About the Teacher

Gastón Espinosa is Professor of Religious Studies at Claremont McKenna College. He attended Dana Hills High School where he played football and ran track & field before going on to graduate from Biola University, Princeton Seminary, Harvard University, and the University of California at Santa Barbara (PhD). He was a visiting follow at Princeton University, is the author/editor of 8 books, enjoys teaching, sports, the outdoors, and has a passion for serving the church and society with the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

About the class

Class Content

This class explores a number of tough questions in Christian history, theology, society, and culture through the Crusades, trends in Christianity, key Christian beliefs like the Trinity and Jesus as God & man, the origins of Protestantism, Jesus and Muhammad, and a biblical vision and approach to politics and social change.  It will provide you with a brief introduction to the key issues and leaders, scholarly interpretations, and how to respond to honest questions about them with family and friends and help prepare you for informed and meaningful dialogue with family, friends, and people from a wide variety of beliefs.   

 

Class 1 – Why did Christians launch the Crusades to the Holy Lands? 

Weren’t the Crusades acts of unprovoked aggression on a peaceful Middle East, a form of European colonialism, a good reason to hate and be ashamed of Christianity and the West?  This class will help you understand past secular explanations and newer scholarly interpretations of the Crusades that problematize and call into question some of these previous views and myths.

Recommended Reading 

Thomas Madden, Crusades: The Illustrated History.  Used copies start at $3.00 on Amazon.com

Rodney Stark, God’s Battalions.  Used copies start at $3.45 on Amazon.com

Class 2 – Is Christianity in Irreversible Decline?   

Is Christianity in irreversible decline across the U.S. and around the world?  In 1966 TIME magazine ran the provocative front-page cover story Is God Dead? and in 2009 Newsweek ran a similar cover story titled The Decline and Fall of Christian America.  In both cases, they implied that Christianity in particular and religion in general were destined for the dust bin of history in the face of growing secularism, atheism, science, and cultural pluralism at home and abroad.  Despite these dire predictions, this class will provide you with evidence that these claims were not only short-sighted, but in many cases provide tantalizing evidence for just the contrary.   

Recommended Reading

Rodney Stark, America’s Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists. Used at $11.00

Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Faith: Why the World is More Religious Than Ever.  Used at $2.50

Class 3 – How can God be 3 in 1?  Understanding the Trinity

This class will teach you what the Bible and historic Christianity teaches about the Trinity and then compare them to alternative views about God taught by Arians, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, and/or others.    

Recommended Reading

Wayne Grudem, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know. Used at $1.00

Class 4 – How can Jesus be fully God and fully man?  Understanding Christology

This class will teach you what the Bible and historic Christianity teaches about Jesus’s divine and human natures and then compare them to alternative views taught by Arians, Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, and/or others.

Recommended Reading

Wayne Grudem, Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know. Used at $1.00

Class 5 – Why and how do Protestants and Catholics differ?  Protestant Origins & Beliefs   

This class will help you understand Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, why Protestants broke away from Catholicism, and then the theological similarities and differences between Protestants and Catholics.   

Recommended Reading:

Eric Mataxas, Martin Luther, The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World.  Used at $4.00   

Class 6 – How are Jesus and Muhammad similar & different?

Jesus is mentioned 93 times in the Qur’an, where he is called al-Masih (messiah), Nabi (prophet), and Isa bin Maryam (Jesus son of Mary.)  This class will help you compare and contrast the Christian and Muslims doctrines of Jesus and understand what your Muslim neighbors and friends believe about Him and why.   

Recommended Reading:

Geoffrey Parrinder, Jesus in the Qur’an.  Used at $10.00    

Class 7 – Why and how should Christians care about politics? Christianity and Politics

This class will help you understand what Jesus and the Bible teach about politics and society, then explore 6 Christian views about politics, and finally discuss concrete ways you can make a positive contribution to politics locally and beyond.

Recommended Reading:

Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible.  Used at $7.00

Class 8 – Why and how should Christians change society? Christianity and Social Change

This class will explore how Jesus viewed society and was an agent of massive social change, then explore 5 different Christian attitudes towards society (e.g., Christian against Culture, Christ Transforming Culture), and then discuss various creative ways you can be an agent of positive change locally and beyond.

Recommended Reading:

Reinhold Niebuhr, Christ and Culture.  Used at $2.00

D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited.  Used at $8.00

Class Details

Dates: September 11th – October 30th
Day: Sunday
Time: 9:30am – 10:30am
Location: CBC Main Building, Classroom 2
Materials: Materials provided in class.