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Historical Theology Course Prospectus
Grace Center for Biblical and Theological Studies

Course Description

History of Christian Doctrine, Part 1: The Ancient Church

This inaugural course of the Grace Center for Biblical and Theological Studies will focus on a historical survey of the development of Christian doctrines (dogmas) from approximately 100 to 600 AD. Its focus will be the period 100 to 400 AD. This is part one of a projected three-course study of historical theology.
Historical Theology is the combination of Church History with Systematic Theology. It covers much of the same ground as both of these disciplines but concentrates on the historical development of key doctrines in a specific time period by exploring the key figures God used in the development of Christian orthodoxy. This course will especially investigate how the Trinitarian and Christological positions developed and played out in the ancient church resulting in the formulation of the historic universal creeds. Comparisons will be done with the positions that were subsequently discarded; although they often reappear in minority groups. The student will be introduced to the great Christian theological thinkers of the first five centuries. Thus the student will see how their lives and ideas impacted the church. Orthodoxy or theological correctness developed through conflict with heresies. Attention will also be given to the formation of the Canon and the historical development of worship. The struggle of the church to maintain itself in truth is perpetual. Thus this course is a survey of the major people, movements, controversies, and ideas of early Christian history with special focus of the doctrines of the Trinity, deity and humanity of Jesus Christ.

Rationale for the Course
Christianity is essentially a historical religion. God reveals Himself to people in time and space history through redemptive actions and the relationships He established through those actions. His revelation extends to the historical record of those actions which are identified as the Old and New Testament Scriptures. God through his historical revelation, especially in Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit, continues his special relationship to people of faith. The message of Christ brought into being one community of faith and worship, namely, the church. Therefore, it is essential that the people of God identify with the church of all times and places. Although God's revelation in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Word, and the written deposit of revelation is complete and sufficient, that revelation must be interpreted. How those associated with the community of faith have both reacted to and interpreted God's revelation forms the historical context for the identification of heresy and the formulation of orthodoxy. But the historical events can only be appreciated when they are seen in relationship (context) to other events. Historical theology instructs us in the life of the church of Christ as it has actually been lived and offers the student a thorough perspective of the origin and development of the church and its rich heritage of faith. This should lead us to think theologically and to reflect on how our own experiences and that of other Christians throughout history contribute to this activity today. Understanding the relationship between Scripture and the passed on deposit of core teaching helps us as individual believers and as communities of faith to plan for the future, learn from mistakes, and appreciate the value of the orthodox Christian tradition.

Primary Textbook - Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition (1) The Emergence of the Catholoc Tradition (100-600), University of Chicago Press, 1971. Cost: approx. $16.00
Supplemental Textbooks - Louis Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines, Banner of Truth, 1969
Allister McGrath, Historical Theology, Blackwell Pub. Ltd.. 1998