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A Journey through Western Christianity: from Persecuted Faith to Global Religion (200 - 1650) , Yale University

4.7
187 ratings
67 reviews

About this Course

This course follows the extraordinary development of Western Christianity from its early persecution under the Roman Empire in the third century to its global expansion with the Jesuits of the early modern world. We explore the dynamic and diverse character of a religion with an enormous cast characters. We will meet men and women who tell stories of faith as well as of violence, suppression, and division. Along the way, we encounter Perpetua and her martyrdom in Carthage; the struggles of Augustine the bishop in North Africa; the zeal of Celtic monks and missionaries; the viciousness of the Crusades; the visions of Brigit of Sweden; and the fracturing of Christianity by Martin Luther’s protest. We hear the voices of great theologians as well as of those branded heretics by the Church, a powerful reminder that the growth of Christianity is a story with many narratives of competing visions of reform and ideals, powerful critiques of corruption and venality, and exclusion of the vanquished. The troubled history of Christian engagement with Jews and Muslims is found in pogroms and expulsions, but also in the astonishing ways in which the culture of the West was transformed by Jewish and Islamic learning. We shall explore the stunning beauty of the Book of Kells, exquisitely prepared by monks as the Vikings terrorized the coast of England. We will experience the blue light of the windows of Chartres, and ponder the opening questions of Thomas Aquinas’ great Summa. We will read from the Gutenberg Bible of the fifteenth century, which heralded the revolution brought by the printing press. We will travel from Calvin’s Geneva to Elizabeth’s England to Trent, where a Catholic Council met to inaugurate a modern, missionary Catholic church. We will walk through the great Escorial of Philip II of Spain, hear the poetry of John of the Cross, and follow the Jesuits to Brazil and China. Christianity in the West was forged in the fires of conflict and tumult, and it brought forth both creativity and violence. It echoed with calls for God’s world to be transformed, it inspired the most sublime art and architecture, yet it also revealed the power of the union of cross and sword to destroy. The course is a journey through the formation of the West as one strand of Christianity, as one chapter in a global story. It is a journey that has shaped our world....

Top reviews

By ES

Mar 23, 2018

A great journey! Lots of information and bonus material! I'm very thankful for the course. It might be that the professor's speech is sometimes a bit difficult to follow, but it's a minor drawback

By AW

Jun 20, 2017

Well developed and presented course.. It'll be good to have it continued from 1650 to where the Christian faith is today. I'll be very interested to be part of it if it is developed.

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66 Reviews

By Kristi DeMarr

Nov 14, 2018

I have enjoyed Professor Gordon's class so much and could repeat it several times and still not absorb the vast amount of information that he has spent so many hours sharing with us.

Loved it!

Thank you Dr. Gordon, Nazanin and Max, for your time and talent.

By Lee ThingThing

Nov 14, 2018

Clear explanation how western christianity developed

By Sylvia Suzanne Martin

Nov 07, 2018

I enjoyed the notes, the references the videos and professor. I learned a great deal about a subject I had some awareness of. A subject I am keenly interested in, as I pursue a career as a minister. Thank you.

By Melody Laila

Oct 08, 2018

Recommend to anyone wanting to expand their knowledge on the growth of Christianity. The subtitles are a bit iffy at times, but if English is your first language you should be fine.

By Patricia Norman Willson

Oct 04, 2018

The presentation is superb and attention holding. I'm enjoying this class so very much. I would love more by this University and this Professor.

By Damon Todd Roman

Sep 30, 2018

Absolutely loved this course! Could not recommend it more!

By Andrey Casallas

Sep 10, 2018

Excellent course!!!

By Frank

Sep 04, 2018

Very good introduction (or re-introduction) to Christianity in the early world up until the Colonial Era. The instructors skillfully brought in elements from the arts, primary sources, and on-site visits to paint a cohesive image of Christianity through this time. The discussions between the staff were also very good in bringing out more subtle differences in some areas where opinion still differs.

By Mir Plemmons

Jun 22, 2018

Good overview, good sources.

By Brent Horner

Jun 07, 2018

great course, very informative.