarnation, the Trinity, the Atonement, Grace, and Original Sin -- and we meet Christianity's greatest or most important thinkers -- Augustine, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin. It seems to me that Christian theology is more complex than other religions because, for us, God entered our world through the Incarnation, and also sent us the Holy Spirit, necessitating the doctrine of the Trinity embodied in the Nicene Creed. While Professor Cary explains this doctrine ably, other religions seem to question, at times, Christianity's monotheism by misinterpreting this doctine. Cary's presentation of predestination, the "elect", and the "damned" was morbidly fascinating. Since Christians take their doctrines seriously, sometimes to extremes (Prof. Cary explains how the Great Schism between the Latin and Greek churches arose from whether the "Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son" or essentially from just the Father), I thought he did a very good job in respecting all doctrinal interpretations in a sensitive manner. I would only fault him to the degree he didn't cover much of the Eastern Orthodox tradition. He's also a very fluent speaker, and although he uses notes, he seems to speak spontaneously (which I enjoyed), but also goes at a rapid clip so that I had to "rewind" periodically portions of his presentation. Protestants believe that the "church" is in continual need of reform, while Catholics maintain that Christian dogmas are permanent and unchangeable, although Vatican II suggested that while the dogma is unchanged, the "expression" of it can continually change or be updated. Professor Cary's course can help us answer whether Christian doctrines actually change, or are re-interpreted, or whose expression of is simply changed. A really good course, at least for me.
Date published: 2013-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear and Detailed Other reviews touch on many of the great aspects of this course. Prof. Cary has a gift for explaining complex concepts, and that gift is really put to the test here. If you are a Christian who firmly believes in the fundamental tenets of Christianity as set out in the Nicene Creed, this is a fabulous course that explains not only how Christian theology got to that point, but all the various ways it developed from that point. If you are a non-Christian interested in the beliefs and practices of the different flavors of those wacky Christians, this is the course for you -- clear but exceptionally detailed. If you are a Christian who has some doubts about whether the theology of the Nicene Creed accurately reflects the teachings of Jesus as set out in the four Gospels, this course may well strengthen those doubts. The deeper you get into this course, the more it seems that the great developers of Christian doctrine (Paul, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, among others) got themselves wrapped up into highly complex intellectual, philosophical, and theological conundrums which led to either bizarre conclusions (every good deed we do is a mortal sin; unbaptized babies who die are damned to hell) or no conclusion at all ("How unsearchable are God's judgments, and his ways past knowing!"), and seem to have little if anything to do with the theology of Jesus as set out in the Gospels. The notion that much of the foundation of the Christian theology of God and the soul came from the ideas of the pagan Plato is rather disturbing. A wonderful course in many different ways.
Date published: 2013-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent introductory course Right up front, Prof. Cary defines the parameters of this course: it is not one of the historical Jesus but one of the theological Jesus. One is based on reason, the other on faith. I must admit to having initially felt some uneasiness at this prospect. I am an atheist, and any approach not grounded in scientific methods is, quite honestly, not one that I am normally inclined to take seriously. Given my respect for the Teaching Company and its products, I decided to drop my prejudice and listen to this course in the manner it requires. This proved to be a good move. This course is presented logically and enthusiastically. Granted, theology is a dry topic: but you won't find it so in this course. There is so much I thought I knew that, had I given it much consideration, I knew only peripherally or not at all. Quite frankly, I got more out of this course than out of most -- and I am a long time lifelong learner. No matter what your faith, or lack of faith, this course will help you understand the thousands of different strands of Christian theology, and this will help you more thoroughly understand the culture in which we live.
Date published: 2013-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Nice Overview of Christian Theology Wow! Prof. Cary takes on the task of surveying the entire history of Christian theology in an 18-hour course. I think, overall, he does a good job at it. I am certainly no theologian, but it seems that Prof. Cary covers most of the major points that his time allowed. I enjoyed his course guide with recommendations for additional reading. In this course, Prof. Cary emphasizes the theological/philosophical over the historical (this should be no big surprise as he has a PhD in philosophy). The main difficulty I had with the course is that it was difficult to follow while driving (I listen to most of my TTC courses in the car). I found this to be so for two main reasons. First, the material is quite dense. It was tough to follow the theological differences between Calvinism and Lutherism while driving in traffic. Also, while discussing one topic, Prof. Cary would make parentheticals to other topics in an attempt to "connect the dots." Unfortunately, when he returned to the initial topic, I had a tough time remembering what point he was making. Despite this, I did manage to pick up a lot about Christian theology. I look forward to a time when I might be able to settle in and re-listen to this course when I can give it my undivided attention. I would recommend this course to all who are interested in learning more about Christian theology.
Date published: 2013-03-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting! I found this course to be very enlightening and excellently presented.
Date published: 2012-09-22
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