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RELS305 World Christianity (Advanced)

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The global expansion of Christianity, particularly in Asia and Africa, in the modern period, and the consequences for the practice of Christianity.

At the beginning of the 20th century, 80% of the world's Christians were to be found in Europe and North America. By 2010 this proportion had halved - there are now more Christians outside what was once called "Christendom" than there are inside it. Here we examine the causes, and consider the ongoing consequences, of this dramatic shift.

Paper title World Christianity (Advanced)
Paper code RELS305
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2020 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $904.05
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,954.75

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One 200-level RELS, RELX, or PHIL paper
RELS 205
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
May not be credited together with RELS 231 passed in 2013.
Associate Professor Will Sweetman:
Teaching staff
Lecturers: Associate Professor Will Sweetman and Dr John Shaver
Paper Structure
The first section of the paper provides a historical overview of the expansion of Christianity outside of Europe since the establishment of the modern missionary movement in the 16th century. Particular attention will be paid to developments in Asia and, from the 19th century, in Africa. The second part of the paper considers a number of themes in the development of Christian practice in comparative perspective, including Bible translation, enculturation 'from above' and 'from below', Christianity and colonialism, Pentecostalism.

  • Essay outline (750 words) 10%
  • Essay (3,500 words) 40%
  • Final exam (2 hours) 50%
Teaching Arrangements
For on-campus students there are two 1-hour lectures per week.

For distance students there are fortnightly tutorials (via Zoom).
A coursebook has been developed for this paper.
Course outline
View the sample course outline for RELS 305
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, ScholarshipCommunication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy, Self-motivation.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
Upon successfully completing the paper students should be able to
  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of the major historical developments in the global expansion of Christianity in Asia and Africa and other regions of the non-Western world
  • Give an account of the challenges posed by the translation of Christianity into the languages and cultures of regions shaped by non-Western traditions
  • Explain the differences in the strategies adopted by, or forced upon, different Christian communities in the adaptation of Christian practice in new cultural settings
  • Analyse the impact of these historical developments on how Christianity is understood by Christians and how it is understood by scholars of religion
Upon successfully completing the paper students should be able to demonstrate
  • The ability to critically analyse Christian doctrine
  • The ability to research topics using academic texts, journals and other media
  • The ability to defend an argument using a variety of methods in writing
  • The ability to debate within a peer group in a constructive, non-confrontational manner
  • The ability to develop a topic for research and implement a strategy for pursuing it

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Not offered in 2020

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