Religious Studies


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Christianity: A Very Short Introduction

This short reading offers an important overview of the world's largest religion. Exploring the cultural and institutional dimensions of Christianity, and tracing its course over two millennia, it provides a candid portrait of Christianity's past and present.

Jesus: A Very Short Introduction

This short reading explores the figure of Jesus through the four Gospels of the New Testament. How did Jesus come to be the object of Christian faith and worship? And why do two billion people today identify as Christians?

Christian Ethics: A Very Short Introduction

This short reading presents a discussion of the relationship between Christian ethics, modern, and postmodern ethics, and explores practical issues including sex, money, and power. What are the inherent difficulties in bringing together ‘Christian’ and ‘ethics’? Christian ethics is not a precise science; rather, it is the cultivation of practical wisdom from a range of sources. This reading looks at the failures of the Christian tradition, including the crusades, the conquest, slavery, inquisitions, and the Galileo affair. These events raise challenges for modern Christian ethics. They have implications in the modern era, that affect our lives in the present age.

Catholicism: A Very Short Introduction

Despite a long history of external threats and internal strife, the Roman Catholic Church remains a vast and influential presence in our modern world. But what were its origins, and how has it changed over the centuries? This reading covers the history of the Catholic Church and considers some of the key issues facing Catholicism today, such as the recent clerical abuse scandals and the impact of the growth of Islam. It also shows how Catholics are being increasingly challenged by tensions between their traditional Christian values and rights endorsed by the secular world, and considers the future for the largest and oldest institution in the world.

Anglicanism: A Very Short Introduction

This short reading highlights the diversity of contemporary Anglicanism by exploring its history, theology, and structures. Putting the history and development of the religion into context, this reading reveals what holds Anglicanism together despite the recent crises that threaten to tear it apart.

The Book of Mormon: A Very Short Introduction

This short reading examines the Book of Mormon primarily in terms of the claims that its narrators make for its historical genesis, its purpose as a sacred text, and its meaning for an audience which shifts over the course of the history it unfolds. Five governing themes — revelation, Christ, Zion, scripture, and covenant — serve as vectors for analysis of the Book's central doctrines and teachings, particularly in relation to familiar nineteenth-century religious preoccupations. 

The Devil: A Very Short Introduction

Focussing specifically on the Christian Devil, this short reading explores the many guises and roles he played in the Bible. He has fascinated writers and theologians since New Testament times, and inspired many dramatic and haunting works of art. Today he remains a potent image in popular culture. According to the principle of ‘demonic inversion’, the Devil represents the mirror image of goodness. While belief in him has declined, the idea of an abstract force of evil is still remarkably strong. Today we are more likely to speak about ‘demonological’ ways of thinking, including allegations of ‘satanic ritual abuse’ and the on-going ‘war on terror’.

Methodism: A Very Short Introduction

This short reading traces Methodism from its origins in the work of John Wesley and the hymns of his brother, Charles Wesley, in the 18th century, right up to the present, where it is one of the most vibrant forms of Christianity. Considering the identity, nature, and history of Methodism, it provides a fresh account of the place of Methodism in the life and thought of the Christian Church. Describing the message of Methodism, and who the Methodists are, it also considers the practices of Methodism and discusses its global impact and its decline in the homelands. Finally, looking forward, this reading considers the future prospects for Methodism.

The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction

This short reading explains the differences between the Bible of Jewish tradition and the Old Testament of Christianity, and also examines the different contents of the Bibles used by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Protestants. It explores the use of invented dialogue and historical fiction in the Old Testament, and the presence of mythic elements in apparently historical accounts. The Old Testament's idea of divine justice is examined, as well as biblical understandings of prophecy. The way non-biblical evidence, such as archaeological data and texts, has placed the Old Testament in a larger and more illuminating context is discussed.

The New Testament: A Very Short Introduction

This short reading locates the New Testament in its historical and literary context and explains why the religious experiences of the first Christians forced them to reinterpret their Jewish and Greek heritage and reshape their symbolic world. It provides the broad conceptual and factual framework for the New Testament, describing the process by which distinct compositions became a sacred book as well as providing a detailed examination of specific compositions that have had a particularly strong influence, such as Paul's letters to the Corinthians and Romans, the four Gospels, and the Book of Revelation.

Orthodox Christianity: A Very Short Introduction

To many in the West, Orthodoxy remains shrouded in mystery, an exotic and foreign religion that survived in the East following the Great Schism of 1054 that split the Christian world into two camps—Catholic and Orthodox. However, as the second largest Christian denomination, Orthodox Christianity is anything but foreign to the nearly 300 million worshippers who practice it. For them, Orthodoxy is a living, breathing reality. Whether they are Greek, Russian, or American, Orthodox Christians are united by a common tradition and faith that binds them together despite differences in culture. This reading explores the enduring role of this religion, and the history, beliefs, and practices that have shaped it.

Pentecostalism: A Very Short Introduction

This short reading outlines the origins and growth of Pentecostalism, looking at the theological aspects of the movement and also the sociological influences of its political and humanitarian viewpoints. In religious terms Pentecostalism was probably the most vibrant and rapidly-growing religious movement of the 20th century. Starting as a revivalistic and renewal movement within Christianity, it encircled the globe in less than 25 years and grew in North America and then in those parts of the world with the highest birth-rates. Characterised by speaking in tongues, miracles, television evangelism and megachurches, it is also noted for its small-group meetings, empowerment of individuals, liberation of women, and humanitarian concerns.

Protestantism: A Very Short Introduction

This short reading presents a history of Protestantism beginning with the founding of Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, and Anabaptist churches in the 16th-century Reformation. What importance do Martin Luther and John Calvin have on the story? What part does the recent expansion of Protestant movements in Africa, China, India, and Latin America have on the on-going and rapidly expanding story of Protestantism worldwide? Why have Protestant energies flagged recently in the Western world yet expanded so dramatically elsewhere? Protestant commonality includes the message of Christian salvation, reliance on the Bible, and organization through personal initiative, which explains Protestantism's extraordinary diversity and durability. 

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