407 Pat Neff (254) 710-7555
I check my e-mail regularly, so this is an excellent way to get in touch with me if you have a quick question, or if you want to make an appointment for a more substantial discussion.
Over the past two centuries, the global spread of Christianity has been one of the critical themes in world history, with revolutionary effects on Africa and Asia. Meanwhile, Latin American faith has also been revolutionized by the spread of new forms of Protestantism. The global movement also promises vast changes within the Christian faith as it is practiced within Europe and North America. In our time, Christianity, a religion born and nurtured in Asia and Africa, has decided to return home.
Themes of the course include the reasons for the success or failure of Christianity in different contexts; the relationship between religious expansion and the fate of empires; the role of globalization; the impact of culture on belief, practice, and theology; and the changing relationships between the great world faiths. Among other recurrent topics, we will touch on the impact of religious change on concepts of gender and family; and we will explore changing definitions of modernity. As far as possible within the limitations of a single course, we will strive for the widest possible global coverage.
As you will see, this is also a course about different ways of doing history. We will explore a variety of different studies, which are both top-down and bottom-up in their approach. Some concentrate on vast global trends, others on the micro-history of particular communities. Some are highly theoretical, others strictly nuts and bolts in their approach. Some are more popular, other more academic. Some of the authors will be reading explicitly think of themselves as historians, others are sociologists or political scientists. We will discuss how historical fiction can be used as a means of debating historical and theological truth.
I have a particular interest in the nature of sources, and how historians employ diverse materials to draw conclusions. Throughout, we will pay close attention to the use of documents and other forms of evidence.
A glance at this syllabus will indicate my own particular areas of interest, both themes and geographical areas. I am however flexible towards accommodating other people's interests and areas of expertise, and would encourage individuals to use their papers to pursue their own particular projects. Ideally, I would like this class to provide a foundation that you can build upon in your dissertation work.
Although this is primarily a history course, I am open to a wide variety of other disciplines and approaches, including theology, literature, art, and so on.
All these are, or should be, in affordable paperback editions.
Shusaku Endo, Silence (Taplinger, 1980)
ISBN: 0800871863, 978-0800871864
Henrietta Harrison, The Missionary's Curse and Other Tales from a Chinese Catholic Village (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).
ISBN: 0520273125, 978-0520273122
Philip Jenkins, The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)
ISBN: 0195368517, 978-0195368512
Klaus Koschorke, Frieder Ludwig and Mariano Delgado, eds., A History of Christianity in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, 1450-1990: A Documentary Sourcebook (Grand Rapids, Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans, 2007).
ISBN: 0802828892, 978-0802828897
Ruth Marshall, Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).
ISBN: 0226507130, 978-0226507132
Mark Noll, From Every Tribe and Nation (Baker Academic 2014, paperback).
Dana L. Robert, Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).
ISBN: 0631236201, 978-0631236207
Lamin Sanneh, Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
ISBN: 0195189612, 978-0195189612
Mark Shaw, Global Awakening: How 20th-Century Revivals Triggered a Christian Revolution (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2010).
ISBN: 0830838775, 978-0830838776
I could easily have used lots more collections of documents, readings, etc., but an unimaginably vast range of texts is available for free on the Internet. These cover every conceivable topic you might be researching. I would draw your attention to two resources in particular, namely the History of Missiology site at Boston University and the Dictionary of African Christian Biography. Early in the course, please get to know your way around the resources they offer.
A Note on Reading Required Books
I also offer the following list of questions that apply to any and all of the prescribed books – or indeed, to some extent, to any academic book that you might encounter:
1. First, obviously, what is the book about, and what is its central theme or point?
2. Does the author make his/her case well and clearly? Is the book well-written and well-argued? (the two points are not necessarily the same!) If not, why not?
3. The fact that the book was published indicates that somebody thought it made an important and innovative point – there’s no point in just rehashing old familiar arguments, or so we would think. What’s new about this book? Is it a controversial study?
4. What did the book tell us that was not previously known? What can we learn about how the book fits into the existing literature, yet advances beyond previous knowledge? What earlier or established position is it arguing against?
5. Why are people studying this kind of topic right now? What does this tell us about the state of historical writing and scholarship?
6. Does the author push the evidence to make it fit into contemporary concerns and obsessions? How?
7. What major questions and issues surface that relate to the topics of the present course?
8. Is the book of any interest or significance beyond the immediate scope of the study addressed?
9. Are there questions that you would like to ask that the author does not deal with, or covers poorly?
10. What can we learn from the footnotes and acknowledgments about how the author went about his/her research?
SYLLABUS OF CLASSES
1. JANUARY 11 Introduction
Introducing themes, concepts and debates: a chronology of Christian history
JANUARY 18 NO CLASS (MLK DAY)
2. JANUARY 25 The West and the Rest
How Christianity’s center of gravity has shifted through its two thousand year history; how the faith has been shaped the various cultures with which it has interacted.
DISCUSS: Sanneh, Pillars of World Christianity. See discussion questions at
3. FEBRUARY 1 Missions
The forces driving mission through history, and factors making for success and failure. Past and present debates over the concept of mission.
DISCUSS: Robert, Christian Mission. See discussion questions at
4. FEBRUARY 8 Converting the World
Christian expansion during the Early Modern period, and the first era of globalization: its triumphs and disasters.
DISCUSS: Koschorke et al, eds., A History of Christianity, pp. 1-54, 139-183, 277-360.
