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Course content

Master's specialisation in History of Church and Theology

This course involves analysing historical developments of Christian traditions and discipline, in order to better understand Christian beliefs in contemporary society.
How have Christians through the ages given meaning and expression to their ideas and expectations? How have they explained the meaning of Jesus Christ’s life, both within their own community and to outsiders? Students of the Master’s specialisation in Church History are trained to investigate historical developments with a critical and analytical eye. A historical analysis is important as it can also expose the “roots” of current issues and situations. That knowledge, in turn, can help us understand the present better and even help find solutions to problems contemporary societies face today.
The Radboud University’s Master’s specialisation in History of Church and Theology is unique in that it combines the study of the history of Christianity with the study of the juridical system of the Roman Catholic Church. What happens when people do not comply with societal norms? Students are trained in systematic historical research. They will learn how to interpret historical sources from throughout the ages, by analysing them in the context of the culture and values of the era in which they were produced.
Graduates of this Master’s specialisation can become researchers, policy makers, educators or spiritual caregivers. Careers as journalists, museum curators, librarians and archivists are also possible.

See the website http://www.ru.nl/masters/historyofchurchandtheology

Why study History of Church and Theology at Radboud University?

- Radboud University’s specialisation in History of Church and Theology distinguishes itself by combining the study of the history of Christianity with Canon Law. Thereby creating a unique outlook on the interrelatedness of the development of Canon Law and both formal and informal practices.
- This programme is not just geared towards Europe but also places developments in a global perspective.
- . Taking a few seminars from the other theology disciplines of choice (Biblical Exegesis, Practical or Systematic Theology) is mandatory to broaden students general knowledge on Theology. However, with electives, students have plenty of room to choose a direction that meets their professional and academic interests
- The third year is aimed at training students for a specific profession. Students can choose research (English), education (Dutch), religion and policy (Dutch) or spiritual care (Dutch).
- Teaching takes place in a stimulating, collegial setting with small groups, allowing ample opportunities for questions and discussions.
- Radboud University and its Theology department are Roman Catholic in origin, but its Master’s programme in Theology is open to all students. Our students have very diverse religious and cultural backgrounds.

Change perspective

History is not a fixed entity. Re-examining long-existing sources could lead to new insights on the course of events. Students will understand that what we now consider a significant event was not always so, and students are given the tools to discover "axioms of the past" so they can better understand pivotal moments in history. Students will learn to make sound historical analyses by taking asking new questions concerning familiar sources, by analysing long forgotten sources and by re-examining sources within the relevant cultural context. Their analyses could shed new light on historical events and give us new insights on current societal and cultural issues.

Career prospects

In a globalising world, more and more institutions require skills in theological communication and hermeneutics. Church historians have in-depth knowledge of Canon Law and the history of Christian beliefs and doctrines. They can analyse historical developments and are able distinguish when people use historic events to suit their purpose and contradict them when necessary. In addition, the programme teaches students how to think independently and critically about the way Church History and Canon Law can give meaning to contemporary issues.

Job positions

The Master’s programme in Theology strongly enhances career prospects by allowing students to focus on one professional path in their third year, of the following options: research, education, spiritual care or religion and policy.

Our approach to this field

How has Christianity gained stability and continuity as a religion? How has the religion sustained itself during changing social and cultural contexts? The answers to these questions can be found in the history of Christianity – in all of its diversity. This course delves deeper than the ‘official’ developments. and lesser known interpretations of history are investigated in this Master’s specialisation. Special attention is also given to ‘suspicious’ Christians as well as how the Church authorities dealt with dissenting ideas and practices. The interplay between authority and religious practices teaches us about how we got to where we are today.

A complex conjunction of events
Students are not limited to analysing a unidirectional, causal reconstruction of events . No single factor determines the course of history, as it is often a complex conjunction of events. Thus, students are encouraged to situate historical texts and developments in their cultural context – an issue often forgotten in public debates. Methodologically, students are encouraged to connect discourse analysis and a historically sound hermeneutic source criticism. To this effect, students are trained in systematic historical research, by using both diachronic and synchronic research methods.

Master’s students are encouraged to elaborate their own ideas and proposals within our research programme. The number of possible research topics is endless. Students may look at any historical religious conflict or a political conflict and its effect on religion. Topics that have been researched in the past include the forced baptisms of Jews, Augustine and infant education, the development of the sacrament of confession and the role of women in Cathar communities, to list a few.

See the website http://www.ru.nl/masters/historyofchurchandtheology

Visit the MA in History of Church and Theology page on the Radboud University website for more details!

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