Preparing Leaders for an Evolving World
The mission of Princeton Theological Seminary is to support the intellectual, moral, and spiritual growth of each student, and to form Christian leaders who will eventually serve in ministries marked by faith, integrity, scholarship, competence, compassion, and joy. While many students will go on to lead traditional congregations, others will find themselves leading new forms of ministry in the nonprofit sector, entrepreneurial space, and other vocations.
In order to form such dynamic leaders, Princeton Seminary’s curriculum must meet the unique demands of the moment, and address global and domestic challenges ranging from rampant racial and gender injustice to declining commitment to democratic ideals, growing economic inequality, the looming climate catastrophe, and more. Beginning with the 2021-2022 academic year, entering students will find diversity and experiential learning at the forefront of the curriculum.
At the core of Princeton Seminary’s mission is the affirmation that Jesus Christ is the fullest disclosure of God’s character and will for humanity. While the gospel remains central to Christian life and leadership, Princeton Seminary’s recent Historical Audit on Slavery brought into bold relief the ways in which those who went before us failed to exercise their theological imagination in service to the gospel. As a result, study at Princeton Seminary seeks to critically and creatively consider the dynamic nature of the gospel in relation to the diversity of the world God so loves.
Pedagogical Commitments and Curriculum Aims
At Princeton Seminary, we teach students called by God to various and diverse forms of ministry, for the sake of a world that God creates, loves, redeems, and sustains. Our teaching approach itself revolves around the intertwined challenges of education and formation: we not only educate but also shape students during their time on campus, to become the leaders God has called them to be. The curriculum facilitates students’ intellectual growth, investment in the welfare of the community, and holistic development.
The work of Princeton Seminary faculty is centered around these five pedagogical commitments:
- Covenant community: Life in the Princeton Seminary residential community includes formation through teaching and learning in the classroom, worship, table fellowship, and ordinary encounters of everyday life.
- Students as adult learners: While students come to campus to learn, each one also brings to their degree program an informed and shaped worldview, skills, and experience.
- Students as agents: Princeton Seminary strives to empower students for ministry in the church and world, armed with the courage and confidence that emerge from God’s calling but also the humility that knows well the limits of human thinking and imagination.
- Embracing risk and failure: Princeton Seminary invites students to take risks and embrace failure as a powerful teacher and source of reflection.
- Relationships as contexts of learning: The diverse relationships students form in the classroom, in the community, and on campus (in the dining hall, quad, gym, chapel, and more), are all crucial sites of learning and formation. The diversity of the learning community contributes directly to the faithful formation of our students.
The result is a curriculum that not only attends to the academic and spiritual development of our students, but also casts a vision for the future of Princeton Seminary, its teachers and scholars, and God’s church as a whole.
FAQ on Princeton Theological Seminary's New Curriculum
Why is Princeton Seminary changing the curriculum?
Like so much of the world this year, Princeton Seminary is undergoing change. Demographically, the faculty and students come from more diverse backgrounds, denominations, orientations, and abilities than ever before. At the same time, the world is struggling with ongoing challenges including climate change, growing economic inequality, racism and other forms of discrimination against minoritized persons, and political polarization amid a seemingly declining commitment to democratic ideals.
In this context, the Seminary embarked on developing a curriculum that would form graduates equipped with the skills, dispositions, and habits of mind and action who can lead broken and struggling communities into health and vitality. We believe that God is calling the Seminary to model on our own campus the kind of community we hope our graduates will one day help to lead; one that values diversity of many kinds, and in which the flourishing of all community members is prioritized.
What is the biggest change in the new curriculum?
The most noticeable change to the curriculum is the addition of the Core Commitment courses, which are more fully explained below.
Also, Princeton Seminary previously offered certificates in areas of interest as part of one’s degree. The new curriculum allows MDiv students to now concentrate in the following areas: Black Church Studies; Christian-Jewish Studies; Lutheran Studies; Theology, Ecology, and Faith Formation; and Theology, Women, and Gender.
What do foundation courses entail?
Foundation courses introduce students to the curricular disciplines and sub-fields and demonstrate for students how each discipline/sub-field can illumine what God is up to in the world. These are typically taken in the first three semesters of a program and explicitly engage issues of ethics and justice through their respective disciplinary lenses, including attention to issues such as war, poverty, racism, and other forms of injustice. These courses are also specifically disciplinary in focus. Each foundation course will have particular learning outcomes in order for students to have a common introductory experience.
What are Core Commitment courses?
Core Commitment courses reflect a certain body of central shared values and commitments. All departments offer courses that address the five core commitments.
- Life Together courses bring together small cohorts of students in a mix of traditional classroom learning; off-site service learning; fellowship around meals, chapel, vocational and theological discernment; and formation for ministry.
- Theological Imagination courses encourage students to think theologically about current events and issues related to social, economic, and public life.
- Christian Leadership: Church, Religion, and Society courses equip students for leadership in various roles, offices, and vocations. These courses explore the different modes, styles, and sites of Christian leadership and the different responsibilities that leaders assume in the church, academy, and world.
- Renewal of Creation, Self, and Communities courses set the stage for seeking compassion, justice, truth, and peace in relationships with all of God’s creatures. Special attention will be given to caring for, tending to, and setting right those relationships.
- Spiritual Practices of the Faith courses help students acquire spiritual habits that enable participation in practices of faith, such as prayer, confession, repentance, forgiveness, compassion, and peacemaking. The emphasis is on private piety and congregational worship, as well as acts of public witness, ritual, and protest that embody testimony proclaiming God’s love.
What will the off-site requirements look like?
Master’s students (other than ThM students) will be required to participate in one or two field education placements, depending on the degree. In addition, MDiv students are required to complete the Alternative Contexts (AC) requirement, which can be met through a travel course, certain kinds of field education placements, or certain classes with a high degree of context immersion. The Alternative Context Requirement immerses students in cross-cultural experiences, engages them in careful listening and learning from local communities, and encourages significant theological reflection on both.
How will this new curriculum affect what community looks like at Princeton Seminary?
It is our hope that the new changes to the curriculum will only enhance our sense of community at the Seminary. The Life Together course in the first semester will set the tone for the rest of a student’s seminary experience by providing a context in which students come to know one another, faculty members, and administrators in a close-knit and holistic learning environment. Students, faculty, and administrators will enjoy learning together, as well as spending time in worship, prayer, meals, and vocational and theological discernment. This orienting experience will provide a rich beginning to the rest of a student’s time at Princeton Seminary.
Can I still finish my degree in the same amount of time?
Yes! The number of credits for the MDiv remains at 78 and the ThM remains at 24. The MACEF increased by a half credit to 52.5 credits and the MTS is now 48 credits. It is possible to complete the degrees in the same amount of time.
How do denominational requirements factor into the new curriculum?
The new curriculum is flexible so that students pursuing ordination in a specific denomination can tailor their studies to meet their church’s requirements.
How will this affect my tuition?
The new curriculum has no effect on tuition. Annual tuition is set in late spring each year.