Please note that in this class and the next, I will also be assigning specific key documents to individual students, on which they will then comment in additional detail. For both this class and the next, see the discussion questions at
I NEED TO KNOW THE TITLE AND TOPIC OF YOUR TERM PAPER TODAY, PLEASE
5. FEBRUARY 15 The Empires Strike Back
How European empires spread Christianity worldwide, and how the faith broke free of the imperial stranglehold.
DISCUSS: Koschorke et al, eds., A History of Christianity, pp. 55-138, 184-276, 361-418
6. FEBRUARY 22 Voices from the Past
Reconstructing China’s Christian history.
DISCUSS: Henrietta Harrison, The Missionary's Curse.
See the discussion questions at
7. FEBRUARY 29 Revivals
How revivals and “crusades” have propelled Christian growth, and shaped new churches worldwide.
DISCUSS: Shaw, Global Awakening. See discussion questions at
MARCH 5-13 SPRING BREAK, NO CLASSES
8. MARCH 14 Fresh Eyes on the Bible
How new African and Asian churches read and apply the Bible, and how new cultural contexts shape their religious experience.
DISCUSS: Jenkins, New Faces of Christianity
9. MARCH 21 African Saints
Understanding the various dimensions of Christian conversion and Pentecostal experience in a region that has witnessed tremendous expansion in recent decades.
DISCUSS: Marshall, Political Spiritualities. See discussion questions at
PAPER DRAFTS ARE DUE TODAY
MARCH 28 NO CLASS – EASTER
10. APRIL 4 Global and American
How Western evangelicalism went global, and how it was itself transformed in the process
DISCUSS: Noll, From Every Tribe and Nation. See discussion questions at
11. APRIL 11 History as Fiction
Literary fiction as a means of presenting historical and theological interpretation
DISCUSS: Endo, Silence. See discussion questions at
12. APRIL 18 CLASS PRESENTATIONS
13. APRIL 25 CLASS PRESENTATIONS
Hard copies of final paper drafts are due at my office in Pat Neff by Tuesday, May 4 at 10am.
In most cases, you cannot submit papers electronically. An exception can be made in rare circumstances, eg if, say, you live 40 miles out of town and driving in especially to deliver the paper would be a major personal inconvenience. (P.S. most of you do not live 40 miles out of town).
Attendance and Participation 20%
Grading scale [undergraduate students]
F 60 or lower
Grading scale [graduate students]
F 60 or lower
REQUIREMENTS AND CLASS POLICIES
The course will take the format of a reading and research seminar.
Each week, students will come to class having read an assigned book or document. Each student should come to class with open-ended questions growing out of the general theme, around which the discussion of the readings should be organized. In each case, I will supply beforehand a general list of questions and prompts that will guide you in making your way through the readings.
Participants will write a substantial research paper on a topic of their choice. Possible topics could include issues raised by the course readings, or any other themes of interest in the history of global Christianity. Students should base their research on primary sources from the period and scholarly secondary sources, either books or journal articles. I am flexible about possible themes, and am happy to assist you in developing a workable topic and a list of sources. I discuss this issue of paper topics in more detail here.
By the week of February 1, I need to know the title and topic of the paper you will be writing. Obviously, I need to approve your choice before you proceed with writing it.
Undergraduate papers should be between 5,000 and 6,000 words, including footnotes. Graduate student papers would be between 6,000 and 8,000 words, including footnotes. You should follow Kate Turabian’s A Manual For Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations as a style guide. Grading will of course take account of issues such as grammar and punctuation.
By the week of March 21, I will expect you to submit a preliminary draft, which I will then discuss with you on an individual basis during office hours. The draft by the way, is a full-length version of the paper, fully referenced, as opposed to a two or three page “concept paper”, and it should thus be in connected prose, not in point form. This draft will then be revised to create a final version due for presentation in the final examination period. That gives you plenty of time to do any necessary fine-tuning.
Choosing a Paper Topic
This is a critically important theme that I have addressed at some length at this page:
Do please consult that. You will also find there suggestions for presentations, when that time of the semester rolls around.
Deadlines matter, and I intend to enforce them strictly. If you miss a deadline without getting an extension in advance, you get a grade of F on that particular paper or project. Do not get in touch with me after the fact to explain why you missed a deadline, unless you produce a proper medical note or other documentation. Valid reasons include medical problems and the like.
“Attendance and participation" carry a substantial 20 percent of the grade. I expect you to do the readings for every class, and I reserve the right to call on people individually through the term to comment or respond on particular texts, or issues arising from them. If you do the readings, and take a full and regular part in class discussions, then that will have a major positive impact on your grade. On the other hand, consistently not participating, not doing the readings - or repeatedly being absent from discussions - is equivalent to failing to do the term paper.
I don’t necessarily expect a 100 percent attendance rate, but repeated absences or consistent non-participation will have serious consequences. It does not just mean that you will receive a slightly lower grade: just like refusing to do a paper or an exam, it means that you would simply have not completed the class, and would therefore receive a grade of F for the entire course. It's important to spell out that expectation from the outset. If you are not prepared to do the readings and participate fully, then please drop the class now.
This may all be obvious, but it’s useful to spell it out here.
Plagiarizing papers will result in a “zero” for that assignment with the possibility of further disciplinary action at the discretion of the Honor Council and Dean’s office. Students may not use the same paper to satisfy requirements in more than one class. Students may not copy material and present it as their own, and this includes material or papers from Internet sites. On any assignment for this class or any other, if the words or interpretations you use are not your own, you must give credit to the original author.
If you are not sure about something, please ask.