The Theology area is concerned with the historical study of the self-understanding of a religious tradition, mainly Christianity and Judaism, and with the constructive interpretation of its meaning and truth for the contemporary world.


Faculty: Ryan Coyne, Kristine A. CulpKevin HectorDwight N. HopkinsWillemien OttenWilliam Schweiker

Students in theology must, thereby, address questions of the history of theology, the definitive characteristics of theological claims and discourse, the criteria of meaning and of truth within a tradition, methods of theological reflection, the warrant (if any) for revision within traditions, and the manifold ways to answer or to sustain the criticism of theological ideas and religious beliefs. Students in theology thereby demonstrate their historical competence, methodological sophistication, and also grounding in some specific form of theological reflection.

Progress Conference format

The progress (or pre-exam) conference is normally held in the spring quarter of the second year, or the fall of the third year.  In Theology, the progress conference is held with the student's panel of examiners for the qualifying examinations, and will normally include assessment of coursework to date, cogency of the course of study petition, readiness for qualifying examinations, and development of the dissertation project. A report from the advisor and a timeline for the qualifying examinations is submitted to the Dean of Students following the conference. 

Written Examinations

Students concentrating in Theology take three exams from those offered by the area. These choices should be determined, in consultation with the relevant faculty, on the basis of the student’s intended scholarly focus in the field. All students are required to take at least two of the three offered examinations in the History of Christian Thought (i.e., exams 1, 2, and 3). In all Theology examinations attention will be given to the use of scripture in the pertinent tradition as a theological source and norm, and the student will be expected to know the exegetical foundations of the theological positions discussed. The examinations will also test historical understanding and the ability to deal critically and, when appropriate, constructively with theological texts.

Given the purpose of the examinations in the Theology area stated above, all examinations will have “set bibliographies,” meaning that examinations are not tailored to the student’s dissertation topic. Additionally, a student may not take an examination of a perspective, theologian, or doctrine that is the principle focus of his or her intended dissertation.

1. History of Christian Thought, 150–1325 (Ancient and Medieval)
2. History of Christian Thought, 1277–1600 (Early Modern)
3. History of Modern Religious Thought (1600–1950)
4. A Constructive Theological Perspective (e.g., liberation, feminist, mystical, process theologies)
5. Theological Ethics/Moral Theology
6. A Major Theologian or Doctrine (e.g., Augustine; Christology)

Research Paper

In addition to taking the written examinations, a student concentrating in Theology will submit for the oral examination a research paper that typically engages a thinker or problem, relevant primary materials, and also important secondary scholarship with respect to the student’s scholarly aspirations. This paper is to be no longer than twenty-five, double-spaced pages, and must follow rubrics of The Chicago Manual of Style. Students should consult with their adviser about the most suitable paper for submission for the examination. If possible, the paper should represent some preliminary thoughts about a possible thesis topic.

As a preface research paper, the Theology area would like each student to submit a one-page summary of the significance of the paper in light of the student’s future work in the area. This statement should include: (1) a summary of the thesis of the paper; (2) a statement of how this paper relates to the student’s current theological interests. The completed paper with preface should be distributed to all of the examiners at least two weeks prior to the time of the oral examination.

Sample Courses

  • Introduction to Theology
  • Kant on Religion and Rational Theology
  • Approaches to Suffering: Theological Perspectives and Contemporary Meditations
  • Womanist Theology: A New Generation
  • The Theology of James H. Cone
  • Moral Problems: Poverty and Social Justice
  • History of Christian Thought I, II, V
  • Contemporary Models of Theology
  • Memory, Identity, and Religion
  • Barth's Church Dogmatics
  • Modern Roman Catholic Moral Theology
  • Feminist Theory and Theology: de Beauvoir's Second Sex
  • The Problem of God-Talk
  • Pilgrimage and Exodus as Christian Theological Themes
  • Black Theology:  Second Generation
  • World Christianities I: Asian Theologies
  • Self, World, Other: The Thought of Paul Tillich
  • Theology and Cultural Studies
  • Social Entrepreneurship
  • Being Human
  • Creation and Human Creatures: Theological Explorations
  • Late Medieval Women: Authorship and Authority