The mission of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Villanova University, a Catholic university with an Augustinian heritage, embraces manifold dimensions. Foremost is the responsibility to educate our students, both undergraduate and graduate, by engaging them in what Augustine (Confessions 1.1) calls the restless search for meaning which finds its ultimate answer in responding to a relationship offered from beyond the boundaries of human existence.
As a department of theology, we understand Christian theology to be "faith seeking understanding," a process of critical reflection upon the life of faith. It works to discern the fuller meaning of experiences of faith and serves as a foundation for further experiences of faith. It offers ways of understanding Christian belief and practice within contemporary culture, using the resources of the Christian tradition and of contemporary studies of culture. Biblical studies are foundational inasmuch as the two testaments provide a privileged record of God's unfolding revelation as experienced and interpreted by the Jewish and Christian faith communities in a time of formation.
In keeping with our Catholic heritage, our theological offerings nurture an historical consciousness and understanding of ongoing developments and transitions in the Christian faith tradition during the millennia after the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. The teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are made clear, within that dynamic context of ongoing development.
What We Offer
Beyond a firm knowledge of the past, our goal is to offer students ways of envisioning the future potential of the Church and the world, and to inspire them to commit themselves to the development of these positive possibilities. Our analysis of classical sources and texts and of theological positions from the past is complemented by attention to contemporary issues and critical questions through which the Church as a community of believers moves into a new future in the world community.
We recognize the responsibility to build the City of God within history wherein humans exercise a certain God-given autonomy (Vatican II, Gaudium et spes, 36, 41, 56) as co-creators with God in shaping the evolution of a now technological world. To that end, we undertake a critical correlation wherein faith neither simply accepts nor rejects the world, but rather works to transform it.
Carrying forward the insights of the scriptures and of Augustine, we give special consideration to the ambiguities of the human condition, particularly of human freedom, and to the need for redemption in a world marked by injustice, hatred, violence, and suffering — reaffirming the significance of the Cross within contemporary frames of understanding. We intend to articulate liberating elements within the Christian tradition, in receptive dialogue with the insights coming from the experience and reflection of women and in solidarity with the hopes and aspirations of the poor and marginalized.
As a department, we seek not just to impart a knowledge of truths but to generate a wisdom that can serve as a basis for practical and prophetic action. We encourage a commitment to doing the truth which reflects the fact that Jesus came not to be served but to serve, and which takes seriously the social teaching of the Church committed to peace and justice. Accomplishing such a complexity of tasks clearly requires collegial interaction between the many specialties reflected in our department, including scripture, early Christianity, systematics, ethics and spirituality, sacrament and liturgy, the history of Christianity, ecumenism, and religious education.
As a department likewise committed to religious studies, our purpose is twofold: first, the study of the phenomenon of religion — its ritual, symbolic, mythological and doctrinal components, and its role in the maintenance and questioning of the social order — making use of the conceptual tools provided by the humanities and the social sciences; second, the study of the religions of the world as they are actually lived.
As a department within the liberal arts we are committed to instilling an understanding of Christian faith and of religion that is consonant with an appreciation of contemporary religious and cultural pluralism. To this end, we explore the rich possibilities of expanding both conversation and collaboration across disciplines and traditions. Our presentation of ecumenical issues and of interreligious issues is carried out in a manner designed to enhance the contemporary atmosphere of dialogue and cooperation.
In the light of the curriculum, we intend to draw students toward thinking critically, communicating effectively, and acting responsibly and compassionately in a world where regard and respect for others have become urgent.
To be effective in our mission as a department, we endeavor to engage faculty and students in a community of inquiry, seeking to treat each person with care. Inspired by Augustine, we recognize that such community is not built by words alone but by a concerted effort open to the action of the Spirit in our midst.