The History of Christianity II: From the Reformation to the Modern Megachurch

Course No. 6620
Professor Molly Worthen, Ph.D.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Course No. 6620
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What Will You Learn?

  • Trace the global history of Christianity over the past 500 years.
  • Place key events, themes, and theological concepts in their historical and cultural context.
  • Travel across time and around the world to explore the varieties of Christian experience.
  • Uncover the relationship among religion, politics, and culture.
  • Gain new understanding of the richness of Christianity.

Course Overview

When you think about Christian history, you might think of the first thousand years—the events of Jesus’ life, the acts of the apostles, the establishment of the church, and the various councils that established theological doctrine. But the history of Christianity from the Reformation to the present is equally dramatic and profoundly relevant. It’s a story about people as much as theology—our cultures, our politics, our relationship to the world.

As the world’s largest religion, Christianity is enmeshed in the history of the world. Consider the question of the Christian mission: is it about saving souls, or about saving society? Is it about holding the right beliefs, or about doing good works? The answer to these questions over the past 500 years has defined politics and policies, and led to wars and revolutions.

The History of Christianity II: From the Reformation to the Modern Megachurch picks up where The Great Courses’ first history of Christianity left off: with the Protestant Reformation. Taught by Dr. Molly Worthen, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina, these 36 fascinating lectures trace the story of Christianity as it transformed from the end of the Middle Ages into the diverse global religion of today.

A careful study of this history allows you to:

  • appreciate the complexity of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation;
  • understand the myriad Protestant sects that emerged in the 16th and 17th centuries;
  • reflect on the role of the church during the Enlightenment and its relationship to the scientific revolution;
  • gain insight into religion in America, from Mormons and Fundamentalists to Evangelicals and the “Christian right”; and
  • see the challenges of the 21st century and the Global South in a different light.

While Professor Worthen gives you plenty of insight into theology, her primary focus is to place Christianity in its historical context. She personalizes history with stories of individual players and blends their narratives with larger trends to give you the full history of momentous events. You’ll meet characters ranging from David Strauss, whose biblical scholarship in the 19th century rocked the church’s world, to Zhang Rongliang, a Chinese Christian who kept preaching the gospel even when communist officials locked him up.

Explore 500 Years of Dramatic History

For many people, knowledge of Christianity after the time of Jesus is incomplete—a vague timeline scattered with assorted names, events, and councils but no guiding sense of how it all connects. As you’ll discover in this course, Europe in 1500 stood on the brink of a religious upheaval that would alter the continent’s destiny. Over the next 500 years, Christianity has been at the center of momentous transformations around the globe and is now the largest religion in the world.

How did this happen? How did Christianity go from being a mainly European religion in 1500 to a global powerhouse? And how did it happen despite the alleged “decline in religion” in our modern era? Professor Worthen unpacks these key questions as she sketches out the plot of one of the great dramas in world history. Among other things, you will:

  • Discover the central beliefs of Lutherans, Anabaptists, Puritans, Anglicans, and other groups that broke away from the Catholic Church during the Reformation.
  • Consider life for Christians under Muslim rule in the Ottoman Empire, including Coptic and Syriac Christians in Egypt and Syria.
  • Study the founding of the Eastern Orthodox Church and witness its growth, particularly throughout Russia.
  • Examine the phenomenon of revivals and their relationship to the church.
  • Explore the relationship between Christianity and the geopolitical dynamics of the Cold War—including the rise of the Christian Right in America.

These different facets of Christianity—and the political and cultural drama around them—represent just a fraction of the story of Christianity in this course. You will also discover the religion’s growth in Latin and South America, Africa, China, and other neglected histories to understand Christianity as a global phenomenon.

The History of Christianity II takes you beyond the basic who-what-when of historical events and places them in their cultural and political context, giving you the how and the why of history. For example, you will:

  • Unpack the messy events of the Thirty Years’ War to understand the politics of the Holy Roman Empire—and the witch-hunting craze that obsessed Europeans at the time.
  • Reflect on the Counter-Reformation and the role of orders like the Dominicans and the Jesuits in the spread of European empire.
  • See how the “social gospel” movement connected with a broader push for social services and political reform in the 19th century.
  • Find out why the Russian Revolution was one of the most cataclysmic events for religion in the 20th century.
  • Consider the 20th century missionary battles in Latin America—and the political emergence of Jorge Bergoglio, who is now Pope Francis.

