The Master of Arts in Theological Studies (M.A.T.S.) fosters development of theological understanding as part of educational, professional, and spiritual growth. The M.A.T.S. is a general academic degree, providing balanced exposure to the theological disciplines while allowing for focus on an area of interest. This degree is appropriate for students who:
• Are not seeking ordination but wish to work in a church setting.
• Are ordained but need further academic work in theological studies.
• Wish to enhance one’s understanding of theological perspectives and religious practices for personal growth or to relate to another professional field.
The program allows for concentration in a field of study to a greater extent than the M.Div. requirements generally permit. The faculty and disciplines are organized into three curricular areas: (1) Biblical Studies, (2) Church History & Theology, and (3) Ministry & Spirituality. The specific learning outcomes of the M.A.T.S. degree are to:
• Know a selected theological discipline.
• Analyze and comprehend major questions in the field and alternative solutions to them.
• Formulate and effectively explain an original solution to a theological problem.
The M.A.T.S. requires a total of 16 semester courses (48 units). Nine of the courses are to be distributed evenly among the three major theological disciplines of the SFTS M.Div. curriculum (Biblical studies, History/Theology, Ministry/Spirituality) and the remaining seven courses may be used to provide more depth in an area of particular interest. Courses in the field of Functional Theology (e.g., field education courses) do not fulfill degree requirements.
M.A.T.S. students also write a substantial paper under the guidance of a faculty advisor—either for an upper-level course or as an independent project—as the culminating experience of the program.
Students with a baccalaureate degree who have done graduate studies in theology at an accredited institution of higher education with at least a 3.0 (B) average may transfer or apply up to eight courses (24 semester units) toward the M.A.T.S. degree requirements.
Biblical Studies: 3 courses
• Introduction to the Old Testament (OT 1070)
• Old Testament I (OT 1200)
• Old Testament II (e.g. OT 2142)
• New Testament I (NT 1004)
• New Testament II (NT 1005)
• Exegesis: OT/Hebrew (e.g. OT 3275) and NT/Greek (e.g. NT 2000)
This course offers a critical introduction to the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible wherein students will learn about the various contexts in which the literature, histories and ideologies of Scripture evolved. The processes from origina, oral transmission of prose and poetry to the formation of canonical books will be investigated. Different streams of tradition (theologies) within the text will be interrogated. Students will be challenged to read aspects of the Hebrew Bible through a variety of hermeneutical lenses.
PAULINE EPISTLES This course is an introduction to the life, work, and theology of Paul as they are reflected in his epistles in the New Testament and in other related documents within and outside the NT. The course will reconstruct Paul's life and ministry and survey his letters in their chronological order. Special attention will be paid to the particular historical circumstances and theological concerns of each letter. The primary mode of inquiry in this course is historical-critical, but hermeneutical questions will also be raised with regard to the application of Pauline theology to current theological issues. Lecture and discussion. Midterm exam and final research paper.
This course is a general introduction to the canonical and apocryphal Gospels and Acts in early Christian literature. Major methodological issues in current Gospel scholarship will be introduced first. Then, each text of the Gospels and Acts will be interpreted in terms of its literary characteristics, historical background and theological ideas. Throughout the course, explicitly or implicitly, hermeneutical implications of the critical interpretation of the bible will be raised and discussed. The Gospels emerge in social and complex political context of the Roman Empire. This course examines the Gospels and contemporaneous texts within their first-century Greco-Roman contexts (especially Jewish contexts), pays attention to archaeological and inscriptional materials of the time, and demonstrates contemporary hermeneutical strategies, including feminist and postcolonial. Students will also consider the controversial contemporary contexts in which they and others interpret the New Testament.
Other – Course may be chosen at the discretion of the student, with approval from their academic advisor.
Church History, Theology, Ethics: 3 courses
• Church History I (HS 1080)
• Church History II (HS 1081)
• Theology I (ST 1084)
• Theology II (ST 1085)
• Ethics or Public Religion (e.g. CE 2011)
CE Elective: Ethics Any CE Elective course in Ethics may be chosen at the discretion of the student, with approval of their academic advisor.
Alternate courses may be chosen at the discretion of the student, with the approval of their academic advisor.
CHRISTIANITY FROM JEWISH SECT TO COLONIAL CHURCHES This course is an introduction to the history of Christianity and historical theology from the second to the seventeenth centuries. During this time, Christianity developed the main features of what is today the world's largest religion. Along the way, Christianity was transformed again and again as it adapted to vastly different, changing cultural and social environments. This course is about Christianity in the real world. You will learn how to study the origins and development of beliefs and practices, but you will also study much more. The course will introduce you to the continuities and varieties of Christian experience and belief in different times and places, from the Roman Empire to Persia, China, Africa, Europe, and Latin America, and you will be introduced to the complexity of Christianity's social, cultural, and political entanglements in all these places. The course will help you learn to break down real life situations and understand the fine points at which religious innovation and change occur, even when people try to resist change or return to the past. Audio files of weekly lectures, illustrated with slides, and videos are provided for each week. Readings from primary sources in translation are indicated on the course schedule. The readings will illustrate history, but more importantly, they will give you the opportunity to develop basic skills in assessing and evaluating the belief and behavior of religious communities in the real world. Weekly exercises will ask you to apply analytical skills, draw conclusions, and communicate them to your peers. You will be introduced to the history of the interpretation of the bible on the example of commentaries on the first day of creation in Genesis 1. You will learn about the historical entanglement of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. You will read and study several theological and mystical classics. You will be exposed to the politics, ideas, and actions that gave rise to Protestantism and the intimate relationship of Protestant and Catholic reforms. You will discover the birth of the tension between theology and natural science. Finally, you will be encouraged to apply the critical skills and aptitudes you are developing in your study of the past to situations of religious life, leadership, and service today.
