Church History vs. History of Christianity

Posted: January 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

Is there a difference between Church History and the History of Christianity? Some have said yes. Travis Myers, a missions and history professor at Bethlehem College and Seminary, has seen a difference. I offer his explanation of the differences between the two disciplines in this post.

The term “church history” connotes a more focused or selective approach that pays attention to a certain denominational tribe or theological tradition. Heightened attention is paid to doctrinal differences and ecclesial controversies, church “splits” (or winnowings), and key leaders who are lauded. It is focused on tracing true belief and “real” (or ideal) Christianity.

In contradistinction, “history of Christianity” connotes a broader concern for all persons and groups who have self-identified as “Christian” over the ages, while not jettisoning internal criteria for definitions of Christian identity…Attention is paid to the social and cultural impact of the existence of a phenomenon called Christianity and to the impact of “Christians” on their respective contexts while focused likewise on ways each context influenced “Christian” thought and practice. This approach is more descriptive (versus prescriptive), sociological (vs. theolo./doctrinal), and comparative (emphasizing diversity).

What do you think? Have you ever thought about the distinction?


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