Discover Common Threads across Time

The past 500 years have been an era of monumental change, from the discovery and colonization of new lands to astounding scientific achievements to the emergence of a global-capitalist world order. Despite all of these upheavals—and the anxieties that have accompanied them—many patterns in the history of Christianity repeat themselves again and again. Some of the key trends you will study include:

  • Faith and Reason: The tension between faith and reason within Christianity existed long before the debates over evolution versus creationism. You might be surprised, however, to discover how Christian history reveals a story of mutual influence between faith and reason, not just competition. One thing is certain: from Galileo to Darwin, the rise of modern science has altered religious debate around the world.
  • Revivals & Awakenings: What makes a good preacher? Professor Worthen surveys the origins and nature of revivals and looks at the two Great Awakenings in the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as the Pentecostal revivals that have rocked the Global South in more recent decades. You’ll discover how the best preachers blended charisma, connection with people, and the willingness to leave the formal sanctuary to meet listeners where they are.
  • Political Activity: In the 16th century, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand secured power through a unified Catholic state. Four hundred years later, the United States and Western Europe fought Communism by enlisting Christianity in their political cause. As you’ll discover again and again in this course, religion can almost never be divorced from politics.
  • Christian Mission: Throughout this course, you’ll explore the varying types of missions, from Christians’ overseas ventures in search of new converts to civil rights activists’ efforts to change society and promote social justice. You’ll also explore the ideal of sola fide, “by faith alone,” and the way many Christians in recent years have retreated to a more private, individually focused religion.
  • Cultural Pluralism: When missionaries arrive in a new land, they usually find people who already have a religion. And if missionaries are successful, their converts tend not to be “purely” Christian but rather retain fragments of their original religion. The result is a pluralism of practices and ideas that has yielded not “one” Christianity around the world, but many.

Focus on the People of History

Finally, in studying these broad themes, you will meet some truly fascinating people. Professor Worthen is a marvelous storyteller who brings individuals to life as she shares broader points in the story. For example, in a lecture on the Cold War, she considers how Pope John Paul II’s moral courage helped bring about the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. In another lecture, she shares the story of Rebecca, an American slave whose story offers a representative glimpse of religion among people whose stories have largely gone untold.

