MAJOR IN THEOLOGY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES

The department offers two programs for a Theology major—the primary major and the secondary major—each with a different focus.

Theology and Religious Studies majors can explore some of the most profound and meaningful questions about God. A breadth of disciplines is offered by our renowned scholars that include medieval mysticism, Old Testament texts, Christology during the Patristic period, as well as contemporary ethical issues such as global climate change, racism, and economic justice. The spiritual but not religious movement, mindfulness practices, and contemporary spirituality are other areas of study, as are the major non-Christian world religions today such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. If you seek a specific religion in order to succeed in a future career as a doctor, engineer, businessperson, or teacher in a Catholic high school, the Theology and Religious Studies Department has a faculty with an expansive scope of interests and an equally broad set of course offerings to help you meet your personal and career goals.

The Primary Major is a 30 credit hours stand-alone Program that emphasizes a broad understanding of Christian and non-Christian theological and religious traditions. You may complete it in conjunction with another major (that is, the traditional major).

The Secondary Major is a 24 credit hours program that highlights the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary nature of theological inquiry and of the study of religion. You must complete it concurrently with another major.

EXPLORE THE MAJORS

Goal 1

Gain an understanding of the purposes, central issues, and methods of inquiry standard in theological and religious studies as applied to faith engaging culture.

Objective A: Analyze fundamental issues that frame theological and religious inquiry using appropriate scholarly methods, with attention to diversity and inclusion within the issues.

Objective B: Use critical methods to read, analyze, and interpret diverse religious and theological texts (e.g., women, minorities, non-western) and related genres or media, art, and artifacts (e.g., prayer, mystical writings, autobiographies, film, music).

Goal 2

Engage Christianity, with attention to Roman Catholicism, as a living tradition of practices and beliefs that continues to be refined, developed, and extended through time in diverse cultural contexts.

Objective A: Demonstrate understanding of the unique vocabulary, foundational sources, theological beliefs, historical developments, and diverse thinkers in the Christian tradition, with attention to those that reflect on the experiences of power, privilege, and marginalization.

Objective B: Articulate how Christian practices and beliefs reciprocally interact with diverse cultural contexts, local and global.

Goal 3

Render theological concepts and religious practices and beliefs intelligible, meaningful, and relevant in contemporary cultural contexts as a basis for transformative action in the world, in dialogue with others.

Objective A: Recognize the complexity and diversity of religious practices and beliefs and seek to understand people whose values and senses of the sacred differ from their own.

Objective B: Evaluate the relevance of theology/religion for personal, communal, societal, and global living.

The Theology and Religious Studies major at Villanova offers a broad array of courses in three different tracks:

  • Theology and Culture - Courses in this track examine the mutual interplay between theology and culture and the practical ways in which theology and culture interact in various historical, political, social, and economic contexts.
  • Catholic Studies - The main thrust of the courses will investigate the distinctive elements of Catholicism, whether ecclesiological, historical, sociological, moral, spiritual, theological, biblical, or liturgical, among others.
  • Global Religious Experience - Students may select their focus which can include non-Christian religions, religions in non-Western regions of the world, religious beliefs and practices in a broader global context, or experiences deemed “religious.”

Below is the list of the required courses for each track, for both the primary major and the secondary major. 

Theology and Culture

Primary Major (30 credit hours)  

  • THL 1000: Presence and Absence of God  (3 cr)   

  • THL 5001: Presence and Absence of God (3 cr)  
  • THL 5002: Major Thinkers and Ages  (3 cr)  
  • THL 6300: Research Seminar (3 cr) 

  • THL 6500: Capstone Seminar (3 cr)  

  • 4  Theology and Culture electives (course number  THL 5004; 12 cr)  

  • THL Elective (THL 6001 or any course with a CTHL attribute; 3 cr)   
  • THL 6600: Portfolio Course (0 cr)  

Secondary Major (24 credit hours)  

  • THL 1000 : Presence and Absence of God (3 cr)  

  • THL 5001: Presence and Absence of God (3 cr)   

  • THL 6300: Research Seminar (3 cr)   

  • THL 6500: Capstone Seminar (3 cr)   

  • 3 Theology and Culture electives  (course number THL 5004; 9 cr)   
  • 
THL Elective (THL 6001 or any course with a CTHL attribute; 3 cr)   

  • THL 6600: Portfolio Course (0 cr)
 
Catholic Studies
 
Primary Major (30 credit hours)  
  • THL 1000 (3 cr)   
THL 5001: Presence and Absence of God (3 cr)  

  • THL 5002: Major Thinkers and Ages (3 cr)   
  • 
THL 6300: Research Seminar (3 cr)  

  • THL 6500: Capstone Seminar (3 cr)  

  • 4 Catholic Studies electives (course number THL 5003; 12 cr)  
  • 
THL Elective (THL 6001 or any course with a CTHL attribute; 3 cr)   
  • 
THL 6600: Portfolio Course (0 cr)  
Secondary Major (24 credit hours)
  • THL 1000 (3 cr)  

  • THL 5001: Presence and Absence of God (3 cr)   

  • THL 6300: Research Seminar (3 cr)   

  • THL 6500: Capstone Seminar (3 cr)   

  • 3 Catholic Studies electives (course number THL 5003; 9 cr)   

  • THL Elective (THL 6001 or any course with a CTHL attribute; 3 cr)   

  • THL 6600: Portfolio Course (0 cr)  
 
Global Religious Experience
 
Primary Major (30 credit hours)
  • THL 1000 (3 cr)   

  • THL 5001: Presence and Absence of God (3 cr)  

  • THL 5002: Major Thinkers and Ages (3 cr)   