CHRISTIANITY FROM COLONIAL CHURCHES TO GLOBAL RELIGION This course is an introduction to the history of Christianity from the Sixteenth century to the present. During this time, Christianity became the largest religion in the world. Along the way, it was transformed again and again as it adapted to vastly different, changing cultural, social, and political environments. Topics will include the roles of Christian churches in European colonialism, the impact of expanding cultural networks across the globe on religious knowledge, cultural hybridization; Christianity and the rise of nation-states; the conflict of religion and science; the role of Christianity in slavery and in anti-slavery, suffrage, fascist, and labor movements; the rise and fall of American denominations; and the competition of orthodox and pluralistic theologies. Lectures, readings in primary sources, discussions. Midterm and final examinations (term papers may be substituted).
The first semester of a two-semester introduction to Christian theology. Beginning with the meaning of religious faith, we move into the method question of the relation between divine revelation and the authority of scripture, human reason and experience. From there, we investigate the meaning of God using ancient and contemporary Trinitarian theology, Reformed theologian John Calvin, feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson, and Latin American theologian Gustavo Gutierrez. We conclude with differing understandings of creation, and God's relationship to human suffering. Three exams (with option of substituting papers for exams). This course is the prerequisite for ST 1085, Systematic Theology II. Auditors with Faculty permission.
This course is the second semester of a two-semester introduction to Christian theology. The purpose is to help the student gain a basic knowledge of the principal topics of the theology of the universal Church, especially as these topics are understood in the Reformed tradition and in conversation with feminist and other contemporary theologies. Beginning with the doctrine of humanity, we look at our original goodness and our fall into relational forms of sin as pride, despair and denial. Next, we look at the person and work of Jesus Christ, from a variety of perspectives. We look deeply at the meaning of our being "saved by grace through faith alone," and the roles of the divine Spirit and human spirit in bringing about our healing. We conclude with the nature of the Christian spiritual life, including sanctification and vocation, the Church and its mission in the world and sacraments.
A foundational course in Christian social ethics from the perspective of several twentieth century moral theologians. The focus of the reading is ethical method, so this course fulfills the SFTS requirement for ethics. We will pay attention to recurrent themes and issues, love, forgiveness and justice, non-violence, coercion, and violence, universal validity of principles and cultural relativism. The second half of the semester will investigate the value of human rights theory (an instance of universal moral norms) through the lens of Native American history, theology and ethics. Auditors with faculty permission.
Practical Theology, Spirituality: 3 courses
• Reformed Worship (LSFT 2525)
• Vital Worship in the 21st Century (FT 2172)
Alternate courses may be chosen at the discretion of the student with the approval of their academic advisor.
This course is designed to introduce students to the nature and practice of worship and the sacraments in the Reformed Tradition. Worship and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper are studied biblically, historically, and theologically, as well as in contemporary settings. Worship ad pastoral issues attendant to the celebration of weddings and funerals are examined. Skills necessary to leading worship effectively are rehearsed. Preparation for the PC (USA) Ordination Exams included in lectures and discussion materials.
Worship is the portal through which visitors find a spiritual home, members grow in their practices, and the whole congregation is inspired to "go and do likewise" in the world. The need is great for vital worship at the epicenter of congregational life. This course will explore the depths of spirituality, excellence of practice in sensory-rich communication and intentional preparation needed by leaders of the 21st century church for worship that revitalizes congregations.
Students in the M.A.T.S. program will take differing classes depending on their chosen concentration. These courses will fall under the categories/emphasis of topics such as Christian Education, Polity, Spirituality, Mission/Evangelism, and Church Administration. Please consult with your academic advisor for further information.
Special Emphasis (Optional)
Students may take a total of 5 elective courses for the optional special emphasis. Course may be chosen at the discretion of the student, with approval from their academic advisor.
Reading course/ 4000 level course
MA-4090: M.A.T.S. THESIS WORK This course is used to reflect work in progress for the M.A.T.S. paper requirement for graduation. See the registrar to be enrolled in this course. [Faculty Consent required]
Final paper title
MA-5000: IN THESIS All Masters level students in the GTU community should use this designation if they are working on their thesis.
This course is used to reflect work in progress for the MATS paper requirement for graduation. Faculty Consent required.
For additional program information, please see the M.A.T.S. Student Handbook.