Whether it’s Mormons in the American West, Catholics in Latin America, or a Nigerian megachurch, this course examines the actors and ideas that have made Christianity a global religion—and offers a clearer perspective on our own time and place. Professor Worthen introduces you to scientists and theologians, revolutionaries and social justice crusaders, intellectuals and ordinary people living out the great drama of Christian history. From Martin Luther’s 95 Theses to Latin American liberation theology, The History of Christianity II is a magisterial course, and a must-have for students of history and religion, as well as philosophy, literature, culture, and life.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    Prophets of Reform before Protestantism
    Start your journey in Renaissance Italy where—right in the pope’s backyard—two men gave very different yet powerful critiques of the church, years before the Reformation. By examining these representative figures, Professor Worthen unpacks several key themes running through Christianity for the past 500 years. x
  • 2
    Luther and the Dawn of Protestantism
    Delve into the early Reformation, which begins with Martin Luther and his 95 Theses. An original thinker and an outlaw to Catholic authorities of the time, Luther was also surprisingly conservative in many ways. Review his critique of the church and his theology in the context of the 16th century. x
  • 3
    Zwingli, Calvin, and the Reformed Tradition
    Continue your study of the Reformation with a look at several thinkers who were more radical than Martin Luther. Here, you'll explore the ideas of Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, and others who advanced their own theological and political critiques of the church. You'll also consider Henry VIII's quarrel with Rome and the founding of the Church of England. x
  • 4
    The Anabaptist Radicals
    In this third lecture on the Protestant Reformation, you’ll meet the most radical of rebels, the Anabaptists. Based on the slogan sola scriptura—the Bible alone—the Anabaptists wanted to cut ties completely between church and state, making them politically as well as theologically dangerous. x
  • 5
    The Catholic Reformation
    Protestants weren't the only ones fighting to reform Christianity. While Luther, Calvin, and others were breaking from Rome and founding independent churches, leaders within the Catholic Church pushed to consolidate the power of their ideas and institutions. Survey the founding of the Jesuits and the role of education in the Catholic Reformation. x
  • 6
    The Church Militant in the Spanish Empire
    One key theme from this course is the way religious motives are often inseparable from political and economic ambitions. Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than Spain in the 16th century. See how Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand joined forces to create a unified Catholic nation, and how they worked to spread Catholicism into the Americas. x
  • 7
    War and Witchcraft in the Holy Roman Empire
    The Thirty Years' War is one of the most confusing episodes in world history. Was it truly a religious war, in which Protestants battled for religious tolerance and freedom, or was it a political ploy to depose kings and change the balance of political power? As you delve into this messy conflict, you'll discover that the war unfolded in the midst of witch-hunting hysteria across Europe. x
  • 8
    Puritans, Kings, and Theology in Practice
    The Reformation opened the door for radicals to challenge traditional authority. Follow the Puritans from England, where they pushed King James to authorize a new translation of the Bible, to the New World, where they tried to build a Christian Zion and wrestled with theology on their own terms. x
  • 9
    Religious Dissent and the English Civil War
    Survey the fascinating history of the English Civil war, from the rise of Charles I, his battles with Parliament and eventual beheading, to the rule of Oliver Cromwell and the Restoration of Charles II. This political tumult allowed a profusion of radical sects to flourish, from the proto-communist Diggers to the apocalyptic Fifth Monarchy Men. x
  • 10
    Eastern Orthodoxy: From Byzantium to Russia
    Shift your attention from the Protestant Reformation to another schism. Centuries before Martin Luther, Orthodox Christians in the East broke with Rome and developed their own theology. Reflect on the principles of Orthodox Christianity and see what role it played in the rise of the Russian Empire. x
  • 11
    Christians under Muslim Rule
    Like the church in the West, Eastern Christianity has given rise to a range of diverse cultures and clashing theological opinions. Here, you'll discover the history of Christians in the Middle East, particularly Coptic Christians in Egypt and Syriac Christians in the Middle East. Find out what life was like under Muslim rule, and reflect on the legacy of the Ottoman Empire. x
  • 12
    The Church and the Scientific Revolution
    Are religion and science always at odds? Reflect on this lightning-rod issue as you trace the history of the Scientific Revolution from the medieval worldview through the remarkable discoveries of the 16th and 17th centuries. Find out what really troubled the church about Galileo's proposition that the Earth was not at the center of the universe. x
  • 13
    The Enlightenment Quest for Reasonable Faith
    On the heels of the Scientific Revolution, the “Enlightenment,” as Professor Worthen explains, was not one single movement but rather a constellation of ideas and philosophers who debated the relationship between faith and reason. Explore the theories and worldviews of Diderot, Voltaire, Locke, and other Enlightenment thinkers. x
  • 14
    Pietist Revival in Europe
    In the ongoing clash between faith and reason, some Protestants embraced carefully reasoned arguments, but in the 17th century, another group of thinkers chose to emphasize heart over head. Survey the rise of Pietist communities and see how they responded to the historical context of the 17th and 18th centuries. x
  • 15
    The First Great Awakening
    Meet George Whitefield, an Anglican evangelist who experienced a “new birth” and led a series of religious revivals up and down the East Coast. Here, you will consider the context of religious revivals, examine controversies over evangelism, and reflect on the impact revivals had on American political culture. x
  • 16
    Religion and Revolution in the 18th Century
    Is America a “Christian” country? Did the Founding Fathers use the Bible as a blueprint for government? What about France—how did revolutionaries there both oppress and adopt religion to advance their cause? In both cases, history is so much more complicated than culture-war slogans. x
  • 17
    The Second Great Awakening
    During the 19th century, a second wave of revivals swept North America and Britain, and this “Second Great Awakening” had tremendous consequences for Christianity in the West. After reviewing the origins of Methodism, Professor Worthen surveys the new approach to revivals and shows how America became a majority-Christian country. x
  • 18
    The Mormons: A True American Faith