  • THL 6300: Research Seminar (3 cr)  

  • THL 6500: Capstone Seminar (3 cr)  

  • 4 Global Religious Experience electives (course number THL 5005; 12 cr)  

  • THL Elective (THL 6001 or any course with a CTHL attribute; 3 cr)   

  • THL 6600: Portfolio Course (0 cr)  

Secondary Major (24 credit hours)
  • THL 1000 (3 cr)  

  • THL 5001: Presence and Absence of God (3 cr)   

  • THL 6300: Research Seminar (3 cr)   

  • THL 6500: Capstone Seminar (3 cr)   

  • 3 THL Electives (course number THL 5005; 9 cr)   

  • THL Elective (THL 6001 or any course with a CTHL attribute; 3 cr)   

  • THL 6600: Portfolio Course (0 cr)  

If none of the three tracks meets a student's academic or career goals, a student may, in consultation with the Director of the Undergraduate Program, construct a self-designed course of study, which tailors individual courses to a student's specific needs. Please contact the Director of the Undergraduate Program for more information about this track.    

Below is the list of the required courses for majors with concentration in Self-designed Studies.

Primary Major (30 credit hours)  

  • 1 Foundation Course (3 cr) – take THL 1000 
  • 2 Major Seminars (6 cr) – take THL 5001 and THL 5002 
  • 1 Research Seminar (3 cr) – take THL 6300 
  • 1 Capstone Seminar (3 cr) – take THL 6500 
  • 4 THL Electives (12 cr) – take any four THL courses with the CTHL attribute 
  • 1 THL Elective (3 cr) – take THL 6001 or any one course with the CTHL attribute 
  • 1 Portfolio Course – take THL 6600 (0 cr) 

Secondary Major (24 credit hours)  

  • 1 Foundation Course (3 cr) – take THL 1000 
  • 1 Major Seminar (3 cr) – take THL 5001 
  • 1 Research Seminar (3 cr) – take THL 6300 
  • 1 Capstone Seminar (3 cr) – take THL 6500 
  • 3 THL Electives (9 cr) – take any three THL courses with the CTHL attribute 
  • 1 THL Elective (3 cr) – select THL 6001 or any one course with the CTHL attribute 
  • 1 Portfolio Course – take THL 6600 (0 cr) 

If you prefer to focus your classes and research on a particular area or topic not covered by one of the three tracks listed above, you may, in consultation with the Director of the Undergraduate Program, propose an alternative course of study and a series of particular elective courses  (THL 6400). Students may work individually with a faculty mentor, or seek to become involved in research with faculty members.

Primary and secondary majors may pursue an Independent Study course.

To enhance the academic experience in TRS programs we offer distinctive capstone courses. They differ in significant ways from other courses in that they lead students to reflect on the various components of their major/secondary major curricula and to achieve synthesis in significant culminating experiences.

Capstone Course I: Research Seminar, THL 6300

Students normally take the research seminar in the junior year. The seminar focuses on individual or group research projects that participants design with the help of a faculty facilitator. It emphasizes your active role in the learning process, which implies limited reliance on lectures and extra weight given to you using the methods of THL/RST disciplines to explore fields and topics of interest to you on your own. Rather than repeating others’ work, yours will independently (individually or in groups) wrestle with the unknown, discover knowledge, develop expertise in confined fields of research, and present your research progress and product to your peers.

Capstone Course II: Advanced Seminar, THL 6500

Taken in the senior year the advanced seminar stands as the culminating experience of your studies in the major and secondary major. Using higher-order learning, in the seminar, you consolidate and synthesize knowledge by bringing THL/RST fields together or putting elements of theory and/or practice together in an original form. The seminar is organized around student-lead conversations informed by the central theme studied and advanced in all programs offered by the THL/RST department: Faith seeking understanding, engaging culture. Students wrestle with the relationships between faith, religion, theology, and culture as experienced and studied throughout their undergraduate career at Villanova. With the help of a faculty facilitator, students choose the seminar topics and teach them to their peers, simultaneously learning to organize and facilitate discussions. Thus, the seminar involves students communicating their explorations or discoveries. In other words, this communication includes a final product, and its precise form will vary by topic, encompassing the possibility of artistic expression as well as customary forms of scholarly communication.

COMPARE THE MAJORS

The primary major is the chief program for students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Theology and Religious Studies. The program:

  • requires 30 credit hours, five elective courses, and two major seminars
  • is only available to CLAS students
  • is a standalone degree program
  • may be combined with another major either within or outside of CLAS if a student chooses to pursue a double major
  • requires students to earn a concentration in TRS

The secondary major closely mirrors the requirements for the primary major; it is a good choice for students interested in interdisciplinary, integrative studies who cannot fulfill the course requirements for two majors. The program:

  • requires 24 credit hours, four elective courses, and one major seminar
  • is available to students in any College
  • is not a standalone degree program
  • must be taken in conjunction with another major and completed concurrently with a bachelor’s degree
  • permits students to earn a concentration in TRS
  • emphasizes an area outside a student’s major that complements their studies at Villanova and offers a more rigorous academic experience than the minor.

Both programs maintain the same rigor, coherence, multidisciplinary emphasis, and interdisciplinary allowing you to study theology and religion from broader social science, political, historical, and philosophical perspectives.

The elective course choices in both programs allow flexibility. The programs provide you with the academic and/or practical training for a broad range of careers or prepare you for graduate work.

Brett Grainer, Th.D.
Associate Professor
Director, Undergraduate Program
brett.grainger@villanova.edu
610-519-6944

Department of Theology and Religious Studies
800 E. Lancaster Ave.
St. Augustine Center Room 203
Villanova, PA 19085

  

Welcome to the Program