The Importance of Studying Theology and Religious Studies

Belief systems, rituals, mythology, iconography, practices, and ethics play a significant role in human culture. To understand the history and present of humanity, it is essential to study Theology and Religious Studies. These disciplines provide insights into the diverse beliefs and practices that have shaped societies throughout time. Additionally, studying Theology and Religious Studies develops critical thinking, debate skills, and analytical writing abilities.

Insight into Humanity’s History and Present

Theology and Religious Studies offer a deep understanding of humanity’s history and its current state. By exploring belief systems, rituals, mythology, iconography, practices, and ethics, students gain insights into the cultural and social foundations of various societies. This knowledge allows individuals to appreciate the diversity of human experiences and better navigate the complex challenges of the modern world.

Development of Essential Skills

Studying Theology and Religious Studies is not only about gaining knowledge of different religious traditions but also about developing critical skills. These disciplines require students to engage in critical thinking, debate, and analytical writing. Through rigorous analysis and interpretation of religious texts, concepts, and arguments, students learn to evaluate information, construct persuasive arguments, and communicate their ideas effectively.

Understanding the Influence of Beliefs on Lives

Theology and Religious Studies provide a unique perspective on how people’s beliefs influence their lives. By studying sacred texts and their interpretation, students gain insight into the moral, ethical, and spiritual dimensions of human existence. This understanding helps individuals appreciate the complexities of human thought, behavior, and decision-making, fostering empathy and tolerance towards different belief systems.

Literacy in Religious Thinking and Practice

One of the key benefits of studying Theology and Religious Studies is the development of religious literacy. This literacy enables individuals to engage in respectful and informed dialogue about religion and spirituality. By understanding the beliefs, practices, and values of different religious traditions, individuals can cultivate respect, tolerance, and appreciation for diverse perspectives. This knowledge-based approach fosters empathy, understanding, and social cohesion.

Focus on Religious Belief and its Impact

Theology offers students the opportunity to delve into religious belief in detail. Through the study of scriptures, the history of religious thought, critical thinkers, ethical debates, and the actions of believers, students gain a comprehensive understanding of different religious traditions. This knowledge allows individuals to critically analyze religious beliefs and their impact on society, contributing to broader discussions on ethics, morality, and social justice.

Study of World Religions

Religious Studies provides a broader perspective by studying the world’s religions from various angles. This interdisciplinary approach encompasses the interpretation of religious texts, the sociology and psychology of religion, and the exploration of ancient and modern religious movements. By examining the diversity of religious beliefs and practices, students gain a comprehensive understanding of the human experience and its cultural, social, and historical contexts.

Analytical and Debating Skills

Studying Theology and Religious Studies hones analytical and debating skills. Through critical analysis of religious texts, concepts, and arguments, students learn to evaluate the relevance and validity of different perspectives. The disciplines demand rigorous thinking, the ability to interpret data concisely, and the skill to debate key concepts with other students. This process fosters intellectual growth, deepens understanding, and prepares students for engaging in broader academic and professional discussions.

Respect and Dialogue

Studying Theology and Religious Studies promotes respect for the beliefs of others and cultivates the skill to enter into dialogue with those who hold opposing views. The academic environment of the School of Divinity encourages open and respectful discussions, where students learn to engage with diverse perspectives and challenge their assumptions. This fosters greater understanding, empathy, and the ability to engage in meaningful dialogue across religious and cultural boundaries.

Resources for Background Reading

If you are considering studying Theology and Religious Studies, it can be helpful to do some background reading. The following resources provide a starting point for further exploration:

Biblical Studies
– Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 4th edn. (Oxford University Press, 2012).
– David M. Carr and Colleen M. Conway, Introduction to the Bible: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).
– Helen Bond, Jesus: A Very Brief History (SPCK, 2017).
– John Barton, Ethics and the Old Testament, 2nd edn. (SCM, 2002).
– J Leslie Houlden, Ethics and the New Testament (T&T Clark, 2004).
– Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2008).
– R. S. Sugirtharajah, Voices from the Margin: Interpreting the Bible in the Third World, 3rd rev ed. (Orbis, 2006).
– Sandra L. Gravett, Karla G. Bohmbach, F. V. Greifenhagen, and Donald C. Polaski (eds.), The Hebrew Bible: A Thematic Approach (Westminster John Knox, 2008).
– Timothy H. Lim, The Dead Sea Scrolls. A Very Short Introduction. 2nd ed. (OUP, 2017).

– John Strong, The Buddha (Oneworld, 2009).
– Kate Crosby, Theravada Buddhism: Continuity, Diversity, and Identity (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014).

– Daniel Gold, Provincial Hinduism: Religion and Community in Gwalior City (OUP, 2015).
– Tulasi Srinivas, The Cow in the Elevator: an anthropology of wonder (OUP, 2018).

History of Christianity
– Brian Stanley, Christianity in the Twentieth Century: A World History (Princeton University Press, 2018).
– Diarmaid MacCulloch, A History of Christianity (Penguin, 2010).
– Phillip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, 3rd edition (Oxford University Press, 2011).
– Sebastian Kim and Kirsteen Kim, Christianity as a World Religion: An Introduction, 2nd edition (Bloomsbury, 2016).

