Church History Exam Sample Questions

These sample questions for licensure exams are adapted
from The Church in History by B. K. Kuiper
(available from Eerdmans Publishing Co.,
Grand Rapids, Michigan, 616-459-4591)

The following questions are only intended as examples of the type of questions that will be asked during the church history exam. Questions to be answered during any particular church history exam may include any of these and others.

  1. What were the catacombs? Why were Christians in ancient Rome forced to seek refuge in them?
  2. Why is there so little known of the Christian church from A.D. 70 to A.D. 300?
  3. What do we mean when we speak of the Apostolic fathers? When did these men live?
  4. Name the three ecumenical creeds and give the background of each.
  5. Why did the Apostles Creed contain only one statement about the Father, one about the Holy Spirit, but many about the Son? What does this prove about heresy in the early church?
  6. What was the Edict of Milan (A.D. 313)? How did it affect the membership and purity of the church? What effect did the Edict have upon the church’s relation to the state and politics?
  7. What is the importance of an ecumenical council?
  8. What major doctrines were formulated at the councils of Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451)?
  9. What were the great contributions to the church made by Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine?
  10. What were the reasons of the rise of the bishop of Rome to a position superior to the other bishops?
  11. Which doctrine of Augustine was strengthened by his controversy with the Pelagians?
  12. Why did Augustine write his famous work The City of God?
  13. What unscriptural doctrines and practices had become deeply rooted in the church by the end of the fifth century?
  14. Why did the church survive the barbarian invasion?
  15. How was the church affected by Muslim conquests?
  16. List the reasons for the rise of the Roman bishop to a position of pope.
  17. How did the “Donation of Constantine” strengthen the papacy?
  18. Explain these terms: simony, lay investiture.
  19. Which pope sold the office of pope for 1000 pounds of silver?
  20. What factors brought about the division of the church into eastern and western branches? When did this happen?
  21. What is the Greek Orthodox Church? What are its major beliefs? Is it orthodox?
  22. What factors fostered the rise in monasticism? What contributions did the monastics make toward civilization?
  23. On what basis was the Lord’s Supper thought to impart grace?
  24. Why would an emperor be able to discard and set up popes during the Middle Ages?
  25. What is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church on the relation of church and state? What is the position of the United States Constitution on this question?
  26. Why did Pope Gregory VII make Henry IV wait outside the castle for three days?
  27. What conditions in Europe made it possible for a pope to stir up the people so that thousands upon thousands would leave their work and homes to go to war against the Muslims?
  28. What great work did the Lateran Council accomplish?
  29. What were some outstanding virtues in St. Francis’ life?
  30. What historical events led to the Babylonian Captivity of the papacy?
  31. What was the Great Schism (1378-1417)?
  32. Who was John Wyclif? Why was he important?
  33. What was the Inquisition?
  34. What were some of the teachings of John Hus that led to his being declared a heretic and burned at the stake?
  35. What is Erasmus’ importance?
  36. What were the specific practices to which Luther objected?
  37. What is meant by the following terms: indulgences, the treasury of merits, works of supererogation?
  38. What political issues influenced the papal relation to Luther?
  39. What happened to Luther at the Diet of Worms?
  40. Identify: Augsburg Confession, Loci Communes.
  41. In what ways did Philipp Melanchthon influence Luther’s life?
  42. Who was Ulrich Zwingli, and where did carry on his work? Why was his influence as a reformer less extensive than Luther’s or Calvin’s?
  43. What were the areas of agreement between the thinking of Luther and Calvin?
  44. What was the specific difference between Luther’s and Zwingli’s views of the Lord’s Supper?
  45. What, basically, are Calvin’s Institutes? What prompted him to publish them? What are the major divisions of the work?
  46. What principles of the Reformation did the Anabaptists emphasize? Why did the Anabaptists oppose Luther and Zwingli?
  47. Who were the Huguenots? What happened to them on St. Bartholomew’s day?
  48. How did the beginnings of the Reformation in Scotland differ from its beginnings in other countries?
  49. What are the basic differences between the churches of the continental and Scottish branches of the Reformation?
  50. Who were the iconoclasts?
  51. Why was Henry VIII given the title “Defender of the Faith”?
  52. Why were men punished for translating the Scriptures into the language of the people, when the church of Rome itself recognized the Bible as authoritative?
  53. What was the Geneva Bible and what was its importance?
  54. How did the religious climate of England change under Bloody Mary?
  55. Identify: William Tyndale, Archbishop Cranmer, Thirty-Nine Articles, Book of Common Prayer.
  56. What specific reforms did the Council of Trent introduce? How did the Council of Trent affect Protestant-Catholic relationships?
  57. What was the Counter-Reformation?
  58. In what ways did the Puritans wish to change the Church of England? Were these changes meaningful or merely matters of form?
  59. Identify the basic creedal documents of the continental and Scottish Reformation. How do they differ?
  60. What was the Savoy Declaration? What are the basic teachings of Congregationalists?
  61. What is the origin of the King James Bible?
  62. Identify: John Bunyan, John Gill, Charles Spurgeon.
  63. What was the difference between the General Baptists and the Particular Baptists?
  64. What was the doctrinal position of Arminius as he taught it? Which churches follow his teaching?
  65. Identify: Canons of Dort.
  66. Why was Wesley opposed to Calvin’s teaching of predestination?
  67. What was the religious background of the Pilgrims?
  68. What principles and practices developed through the work of Roger Williams and the Baptist Church of Providence? Why did the Puritans, who themselves were persecuted, still persecute others who came to their colony?
  69. What is the importance of Jonathan Edwards?
  70. What was the Great Awakening?
  71. Why did the Reformation and the subsequent revivals “burn themselves out” after their initial extraordinary influence?
  72. How did George Whitefield influence Wesley?
  73. What do we mean by neo-orthodoxy? Who was Karl Barth?
  74. Identify: Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, Mary Baker Eddy, Ellen G. White.
  75. What is the Mormon view of the Bible?
  76. Identify: D. L. Moody, Billy Sunday, Billy Graham.
  77. Why was the practice of revival meetings a significant development in America? How would Billy Graham’s campaigns compare with Moody’s work?
  78. What were the “five fundamentals” published in the early twentieth century, and why were they important?
  79. Who was Machen and why was he important?
  80. What was the basis for the separation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church from the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.?
  81. Why is modernism a constant danger to the historic faith of the church?