Total CreditsSpecial Requirements
PhD381048Comprehensive Examinations

Doctor of Philosophy In Practical Theology

With Concentration in Religion and Culture


Purpose and Goals

The ‘Religion and Culture’ Major, established in the Doctor of Philosophy degree program, aims to reconstruct Christian theology more appropriately for modern society and carry out practical tasks required of Christianity and the church. More specifically, the Religion and Culture Major provides the ability for pastors, missionaries, or lay leaders to respond to the needs of contemporary society more effectively by further enhancing their expertise in their activities, such as preaching and missions, with the help of professional research in this field. In other words, based on the academic system of the relationship between religion and culture, it aims to support the cultivation of theology and the church, thereby communicating with the world through literary imagination, historical interpretation, and philosophical criticism, along with social scientific analysis centered on civilization criticism.

For this purpose, the Religion and Culture Major presupposes a more intensive awareness of contemporary society as follows. In a situation where the topography of the world’s mental culture, such as politics, economy, and society, is rapidly changing, Korea is also changing rapidly. In addition, the Korean diaspora spread all over the world, including the Korean American community, is living in a completely different era of upheaval. The current state of religion and mission field are no exception, and in many other countries as well as Korea, many tasks such as the decrease in the Protestant population and the decline in social public confidence in the post-religious situation are pouring into the Christian and theological circles. The reasons are complex, but one of the main reasons is that the church does not understand the world and cannot communicate with society. Moreover, the external factor that denies the existence or meaning of religion itself is rapidly increasing. Therefore, today, living in the post-religious era of post-Christian society, we should not only look at Christianity introspectively but also pursue a more detailed analysis of the reality of religion throughout society. If the reality of life as a whole is characterized by culture, it is for this reason that introspective exploration of such culture is essential. The Religion and Culture Major is a theoretical yet practical field composed of such critical approach to our urgent goal.


Program Learning Outcomes

To this end, in <Religion and Culture Major>, studies of religion reinterpret the meaning of the Christian gospel in a multi-religious situation where many religions coexist, and constitute a curriculum that can have greater persuasion to modern people. Meanwhile, studies of culture consist of a practical curriculum so that it can be applied more effectively in today’s secularized multi-religious postmodern society. Upon completion of this degree program, students will have the following abilities:

Through this course, pastors in the ministry field will be able to hone wider and deeper wisdom and insight for preaching, and missionaries in the mission field will be able to develop effective evangelism and contextualized mission theories. This is because ministry and mission are wisdom rather than knowledge, and insight rather than skill. By focusing professionally on the reconstruction of religious language and the understanding of other cultures, which are more urgently required in the preaching field of pastors and missionary field of missionaries, such goals can be achieved more effectively.
For lay leaders who want to work in the professional field, it will be a full-fledged help to develop themselves as world Christians by adding depth to theological knowledge beyond the church’s religious education. Through this, they will be able to do professional activities as lay ministers, whose demand is increasing more and more today.
<Religion and Culture Major> will equip students with the ability to participate in original research and writing by integrally reconstructing social problems and solutions. Furthermore, it is of course that they will have the educational capacity suitable for higher education and the ability to engage the community in the church and community environment.
Admission Requirements

Students applying to the PhD in Practical Theology must have completed either a Master of Divinity degree or a master’s degree in theology or the educational equivalent from an accredited educational institution. Applicants must also have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in all previous graduate work. Applicants must complete all of the required coursework prior to enrollment to the PhD program. Students whose primary language is Korean must demonstrate competency in English before making application for qualifying examinations either by examination or by taking an approved course for academic credit.



The PhD degree program is composed of coursework, directed studies/tutorial, and dissertation. Students must successfully complete 48 semester credits for graduation.

Coursework (32 credits) 4X8
Directed Studies (8 credits) 4X2
Research Languages and Method
Comprehensive Examinations
Dissertation (8 credits) 4+4



Basic Requirements for Practical Theology (2 courses / 8 credits)

PT801   Research Methodology for Practical Theology (4 credits)

This foundational course deals with the research methodology to construct the theoretical foundation of practical theology. Students will have the opportunity to reflect theologically by developing key agendas in the contemporary context with the aim of contributing to the pursuit of values for theology towards society and the role of the church. Particular focuses will be placed upon the anthropological reflection for the practical reconstruction of theological agendas.

PT802   Biblical-Theological Foundation for Practical Theology (4 credits)

This course has the purpose of constructing the biblical basis and theological foundation for the major field established by the school among the practical theology fields. Through this course, students will be able to secure the basis of biblical justification of their practical concerns for applying to specific fields according to personal interests.


Religion (3 courses / 12 credits)

 RC811   Christian Thoughts and Contemporary Hermeneutics (4 credits)     

In order to understand our present age, it is essential to look back at the history that has flowed from the past. For the background of the birth of Christianity, it examines the beginning and development of Christianity in the trajectory of the history of civilization after the premise of the process from the idea of civilization to ancient times. However, the past alone is not history, so in order to examine the meaning that must be possessed toward the present and future, we set up a structure that penetrates it, and through this, we try to understand Christianity in the context of the history of civilization through the wefts and warps of structure and history. Then, it concludes with hermeneutic reflection to understand the contemporary spirit of the times. Through this, preachers and missionaries will develop the ability to reconstruct and provide the meaning and value of Christianity in a more realistic way for contemporary people living today.

