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 subject page at King’s. You will find information here about Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion at King’s, the structure of the Cambridge degree course, and information about applying as an undergraduate.

Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion 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 TRS 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 Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion 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.

The Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion Tripos

The Cambridge Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion Tripos 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 and Religious Studies. 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 students of Theology interact on a daily basis with experts in all the subjects studied within the discipline.

Director of Studies in Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion at King’s

Stephen Cherry

Revd Dr Stephen Cherry is the Dean of Chapel at King’s, and Director of Studies in Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion. He is currently writing a book about sin, as a follow-up his to his book on forgiveness (Healing Agony, Continuum, 2012).

To apply to study Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion

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

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.

We advise you to read the general advice on subject choices.

The application process for all subjects is explained on our how to apply page, which we advise applicants to read thoroughly. Further detail about applying for Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion specifically and what happens if you are invited for interview will be published here later in the year.

Students applying for Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion are asked to take a pre-interview written assessment. Information about this will be linked from here in March so do check back later in the year. You will need to register for the pre-interview written assessment by 15 October.

If you are asked to come to Cambridge for interviews, you should expect to have an interview with the Director of Studies in Theology at King's and another academic in a related subject. 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.

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 TRS 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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