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COURSE TITLE: Futures in the Past: Historical Theology
NAME OF INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Douglas Harink
CREDIT WEIGHT AND WEEKLY TIME DISTRIBUTION: credits 3(hrs lect 3 - hrs sem 0 - hrs lab 0)
COURSE DESCRIPTION: A study of important stages in the development of Christian doctrine and some of the major figures in the history of Christian theology. We will examine the influence of social, political and cultural contexts on doctrine and theology, and ask the question whether and how a study of the Christian past might give shape to the church, theology and Christian faithfulness in the present and future.

Same as THEO 364.

Prerequisites: THEO 250, and HIST 202 or 204

The New Testament is just the beginning.  By the end of the period of the apostles (~ 100 CE) the Christian Church had spread into the Roman Empire, and even established itself in the centre of that empire, the city of Rome. In the following centuries the church would reach to the very ends of that empire, and finally well beyond the West, to the very ends of the earth.  Every move into a new context required new attention to the question of how to understand the Christian message faithfully in that context.  In other words, the church’s mission to and engagement with new cultures demands that the church always be addressing the nature of its own identity, an identity which depends ultimately on answering some fundamental questions:  Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? Who is this Holy Spirit who creates and empowers the Church? What is the Church? What kind of reality is this world? What is the goal of God’s work in the world? What is the mission of the Church?  The attempts to answer these questions faithfully creates a fascinating history of theological reflection in a wide variety of forms: apologetic tracts, letters, theological and philosophical treatises, sermons, commentaries on scripture, creeds and confessions — all produced by a motley crew of colourful groups and characters over nearly 2000 years.

In this course we will attempt to gain a perspective on the history of Christian theology through some of its most prolific and influential figures. We will explore them through their own writings, focusing on some of their most characteristic contributions to the development of Christian theology. Throughout the course we will ask not only what was thought, said and argued “back then,” but also ask what gifts these historic figures might continue to have for the church and Christians in our own time, and for the future: that is, to discern not only the shape of the past, but also the “futures in the past.”

  • Gerald R. McDermott, The Great Theologians: A Brief Guide (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010).
  • William Placher, Readings in the History of Christian Theology, Volume 1: From Its Beginnings to the Eve of the Reformation, Rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 2015).
  • William Placher, Readings in the History of Christian Theology, Volume 2: From the Reformation to the Present (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1988).
Term assignments 25%
Midterm exam15%
Term paper25%
Final Exam 25%
Participation 10%
COURSE OBJECTIVES: Upon successful completion of this course students should have gained:
  • familiarity with key figures in the history of Christian theology from the post-apostolic period to the 20th century.
  • familiarity with some of the most important theological themes and controversies in the history of Christian theology
  • an ability to read and understand theological, doctrinal and creedal documents within their historical and cultural context
  • some sense of the relevance of historical theology for Christian life, thought, and the church in our time
  • Week 1 (Sept 2)  Introduction to the course
  • Week 2 (Sept 7-9)  Gospels and the Gospel
  • Week 3 (Sept 12-14)  The Gospel and Rationality
  • Weeks 3 & 4 (Sept 16-23) One God/Three Persons
  • Week 5 (Sept 26-30)  Two Natures/One Person
  • Week 6 (Oct 3-7)  Augustine
  • Week 7 (Oct 12-14)  Facing East and West
  • Week 8 (Oct 19-24)  The Rationality of Faith 
  • Week 9 (Oct 26-28)  The Centre Cannot Hold
  • Week 10 (Oct 31-Nov 4) Disruption and Renewal
  • Week 11 (Nov 7-9)  Catholic Reformation
  • Week 12 (Nov 14-18)  Calvin and His Heirs
  • Week 13 (Nov 21-25)  The Faith of Rationality
  • Week 14 (Nov 28 - Dec 2) Theology in Modernity: Retreat
  •  Week 15 (Dec 5-7)  Theology after Modernity: Reaffirmation

Required texts, assignments, and grade distributions may vary from one offering of this course to the next. Please consult the course instructor for up to date details.

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