J. Bowlin, W.S. Johnson, Y. Pierce, M.L. Taylor, R. Young.
Two Conceptual Foci
The Religion and Society Program promotes interdisciplinary reflection that critically examines religious and social life. With “the religious” and “the social” as its two foci, the program equips masters and doctoral students with theoretical resources and diverse perspectives that enhance and deepen their theological studies and Christian practices in church and society. These foci are important for structuring the program’s conceptual field and, especially, its qualifying exams.
Faculty Research Areas
The faculty of the Religion and Society Program also teach in the other academic departments of the Seminary, and bring to the program different types of theoretical expertise and skills from the following research areas:
* Religious Studies (e.g. sociology of religion, history of religion, philosophy of religion)
* Social Sciences (e.g. sociology, anthropology, political science, economics)
* Humanities (e.g. history, literature)
* Ethics (e.g. religious, social, theological)
* Theology (e.g. systematic, doctrinal, constructive)
The program fosters an interdisciplinary ethos at the masters level by supporting instruction on religious and social issues in the course offerings of all departments, and by sponsoring special campus events and ongoing seminars on key religious and social themes. The purpose of these efforts at the masters level is to help promote reflection on religion and social life as they are informed by theological perspectives.
For doctoral students, this interdisciplinary ethos is more formally structured as a Ph.D. degree program in religion and society. Doctoral students are expected to pass four qualifying exams. 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.
* 1. Religion and Religions
(demonstrates excellence in knowledge of religious studies and at least one non-Christian tradition)
* 2. Social Sciences or the Humanities
(demonstrates excellence in one theoretical perspective on the social in either social science or the humanities)
* 3. Ethics
(demonstrates excellence in the knowledge of religious, social, or theological ethics)
* 4. A Dissertation-related Theme or Problematic
(demonstrates excellence in analyzing a theme or problem that will be significant in the writing of the dissertation)
The first two exams enable disciplined attention to the aforementioned two foci that 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; they do not aim to guarantee comprehensive readiness to teach in those areas.
Seminary and University Scholarship
Both masters and doctoral students are expected to learn from disciplines of the university, even as they focus those disciplines for the 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 a liaison function between the Seminary and Princeton University and, occasionally, 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 program places a high value on a functioning diversity of scholars from this country and 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.Thus, the Religion and Society Program has traditionally sought to fuse rigorous reflection with social criticism and prophetic discourse.
Masters Courses Offered by Religion and Society Program Faculty:
(Ph.D. students may take these courses for seminar credit, after the professor’s approval and determination of advanced doctoral level requirements.)
Ethics and Politics in Augustine (Bowlin)
The Meaning of Revelation in a Postmodern, Post-Holocaust, Post-9/11 World (Johnson)
African American Religious History (Pierce)
Liberation Theology of Gustavo Gutiérrez (Taylor)
Pluralism, Dialogue, and Witness (Young)
War and Christian Conscience (Bowlin)
Theology and Ethics of Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr (Johnson)
Race and Religion in America (Pierce)
Christian Ethics and Modern Times (Bowlin)
Empire and Capital: Theological Considerations (Taylor)
World Christianity through World Literature (Young)
Friendship, Love, and Justice (Bowlin)
The Reign of God (Johnson)
Womanist and Feminist Theologies (Pierce and Taylor)
Critical Race Theory as Theological Challenge (Taylor)
Ethics and the Problem of Evil (Bowlin)
Systematic Theology of Calvin (Johnson)
American Religion, American Literature (Pierce)
Cultural Hermeneutics – Ideology, Text, and Power (Taylor)
Spiritual Autobiography (Pierce)
Theology of Paul Tillich (Taylor)