    Despite TV shows like Big Love, the Broadway hit The Book of Mormon, and the political career of Mitt Romney, Mormonism remains somewhat mysterious to those outside the religion. Uncover the origins and practices of this American faith, and find out how it has grown so large so quickly. x
  • 19
    Slave Religion in the Americas
    Although historical records are relatively scarce, the clever detective work of some enterprising scholars has revealed the rich religious world of enslaved Africans, and highlights Christianity’s role in both oppression and liberation. Trace the evolution of religion among slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries, and consider how they made “white man’s religion” their own. x
  • 20
    Christian Missions and Moral Reform
    How do you make people and a society Christian? What does it mean to “convert” foreign lands for Christ? In this lecture, Professor Worthen tackles these difficult questions. After reviewing early missions in Africa, she examines the role of women (particularly abolitionists) in the process of Christian reform. x
  • 21
    The Church's Encounter with Modern Learning
    Dig into the rise of the modern university and its influence on the history of Christianity. By examining modern biblical scholarship in Germany and Britain as well as advancements in 19th century science and the theory of evolution, you will gain a greater understanding of the battle between faith and reason. x
  • 22
    The Social Gospel
    In the 19th century, Christians debated whether to focus on saving souls, or to try to save society first. Here, learn about Protestant activists in Britain and North America who preached the “Social Gospel,” a mission to help the poor, push for social services, and effect political reform—and learn why some failed while others succeeded. x
  • 23
    Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism
    Reflect on the rise of Pentecostalism, which exploded into an international revival, and Fundamentalism, a movement that became far more influential in America than anywhere else. Fundamentalists and Pentecostals clashed over doctrine and worship, but Professor Worthen shows how both groups responded to the same anxieties of modernity. x
  • 24
    Apocalyptic Faith in the 1800s and Beyond
    Christianity started as an apocalyptic religion, and prophecies of “end times” have endured. Take a look at different strands of apocalyptic thinking and their relationship to the Bible and to society. Then unpack how apocalyptic preaching became so popular and examine how several churches and evangelists preached about the last days. x
  • 25
    The Church and the Russian Revolution
    The Russian Revolution of 1917 is arguably the single most cataclysmic event in the history of religion in the 20th century. After surveying the landscape of religion in Russia in the early 20th century, including the various Christian minorities, take a look at the Bolshevik coup and Lenin and Stalin's subsequent efforts to stamp out religion. x
  • 26
    The Rival Gods of the Cold War
    Continue your exploration of Soviet religious persecution and consider life behind the Iron Curtain. In this lecture, you will see how Khrushchev and Brezhnev continued Stalin-era pro-atheist policies. Then turn to the persistence of the Catholic Church in Eastern Europe—particularly Poland, home of Pope John Paul II. x
  • 27
    Rebellion and Reform in Latin America
    Trace the history of religion in Latin America from the 18th century through today. After reviewing the history of colonialism and revolution, you will reflect on the relationship between the church and liberation theology in Mexico, Argentina, and elsewhere. See how Jorge Bergoglio—a.k.a. Pope Francis—struggled to balance pragmatism and idealism in politics. x
  • 28
    Vatican II and Global Renewal
    In 1962, thousands of bishops gathered in Rome to convene the Second Vatican Council. Here, they debated how the church should respond to the challenges of modernity. Explore the high drama of these debates and see how Catholic reforms in worship, church authority, and doctrines of sexuality made real-life impact everywhere from America to the Philippines. x
  • 29
    Secularism and the Death of God
    For Western Christians, the 20th century seemed to bring growing secularization. Professor Worthen unpacks this term and places it in the historical context of the 1950s and 1960s. See how religion has increasingly become a private business, one worldview among many, and theologians proclaimed the death of God—despite Billy Graham’s booming revivals. x
  • 30
    The Gospel and Global Civil Rights
    One theme we've seen again and again is the morally complex role of churches in social change. Here, you'll reflect on the stories of the American civil rights movement and the South African battle over apartheid to explore the ambivalent role of Christian institutions and ideas in the 20th century's global struggle for human rights. x
  • 31
    Culture Wars and the Christian Right
    Along with secularization and changes in Christian faith and practice, the second half of the 20th century also witnessed the eruption of today’s “culture wars”—the clash between traditional religious morality and secular pluralism. Explore this tension in American society and politics, and then see how the culture war is a global phenomenon, playing out in religious debates around the world. x
  • 32
    Liberation Theologies in Latin America
    Revisit Latin America to examine the role of Protestant missionaries and their rivalry with the established Catholic Church. After surveying politics and culture in Latin America over the past century, you'll see how Catholic leaders responded to evolving societies. The lecture concludes with a look at liberation theology and the impact of the Christian Right. x
  • 33
    Prophetic Religion in Modern Africa
    Christianity today is a truly global religion. Even as church attendance declines in America and Western Europe, Christianity is growing rapidly around the world. Here, Professor Worthen reviews the explosion of controversial revival movements in Africa, as well as the promise—and peril—they offer to struggling believers trying to survive times of political upheaval. x
  • 34
    Chinese Christianity: Missionaries to Mao
    Continue your study of contemporary global Christianity. In China, the rise of Christianity has met with an uneasy mix of enthusiasm and suspicion. After reviewing early Christian contact with China, Professor Worthen traces 19th and 20th century missions, delves into the brutal Cultural Revolution, and reflects on religious tensions under the Communist regime. x
  • 35
    Revival and Repression in Korea
    After the United States and Brazil, South Korea sends more missionaries into the world than any other country. Find out how Christianity became such a thriving faith in this relatively small nation—while fellow believers to the north suffer savage repression, and Pyongyang enforces a state religion devoted to the worship of former dictator Kim Il-sung. x
  • 36
    The Challenge of 21st-Century Christianity
    In this final lecture, consider three challenges for Christians in the 21st century: their encounters with the world of Islam, their attitude toward global capitalism, and their reaction to the forces of secularization. Discover how understanding the past 500 years of history can help us better understand these challenges today—and how to prepare for the future. x

