The Doctrine of the Church and the Ethics of Distinctiveness

BA (Hons) in Theology - Year 1
COURSE UNIT 232 - 8232


The unit begins with a critical survey of the ways in which the Church has been identified and defined - often in contrast to the scriptural concepts of ‘the world’ and ‘the Kingdom of God’ - within a variety of ecclesiological traditions.  Students are encouraged to reflect on their own experience of Church life in response to these definitions.  Particular attention is given to Baptist and Anabaptist understandings of the Church and its relationship with society.  Notions of religious freedom also will be explored particularly with reference to the plurality of contemporary Western society.


This unit seeks to continue an exploration of the doctrinal and ethical significance of the Church’s creed by a sustained consideration of the doctrine of the Church, with special reference to different conceptions of the Church’s role within society.


Category of outcome

By the end of this unit students should be able to:

Knowledge and understanding

·      Understand, describe and evaluate some of the consistent ways in which the Church has been defined, following Scripture, in relationship to biblical conceptions of ‘the world’ and ‘the Kingdom of God’

Intellectual skills

·      Apply critical skills by means of comparison and contrast to enduring debates and differences within the church

Practical and Transferable skills; Personal qualities

·      Apply their theological learning critically and constructively to their pastoral practice with particular reference to Church leadership and education


Assessment task


Weighting within unit



500 words

2000 words




·         232:

·         8232:

An essay plan

An essay



3000 words

2000 words






·         232:

·         8232:

An essay

An essay

and a learning journal*


* Distance learning students are required to pass this element. So long as this element has been passed, they will be eligible for compensation if the overall unit mark is within the compensation zone (30-39%), and the compensatable credit allowance as set out in the Degree Regulations has not been exceeded.




Available on which programme(s)?

BA in Theology


1.    On this Rock: Biblical and theological foundations for the Church

2.    Genesis and genius: Types, traditions and Baptist origins

3.    The gathering Church: A community of disciples

4.    The baptism of disciples: The nature of Christian initiation

5.    The feast of life: Communion and body politics

6.    A kingdom of priests: The government of the congregation

7.    The children of the Church: People of promise

8.    Ministers and members: Ordination and enabling

9.    Relating and resourcing: The communion of churches

10.  The separation of Church and state: Dissent, religious freedom and tolerance

11.  The free state: Understanding the social and political order

12.  Paradigms for engagement: The shape of the future

Teaching method

Interactive lectures

Additional eLearning content

Unit materials are available at Spurgeon’s Online to support student learning


Written feedback within 15 working days from submission

Date of approval (for office use)


Information updated on

December 2015

Indicative reading

Augustine, The City of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956) pp. 1-511

Avis, Paul, ed., The Christian Church: An introduction to the major traditions (London: SPCK, 2002)

Freeman, Curtis, Contesting Catholicity: Theology for Other Baptists ((Waco: Baylor University Press, 2014)

Harper B., and P.L. Metzger, Exploring Ecclesiology: An evangelical and ecumenical Introduction (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2009)

Harvey, B., Can These Bones Live? A catholic Baptist engagement with ecclesiology, hermeneutics and social theory (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2008)

Haymes, Brian, Ruth Gouldbourne and Anthony R. Cross, On Being the Church (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2008)

Holmes, Stephen R., ‘The radical ecclesiology of Nigel Wright’ in Pieter J Lalleman (ed.), Challenging to change: dialogues with a radical Baptist theologian (London: Spurgeon’s College, 2009) 117-128

O’Donovan, Oliver, The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the roots of political theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

Volf, Miroslav, After our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998)

Wright, Nigel G., Free Church, Free State: The positive Baptist vision (Carlisle: Paternoster, 2005)

Wright, Nigel G., Disavowing Constantine (Carlisle: Paternoster Press 2000)

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The Doctrine of the Church and the Ethics of Distinctiveness

BA (Hons) in Theology - Year 1
Course Unit 232 - 8232





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Dr Graham J. Watts

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