Robert C. Jones
In the mid-1990s, I became a Presbyterian elder. I was pretty familiar with the Bible (I had taught Disciples I several times by then), and yet many of the questions I would get from the Congregation and friends and family had to do with Christian history and Christian theology, but not necessarily the Bible. These questions often came from people who had a very logical approach to their faith (engineers, skeptical teenagers), and they were very much looking for specific answers to specific questions. I decided that before I could answer these questions for other people, I needed to answer them myself. The results were the courses that I wrote Ė first for me, then for others.
Here are the types of questions that I was being asked (and am still asked):
As I started to research the answers to these types of questions, I discovered that church libraries often have little on the topics of Christian history or theology Ė rather, they are filled with inspirational books (what Iíd call the Chicken Soup for the Soul phenomenon.) Lots of self-help type books Ė not much on the Council of Nicaea, or on Augustineís views on predestination.
Luckily, technology in the mid-1990s provided a wealth of information. With CD-ROM collections, and later, the Internet, Christian source documents were available on a scale never seen before. My Christian History and Theology Sunday School courses started to take shape.
Iíve always been a strong believer in adult Sunday School classes and Bible studies in our churches. And many churches have quality, Biblically-based adult-focused programs. Unfortunately, just as many churches tend to downplay adult education, focusing on childrenís education (not a bad thing in itself), or focusing on the needs of the ďunchurchedĒ, where topics such as church history and theology are often purposely ignored.
Yet there is a strong need for adult education focused on both the Bible and the basic tenets and history of the Faith. Among the reasons:
Not all adults come from a strong childhood background in the church Ė adult Sunday School classes/Bible studies may be their first serious introduction to what Christianity is all about.
Christianity (and especially Evangelical Christianity) is under constant attack from the media and popular culture (movies, music, etc.) We need to give fellow Christians the tools to defend the Faith against attack (or to provide a ďready defenseĒ as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15).
Even adult Christians that have a strong Biblical background often know little about the origins and history of their Faith
To better meet the needs of adult Christians (both those mature in their Faith, and those just starting out in the ďSchool of ChristĒ), Iíve written a series of courses that focus on the history of the Christian Church (including the Jewish roots), as well as the development of doctrine in the Church. The topics represented in these courses are intended to both further the participantís Walk in the Faith, as well as serve as a starting point for Christian apologetics.
While the primary purpose of these courses is for use in churches, they also may be useful for High School and College projects, especially the courses focused primarily on historical aspects.
One note: these courses are primarily written from an Evangelical Protestant viewpoint (I come from a Reformed Church background), but I hope I've given ample time to other points of view throughout the various courses.
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