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History & Ecumenics Academic Info

The History & Ecumenics Department offers a wide array of courses, which offer students the opportunity to explore Christianity’s historical development and contemporary trajectories around the world

    Current Course Highlights

    Social Christianity and American Inequality
    This course explores the history of American Social Christianity, a tradition cultivated by a wide range of believers, united mainly by the conviction that participation in fights against structural inequality is an essential component of faithfulness in the modern world. Readings and lectures will trace the development of this tradition from its origins in black resistance to enslavement through the rise of contemporary social justice movements. Along the way we will consider the contributions of Social Christians to wider struggles for equality, including those galvanized by workers, women, people of color, and LGBTQ communities.

    The New African Diaspora
    This course will acquaint students with the new African Christian diaspora, providing an overview of the historical development and variety of African Christian communities particularly in North America and Europe. The course identifies emerging themes and trends in the study of the new African religious diaspora; and highlights the social relevance of African Christian communities in civic life. With exposure to religious ethnography, students will be able to analyze the unfolding of diaspora faiths; evidence a critical awareness of their own faiths and cultures, through discerning engagement with diverse cultural contexts in an increasingly globalized society.

    Minds and Brains in Medieval Christianity
    This seminar surveys understandings of the mind and brain in Europe and the Mediterranean, c. 300-1500. How did monks try to tame their thoughts, discipline their minds, and banish distraction? How did medieval scholars memorize so much material (and why was memory so important)? People living in the premodern era thought of cognition in different terms than we do today, and they used different strategies for making their brains behave how they wanted. Despite these differences, some experiences are almost universally familiar: Like us, medieval people forgot things and tried to improve their memories; they sometimes grew anxious or sad; and they studied hard to learn things that were important to them. The course is divided into 4 main units: Mindfulness, Memory, Mysticism, and "Madness."

    Global South Public Christianities
    This course reviews Christian public discourses from the Global South, as they reflect on the intersection between Christian faith, political action, and public policy. It examines theological responses to the challenges posed to Global South Christians as they engage the public square, through the lenses of global south scholars. It explores different views about religion’s role in public life, highlighting critical issues, and offering a range of approaches and understandings of citizenship and justice in the Global South.

    Calvin and Geneva
    This course provides an introduction to John Calvin’s Reformation of Geneva. It includes close analysis of key theological texts, an examination of the social and political conditions Calvin encountered, and the ecclesial and societal reforms he envisioned and was able to carry out. Finally, the course considers Geneva’s legacy for the formation of world Calvinism. This course fulfills the History Department’s distribution requirement in Reformation.

    Practices of Mercy in the Early Church
    How did ministers in the early centuries of Christianity show Christ’s mercy to others? How did these ministers understand the call to perform mercy and how did they perform mercy despite the constraints of their institutional and social world? This course will introduce students to the ways in which Christian ministers practiced mercy, how ministers exhorted others to act mercifully, and the social and political consequences ministers faced as a result of their merciful work. Students will be invited to compare ancient institutions to modern analogs (e.g., slavery, asylum, imprisonment, inpatient care) and explore how ancient voices can widen our perspective on how to preach and practice mercy today.

    Complete Course Offerings

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    “The faculty and staff at Princeton Seminary took my interests in science and theology and gave them real direction.”