Why study Theology or Religious Studies?
Find out the importance of studying our Theology and Religious Studies programmes.
Belief systems, rituals, mythology, iconography, practices and ethics and the part they play in human culture: these are at the heart of Theology and Religious Studies. Studying them gives you an insight into humanity's history and its present. This also helps you develop essential skills in critical thinking, debate and analytical writing.
If you are fascinated by big ideas, how people's beliefs influence their lives, or by sacred texts and their interpretation, then Theology and Religious Studies are the subjects for you. Both focus on an aspect of human experience that has been fundamental to humanity's understanding of itself and, in all its variety, continues to be important today.
Literacy in religious thinking and practice is a crucial skill with the potential to foster respect and tolerance based on knowledge rather than supposition. Whether you come to the subjects with a particular faith perspective or none, there will be much that will engage you intellectually and challenge your assumptions.
Theology offers the opportunity to focus on religious belief in detail through the study of scriptures, the history of religious thought, its critical thinkers, its influence on ethical debates and the actions of its believers.
Religious Studies offers breadth and depth in its study of the world's religions from various perspectives, including the interpretation of religious texts, the sociology and psychology of religion and the impact of ancient and modern religious movements.
Studying Theology and Religious Studies will allow you to analyse writing, concepts and arguments in various contexts. The disciplines demand rigorous thinking and the ability to interpret data concisely. Also, you will learn to debate key concepts and evaluate their relevance and validity with other students. Respect for the beliefs of others and the skill to enter into dialogue with those who hold opposing views are developed in the academic environment of the School of Divinity.
Get a taste of some of our lecture content with these short films and audio recordings by some of our lecturers.
Sample background reading
Whether you're considering applying to our School as an undergraduate or have accepted a place, if you would like to do a little background reading on Theology and Religious Studies, we have provided some resources below. We asked our teaching staff to recommend books that potential undergraduates might find interesting.
Please note these resources are for your general interest only.
- 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 (Westminister 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).
- 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).
- 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 Muhammed: 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- Dawn Llewellyn, Reading, Feminism and Spirituality: Troubling the Waves (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015).
- James McGonigal and Kirsten Stirling, eds., Ethically speaking: voice and values in modern Scottish writing (Rodopi, 2006).
- Rebecca Lemon, ed., The Blackwell companion to the Bible in English literature (Wiley Blackwell, 2010).
- Susan M Felch, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Religion (Cambridge Universtiy Press, 2016).
- David Ford, Theology: A Very Short Introduction, 2nd edn. (Oxford Unviersity 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 (Fotress 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).
- 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).
- Celia Deane-Drummond, Wonder and Wisdom: Conversations in Science, Spiritually 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).