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Early Church and Modern Quests for an Ancient Faith

This unit uses text, art and artefact to explore developments in theology and Christian practice in early church communities, to 500 CE. It then explores through text, film and liturgical practice how ancient Christianity is reflected in selected modern interpretations and practices. Themes include unity and diversity of belief and practice; church identity in early and modern periods; the relationship between body and soul; the tension between charismatic and institutional forms of ministry and authority; the Trinitarian and Christological debates; issues of historical religious primitivism.

Lecturer: Kerrie Handasyde
Offered: Refer to Timetable
also taught online as CH1/8701S

Undergraduate: Level 1 and 2
Postgraduate: Level 8

Discipline: CH Christian Thought and History 


Learning Outcomes: 

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Identify significant dates, people and themes in the Early Church’s theology and practice
  2. Apply key principles of historical interpretation to a diverse range of primary sources
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of how an aspect of theology or practice developed over time within the Early Church
  4. Describe how selected modern church interpretations and practices (incl. Restorationist, Fundamentalist, Pentecostal and Primitivist) reflect and understand a relationship to aspects of early church
  5. (postgraduates) Assess the impact of the interpretation of an aspect of the Early Church’s theology or practice within a modern church’s identity, worldview and tradition


Source Analysis (1000 words) 25%
Essay (2000 words) 50%
Book/Film Review (1000 words) 25%

Source Analysis (1500 words) 25%
Essay (3000 words) 50%
Book/Film Review (1500 words) 25%

Select Bibliography:

*Recommended reading

Burrus, V. ed. Late Ancient Christianity: A People’s History of Christianity Vol. 2. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2005.
Davis, J. The Landscape of Belief (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).
Chadwick, H. The Early Church. London: Penguin, 1993.
* Guy, L.D. Introducing Early Christianity: A Topical Survey of its Life, Belief and Practices. Downers Grove IL: IVP, 2004.
Hughes, Richard T., ed. The Primitive Church in the Modern World.  Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1995.
Humphries, M. Early Christianity. London: Routledge, 2006.
Jensen, R.M. Understanding Early Christian Art. New York: Routledge, 2000.
Lossl, J. The Early Church: History and Memory. London: T&T Clark, 2010.
Miles, M. The Word Made Flesh: A History of Christian Thought. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004.
Pelikan,J. Jesus Through The Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture. New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1999.
Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Waco: Word, 1995.
Van Liere, Katherine, Simon Ditchfield and Howard Louthan, eds.  Sacred History: Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).
Williams R. (ed.). The Making of Orthodoxy. London: CUP 1989.
Young, F. The Making of the Creeds. London: SCM Press, 2002.