Indigenous Religions
– Kraft Siv Ellen, Bjørn Ola Tafjord, Arkotong Longkumer, Gregory Johnson, and Gregory Alles, Indigenous Religion(s): Local Grounds, Global Networks (Routledge, 2020).
– Smith Linda Tuhiwai, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (Zed Books, 1999).

– Amina Wadud, Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective (Oxford University Press, 1999).
– Asma Afsaruddin, The First Muslims: History and Memory (Oneworld, 2008).
– Carl W. Ernst, Following Muhammad: Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World (University of North Carolina Press, 2003).
– Clinton Bennet, Understanding Christian-Muslim Relations: Past and Present (Bloomsbury, 2008).
– Michael Sells, Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations, 2nd edn. (White Cloud, 2007).
– Omid Safi ed., Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism (Oneworld, 2003).
– Peter Mandaville, Islam and Politics, 3rd ed. (Routledge, 2020).

Jewish Studies
– Barbara Hahn, The Jewess Pallas Athena: This Too a Theory of Modernity (Princeton University Press, 2005).
– David Engel, The Holocaust: The Third Reich and the Jews (Longman, 2000).
– Edward Kessler, An Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
– Eve Harris, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (Black Cat, 2013).
– Inga Clendinnen, Reading the Holocaust (Cambridge University Press, 1999).
– Melanie Wright, Studying Judaism: The Critical Issues (Continuum, 2012).
– Natasha Díaz, Color Me In (Random House, 2019).

Literature and Religion
– Alison M. Jack, The Bible and Literature (SCM Press, 2012).
– Andrew Hass, David Jasper, and Elisabeth Jay, The Oxford Handbook of English Literature and Theology (Oxford University Press, 2009).

– David Ford, Theology: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edn. (Oxford University Press, 2013).
– Delores S. Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk (Orbis Books, 1993).
– Dorothee Soelle, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance (Fortress Press, 2001).
– Elaine Graham, Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Public Theology in a Post-Secular Age (SCM, 2013).
– Graham Ward, Theology and Religion: Why it Matters (Cambridge: Polity, 2019).
– James Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation. Fortieth Anniversary Edition (Orbis, 2010).
– John Parratt, An Introduction to Third World Theologies (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
– Kathryn Tanner, Christ the Key (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
– Kwok Pui-Ian, Introducing Asian Feminist Theology (Sheffield Academic Press, 2000).
– Linn Marie Tonstad, Queer Theology: Beyond Apologetics (Cascade, 2018).
– Nancey Murphy, A Philosophy of the Christian Religion for the Twenty-First Century (SPCK, 2018).

Religious Studies
– David Chidester, Empire of Religion: Imperialism and Comparative Religion (University of Chicago Press, 2014).
– George D Chryssides and Ron Geaves, The Study of Religion: An Introduction to Key Ideas and Methods, 2nd edn. (Bloomsbury, 2013).
– James S Bielo, Anthropology of Religion: The Basics (Routledge, 2015).
– Laura S. Grillo, Adriaan van Klinken & Hassan J. Ndzovu, Religions in Contemporary Africa: An Introduction (Routledge, 2019).
– Linda Woodhead, Christopher Partridge and Hiroko Kawanami, Religions in the Modern World: Traditions and Transformations (Routledge, 2016).
– Malory Nye, Religion: The Basics, 2nd edn. (Routledge, 2008).
– McCutcheon, Russell, ed., The Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Religion (Continuum, 1999).
– M J Charlesworth, Philosophy and Religion: From Plato to Postmodernism (Oneworld, 2002).
– Steven Sutcliffe and Ingvild Gilhus, eds., New Age Spirituality: Rethinking Religion (Routledge, 2013).

Science and Religion
– Celia Deane-Drummond, Wonder and Wisdom: Conversations in Science, Spirituality, and Theology (DLT, 2006).
– Helen De Cruz and Johan De Smedt, A Natural History of Natural Theology: The Cognitive Science of Theology and Philosophy of Religion (MIT Press, 2014).
– J B Stump, Science and Christianity: An Introduction to the Issues (Chichester: Wiley, 2017).
– Keith Ward, The Big Questions in Science and Religion (Templeton Press, 2008).
– Lisa Sideris, Consecrating Science: Wonder, Knowledge, and the Natural World (University of California Press, 2017).
– Nancy Morvillo, Science and Religion: Understanding the Issues (Wiley, 2010).
– Philip Clayton, Religion and Science: The Basics, 2nd edn. (Routledge, 2018).

By studying Theology and Religious Studies, individuals gain insights into the rich tapestry of human beliefs, practices, and experiences. These disciplines foster critical thinking, debate skills, and analytical writing abilities while promoting respect, tolerance, and dialogue among individuals with diverse perspectives. Whether one comes to these subjects with a particular faith perspective or none, the benefits of studying Theology and Religious Studies are far-reaching and contribute to one’s intellectual and personal growth.