Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

LSTC >> Academics >> Degrees

Doctor of Philosophy

The doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program offers students the opportunity to acquire advanced expertise in a chosen field and to focus upon a selected subject of research. Goals of the program include helping students gain a wide range of disciplinary knowledge, developing their skills in research methodologies, and sharpening their abilities to express ideas orally and in writing. Students work closely with faculty advisors throughout their program. The culmination of the program is the doctoral dissertation, which is the product of each student's best efforts in research, analysis, and synthesizing ideas proposing a thesis and convincingly demonstrating its validity.

The size of the Th.M./Ph.D. student body at LSTC ensures opportunity for lively interaction and participation in the seminars, while affording each student the individual faculty attention appropriate to education at this level.

Fields of Study

The seminary offers the Ph.D. degree in the fields of Old Testament, New Testament, historical studies, theological studies (including emphases on Christian ethics and religion and science), and world Christianity and mission.

Biblical Studies

Students work in both the Old Testament and the New Testament during the first year (or six courses) before the qualifying examination, but concentrate upon the testament of choice during the second half of the course requirements. The program requires a minimum of two seminars in the testament that is not the area of concentration. Doctoral work in this field emphasizes both the mastery of the technical tools of critical biblical scholarship and the significance of the biblical witness for the life of the church.

Historical Studies

Building on a broad mastery of the history of the Christian tradition and the tools of historiography, students may concentrate upon a particular period or problem corresponding to personal interests and faculty strengths.

Theological Studies

The discipline of systematic theology involves the task of working out a critical restatement of the Christian faith in light of the challenge of the contemporary intellectual and cultural context. The student works to gain a firm grasp of the historical background of contemporary problems and to attend to their philosophical dimensions. The goal is to combine mastery of the work done by others with the student's own growing competence in "doing theology." The student may undertake studies in Christian ethics as an emphasis within this field. There also are opportunities for doctoral study in religion and science, using the resources of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science.

World Christianity and Mission

World Christianity and mission builds on the programs in historical and theological studies at LSTC. It draws on the resources of the Chicago Center for Global Ministries, ACTS (especially the Catholic Theological Union and McCormick Theological Seminary), and the University of Chicago. Students in this field are admitted either in historical studies/world Christianity and mission or in theological studies/ world Christianity and mission. Students desiring to focus on interfaith and cross-cultural studies are encouraged to consider this concentration.

General Requirements and Time Limit

Requirements in the doctoral program include:

  • 12 courses at the advanced graduate level, including at least one year of full-time study,
  • demonstration of the ability to use foreign languages as research tools,
  • a qualifying examination at about the mid-point of coursework (after the successful completion of which the student is awarded the Th.M. degree),
  • intensive pedagogy seminar during the January term, with experience as a teaching or research assistant highly recommended,
  • preparation of a dissertation proposal,
  • a field examination,
  • writing a dissertation,
  • defense of the dissertation at a final colloquy.

Students must complete all requirements for the Ph.D. degree within seven years after the date of their first course registration.

Advanced Standing

The division in which students are engaged in Ph.D. work may grant advanced standing of up to two semester courses from an accredited institution outside of ACTS or the University of Chicago. To be considered for advanced standing, students must first pass the qualifying examination.

Within the ELCA Covenant Cluster for Theological Education, LSTC has an agreement to provide preferential standing for qualified students in the S.T.M. program at Trinity and Wartburg Lutheran Seminaries. Students from either institution who are accepted into the Ph.D. program may be able to transfer all of their S.T.M. credits to the LSTC doctoral program.

Curriculum & Courses

Courses may be chosen from the University of Chicago and the offerings of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS), the ecumenical consortium of which we are a part.

The curriculum is comprised of the following elements:

  • Twelve (12) semester courses
  • A course on pedagogy
  • One Qualifying Examination
  • One Doctoral Field Examination
  • Two language exams (additional for Bible majors, see catalog)
  • One semester Teaching Assistant or Research Assistant experience
  • Public presentation of dissertation proposal
  • Dissertation and Colloquy

The essential elements of the curriculum are divided into three components of the graduate program: 1. Courses, 2. Exams, 3. Dissertation. Each of these three elements is weighted equally and together build a successful program.

A full time student taking three courses per semester can plan to finish the program in approximately four to five years to finish the PhD program. Although this pace is possible, every student takes the program at his or her own pace.

Page last modified Mar 24, 2016