Crossing Boundaries
New Interdisciplinary Doctorate Keeps Faith Communities at the Forefront

Photos by Duke University Photography

Amy Laura Hall, Director of the Doctor of Theology Program, answers questions from Divinity about the new degree and the first class of eight students.

Dr. Amy Laura Hall

The Rev. Dr. Amy Laura Hall is the author of Kierkegaard and the Treachery of Love (Cambridge University Press, 2002) and Conceiving Parenthood: The Protestant Spirit of Biotechnological Reproduction (Eerdmans, forthcoming).

A member of the Bioethics Task Force of the United Methodist Church, Hall is an ordained elder and has served in both suburban and urban parishes.

DIVINITY: What key characteristic defines the Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) program?

HALL: Interdisciplinarity. The program encourages students to think and write across the boundaries of the four traditional disciplines in theological study: Bible, history, theology and ministerial studies.

Through this program we recognize the pastoral, moral and ecclesial passions that drive the most creative, bright individuals to seek disciplined doctoral work in the first place.

Our best students are making a particular type of witness, helping their professors, colleagues and students discern the difference between personal, scholarly ambition and genuine Christian vocation.

DIVINITY: How does the Th.D. differ from the other degree programs in theology and religion at Duke?

HALL: Our goal is an academically rigorous doctoral program for service to the theological academy as central to communities of faith. Our students will seek answers to questions emerging in the lives and practices of actual communities of faith.

For example, current student Andrew Thompson has recently written for a major ecclesial newspaper on the importance of engaging young adults with the riches of the Christian tradition, rather than meeting them in some supposedly appealing world of video-games and flavored coffee drinks.

Another student, Arnold Oh, is taking courses in post-colonial and historical studies in order to forge a field of missions and evangelism that truly attends to the mistakes of a Western past. These are only two examples.

I believe the resources for such answers, as well as better questions, may come from texts written in the 5th century as well as from texts written in the 21st. We will see students in this program asking key questions about race and identity, for instance, through close readings of Augustine’s City of God. It’s also a program where a student may read the Pauline corpus with probing questions for the construction of gender in the Christian community.

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