The Doctor of Philosophy in Systematic Theology represents an achievement in theological scholarship and research. The Ph.D. program is designed to prepare graduate students to make significant contributions to knowledge in systematic inquiry while broadening their understanding of other areas of theology. By means of research seminars, advanced level courses, language skills, comprehensives, and an extensive research project, the program is designed to develop graduates who are capable of thorough theological understanding and careful research.

The focus in the course work, comps, and research for and writing of the dissertation is on particular systems of theology, theological loci, doctrines, dogmas and their conceptual constitution as well as correlated foundational, philosophical, and historical questions treated under the perspective of theological truth, doctrinal soundness, conceptual coherence, synthetic promise, apologetic relevance, and explanatory power. In this respect, individual theologians (and theological schools) from any historical period, but most typically the nineteenth century to the present, may be studied individually, cumulatively, comparatively, and contrastively. Different from a dissertation in historical theology, a dissertation in Systematic Theology will engage the question under discussion itself (in light of the status quaestionis and in the extant magisterial framework) and make a case for a specific answer that assists in advancing the discussion, or else, through its analysis of a particular theologian or particular theologians, implicitly move the theological conversation forward.

In addition and specific to the general requirements outlined for obtaining a Civil Degree, the doctoral degree in Systematic Theology requires the following:


  • At least twelve credit hours of undergraduate or graduate philosophy. Normally, these credits should be in four of the following areas: ancient philosophy, medieval philosophy, modern philosophy, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics.
  • At least fifteen credit hours of undergraduate and/or graduate courses in theology of religious studies at a B grade level or above. These should include courses in the Old and New Testaments, church history, and systematic and moral theology. Upon review of an applicant's previous studies, some prerequisite courses may be required at the discretion of the admissions committee.

Course Requirements

  • A minimum of thirty-six hours of coursework after the M.A. degree
  • Eighteen hours (including TRS 760A: Theological Foundations) are to be taken in systematic theology at the 700-level (lecture) and 800-level (seminars). At least twelve of these eighteen hours are to be taken in 800-level seminars which require major research papers.
  • Twelve hours of electives that may be taken in any of the academic areas of the School of Theology and Religious Studies.
  • Students who enter the Ph.D. program with an inadequate background are encouraged to audit 600 level courses in order to complement their courses at the 700 and 800 level.

Minor Area

Students in Systematic Theology may choose to take a minor area (6 credit hours) in 1 of the following areas: Biblical Studies, Catechetics, Church History, Moral Theology and Ethics, Liturgical Studies, Religion and Culture, or Spirituality. With the approval of the student’s advisor, these courses may be taken in other graduate schools of the University (for example Philosophy or Canon Law).

Language Requirements

Candidates for the Ph.D. must demonstrate a reading knowledge of the following languages:

  • Latin: Reading knowledge of Latin must be demonstrated by successful completion of the Latin Proficiency Exam administered by the Historical/Systematic area or by a course in Patristic or Medieval Latin. Ordinarily, the Latin requirement should be satisfied during a student's first fall semester in the program.
  • Greek: Reading knowledge of either biblical or patristic Greek must be demonstrated either by the successful completion of a reading course in biblical or patristic Greek — depending upon the student's area of concentration — or by an examination administered by the Historical/Systematic area.
  • German: Reading knowledge of theological German must be demonstrated either by passing an examination administered by the Historical/Systematic area or by passing TRS 504 Theological German.
  • A major Romance language: Reading knowledge of a modern Romance language (French, Italian, Spanish) must be demonstrated by passing an examination administered by the Historical/Systematic area

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination

The examination will be based upon a reading list drawn up by the student in consultation with the three members of the examining board. The list should include approximately fifty substantive titles drawn from both primary and secondary sources as well as works by authors in other Christian traditions. Titles may be books, or a combination of articles by a single author, equivalent to book length. The reading list in historical theology should consist of fifteen books in the student's major historical period, ten books in each of the two other historical periods, and fifteen books in the student's theological area.

For the purpose of the comprehensive examination, the major branches of systematic theology are considered to be: Foundational Theology (Method, Hermeneutics, Religious Language), Theology of God, Revelation and Faith, Christology and Soteriology, Ecclesiology, Sacramental Theology, Christian Anthropology, Eschatology and Theology of History, and Ecumenical Theology.

The structure of the comprehensive exam is explained in the Comprehensive Exam Handbook.