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Your professor

Molly Worthen

About Your Professor

Molly Worthen, Ph.D.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Molly Worthen is an Assistant Professor of History at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her B.A. in History as well as her M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Yale. Dr. Worthen taught briefly at the University of Toronto before going to Chapel Hill in 2012. Dr. Worthen’s first book, The Man on Whom Nothing Was Lost: The Grand Strategy of Charles Hill, is a backstage account of...
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Reviews

The History of Christianity II: From the Reformation to the Modern Megachurch is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 35.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intellectual and historic context of the Church Married (40 years) to an old testament scholar many of our conversations weave through the history of theology, psychology, and the Church. Dr. Worthen gives this history intellectual and historic context is this delightful and engaging series of lectures. Lecture 21, the Church's encounter with Modern Learning was especially interesting. I'm uncertain if either the Church or Modern Learning have recovered.
Date published: 2018-09-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course My wife and I recently located this series at our local library--what a find!! This wonderful course is both informative and thought provoking. I would call it a must for any Christian or Bible student, or just any one looking for some knowledge and insight on the road Christianity has come down. Highly recommend this!
Date published: 2018-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History of Christianity Professor was outstanding. Great balance!! Broad topic, well covered!!
Date published: 2018-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Great Course I've Taken Yet Professor Worthen has that rare ability: exhaustive knowledge coupled with a painless and interesting teaching style. She is to the history of church teaching what was said of Tertullian: he was that rare theologian who was never boring! I wish she would produce more great courses and cover every aspect of church history.
Date published: 2018-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and Engaging. I liked it very much. Lisen.
Date published: 2018-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Connections Between Religion Politics Social Norms This is much more than a theology course. It is very pertinent to the world today. The course examines the connection between religion, politics, and the social norms of various societies at the time . Professor Worthen discusses many of the Christian denominations ( Puritans, Calvinist, Evangelicals, Liberation Theology, Mormon, etc.) that have come and gone since the Reformation and how they were impacted by, or how they impacted, politics and the social norms in various societies around the world. She presents numerous examples from Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Asia (essentially the entire world). A must "read" to understand how religion and politics have interacted.
Date published: 2018-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Excellent overview of the history of Christianity from the Reformation. The course was well organized and presented and provided insight into the sociology and psychology of the pose living in the time periods.
Date published: 2018-04-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from American chocolate American chocolate bars are wonderful until you taste deep rich European chocolate, then American chocolate tastes bland and waxy with a touch of vomit aftertaste. The first Christian History course is a solid chocolate with rich overtones and plenty of body. The course I'm streaming from GC+ on Ben Franklin is a superb chocolate to be savored and appreciated. It is simply a joy. This course on modern Christianity is a bar of 'milk chocolate' manufactured to the specifications of a town in Pennsylvania. It is designed for the modern American palette that doesn't know any better. Politically correct at the expense of truth, it runs down rabbit trails instead of the highway of actual history. For instance all the great missionaries are given short shrift if not ignored entirely in favor of a small, largely tangential group who prove the professor's points. There was a time when intellectual rigor and honesty were simply expected in The Teaching Company courses. Those days are gone. There are still many superb courses from the 'Great Courses', but they are no longer the vast majority. Of course, this is where the advent of streaming helps us out. Thankfully we can sample at a vast smorgis board of chocolates (to stretch an already shaky metaphor) and reject the 10% milk chocolate and dive straight into the delicious 67% dark chocolate.
