The Religion and Society Program promotes interdisciplinary reflection that critically examines religious and social life. With “the religious” and “the social” as its two areas of focus, the program equips doctoral students with theoretical resources and diverse perspectives that enhance and deepen their theological studies and Christian practices in church and society. These areas of study are important for structuring the program’s conceptual field and its comprehensive exams.
The faculty of the program bring a variety of perspectives and expertise in:
Seminary and University Scholarship
Doctoral students are expected to learn from disciplines of the university, even as they focus those disciplines for distinctive concerns and contexts of Christian theological traditions. This program not only enables scholarship at the Seminary to sustain its own community of research into religious and social issues, it also serves as a liaison between the Seminary and Princeton University and, on occasion between the Seminary and other nearby institutions.
U.S. and International Scholarship
The dual focus on religion and society, and its distinctive interdisciplinary work, has traditionally made the Religion and Society Program an important resource for international as well as U.S. scholars. The PhD program places a high value
on a functioning diversity of scholars from this country and from abroad, who come together to reflect critically on issues of justice and peace, and on human differences that are not only religious, social, and theological, but also cultural, political, and economic.
The Religion and Society Program has traditionally sought to fuse rigorous reflection with social criticism and prophetic discourse.
Seminars Offered by Religion and Society Program Faculty
Critical Issues in the History of Religions
The American Jeremiad: American Religion in Cultural Context
Methods in Theological and Religious Studies
Aquinas on Law and the Virtues
Race, Racism, and Religion in America
The interdisciplinary ethos of the Religion and Society Program is structured for doctoral students around four comprehensive exams, usually toward the end of the second year of residence. One of these exams should be selected by examinees as their “theory and methods exam,” in which they include special attention to theoretical and methodological options and debates pertinent to that exam.
The first two exams enable disciplined attention to the areas of study, which set the conceptual field of religion and society. The third exam in ethics is required because analysis of the moral life, and ethical reflection upon it, has been a key site wherein religious and social themes often intersect in theological studies and Christian practice. The fourth exam enables students to focus research and thinking about their dissertations. These exams are “qualifying” exams in that they certify readiness to proceed to the dissertation proposal and writing phases of the program.
“One of the biggest lessons I learned was how to be charitable to views other than my own. Christian charity was shown to me, not just in the readings for class, but from the professors, and the Seminary community.”