Reformation Church History

BA (Hons) in Theology - Year 1
COURSE UNIT 240 - 8240


The unit begins by considering the background issues and examines the way in which the Reformation had links with Renaissance humanism.  Students give particular attention to the major streams of the European Protestant Reformation.  They also study the Catholic Reformation and the Radical Reformers.  The unit moves on to evaluate developments in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Students examine the emergence of Puritanism (in England and Scotland), Separatism and the Free Church tradition.  Study of the relationship between spirituality, mission and society in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in Europe lays the foundation for an understanding of more recent church history.


To develop a critical understanding of the major themes and episodes in church history during the period of the Reformation in Europe, and to reflect on contemporary issues in the light of these.


Category of outcome

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

Knowledge and understanding

·      Describe important developments in Christianity in the Reformation period

Intellectual skills

·      Understand and explain how theological, political, social and cultural factors influenced developments

Practical and Transferable skills; Personal qualities

·      Apply key methods and concepts of historical and theological analysis

·      Reflect upon a range of primary historical data, as well as evaluating the arguments of secondary sources


Assessment task


Weighting within unit



45 minutes


2000 words





·         240:


·         8240:

A class test followed by discussion

An essay



3000 words

2000 words






·         240:

·         8240:

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.    Backgrounds to the Reformation: the fifteenth century western church; renaissance; humanism; Erasmus

2.    Martin Luther and the rise of Protestantism

3.    Huldrych Zwingli and the Reformation in Zurich

4.    John Calvin and the Reformation in Geneva; the Lord’s Supper in Protestant thought and practice

5.    The Radical Reformation: Swiss and Dutch Anabaptists; Menno Simons

6.    The Roman Catholic ‘counter Reformation’; approaches to biblical interpretation in sixteenth-century western Europe

7.    The Henrician Reformation; John Knox and the Reformation in Scotland

8.    The English ‘reformations’ in the reigns of Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth; Bible translation work

9.    Religion in the reign of James I (James VI of Scotland) and Charles I; Puritanism as a movement of spirituality

10.  More on Puritanism: Matthew Henry’s Method of Prayer; religion in Europe in the seventeenth century; Pietism

11.  The eighteenth-century Evangelical Revival: John Wesley and George Whitefield

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

Bebbington, David W., Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Routledge, 1995)

The Cambridge Companion to Puritanism, ed. by Coffey, John and Paul C. H. Lim. (Cambridge Companions to Religion. [E-book] Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008)

The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology, ed. by Bagchi, David and David C. Steinmetz (Cambridge Companions to Religion. [E-book] Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)

Collinson, Patrick, The Reformation (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2003)

Documents of the English Reformation, ed. by Bray, Gerald (Cambridge: J. Clarke, 1994)

George, Timothy, Theology of the Reformers (Leicester: Apollos, 1988)

Lindberg, Carter, The European Reformations, 2nd edn (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)

MacCulloch, Diarmaid, Reformation (London: Penguin Books, 2005)

McGrath, Alister, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution – A History From the Sixteenth Century to The Twenty-First (New York: Harper Collins, 2007)

McGrath, Alister, Reformation Thought (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993 [and various other editions])

Noll, Mark A., The Rise of Evangelicalism (Leicester: IVP, 2004)

Reeves, Michael, The Unquenchable Flame (Leicester: IVP, 2009)

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Reformation Church History

BA (Hons) in Theology - Year 1
Course Unit 240 - 8240





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Dr Peter J. Morden

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