My first quarter of Divinity School I had a history of Christian thought class. There were four or five courses in the series but we were only required to take one. The one I took covered approximately 600 to 1400 AD, which was an era that I knew almost nothing about. I learned a great deal in the class, but I was a bit frustrated by the teaching style. Mostly we were covering philosophical issues, but those philosophical and theological movements were abstracted from the broader history of the era. I need context to help frame the theological changes and give reasons for why the theological and philosophical shifts were occurring.
The History of Christian Theology course covers a much longer history (all of it) and necessarily went into less depth, but also gave much better context to the theological shifts. The lecturer assumed Christian faith and background, although explained the nuances of the theology well.
One of the features that I found most helpful was continually thinking about the implications to the average believer. As theology shifted, the questions that plagued the average believer, and the pastoral care needed also shifted. So simple returns to these basic questions and comparing different theological systems was very helpful.
Approximately half of the 19 hours was basic theology explanations and the history prior to the reformation. And the second half was reformation and the history since that time with the last four lectures on post reformation Catholic theology. If there is a weakness it is the focus on the Western Church. Eastern Orthodoxy is covered well until the great Schism, but after the Schism, Eastern Orthodoxy is rarely referenced.
There is real critique about the shifts in Christian theology, but also broad ecumenical understanding. It isn’t until later in the course that I really started to be able to place the lecturer’s own theological roots. I think that most Christians would think he did a good job explaining their own area (or at least it seemed quite fair to me.)
I will pick up more lectures by Philip Cary and probably other lectures by others in Theology and Christianity as well.
The History of Christian Theology by Philip Cary (Great Courses) Purchase Links: Audible.com Audiobook