Harris Manchester takes students for all three of the above listed undergraduate courses in Theology. The first of these allows students to specialize in the Christian tradition, or in other world religions, or in a mixture of the two, although there are compulsory elements in both Christianity and World Religions in the first year. The second (Philosophy and Theology), as its name suggests, allows students to do a mix of papers in both Philosophy and Theology and to explore the links between the two. The third (Theology and Oriental Studies) is designed to allow the study of a major world religion through the medium of original language texts.
Potential applicants who already have a degree in another subject are welcome to apply to any of these undergraduate courses to do a second BA, but may also like to consider the Postgraduate Diploma in Theology and Religion which can either be done full time over one year or part-time over two years, and can be taken either as a standalone course for people interested in doing some theological study or as a route into further postgraduate work in Theology.
What is Theology?
The word “theology” comes from the Greek words θεός (God) and λόγος (word), and so literally means “the study of God”. Many people are interested in the “big questions” about God, life, the Universe, truth and beauty. To think about these questions constructively we need to combine classical wisdom with the latest cutting-edge advances in psychology, physics, biology, neuroscience and the like, and obviously it can be a great advantage to address these issues in a single institution such as Oxford University, which has world-class experts in all these fields.
As an undergraduate academic discipline the various Theology courses on offer at Oxford often involves the study of human thinking about God, in scripture, doctrine and tradition, although there is, of course, also both the need and the opportunity to think about how God should be spoken of today. Oxford degree courses in Theology and Religion (as in many other places) involve a good deal of critical reflection on the Christian tradition, with the opportunity of examining another major world religion as well.
Many people come to the study of Theology out of a religious interest, “faith seeking understanding”. But you don’t have to be a Christian (or any kind of religious believer) to do a degree involving Theology, and there are many other reasons why the subject can be both interesting and rewarding. Historically religion has played an enormous role in virtually every human culture, and in many places it continues to do so. Christianity has been hugely influential in the west, and is worth studying in order to obtain a deeper understanding of western history, art, literature, and music. Theology may no longer be the “queen of the sciences”, but it is perhaps the capstone of the humanities, encompassing a challenging but fascinating range of skills and disciplines including literary analysis, language skills, historiography, critical thinking, social science, and elements of philosophy (particularly if one opts for the Joint Degree of Philosophy and Theology). The principal requirements for studying Theology are intellectual curiosity, an open mind, a willingness to engage critically with anything and everything, and a readiness to understand and appreciate opposing points of view. In a world in which religious intolerance often seems on the increase, the critical study of Theology and Religion can play an important role in promoting tolerance and understanding. It also has immense value as the study of how people have thought and continue to think about the spiritual dimension of human existence. It does, however, remain a rigorous, critical, academic discipline; it is not an exercise in thinking cosy thoughts about God, the Universe and Everything, nor is it primarily designed to assist you in your quest to find Your Personal Place in the Spiritual Meaning of Life!
Only a minority of people who study Theology at Oxford (and elsewhere) do so as part of or with a view to ministerial training (although this is of course one excellent reason for doing a Theology degree). Some people may go on to become RE teachers (Harris Manchester College has excellent links with RE teachers through the Farmington Institute), but many more go on to a wide variety of careers. An Oxford degree in Theology provides a large number of transferable skills.
Why Harris Manchester?
Harris Manchester College has long experience in catering for mature students, so if you will be aged 21 or over when you plan to start your course, do consider making us your first choice of college; that way you will have the best chance of coming to a college that is particularly welcoming to mature students and where you will be mixing with other students who have a wide range of life experience.
How can I find out more?
If you would like to find out more then please see the following subject specific short films on Youtube: