University Requirements FAQs

How do I fulfill the University theology requirements?

Take Foundations of Theology in one of its four formats (for more info see here).  Most students will take Foundations THEO 10001 and do so as a Freshman.

After completing Foundations, take a Development of Theology course, that is, a  course with a number between THEO 20101 and THEO 20999. And that’s it, you’re done!

Some students might like to have a course taken away from Notre Dame (perhaps at a student’s earlier university, or during time studying over summer or while abroad) count for one of the two university requirements. Requests to do so should be made directly to the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Only those courses that clearly match the topics, goals, and methods of Notre Dame’s two theology courses will be considered.

Why does Notre Dame force me to take two courses in Christian theology?

Notre Dame is not a university like any other, and part of what makes it unique (in addition to the leprechaun) is a Catholic philosophy of education.  Notre Dame is a place where those questions dearest to us (about life, death, justice, sin, forgiveness, happiness) can be asked.  In asking these questions we consider in particular the insight given to us by the Gospel.  We remember how Jesus asked the apostles, “'What about you, do you want to go away too?” and Peter answered, “'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).

At other universities these questions are usually not asked.  When they are asked they are usually discussed in a theoretical manner --  involving a student’s mind, but rarely involving a student’s heart or soul. Thus the two required courses in Christian theology are part of what makes Notre Dame a special place. 

But I’m not a Catholic (or I’m not a Christian) – how can I get a good grade in these two classes?

Be a good student!  Theology is not a test of one’s faith -- it is an academic field like history, biology, and all the rest (remember that theology was a basic requirement at all of the great universities when they were founded  – such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale).  As in other classes, students will be evaluated based on the work they do in reading texts, analyzing ideas, and conducting research.                                       

I’m not a Catholic (or I’m not a Christian) – will I be out of place in Theology classes?

Discussion in theology classes centers around great works of Christian literature, those works that have changed the world and challenge us to think of the questions most dear to all people, regardless of their faith.  The only students who are out of place in class are those who do not do the reading.

I went through a million years of Catholic school already, what could I possibly gain from more theology?

Notre Dame Theology is nothing like your high school religion or theology class.  How would your high school football team do in a game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish?

Why is theology the queen of the sciences?

Because the universe came from somewhere and there was something before it was.  It is that "something" which only theology can bring to light.  Because humans are not computers and it is not enough to fill our brains with information. Humans also have souls which long to be filled with light.  And because on top of the Golden Dome the Virgin Mary is stomping on a snake and only theology can tell you what that is all about.

Can my course from another university transfer and count as my theology University requirement?

Yes, students may transfer a course from another university to meet one of the two university theology requirements (Foundations and a development course).  The other required course, however, must be taken on campus at Notre Dame.

Why can’t a 30 or 40 thousand level course count towards my “development” (2nd theology) requirement?

All Notre Dame graduates are expected to have a good grasp of fundamental issues of Christian theology.  Therefore they must all take Foundations and a course that deals with the “development” of a major theme of Christian theology across time or across schools, i.e. a development (2xxxx) course.  Upper level (3x and above) courses deal with more specialized topics and can only be taken after the university requirements have been fulfilled.

How is theology different from religious studies?

Theology begins with faith – and not some vague faith but faith in Jesus Christ as we know him as revealed to us in the Bible and Sacred Tradition (i.e. the teaching of the Church).  According to theology, a rich faith helps our ability to reason well, and reasoning well helps our faith.  Religious studies courses proceed with the conviction that there is no divine revelation – or that perhaps there is divine revelation but that faith in this revelation should not be part of an academic course.