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Level 4

4AAT1030 Introduction to Modern Christianity and Culture

THIS MODULE IS RUNNING IN 2019-20

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr Michael Ledger-Lomas
Assessment: One 2,000-word essay (40%) and one 2,500- word essay (60%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: two-hour weekly classes over ten weeks.


Most sessions will include a lecture and some opportunity for discussion. Students are encouraged to come to the classes prepared to participate in the discussion. The reading list will provide sufficient background for participation in the classes and for the preparation of coursework.
Pre-requisites: none

Christianity, wrote Herbert Butterfield in Christianity and History (1949), 'has not been exempt from that bias, that curious twist in events, that gravitational pull in human nature, which draws the highest things downwards, mixes them with earth, and taints them with human cupidity.' This course offers an earthy introduction to modern Christianity in the period that stretches roughly from the Protestant Reformation to the present. It asks you to consider why Christianity has been such an extraordinarily successful, pervasive and often malign religion in that time. Leaving the question of its truth to the theologians, it asks: what have been the social, cultural and intellectual bases of its authority? The course takes a broadly historical approach to the question of what Christianity is and has been in the early modern and modern world. The aim is not to attain a single and thus simplistic definition of Christianity but to recognise that this religion has been the site of perpetual conflict both between its members and between its members and its enemies. 'What is Christianity?' is a question that has divided Protestant from Catholic, bigot from freethinker, evangelical from non-evangelical, colonisers from imperial subjects. Therefore it begins by suggesting on the one hand that although Christian religiosity has everywhere shared some key preoccupations - an acceptance of the Bible's authority, the centrality of Christ, a preoccupation with sin and salvation and an insistence on communal worship - this has not prevented radical disagreements on how those preoccupations should be worked out in practice. Christianity has often offered its believers an escape from the terrestrial world, but the next section of the course goes on to explore the ways in which Christianity has not so much escaped from but dynamically interacted with deep-seated patterns of domination and inequality: physical force, sexuality and gender, wealth and poverty. The last section of the course turns to examine how Christianity has coped with increasingly pressing threats to its authority. It will examine the impact of the enlightenment, the challenges posed by the emergence of modern states and nations and finally ends by discussing the phenomenon of secularization.

The teaching will be divided in a free-form way into periods of lecturing and discussion in class. 

Further information

Module aims

To introduce students to the doctrines, practices and lived experience of modern Christianity through a historical framework.  To provide a foundation for more specialized units in subsequent years.

Learning outcomes

Generic skills

  • Develop an ability to engage critically with primary sources
  • Develop an ability to present ideas coherently in written and oral form

Module specific skills

  • The students will be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable and practical skills appropriate to Level 4 modules and in particular will be able to demonstrate:
  • A familiarity with important Christian figures, texts and doctrines.
  • An understanding of some of the ways in which Christianity has shaped, and has been shaped by, Western culture
  • An understanding of important areas of debate and controversy in modern churches
  • An awareness of different approaches to the study of Christianity.
Past syllabi
Previous syllabus document is not available due to the module content being changed. For more information please contact the module tutor. 
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