CH201 – The Church to 1550


a) To introduce candidates to the major developments in church history until the present day;
b) To introduce candidates to aspects of Christian history which have affected the church in their own cultural experience as well as the experience of others;
c) To give candidates an historical framework in which the better to understand their theological studies.


CH201 is an academic unit taught online throughout the semester. It requires 7 hours of study per week, which includes:

  • Listening to the specially developed audio material
  • Reading the course notes and set readings
  • Interacting with online tutors and fellow students through the online forums
  • Reflecting on what you have learned
  • Completing written assessment tasks
  • Studying and preparing for the exam

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this unit, for the period down to 1550, students will:

A. Know and understand

  1. The major phases and developments in the history of Christianity identified in the unit content
  2. The life and thought of selected key figures in the history of Christianity

B. Be able to

  1. Describe the impact of the social, political and cultural context on Christian beliefs, practices and movements.
  2. Use primary and secondary sources
  3. Present an evidence-based perspective or narrative

C. Be in a position to

  1. Apply historical perspectives from this period to their theological studies and in ministry contexts


Section A: The Church in Imperial Rome:

  1. Christians in society: the spread of Christianity to 312 Justin Martyr OR Tertullian
  2. The challenge of other religions and ideologies, especially Judaism and Gnosticism. Irenaeus OR Athenagoras.
  3. Caesar: enemy or friend? Decius, Diocletian, Constantine. Pliny & Trajan OR Cyprian.
  4. Wrestling with the faith: Origen, Arianism, Chalcedon. Origen OR Athanasius.
  5. Worship and popular religion in a collapsing society: 4th and 5th century trends: asceticism, pilgrimage, liturgy, icons. Augustine of Hippo.

Section B: The Church as Christendom

  1. The conversion of Europe 600–900. The Holy Roman Empire. Boniface of Crediton OR Alcuin of York
  2. Christendom triumphant: the Western church in the 13th and 14th centuries. The development of scholasticism. Innocent III OR Thomas Aquinas.
  3. Byzantium, Islam and the Crusades.
  4. Christendom challenged; protest and spiritual renewal mysticism. The conciliar movement. Francis of Assisi OR Thomas a Kempis.

Section C: The Continental Churches and Reform

  1. Reform precursors; renaissance and new learning. John Hus OR Erasmus
  2. Reformation as massive change:
    (a) in Germany (1517–1530)
    (b) in Geneva (1536–1564) Martin Luther & John Calvin
    (c) Anabaptist groups Menno Simons
  3. The Counter Reformation: Trent; the Jesuits; the papacy reformed. Ignatius Loyola OR Teresa of Avila