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Program Overview

Thanks to globalization and immigration, the West in general and the American society in particular are becoming increasingly multicultural, multiethnic, and multireligious. As a result, being religious today means, even in the United States, being interreligious and calls for intercultural and interreligious understanding and collaboration on both the national and international levels.

Religious Pluralism in Theology and Religious Studies

In light of the need for intercultural and interreligious understanding and of the challenges to religious studies and theology, the Department of Theology at Georgetown University offers a doctoral program which focuses on the phenomenon of religious pluralism. It investigates the implications of religious pluralism by promoting a comparison in three areas, namely, theology, ethics, and culture, between at least two religious traditions, normally but not exclusively between Christianity and another religion. The Department of Theology has faculty resources in both religious studies and theology. Both disciplinary approaches have methods and discourses concerning the comparative study of religion and each will be represented in the program

Comparative Approach

To carry out this study of religious pluralism adequately, the approach will be comparative. Students will do course work and comprehensive exams in both a primary and secondary religious tradition. They will be expected to achieve a mastery of both traditions sufficient for conducting comparative research and teaching on the university level. The purpose of the comparison is neither to extract some common core of religious experience that is supposed to undergird all religious traditions nor to erect on the basis of allegedly common and identical elements a universal world religion and theology, a species of religious esperanto. Rather recognizing the other as “other” but not as “opposite” the doctoral program will assist students to see the “mutual illumination” among religious traditions where differences are as important as commonalities and the ways in which studying in depth the analogies in other traditions can open up fresh and rich understanding of one’s own.

Multidisciplinary Methodology

The critical study of religious pluralism will be multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary. Religion is studied in its three dimensions: theology, ethics, and culture. The study of these dimensions requires the use of distinct methods. These are not three distinct tracks or areas of concentration in which the students major, even though the courses and the dissertation will of course focus on one rather than another. Rather, they constitute three series of leading questions that must be asked of the phenomenon of religious pluralism in every course taken, namely, (1) What is the meaning and truth of a particular teaching, classic, or religious/ethical/ ritual practice? (More generally: what is the ultimate concern?); (2) What is its ethical import? (More generally: how should one live?); and (3) What is its social, political, economic, and cultural context? (More generally: how do our particular social locations inform the way we respond to the first two questions?).

Fact Sheet

Degree offered: Ph.D.
Size of Program: Four to five students admitted each year.
Credits required: 36, excluding dissertation. Two foreign languages required.
To complete the doctoral program will normally take five years of full-time study: two years of course work, six months to one year to prepare for the comprehensive examinations and proposal of the doctoral dissertation topic, and two years for the dissertation.
Part-time option: None.

Department of TheologyBox 571135New North 120Washington D.C. 20057-1135Phone: (202) 687.5846Fax: (202) 687.8000

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