Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


THCT100 What Christians Believe ; THBS100 Introduction to the Bible

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit introduces students to the writings of the great thinkers and teachers in early Christianity commonly known as 'the Church Fathers', and their contribution to the formation of Christian doctrine. As the church was developing a fuller understanding of its own faith and spirituality, the Church Fathers were important early theologians and teachers. They were pivotal in the formulation of Christian dogmatic teachings and the theological refutation of alternative doctrinal perspectives. The presentation of the Fathers and their writings in this unit will be arranged chronologically and through the common classifications of the Fathers: the Apostolic Fathers, the Apologists, the Latin Fathers, the Greek Fathers and the Syriac Fathers. In this unit, students will be able to gain broad and coherent knowledge of the Christian faith through detailed study and interpretation of the writings of the Church Fathers. Students are also given opportunities to analyse the theological perspectives and methods of the Church Fathers in the light of their historical contexts and apply a critical understanding of the relevance and implications of the Church Fathers to the life of the church and contemporary contexts.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Demonstrate an understanding of selected Church Fathers from the viewpoint of their significance for the formation of the Christian doctrine (GA1, GA5, GA8); 

LO2 - Critically evaluate Patristic texts with particular reference to genre, historical context and events, and theological issues and contribution (GA4, GA5); 

LO3 - Apply the theological insights and methods of Church Fathers to our contemporary context (GA4, GA8). 

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include: 

  • Introduction to the study of the Patristics. 
  • Introduction to the major Church Fathers. 
  • Categorization of the Fathers.  
  • Historical, theological and cultural contexts of the Fathers. 
  • The Apostolic Fathers 
  • The Apologists 
  • Latin Fathers (Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Pope Gregory I) 
  • Alexandrian Fathers 
  • Antiochene Fathers 
  • The Cappadocians 
  • Desert Fathers 
  • Syriac Fathers 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. 

The unit is normally offered in attendance mode or multi-mode. Students learn through formally structured and sequenced learning activities that support the achievement of the learning outcomes. Students are asked to critically reflect, analyse, and integrate new information with existing knowledge, draw meaningful new connections, and then apply what they have learned. Collaborative and peer learning is also emphasised.  

THCT313 emphasises students as active, adult learners. Students are recognised as adult learners who engage best when what they are learning is relevant to them and gives them the opportunity to be responsible for their own learning. In many ways, the student is the one who drives the learning forward, and their active participation in this unit is essential. Learning is designed to be an engaging and supportive experience, which helps students to develop critical thinking and reflection skills.  

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to attempt all assessment tasks and achieve an overall grade of Pass (50% or higher).  


The assessment tasks for this unit are designed for students to demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome. 


Task 1 asks students to identify the key theological insights of a selected Church Father and explain their significance for the formation of the Christian doctrine, in achievement of LO1. 


Task 2 invites students to address LO2 by critically evaluating selected Patristic texts with particular reference to genre, historical context and events, and theological issues and contribution.  


Task 3 provides an opportunity for students to analyse writings and events in the Patristic period and discuss their relevance and implications for the contemporary church and context. This task address LO3. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Class Presentation: Students present the theological insights of a selected Church Father and explain their significance for Christian doctrine. 



GA1, GA5, GA8 

Written Task: Students analyse and evaluate selected Patristic texts. 



GA4, GA5 

Research Essay: Students analyse important theological insights and events from the Patristic period with regards to their contemporary relevance. 



GA4, GA5 

Representative texts and references

Ayres, L., Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. 


Bingham, J., ed., The Routledge Companion to Early Christian Thought. London and New York: Routledge, 2010. 


Berndt, G.M. and R. Steinacher, Arianism: Roman Heresy and Barbarian Creed. Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 


Chitty, D.J. The Desert a City: An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian and Palestinian Monasticism under the Christian Empire. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1995. 


Esler, Ph. F., ed. The Early Christian World. London and New York: Routledge, 2017. 


Grillmeier, A. Christ in Christian Tradition, 2nd rev. ed. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975. 


Levering, M. The Theology of Augustine: An Introductory Guide to his Most Important Works, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013. 


Quasten, J. Patrology, vols. 4. Westminster, MD: Christian Classics Inc, 1986. 


Wilken, R. The Spirit of Early Christian ThoughtSeeking the Face of God. New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 2003. 


Young, F., Ayres, L. and Louth, A., eds., The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature. Cambridge University Press, 2004. 


Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs