World Religions and World Church

Area of Concentration: World Religions and World Church

The purposes of the concentration in World Religions and World Church (WRWC) is to explore new ways of thinking about the study of world religions, cultural diversity in the Church, and the history of interactions between the Church and the religions of the world. Concretely this entails, on the one hand, providing the intellectual foundations for engaging the religions of the world from within a Christian theological paradigm. These foundations both enable the study of the world's religions with specific attention to their own particular historical contexts and modes of theological discourse, and provide the necessary preparation for informed inter-religious dialogue. On the other hand, the concentration involves studying the ways in which Christianity has become inculturated in contexts shaped largely by non-Christian religious traditions. Since it adopts a theological paradigm for approaching both of these issues, the area of concentrations, WRWC requires substantive work in one of the other five major areas of doctoral concentration.

The program in World Religions and World Church includes two disciplines:

  • World Religions
  • World Church

These are frequently studied in isolation from one another. In WRWC they are studied together since the study of World Religions and of the World Church raise important and closely linked theological questions. A careful study of the Church in regions where Christianity is not the majority religion inevitably raises questions of how Christianity has been shaped both by interdenominational encounters and by encounters with non-Christian religions. On the other hand, an in-depth engagement with World Religions to lay the theological groundwork for interreligious dialogue cannot ignore the Church context in different parts of the world where this dialogue has in fact occurred and continues to occur. The WRWC program, then, is premised on the conviction that these questions are best studied in concert.

Particular strengths of the program at this time include East And Southeast Asian Buddhism, early Islam and the history of Quranic interpretation, classical and contemporary Hinduism, contemporary African Christianity and theologies of inculturation, and Christianity in the Americas, including the interaction of Christianity with indigenous American traditions.

Students who major in WRWC will take two methodologically focused courses. Their coursework and candidacy exams will focus on a particular religion or a particular region of the World Church, but will also study more broadly within the area. Since both the World Religions track and the World Church track are conceived within a theological paradigm, students will minor in one of the other area concentrations of the department. Interested students may also pursue options in a number of other units of the university that consider different ways that the study of world religions of the world Church intersect with other pressing scientific, ethical and political issues in a globalized world, including the Kroc Institute or in the GLOBES program.