Date published: 2018-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overview over a vast topic Dr. Worthen does an outstanding job covering a vast, and diverse topic and historical period. She covers some 500 years of history spanning the globe. So as such it is fairly high level. Dr. Worthen does dive slightly deeper at times to illustrate a point or build a picture of the historical moment. During the very last lecture, she talks about a diverse set of current, global issues and I found it amazing how much better, or more completely, one understands there is more than meets the eye to today's issues. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2018-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Subject, Outstanding Teaching This is a fascinating overview of the last 500 years of the history of Christianity throughout the world. It skillfully blends consideration of major currents with instructive vignettes of particular individuals and churches. Also well-covered is the inevitable and significant interaction of religious with cultural and political forces. Professor Worthen does an outstanding job of presenting this mass of information in eighteen hours of lectures. She speaks clearly, in a conversational tone, with a well-modulated voice which held my interest. As importantly, she is very well-organized and focused. And the breadth of facts discussed is remarkable. Of course the time constraint necessitates a survey approach, and some important episodes must be treated lightly or not at all. But the course provides as fine an overview of this important topic as I can imagine. I have no significant criticisms. As our professor makes clear, the course is presented from a secular historian's viewpoint, looking in from outside of any religious tradition. And while occasional comments may sound somewhat judgmental, overall she does an excellent job of remaining as objective as possible when covering such a fraught area. The visuals provide mostly maps and portraits of some of the individuals discussed. The course could be fully appreciated in audio. The Course Guidebook is very complete, which I greatly appreciate. So - my highest recommendation for any with an interest in Christianity, religious history in general, or the history of recent times.
Date published: 2018-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well thought out and keeps your interest Well presented in a professional and engaging manner
Date published: 2018-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Information given in a clear and organized manner I really liked the subject matter of this course. How the Christian religion evolved to were it is today has always intrigued me. I also liked her final summary discussing where the Christian religion is today and it's challanges for the future
Date published: 2018-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course was just what I needed to put church history in perspective. The teacher used simple and understandable explanations of the events and many of the people who made that history. I was impressed with the teacher's objective and respectful approach. I am grateful for the knowledge she organized so well and shared with us.
Date published: 2018-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview If you’re looking for an excellent overview of an important element in religious history, then you owe it to yourself to get this course. The video version is excellent, and Dr. Worthen’s presentation is surperb. She covers the major areas with sufficient sideline areas to make the course worthwhile and valuable.
Date published: 2018-02-07
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Failure as a Follow-up to Part I Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this course; it is not a worthy follow-up to Dr. Johnson’s Part I of the History of Christianity. It fails on too many educational points. • In Lecture 1, Dr. Worthen seeks to presents pre-Reformation roots of Protestant thought. However, she focuses the lecture on Savonarola, from whom no Protestant thought is derived, and does not even mention Jon Hus or John Wycliffe, who were direct influences on the Reformation. • In Lecture 9, Dr. Worthen casually mentions that a Bishop of Canterbury was “Arminian” without ever discussing the origin and meaning of the Arminian controversy, one of the most important developments in Continental Protestantism. In particular, she overlooks the Synod of Dort. • She is not always clear about her chronology. For example, in her discussion in Lecture 10 about the factors that led to the Great Schism between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy in 1054, she addressed the Crusade of 1204. I’m sure she is fully cognizant of the facts, but her presentation was confusing. • In Lecture 13, she does not present orthodox Protestant Christianity and Enlightenment Christianity in their own terms. Rather, she speaks of Protestant Christianity (particularly John Calvin) in judgmental terms. • She overlooks the crucial Council of Trent and she says little of the early Roman Catholic work in the Americas. • In Lecture 29, she says, “I see no evidence of a revival any time soon.” A revival is, by definition, an unexpected increase in involvement. To say that she does not expect an unexpected increase in involvement is reflexive at best. Dr. Worthen emphasizes the breadth of Christianity since the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation. She addresses Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy (although just a little), and various strains of Protestantism from the social gospel on the left to fundamentalism on the right. She also addresses geographic diversity with the emphasis on Europe and the United States (where most of the action was) but also including Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Interestingly, Korea justifiably gets an entire dedicated lecture. Dr. Worthen does a good job of capturing the variety within Christianity during this period. For the record, in Lecture 31, she includes the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints (Mormons) as a Christian group. In Lecture 32 she states, “The more Latin American evangelicals learned about their North American colleagues, the more many of them realized that there were real theological differences between them. Sure, they generally shared a traditional view of gender roles and a commitment to anti-communism, but like a lot of Christians in the developing world, more progressive Latin American evangelicals did not share the attitude of many northern evangelicals that