What is theology?
The word “theology” comes from two Greek words that together mean “speech about the divine.” As a field of academic study, theology refers to the disciplined investigation of the religious dimension of human experience. The term “theology” can also be used in a more limited sense to describe the beliefs held by a particular religious community.
Because religion involves so many aspects of people’s lives, the study of theology cuts across many traditional disciplinary boundaries, including philosophy, history, the arts, and the social sciences. Because it deals with the fundamental nature of reality, it challenges those who study it to examine and clarify their own religious beliefs, values, and practices. The study of theology engages the whole person in a journey toward understanding and self-discovery.
What do students do with a degree in theology?
Students who major or minor in theology are trained to investigate and interpret human experience using a variety of methods and perspectives. They also learn how to critically analyze the thought-patterns, motives, and actions of individuals and societies. Theology students also have many opportunities to develop their skills in written and oral communication. All of these abilities are important for success in graduate studies and employment in a variety of fields.
Theology majors tend to be unique individuals with highly diverse career interests. Faculty advisors work closely with each student to help them plan for life after graduation.
- Many are preparing for careers in teaching (whether in a high school or university) or ministry. Some of these students go on to graduate school or seminary after graduation, while others move directly into positions in churches, parochial schools, social service agencies, or other religious organizations.
- Other students combine theology with another field of study and go on to earn graduate degrees in fields as diverse as social work, history, education, counseling, and law.
- Some theology majors elect to spend a year or two working as volunteers in various types of religious service programs while exploring their career options.
- Finally, some students study theology as a channel of personal growth while taking a second major in another field that offers a more predictable career path.
What kinds of students choose to study theology at St. Bonaventure?
Students who major in theology are typically bright, motivated people who like to think for themselves about the vital questions of human existence. Many of our theology majors and minors are enrolled in the university’s Honors Program.
Most combine academic studies with a deep personal engagement with religion, but the program includes students whose interest in theology is purely academic. Roman Catholics are in the majority, but students from any religious tradition (including non-Christian traditions) are welcome in the program.
What kind of preparation do I need to study theology at SBU?
Since the study of theology crosses so many disciplinary boundaries, the best preparation for a major or minor in theology is a broad high school education. Students who enjoy studying history, literature, psychology, sociology, or the arts will find many opportunities to combine these interests with the study of theology.
High school religion classes and other forms of religious education can be useful as background resources, but no prior course work in theology is assumed or required.
What kinds of courses are offered by the Theology Department?
The Theology Department offers a wide range of courses that cover most of the subjects normally included in the academic study of theology. Some courses focus on a particular religious tradition, text, or thinker, while others trace a particular question or theme across a variety of sources.
Some examine the relation between religion and other realms of thought (science, philosophy, art, etc.), while others explore the private beliefs and practices of individuals. Most look at religion in a fairly objective manner, but some encourage students to examine their own beliefs and the beliefs of people around them. To learn more about the courses offered by the department, see the Course Descriptions.
What are the requirements for earning a major in theology?
The major in theology requires a total of 33 hours of course work in the department, including three required courses, five courses chosen from a list of options, a senior seminar, and two free electives. Students are given a substantial degree of freedom in selecting the courses that will count toward their major. A full description of the major requirements can be found on the Theology Curricula page.
What are the requirements for earning a minor in theology?
The minor in theology requires 18 hours of course work, including two required core courses (CLAR 206, “Foundational Religious Texts of the Western World” and CLAR 207, “The Catholic-Franciscan Heritage”) and 12 hours of theology courses chosen by the student (four additional courses). See the Minor in Theology page.
Can I combine studies in theology with studies in another field?
Students in every major except Elementary Education have enough flexibility in their schedules to take individual elective courses in theology. Students who are working on a degree in another field frequently take a course or two in theology and like it so much that they decide to pursue a minor or even a second major in theology.
Students who choose to major in theology are encouraged to take courses in other disciplines in order to broaden their horizons. Many decide to complete a minor or a second major in fields as diverse as philosophy, sociology, psychology, history, or English. Many students find that having concentrations in two fields gives them an advantage in finding jobs or gaining admission to graduate schools.
Can I study abroad in theology for a semester while at SBU?
The Office of International Studies provides hands-on assistance for students who wish to study abroad during their time at St. Bonaventure. Many foreign colleges and universities offer courses in theology that will fulfill the requirements for the theology major at St. Bonaventure.
Some schools offer enough courses to allow students to study only theology during their semester abroad. For more information, contact the Office of International Studies.
What kind of training for ministry is offered at St. Bonaventure?
The theology program at St. Bonaventure is designed primarily to explore the intellectual dimension of religion, not to provide hands-on training in ministry. Students who would like to work in ministry positions normally go on to do graduate studies in a seminary or other ministerial training program.
The department does offer several courses in religious education as part of a program leading to a Certificate in Religious Education. This program is designed to equip theology majors to teach religion in a parochial school or to manage the religious education program of a local church. For more information on the certificate program, see Certificate in Religious Education.
St. Bonaventure also maintains a strong and active University Ministries program that offers many opportunities for both supervised and independent ministry experience. The University Ministries website describes many of the programs and activities that are available on campus, including student-run groups.
Students who are considering careers as priests, friars, or sisters can participate in vocation exploration groups directed by friars and sisters that aim to help them discover their calling in life.
St. Bonaventure is also one of an elite group of universities around the country that was awarded a multi-million dollar grant from the Lilly Endowment to assist students with the process of integrating faith, academic studies, and service. This program, called the “Journey Project,” offers a variety of opportunities for students to explore their personal call to ministry and to gain practical experience in community service and leadership.
One of the more attractive features of the Journey Project is a service internship program that provides students with paid work in local churches or non-profit organizations and then brings them together for group reflection sessions to discuss what they are learning. For more information, see the Journey Project’s website.
What can I expect from the theology faculty at St. Bonaventure?
The six full-time members of the theology faculty bring a strong international favor to the classroom. Four are natives of countries other than the United States (India, Russia, and Canada), and all have studied in other countries.
All hold doctorates from leading universities, including Harvard, Cambridge, Duke, Toronto, and McGill. All are professional scholars who write books, publish articles, and present papers on a regular basis. The department also includes several affiliated and adjunct faculty members who teach courses on an occasional basis. For more on the background and interests of particular faculty members, see the Faculty page.
The theology faculty is also diverse from a religious standpoint, including people from a variety of faith traditions. Students of any religious persuasion as well as students who question the value of religion will find the faculty to be welcoming and supportive.
All of the members of the theology faculty are committed teachers who work hard to make their classes interesting and engaging to students. Many non-majors decide to enroll in theology classes after hearing glowing reports about the faculty from their peers.
Theology classes at St. Bonaventure are academically challenging, but faculty members are available at any time to help students with course work and to discuss their personal concerns. Faculty and students also interact informally at a variety of departmental social functions throughout the school year.
What kind of financial aid is available for theology students at SBU?
St. Bonaventure provides generous amounts of financial aid to students with strong academic records. The average student at St. Bonaventure receives enough financial aid to cover approximately one-third of the cost of their education. Students with high grades and/ or test scores can qualify for higher levels of assistance.
The Theology Department also offers two $1,000/yr. scholarships to top incoming theology majors. For more information on financial aid at St. Bonaventure, see the website of the Office of Financial Aid.