Dive deep. Aim high.
The Doctor of Philosophy is an advanced research degree for:
- Students aspiring to work in teaching, research and leadership in college, university and seminary level education
- Professionals in government, law, religious leadership, NGOs, libraries and media seeking high-level credentials as an expert in religious and theological studies
The PhD is the highest academic degree available in the United States.
Students complete coursework and comprehensive exams in three to four years. The dissertation, from prospectus to defense and submission, often takes two years.
Areas of Study
The Theological School’s Graduate Division of Religion (GDR) supports graduate research in the following disciplinary areas of specialization:
Bible and Cultures
Cultivate a biblical hermeneutic that is historically informed, theoretically infused, politically attuned and contextually relevant.
Bible and Cultures is a uniquely forward-looking doctoral program in biblical studies, quite unlike any other in North America. It thinks transtestamentally beyond the frequently artificial partitioning of Hebrew Bible studies from New Testament studies that tends to silo faculty and students and foreclose cross-testamentary dialogue. It also thinks transculturally beyond the equally artificial investigation of biblical texts in their ancient contexts of production in isolation from their multifaceted histories of influence and contemporary contexts of reception. Finally, it thinks transdisciplinarily by continually bringing biblical studies into transformative dialogue with other theological and religious studies fields of study and many of the most consequential theoretical and political currents in the humanities and social sciences.
In the Bible and Cultures program, explorations of the Bible’s rhetoric, its material and political contexts, its interpretation in diverse cultures, its representations of gender, sexuality, social status, the natural environment, group identity and cultural Others are conducted interactively with such contemporary resources as literary and cultural studies, postcolonial theory, gender studies and queer theory, ecological studies, racial/ethnic studies, and theological and pastoral studies. Students in the program develop disciplinary depth and intellectual breadth as well as practical skills in teaching, research, writing, public presentation, building and maintaining a public professional presence, and translating their transdisciplinary knowledge and insights into socially, politically, and ethically relevant resources for ongoing, critically-reflective discourse.
Students in the Bible and Cultures area work closely with faculty specializing in the biblical testaments:
- Hebrew Bible: Danna Nolan Fewell and Kenneth Ngwa
- New Testament and Early Christianity: Stephen Moore, Althea Spencer-Miller, and Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre
They also work with faculty beyond their area, such as:
- Traci West in Christian Ethics and African American Studies
- Arthur Pressley in Trauma Studies
- Catherine Keller in Process and Eco-Feminist Theology
- Terry Todd in Religion in America
Demonstrated competence at the appropriate level in the relevant ancient languages is a prerequisite for admission into the Bible and Cultures PhD program. Proficiency in these languages is usually demonstrated by evidence of at least two semesters of course work per language at a minimum of 3.0 grade level.
Religion and Society
The Religion and Society area focuses on the dynamic interactions of religions and Christianities emphasizing decolonial, eco-critical, and intersectional approaches to religious social ethics, critical social theories, and just community practices. This approach to the study of religion and society attends to intertwined public and private dimensions of particular social and ecological contexts, histories, differences, and solidarities in global perspectives.
The diverse religion and society research interests of the faculty encompass intersections of gender, race, sexuality, and economics in eco-justice studies, Latine/x studies, Jewish studies, queer studies, Black studies, cultural studies, liberative and feminist/womanist theologies, and social movement studies. The faculty share an understanding of the inextricable relatedness of theory and praxis in academic scholarship and pedagogies.
Students work closely with the following faculty: Laurel Kearns, Elaine Nogueira-Godsey, Eli Rosenblatt, Traci West, and Edwin Aponte
They also work with faculty beyond their area:
- Gladson Jathanna in History of Christianities;
- Kenneth Ngwa, Althea Spencer-Miller, and Arthur Pressley in Africana Studies and Religion;
- and Catherine Keller in Process and Eco-Feminist Theology.
Theological and Philosophical Studies
The area of Theological and Philosophical Studies fosters a transdisciplinary community of inquiry among students, with emphases on philosophical, constructive, pluralist, comparative and systematic approaches to theological themes.
These emphases; supported by the philosophical traditions of pragmatism, phenomenology, process and poststructuralism; entail strong interests in ecology as well as sex/gender, social-political, and decolonial theory.
Our faculty bring their distinct methods in the study of religion and its multiple sites of interconnection and contestation to the common table of open, dialogical discourse. Students are invited participants in this collegial and rigorous table talk, learning the textual content and practicing the theories specific to particular fields of interest.
They come to appreciate and negotiate the complexities of those fields as they take shape within concrete contexts marked by ethical struggle as well as by interdisciplinary and interreligious conversation.
Students in the Theological and Philosophical Studies area work closely with faculty specializing in theology and philosophy:
- Constructive and Systematic Theologies: Catherine Keller, Chris Boesel, and Daniel Shin
- Comparative Theology: Hyo-Dong Lee
They also work with faculty beyond their area, such as:
- Laurel Kearns in Religion and Ecology
- Stephen Moore in Critical Theory and Religion
- Angella Son in Self-Psychology and Pastoral Theology
Transdisciplinary Signature Areas
To deepen transdisciplinary work, all students also declare a Signature Area major in one of the following:
Africana/Black Studies of Religion
Explores African and African-derived religious practices and ideas, philosophical and intellectual traditions, and relationships among African ancestored persons in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. Examines issues of nationality, race, sexuality, and gender with a specific interest in the manifestation of these issues as African-American, African, and African Diasporic.
Examines the diversity of expressions and constructions of gender, sex, and sexuality in religious texts, doctrines, practices, and communities, as always experienced in relation to class, race, ethnicity, age, ability, social location, ecological context, and cultural and national identity. Engages theoretical and methodological insights of feminist and womanist thought and gender and queer scholarship that include the lives, voices, and perspectives of women and gender and sexual minorities in order to expand justice practices and thought.
Ecology, Religion, and Justice
Examines the mounting planetary crisis of environmental degradation, mass extinctions, and climate change in relation to religious practices and discourses. Pursues ecological justice and planetary health in their intersections with struggles of race, economics, coloniality, gender, and queerness. Rethinks Earth with respect to theories and theologies of animality, space, matter, ethics, food, politics and ecospiritualities.
Decoloniality and Critical Theory
Explores an assemblage of interdisciplinary strategies that aim to decenter, deconstruct and decolonize Eurocentric paradigms of thought. Critical theory as recently unfolding in decolonial, (post-)poststructuralist, and new materialist perspectives, brings an intersectional pluralism of social, political, and ecological contextuality to theoretically undergird enquiry into the particularity of faith and the multiplicity of religions.
All PhD students take 44 credits of coursework including a common seminar in the History of the Study of Religions and courses in both disciplinary and signature areas. The normal course load for full-time study is three courses per semester. Further requirements for the PhD include proficiency in either one or two modern languages of scholarship, comprehensive examinations, a dissertation and oral defense. All requirements for the PhD degree must be completed within a period of seven years.
Graduate Division of Religion Goals
The GDR aims to equip persons for vocations of teaching and research in theological schools, colleges, and universities, or for the scholarly enhancement of ministerial practice and religious leadership. In general, a student who has successfully completed the degree requirements should be:
- Able to contribute scholarly research to an area of study in religious and theological studies
- Able to analyze religions, religious and theological studies, and social contexts through a transdisciplinary area of study interested in transformation of the academy, religions, and society
- Able to utilize scholarship relevant to student research in at least one language other than English
- Able to produce a comprehensive teaching portfolio
- Able to develop and make progress on a professional development plan
- Able to participate in collaborative inquiry and scholarly exchanges in academic settings or professional societies
For more information, visit our GDR page.