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Preparation for Theological Studies

Coordinator: Dr. Robert Brown 

Phone: (540) 568-5415  Email: brownre@jmu.edu 

Students join the pre-theology program to prepare for careers in the service of religious communities. Usually, these careers—such as ministry, religious education, counseling, and chaplaincy—require specialized training and graduate degrees from theological seminaries, rabbinical schools, or university divinity schools. The pre-theology adviser helps students discover courses and experiences at JMU that will provide the academic foundation for graduate studies in theology as well as the opportunity to develop their practical skills or vocational gifts. Students in this program may major in any field, although the Association for Theological Schools recommends substantial pre-professional training in philosophy and religion. 

In the Department of Philosophy and Religion, pre-theology students will find a robust offering of courses ranging from the interpretation of religious texts to theology and ethics, and from the histories of particular religious traditions to cross-cultural topics in global religion. Class assignments develop students’ skills in critical thinking, ethical reasoning, scriptural hermeneutics, and written and oral communication, all of which theological schools highly value. The pre-theology adviser may direct students to relevant courses in foreign languages, social work, non-profit studies, humanitarian affairs, education, or justice studies to complement their academic training in religion. Qualified students are encouraged to undertake independent studies or write honors theses in order to explore in greater depth the theological topics most important to them. 

The department also offers students the opportunity to receive academic credit for practical supervised field work with social agencies and religious organizations in order to help students explore the particular forms of religious service they would like to pursue. Making connections with faith leaders within their own traditions helps students access larger networks of tradition-specific resources and contacts as they reflect on their goals and decide where to apply for further study in theology. We encourage students to visit various theological schools during the application season and to meet with representatives that the department invites to campus to discuss theology programs with students.

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