Christian Theological Studies


Christian Theological Studies constructively engages the breadth of the Christian tradition, its contemporary formations, and the interaction between theology and its social, political and economic contexts. Alongside constructive work in Christian doctrine, the program encompasses work in the relationship between Scripture and theology, moral theology, political theology, philosophical theology, the intellectual history of theology, and the study of theology as a cultural phenomenon. These foci may also include either a quantitative or qualitative dimension such as ethnographic work. The program does not envisage these sub-fields of Christian theological studies as mutually exclusive. Rather, it cultivates projects that include one or more of these approaches, seeing them as mutually illuminating and co-generative.

The size and vibrancy of the field of Christian theology as well as the diverse scholarly trajectories of the faculty, and--last but not least--the world-class scholarship represented in other fields of intellectual inquiry at Duke University all offer students a rich context in which to develop their own emerging scholarly work in Christian Theological Studies. As a whole, the program offers opportunities and frameworks for discovering a specific focus for individual research, a collegial context of learning and robust dialogue, a set of shared reference points and interlocutors, and professional development as a scholar and teacher.

Convener: Luke Bretherton

Major Field Requirements

  • Course Work
    • 3 courses a semester
    • With advisor approval, students may take additional courses
    • Students with advanced degrees will usually take 2 years of course work
  • Languages
    • Reading knowledge of 2 modern languages—normally includes either German, French or Spanish
  • Responsible Conduct of Research Training
  • Preliminary Examinations
    • 4-hour comprehensive exam in Christian Theological Studies
    • 3-hour internal minor examination
    • 3-hour external minor examination
    • 3-hour examination related to the projected focus of the dissertation
    • Note: Students may petition the convener of the area for an additional 2-4 hours to complete any exam. That request, however, must be submitted in writing 1 week prior to the beginning of the examination cycle.
  • Dissertation

Inside Minor Requirements

  • 2 courses

Christian Theological Studies

Nathan Hershberger: "Tending Scripture's Wounds: Suffering, Moral Formation, and the Bible." 2022. Advisor: Luke Bretherton

Emily Dubie: “Loving Your Neighbor Professionally: Theology, Social Work, and the Limits of Moral Agency.” 2021. Advisor: Luke Bretherton

Ryan Juskus: “The Ecopolitics of Truth and Sacrifice: An Ethnographic and Theological Study of Citizen Science, Environmental Justice, and Christian Witness in Coal’s Sacrifice Zones.” 2021. Advisor: Luke Bretherton

Michael Grigoni: "The Gun in US American Life: An Ethnographic Christian Ethics." 2020. Advisor: Luke Bretherton

Matthew Elia: "Ethics in the Afterlife of Slavery: Race, Augustinian Politics, and the Enduring Problem." 2019. Co-Advisors: J. Kameron Carter and Luke Bretherton

Marvin Wickware: "Love and the Racial Enemy: Theological Possibilities of Racial Reconciliation Between Black and White US Christians." 2018. Advisor: Willie Jennings

Kara Slade: "The Fullness of Time: Christological Interventions into Scientific Modernity." 2018. Advisor: Willie Jennings

Stephanie Gehring (Ladd): "Attention to Suffering in the Work of Simone Weil and Kathe Kollwitz." 2018. Advisor: Paul Griffiths

Michelle Wolff: "Intimate Life Together: A Decolonial Theology." 2017. Advisors: Willie Jennings and J. Kameron Carter

Matthew Whelan: "The Land of the Savior: Oscar Romero and the Reform of Agriculture." 2016. Advisor: Paul Griffiths

Amy Adkins: "Virgin Territory: Theology, Purity, and the Rise of the Global Sex Trade." 2016. Advisor: Willie Jennings

Ben Dillon: "Squelching the Double Vision: Thomas Hobbes and the Problem of 'Political Theology'." 2015. Advisors: Stanley Hauerwas and Paul Griffiths

Sarah Musser: "Sacrifice, Sabbath, and the Restoration of Creation." 2015. Advisors: Ellen Davis and Stanley Hauerwas

Jessica Wong: "The Anit-Iconicity of Blackness: Theology and the Modern Racial Optic." 2015. Advisor: Willie Jennings

Michael Raburn: “Convincing the World: Pentecostal Liminality as Participation in the Mission of the Paraclete.” 2013. Advisor: Stanley Hauerwas

Sarah Sours: “Mapping Suffering: Pain, Illness, and Happiness in the Christian Tradition.” 2013. Advisor: Stanley Hauerwas

Sean Larson: "Beyond Public and Private: A Theological Transfiguration." 2013. Advisor: Paul Griffiths