a commitment to social justice, to reforming the structural sin in society, and calling on the government to help do so makes you a weak-kneed liberal who isn’t committed to preaching the gospel.” I am sure that there is a valid objective historical point in there but it is obscured by phrasing it in judgmental terms; this is another pedagogical problem. Dr. Worthen seems to take a special interest in contributions of women to Christianity. This is shown, for example, when she discusses the abolition movement in Britain. She mentions William Wilberforce in passing and focuses on Hannah More. I can’t quite put my finger on why I was disappointed with Dr. Worthen’s teaching style. Her presentation tended to the informal, but I’ve been OK with that in other teachers. Perhaps I just get the impression that she doesn’t particularly care about her subject, like this is just an idle chat to her. To understand Dr. Worthen’s perspective, note that in Lecture 19 she says that “All religions are human artifacts.” Thus, she presents Christianity as something constructed by people (i. e., a “human artifact”) rather than an expression of something divine or metaphysical. I listened to the audio version. I doubt that the video version would have mitigated any of the weaknesses. It’s not that Dr. Worthen is biased either for or against any particular branch or against Christianity as a whole. It’s just that she paints a very blurry picture, and in that way, she fails as an educator.
Date published: 2018-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Comprehensive discussion A comprehensive coverage of most of the major religious christian groups in recent history.
Date published: 2018-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Course I found this lecture series extremely rewarding. The professor delivers the material clearly, making complex historical developments and theological issues easy to understand. This course would make a nice complement to Dr. Ehrman and Dr. Tim Johnson’s courses on the early Christian Church.
Date published: 2018-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Class and Wonderful Teacher I really enjoyed this course and learned much about church history and the development of the Christian faith. I've traveled extensively and visited Christians and churches in many countries, and found the material presented in this class to agrees well with my observations. This material was well researched and well taught. I would highly recommend this class to anyone interested in this topic.
Date published: 2018-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential to understand USA politics This course is excellent for anyone interested in the history of Christianity, but particularly for understanding the politics of the religious right-wing in the USA.
Date published: 2017-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from enlightening The professor explains the happenings and the why in respectful analysis that can deepen ones faith as well as knowledge of history.
Date published: 2017-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best courses ever from The Teaching Com I've received two seminary degrees, but this is the best church history course that I've encountered so far. Almost with every lecture I learned new aspects. The professor teaches very well, and I like her good touches with a gentle sense of humor. My only negative comment is that I found the background videos distracting as they appeared in a random fashion. Church history had always been a rather dry and unrewarding experience for me, but these lectures were fresh and inviting. I watched them all in less than a week. I would surely buy another course from this professor.
Date published: 2017-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great professor! Animated, knowledgeable, interes! Filled in so many gaps, beautiful graphics and timelines!
Date published: 2017-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive sweep of Christianity's history The professor knows her church history and brought me up to speed through the lens of the Protestant faith.
Date published: 2017-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Speaker This series presents an excellent speaker giving a well rounded and balanced coverage over a wide range of Christian Church history topics. Many topics I have never heard or read about before. The studio setting is a more pleasing backdrop than most Great Courses I have seen with the exception of very distracting video screens in the background. These video screen scenes are constantly changing and have no bearing on the subject of the lecture making harder to keep focused on the lecturer. Better to leave this out in future.
Date published: 2017-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoughtful, Engaging, Informative, Entertaining This is my 16th Great Course, and easily my favorite. Professor Worthen's lectures are clear, engaging, and informative. She seamlessly combines colorful stories with discussions of complicated issues of world politics and theology--and is able to make a difficult subject very accessible. Every lecture teaches something new, and you will not regret investing in this Course. I hope the Great Courses series asks her to do another course soon!
Date published: 2017-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History of Christianity II I have been a regular customer for twenty years and this is the best course so far. Professor Worthern skillfully blends into the mix religious concepts and political and social developments. Her teaching style is very approachable because it is conversational. You never get the sense that she is reading from a script.
Date published: 2017-11-24
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