Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion

Deposition of Christ

Deposition of Christ by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta in 1568-73. Founders Chapel.

This course was previously called Theology and Religious Studies.

Welcome to the Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion (TRPR) subject page at King’s. You will find information here about studying TRPR at King’s, the structure of the Cambridge degree course, the Director of Studies, and information about applying as an undergraduate.

TRPR at Cambridge

The Cambridge Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion Tripos (Tripos = course) is exceptionally open in the options it makes available to undergraduates. Apart from two compulsory elements in the first year, you can choose whatever you want to study from the very wide range of courses on offer. This enables you to either mix up subjects as you go or to carve out a specialist area of interest over the three years – you could for, example, choose to concentrate on Ethics and Philosophy of Religion, or on World Religions, or on Christian Theology, amongst other possibilities.

The first year (Part I) is designed to introduce you to the basic concepts and skills needed in the study of Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion. There are two compulsory elements to Part I which are a) the study of a scriptural language (Hebrew, New Testament Greek, Qur’anic Arabic or Sanskrit) and, b) the study of Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) or the New Testament. The other three papers in Part I can be chosen from the five options available, covering the other subject areas studied in the Faculty (Doctrine, Philosophy of Religion, Church History, World Religions and the Study of Religion). A sixth option, Logic, is likely to be offered in the near future.

In the second year (Part IIA) you build on the skills developed in Part I. You study four papers, out of a choice of sixteen covering all eight subject areas available. The wide variety of subjects available allows you to develop a course suited to your own interests within the discipline.

In the final year, Part IIB involves studying four papers at advanced level which, once again, are chosen from a wide range of options, including specialist and interdisciplinary papers. You can also choose to write a dissertation in the final year instead of one paper.

Assessment is mainly by three-hour written examinations, but in each year of the Tripos there are some papers which are assessed on the basis of two coursework essays.

The state-of-the-art Divinity Faculty building was opened in 2000, and the department is one of the largest and best-staffed centres of theological study in the UK. In addition to its own staff, it draws on the expertise of the Faculties of History, Philosophy and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, amongst others. This, coupled with the Cambridge supervision system, means that TRPR students interact on a daily basis with experts in all the subjects studied within the discipline.

TRPR at King's

Theology has been studied in some form almost continuously at King’s since the College was founded in 1441. But there is nothing old fashioned about TRPR today. It offers opportunities to study subjects ranging from the sacred texts of the world’s major religious traditions to the most pressing questions in the philosophy of religion or the most recent developments in medical ethics. It explores the fundamental questions relating to good and evil, war and peace, religion and science. It examines the way in which human society has expressed and used its religious convictions.

To study Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion at King’s you do not need to be religious - undergraduates who study for this course come from all religious traditions and none. What you need to be is interested in asking basic questions about human existence, meaning, and truth.

Divinity Faculty on the Sidgwick Site

The Faculty of Divinity (you'll have University lectures with theologians from all Colleges here).
Credit: Notis Toufexis

King's College Library is well stocked, available 24/7, and provides many pleasant places to study (see the virtual tour). As well as having the advantages of being a central College on the river, with easy access to shops and other Colleges, King's is one of the closest to the Divinity Faculty, which is five minutes away on the Sidgwick Site (see map) and houses a specialist TRPR library. The University Library is also just behind the Fellows' Garden.

Theology students come from many different backgrounds and go on to a wide variety of careers. Recent King’s graduates in the subject have gone on into business, law, journalism, the Civil Service, music, charity administration, publishing, and teaching in both schools and universities.

Director of Studies in TRPR at King’s

Stephen Cherry

Revd Dr Stephen Cherry is the Director of Studies in Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion and also the Dean of Chapel at King’s. He has recently published a book about sin (The Dark Side of the Soul, Continuum, 2016), as a follow-up his to his book on forgiveness (Healing Agony, Continuum, 2012).

Students at King's study options from the whole range of the TRPR course, and the Director of Studies arranges appropriate teaching for each student with subject specialists as well as ensuring support for the first year language learning.

What are we looking for?

Here are some of the qualities we seek in candidates for Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion:

  • lively curiosity;
  • an inclination to ask more questions rather than be satisfied with easy answers;
  • an interest in, and respect for, the way people have formulated religious beliefs in the past;
  • the mindset of both a philosopher and a historian, that is, an appetite for both ideas themselves and how they fit historically and contextually.

To apply to study TRPR

We welcome applications from students who look able to meet our entrance requirements from any kind of school, all over the world.

The application process for all subjects is explained on our how to apply page, which we advise applicants to read thoroughly in combination with the details below about what subject interests you need, the TRPR pre-interview-assessment, written work, and interviews.

Subject requirements

Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion is one of those subjects that you can start more or less from scratch here. Of course some people move on to it from enjoying Religious Studies at school, whether they preferred the more traditionally 'religious' or the 'ethics' side of it, but many come to it from other backgrounds. In fact, we welcome applications from anyone who is doing well at school and wants to explore this varied and challenging area intellectually.

You need to appreciate that it is largely an essay-based subject, and to enjoy working with words, and the opportunity to learn the basics of a Scriptural language. But most of all you will want to do theology because you are fascinated by some of the deeper questions that have faced human beings over the centuries, and have a real desire to learn about how people have approached them and how religion has impacted and does impact on life.

If you are choosing school subjects and would like some guidance, do see the advice on subject choices.

pre-interview assessment

All candidates for Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion at King's are asked to take a pre-interview written assessment for TRPR, which will take place in schools and other assessment centres on 2 November 2016. You must be registered in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment. The registration deadline is 15 October 2016. Your assessment centre must register you for the pre-interview assessment (you can't register yourself).

Information about written assessments
Including assessment centres and how registration works
The pre-interview assessment for TRPR
The format, content specification and example questions.

Your performance in the pre-interview assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.

written work

Once you have applied, you will be asked to submit a recent essay or equivalent piece of school work. Further details will be available on the written work page from early September.

Interviews

Most (but not all) candidates are invited for interview in King's, which take place in early December. Interviews are with the Director of Studies in TRPR at King's and another academic in a related subject. In the half hour before the interview you will be asked to read some relevant material which we will discuss with you in the interview.

You will also be asked to go to another College for a second interview. This additional interview allows the other College to assess you so that, should King’s be unable to make an offer, the second college will be able to consider doing so or to offer more information to people in other Colleges should your application be placed in the pool.

Information about the interview options for international candidates are on the International Students page.

Introductory reading, resources and events

There is no required reading material for Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion applications. Candidates should feel free to follow their own interests. If you are not sure where to start, the King's Director of Studies recommends the following books in particular:

  • Aldridge,A., Religion in the Contemporary World (Polity Press, 2000)
  • Davies,B., An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford University Press, new edition, 2004)
  • Ford, David F., Theology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • Mickelthwait, J., & Wooldridge, A., God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World (Allen Lane, 2009)
  • Rogerson, J.W., An Introduction to the Bible (Allen Lane, 1999)

We also provide further preparation advice and reading suggestions for TRPR applications, a New Testament Greek website, and general advice about developing your interests. The subject resources page has a tag for posts on Humanities, which you might like to browse.

Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include the Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion Open Day, Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, and King's Open Days. Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.

Further Information

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