Introduction to the Degree:

The Major in Comparative Theology and Theology of Religions

PhD Program in Theology at Boston College.

Applications accepted for this Area, like other Areas of the PhD Program, in the fall, for entrance the following September. For admissions and application information in general, please go to the department's Ph.D. Information page. For questions regarding this specific program, contact the Comparative Theology faculty.

General Information:

For an introduction to the degree itself, please read below. Information specific to the major and minor are available on their respective pages. Information pertaining to both degrees, such as faculty, articles or exam reading lists can be found under 'Common Information.'


Religious pluralism is a key challenge facing theologians and religious communities today.   It raises questions regarding how practitioners and believers from different traditions do and should encounter one another as they enter into substantial and regular contact in every part of the world.   Careful reflection on religions in their particularity and interrelated is an increasingly important and necessary theological task.   The PhD Major in Comparative Theology at Boston College offers the opportunity for in-depth study of Christianity in relationship to one other religious tradition.

Comparative Theology entails the study of one or more religious traditions other than one’s own, and critical reflection on one’s own tradition in light of the other tradition or other traditions.   Given the location of this program within a Jesuit and Catholic university, it is expected that most of our students will engage in Comparative Theology from within the Christian tradition.   Study of the other religious tradition aims at fostering both genuine competence in that tradition and a deep level of engagement with Christian theology.   The program also welcomes students who belong to and have scholarly training within other religious traditions, and who wish to engage in an in-depth comparative study of their own tradition with Christian theology.   Focus on one other religious tradition aims at fostering both genuine competence in that tradition and a deep level of engagement with Christian theology.   Like all other areas of Theology, Comparative Theology's ultimate horizon is reflection on God, the transcendent, or the nature of ultimate reality. Though Comparative Theology is related to the historical and philosophical work of comparative religions and philosophy of religion, it aims to be constructive theology. The practitioner, while rooted in one tradition, is deeply affected by systematic, consistent attention to the details of the other religious and theological tradition, thereby informing continuing theological reflection upon his or her own tradition. It is this focused attention to the distinctive details of different traditions that distinguishes Comparative Theology from the Theology of Religions, but also opens the possibility of a newly and more deeply informed Theology of Religions.   Theology of Religions, or the theological reflection on the meaning of religious diversity from within one’s own religious tradition, thus forms an integral part of Comparative Theology.

“Comparative Theology” is often a discipline closely related to Systematic or Doctrinal Theology, but it may also be presented in accord with other disciplines, such as Comparative Ethics or Law, or the Comparative Study of Sacred Scripture. It may likewise deal with historical materials or with contemporary issues. References in the following pages to Comparative Theology include the possibility of those alternative modes of study.

All PhD students at Boston College are encouraged to integrate comparative work into their studies in the other Areas of Theology (Systematic Theology, Theological Ethics, History of Christian Life and Thought, Pastoral Theology, or Biblical Studies), but students may also choose to major or minor in Comparative Theology (henceforth CT). For some students, the Major is the ideal focus, while for others a Minor is sufficient and more appropriate.

A practical goal of both the Major and Minor is to prepare graduates to become theologians conversant in the issues related to the study of religions in a theological perspective, who are able to teach courses on another religious tradition and on chosen areas of Christian theology. While Interreligious Dialogue is only one of many subordinate themes possibly taken up in this program, the Major and Minor both provide sound theological and intellectual foundations for actual dialogue.

At the MA level, students can integrate comparative questions into their studies by taking even just one or two courses with a comparative emphasis, or by making a comparative question their special topic for their comprehensive examinations. The MA is not treated in this document, and interested students are urged to consult members of the CT Area regarding possibilities with respect to the Department’s MA program.

Except where specifically noted, rules given in following pages pertain to normal procedure and do not preclude exceptions for good reason. Regarding matters not covered here, the general rules applying to the PhD program as a whole should be considered operative.

For further reflection on CT-TR , see the home page of this site and related links. Note especially the essay posted: Francis X. Clooney, S.J., "The Emerging Field of Comparative Theology: A Bibliographical Review (1989-95)," Theological Studies 56 (1995): 521-50. See also his "Theology, Dialogue, and Religious Others: Some Recent Books in the Theology of Religions and Related Fields," Religious Studies Review 29.4 (2003), 319-327.

Updated: 22-Aug-2013
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