SOC5100EN - Critical Approaches to Early North American Sociology

Course description

A critique of approaches to Christian Sociology by early American sociologists in their quest for answers to the social upheavals of nineteenth and early twentieth-century urban society. Using primary and secondary sources, students will evaluate the ideas and influence of early Christian sociologists and social gospel proponents during the progressive era (1880-1920) of American history. Students reflect on their struggle to develop a Christian response to social issues, ways in which Christian sociology was defined, and the emergence of the academic discipline of sociology as a foundation for their own understanding of applied Christianity.

How this course benefits students

Notwithstanding the late 20th century resurgence in understanding connections between sociology and Christianity, many Christians today are unaware of both the biblical foundations of sociology and the practical application of Christianity to social issues they confront. Since much of missional practice occurs in social environments fraught with issues of immigration, poverty, economic inequality, crime & victimization, domestic and child abuse, and social justice; students gain much from a historical study of Christian social responsibility, its grounding in the biblical text, its wrestling with balancing social responsibility and evangelism, and historical approaches that led to negative consequences of both syncretism and isolationism.

Why this course is important

In an age that is characterized by social needs, economic disparity, and poverty, evangelicals need to know how to balance social and spiritual responsibility. In addition, evangelicals need answers to the dichotomy between sociology and Christian faith and reasons why sociology and faith seem to be mutually exclusive. The purpose of this course is to facilitate an understanding of the historical relationship between social science and Christianity and the factors that created a wedge between Christianity and sociology in particular. An attempt will be made to re-fashion a biblical and Christian sociology that remains consistent to both social and spiritual responsibilities.

Credit hours
3 hours
Subject area
Educational level
Learning type
Upcoming terms
* Schedule subject to change. Please contact the Registrar's office with schedule questions.
Dr. Curt Watke, Professor of Missiology & Evangelism

How this course relates to missional core values

Biblically based

The historical story of American sociology begins with Christian leaders pouring of the scripture, attempting to uncover the “laws of society” that may be discerned in order to answer the social issues of their day.

Missionally driven

It is no accident that the first Professor of Christian Sociology in America was also the firs Professor of Evangelism as well. Early American sociology was driven by the twin forces of gospel-centered mission and social concern & responsibility.

Contextually informed

Social environments tainted by sin create locales of urban social problems that must be approached with social concern and gospel-centered witness.

Interculturally focused

Mass immigration into the northeastern cities of the United States in the early to mid nineteenth century provided the impetus for the connections between Christianity, immigration and urban evangelization that spawned deep reflection on the nature of society, its relations, and early developments of Christian sociology by missional leaders.

Practically minded

Applied Christianity combines deep theological reflection, earnest sociological research and understanding with gospel-centered action to address the human condition.

Experientially transformed

Students immersed in their social environments learn to see God at work in community social problems and join in the mission of God by applying gospel-centered approaches.