Development in Christian Thought

Advanced Course for Deep Thinkers: Wisdom and Authority

There have been numerous conflicting claims in Christianity about sources of wisdom and authority and these have given rise to conflict between Christian groups. While some Christians trust an institution to decide big questions others prefer personal personal conscience, the authority of a text or feel better guided by an individual of great wisdom, such as Jesus. Who is right and how can you decide? Without bias this course gives insight into the historical context and theological arguments, so that you can make up your own mind. Is the Bible more authoritative than the Church? Does the Church have sole right to interpret the Bible or can the individual reader understand for themselves?

What you’ll learn

  • Find out about different types of authority in Christianity, including the Bible, the Church and conscience..
  • Find out how different Christians have different sources of authority. Includes Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Protestant and Catholic Christians.
  • Find out how authoritative personal conscience is in Christianity.
  • Find out about the authority of Jesus.

Course Content

  • Introduction –> 1 lecture • 29min.
  • The Bible –> 1 lecture • 33min.
  • The Roman Catholic Church –> 1 lecture • 30min.
  • The Protestant Challenge –> 1 lecture • 26min.
  • Authority in the Anglican Church –> 1 lecture • 29min.
  • Fundamentalists & Evangelicals –> 1 lecture • 10min.
  • The Authority of Personal Conscience –> 1 lecture • 13min.
  • The Authority of Jesus –> 1 lecture • 26min.

Development in Christian Thought

Requirements

There have been numerous conflicting claims in Christianity about sources of wisdom and authority and these have given rise to conflict between Christian groups. While some Christians trust an institution to decide big questions others prefer personal personal conscience, the authority of a text or feel better guided by an individual of great wisdom, such as Jesus. Who is right and how can you decide? Without bias this course gives insight into the historical context and theological arguments, so that you can make up your own mind. Is the Bible more authoritative than the Church? Does the Church have sole right to interpret the Bible or can the individual reader understand for themselves?

The course examines and evaluates the following sources of wisdom and authority in Christianity:

The Bible Most Christians believe the the Bible is an inspired text, written by inspired people and that it can inspire the reader. This means that for most Christians it has some authority – but is it the only source of wisdom and authority, and if not how do other sources rank?

The Magisterium The teaching authorities of the Roman Catholic Church claim the right to interpret the Bible and to give authoritative teaching about ethical issues, such as abortion. Where does this leave personal conscience?

Tradition There are very few doctrines explicitly stated in the Bible and most are interpretations passed down from generation to generation. Can traditions ever be changed so that, for example, female ordination is allowed?

Church leaders such as the Pope. Apostolic Succession means that the Pope directly inherits responsibility and authority in continuity from the Apostles. Is the Pope infallible (without error), or only sometimes? What do you think?

Individual Conscience. Most people believe they should follow their conscience, but how is conscience formed, and is it possible to have a badly formed conscience or no conscience at all? Is conscience the most important authority of all, or not?

Religious Experience. This issue will be treated in greater depth in another course, but the core question here is whether a personal experience, or moment of revelation, has any authority over anybody other than the person claiming it.

Human Reason. It is possible that a person can arrive naturally at knowledge of God by reasoning well. The correct use of reason, however, is the challenge.

Jesus In the Bible Jesus is revealed as authoritative: as a revealer of God, as a miracle worker, as a healer and as someone who can forgive sin and liberate people from death. The mainstream view is that Jesus was not JUST a human being but also divine. How much authority can Jesus have today for modern Christians?

This is a fascinating course which will help you to understand not only the past but the town you live in, where you will find (almost certainly) a beautiful Church, built and honoured by past generations, full of history, with its own story to tell.

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