In the mid-1950s, a group of Southern California Lutherans began planning to create a Lutheran college in the Pacific Southwest. By 1962 the decision had been made by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) to build the new school. A search for the site led the founders to Irvine, California where The Irvine Company welcomed the idea of building a private Christian university. The LCMS Board of Higher Education voted to purchase the current site in Irvine where Concordia stands today. Rev. Dr. Charles Manske accepted the position to be the first president of the university and took office in 1973. Christ College became the first name of the university. 
In February 1993, the Board of Regents of Christ College Irvine voted to change the name of Christ College to Concordia University Irvine, making the university the tenth campus in the national Concordia University System (CUS). The CUS, along with the two seminaries, 130 high schools, and over 900 elementary schools of the LCMS, comprises the second largest church-related school system in the United States. 
Since 2010, all Concordia students take CORE courses as part of Concordia’s General Education curriculum. The classes are classic liberal arts courses which are taken together in linked pairs: biology with theology, mathematics with philosophy, and history with literature. Transfer students have their own pairing of philosophy with theology.
The Concordia University Irvine campus is 50 miles (80 km) south of Los Angeles, 80 miles (130 km) north of San Diego, and 6 miles (9.7 km) inland from the Pacific Ocean in the city of Irvine, California. The city of Irvine is a planned community which is rated one of the safest cities of its size in the United States. The campus rests on a 70-acre (28 ha) plateau overlooking Orange County in a private residential community surrounded by wildlife and hiking trails. Due to growing numbers, the offices of the School of Professional Studies - Adult Degree Programs, M.A. International Studies, and the Masters in Coaching and Athletic Administration (MCAA) teams moved to an offsite location in Irvine.
Concordia–Irvine teams, nicknamed athletically as the Eagles, are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC). Men’s sports include baseball, basketball, cross country, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, and lacrosse; while women’s teams include softball, basketball, cross country, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo, lacrosse, and cheer.
In U.S. News & World Report's 2013 rankings of the best colleges in America, Concordia University Irvine is listed as 63rd in the Western region.
Concordia University Irvine has won 7 team NAIA National Championships, 22 NAIA Individual National Champions, 26 GSAC Regular-Season Championships, and 13 GSAC Tournament Championships. The university also has 328 NAIA All-Americans, 559 All-GSAC selections, 298 NAIA Scholar-Athletes, 279 GSAC Scholar-Athletes, 29 Capital One Academic All-District Selections, 11 Capital One Academic All-Americans, 23 GSAC Coaches of the Year, 24 GSAC Players of the Year, 7 NAIA Coaches of the Year, 6 NAIA Players of the Year, 40 NAIA All-Tournament Selections, 5 NAIA Tournament MVP Selections, and 5 Top-Five Finishes in the NACDA Learfield Sports Directors' Cup.