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PAST319 Christian Witness in a Secular World

The motivation, nature and outcomes of authentic Christian witness in today's secular environment and the implications for local church and ministry contexts.

Being 'true to yourself' is a common ideal in popular culture. Where has this deep-felt desire for authenticity come from? Is it good? Bad? What resources does Christian theology offer to understandings of who we really are? How can Christians, churches and other agencies respond to this contemporary yearning?

This paper offers a fresh look at Christian witness in the light of today's secular context and considers the implications for Christians, churches and agencies.

Paper title Christian Witness in a Secular World
Paper code PAST319
Subject Pastoral Studies
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 2 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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One 200-level PAST or PASX paper
PAST 219
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
May not be credited with PASX 307 or PASX 405 passed in 2009 or with PASX 308 or MINX 405 passed in 2011.
Any student can study Theology, whether they are of the Christian faith, another faith or of no religious faith at all. Theology is an examination of the scriptures, history, content and relevance of the Christian faith, but it presupposes or requires no Christian commitment from students. All it requires is an inquiring mind and an interest in those skills that can be gained through the study of any subject in the Humanities.

Dr Lynne Taylor

Teaching staff

Lecturer: Dr Lynne Taylor

Paper Structure


Module 1: Introductions
This module provides an introduction to the framework that pastoral theology offers as students consider culture in the light of experience, reason, Scripture and tradition. It is also an introduction to the focus and central concepts of the paper.

Module 2: Secularisation
Students will explore the concept of secularisation, becoming aware of some of the key proponents and opponents of secularisation theories and exploring strengths and weaknesses of the various perspectives.

Module 3: Authenticity
This module explores authenticity as a deep contemporary desire. Students will consider the prevalence of notions of authenticity and investigate the benefits and dangers of an emphasis on and a drive for authenticity.

Module 4: Relational Authenticity
True authenticity is much more than narcissistic self-actualisation. In this module students will specifically consider the relational nature of genuine authenticity. Such authenticity focuses not just on the self, but also on relationship with God and significant connection with, and responsibility toward, others and the world.

Module 5: Christian Witness
Like authenticity, Christian witness is a broad concept. It includes virtues, words and actions. In this module students will consider two key questions: 'What do the realities of our 21st-century world and the prevalent deep desire for authenticity mean for Christian witness?' and 'How can Christians be involved in the sort of witness that helps processes of faith-finding?'

Module 6: Models and Methods of Evangelism Considered
We turn to consider one example of Christian witness, reflecting on some models and methods of evangelism in the light of these understandings. Biblical examples of evangelism will be considered as well as recent and contemporary models.

Module 7: Implications for Church Life and Leadership
In this final module we explore the implications of our learnings for church life and leadership. Selected ministry settings will be considered as case studies.

This paper is internally assessed. There are four assessment tasks:

  1. Essay (1500 words; worth 25%)
  2. Essay (1500 words; worth 25%)
  3. Essay (1800 words; worth 30%)
  4. Online discussion (worth 20%)
Teaching Arrangements

This Distance Learning paper is a combination of remote and in-person teaching.

There is a teaching day and six two-hour videoconferences on Zoom spaced throughout the semester. Recordings will be available on Blackboard for students who cannot attend the teaching day live.


There is no compulsory text book for this paper. Selected readings will be available through e-reserve.

Course outline

View the course outline for PAST 319

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Scholarship, Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Critical thinking, Ethics, Communication.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Students who successfully complete PAST 319 will be able to
  1. Compare, contrast and evaluate selected secularisation theories
  2. Outline what scholars mean by 'authenticity', including its origins and current norms
  3. Critically evaluate how the trope of authenticity can be understood in the light of Christian tradition
  4. Critically evaluate selected models of evangelism in relation to an aspect of contemporary NZ society
  5. Articulate specific ways an understanding of secularisation and/or authenticity can shape the practice of a local congregation
  6. Critically apply understandings to a specific ministry context
This distance-taught paper will foster students' self-motivation by requiring them to work independently in a self-directed way. The assessment will develop their skills in communication, critical thinking and research. The content of the paper will facilitate lifelong learning by helping students to acquire new skills and apply those in an ever-changing environment.

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system