Religious Studies | Studies in Christian History: Christianity 1500-2000
R531 | 25864 | Furey, C.

In 1500 Western Europe was known as Christendom, whereas today it is
a society where less than 20% of the population regularly attends
church. Today Christianity flourishes in Africa, Asia, and Latin
America--places where there were few Christians five hundred years
ago. People often cite these facts to give credence to their claims
that secularization and globalization have been the two dramatic
developments in the past five hundred years of Christianity. But
claims about how Christianity changed between 1500 and 2000 are as
complicated as they are commonplace. There is no consensus about
whether the Protestant Reformation revitalized Christianity or laid
the groundwork for a secular society; about whether Enlightenment
thought ushered in a new worldview or simply expressed the musings
of elite intellectuals; about whether capitalism merely created a
new kind of marketplace or fundamentally altered the role of
religion; or whether the energy that once fueled Christianity in the
West has now been siphoned off to the south and east.
This course engages these debates by analyzing each of these
historical developments. We begin by reading an essay about the
Reformation that claims it did not introduce a new form of
Christianity, and end with Philip Jenkinsís book, The Next
Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, which argues that
Western Christendom is being replaced by forms of Christianity that
are flourishing in the southern hemisphere. In between, we will
study the Reformation, the Enlightenment, capitalism, political
liberalism, and the spread of Christianity to colonized people. As
we survey Christian history from the 16th century to the 20th
century, we shall try to understand what phenomena lead people to
describe our age as "secular" what that description assumes about
being "religious" and whether the globalization of Christianity is
in fact a newly significant development. Three exams (part essay),
three short papers, a group project, and class participation will
provide basis for grade.