RC812   Theory of Religion and World Religions (4 credits)

Religious studies is an objective study of religion. Theology and religious studies deal with similar subjects, but with different methodologies. If theology approaches a religious phenomenon or a specific topic through ‘engagement’, religious studies approaches it through ‘at distance’. This course studies world religions with a value-free attitude that distances itself from religious phenomena and a multi-disciplinary approach that utilizes methodologies from various disciplines. First, it explores the etymology, history, and basic theories of what religion is, and later explores world religions in the age of secularization through various religious research methodologies such as sociology of religion, phenomenology of religion, psychology of religion, economics of religion, and comparative religion.

RC813   Christian Self-Identity and Other-Relatedness in Multi-Religious Context (4 credits)

After the early days when Christianity was persecuted, it rose very rapidly as the religion of the reigning emperor and secured a foothold for globalization. However, it reached the age of no religion in contemporary scene after passing through the ages of dereligionizing and anti-religion. Furthermore, by facing the problem of the status of Christianity, which has become more confused in a situation where other religions coexist, it is a desirable way to set as a task various concerns about how Christians should establish their own identity and relate to people of other religions or non-religious people at the same time. This course will directly contribute to the contemporary needs for the renovation of preaching at pastoral setting or teaching at mission setting.


Culture (3 courses / 12 credits)

RC821   Contemporary Theology of Culture and the Role of Christianity (4 credits)

This course will examine one of the most comprehensive cultural theologies, which presented a dense theological analysis of modern culture, and reinterpret its reflections on how to recover and perform the role that religion should play on that basis. Through this, we seek new methods that are more suitable for our situation, while extracting wisdom and insight to play a proper role of Christianity and church for our society and culture.

RC822   Theory and Practice of Christian Apologetics in Religiously Plural Society (4 credits)

Apologetics is a religious discipline that defends religious doctrine through systematic debate and discourse. Among them, Christian apologetics is a field of Christian theology that proves the existence of God and defends the issues raised about the Christian faith. When inviting non-Christians to believe in Christianity, it is helpful to use the method of apologetics, so apologetics can be understood as a form of missiology or practical theology. This lecture examines the classic theories and the latest trends in Christian apologetics, the proof of God’s existence, and the core of the Christian gospel, and based on this, aims to develop apologetic preaching and evangelism theories in today’s secularized pluralistic society.

RC823   Intercultural Communication and Cultural Anthropology for World Christianity (4 credits)

If expansion through unilateral missions was the basic method in the history of Christianity, not only in the early days and the Middle Ages, but also in modern times, it has been more than half a century since we have been deeply reflecting on the many tragic side effects caused by such cultural imperialistic missions. Now, cultural exchanges are so frequent that they cannot be compared with previous times, so cross-cultural communication is needed in line with the increasing demand for new methods for the reconstruction of Christianity shared by the world, rather than Christianity in a specific region. Through cultural anthropology, realistic and concrete measures are sought for.


Directed Studies (2 courses / 8 credits)

Students are expected to take two courses in Directed Studies for their individual research towards dissertation. Directed Studies may be taken for expanding and deepening the individual issues and concerns through intensive reading and writing under the supervision of dissertation advisor for one course and a professor of other major area for another.

PT811   Directed Study I (4 credit): with dissertation advisor.

PT812   Directed Study II (4 credits):  with another faculty member of dissertation committee.


Research Languages

WMU regards a working knowledge of at least two languages as fundamental tools for doctoral work. It recognizes that these languages may vary with the demands of a student’s course of study, research focus, and guild membership. Students admitted to the WMU PhD are required to show reading mastery of two secondary research languages along with such primary-text languages as their courses of study, and individual research agendas require. Mastery is typically demonstrated through WMU administered examinations. No language work done prior to entering will satisfy this requirement.

Typically, these two secondary languages for scholarly research have been French and German. Students may substitute other secondary research languages when they can demonstrate that such languages figure prominently in the field of scholarship which they intend to enter and play an important role in their own research agenda. Students may make such substitutions by petition to the Director. If English is not a student’s primary language, s/he may request substitutions of language requirements with English and his/her own native language. Student must pass WMU English test, with the minimum level of 70 out of 100.


Comprehensive Examinations

The primary purpose of comprehensive examinations is to build and demonstrate broad knowledge in the areas of the examinations, the ability to think critically in these areas, and the ability to think deeply about particular issues and thinkers. More specifically, the process of comprehensive examination research, preparation, and examination builds upon and goes beyond course work, serves as foundational research for the dissertation, and prepares a student to teach in the areas of the exams.

Students will take Comprehensive Examinations in Four Divisions such as Basic Requirements, Religion, Culture, and Directed Studies, after the completion of Coursework (40 units) under the supervision of the program director. Some of the areas of research and bibliography for the comprehensive examinations are assigned by the faculty; in other areas, students and faculty negotiate research questions and bibliography for their exams. It is the faculty’s responsibility to require specific research questions and bibliography necessary to ensure comprehensive learning. It is students’ responsibility to formulate research questions and bibliography that, in addition to the three learning goals noted above, contextualize their study as appropriate to their dissertation interests, vocational goals, and other commitments. All examinations, including the oral examination, only take place during the Fall and Spring semesters. At their discretion an individual examiner may choose to meet with a student and/or accept a paper examination during the summer months, but all proctored examinations and the subsequent oral examination must be scheduled during the Fall or Spring semesters.


Dissertation (3 Steps / 8 credits)

The dissertation must be based on independent research and must demonstrate the student’s competence in the fields and methods that are foundational to this doctoral program and the capacity to contribute new knowledge to the field. A limit of approximately 200-300 pages is placed on the length of Ph.D. dissertations, excluding Table of Contents, Bibliography, and Appendices (charts, graphs, tables, etc.). Dissertations beyond or below this limit must have approval of the Dissertation Committee prior to submission of the second draft. All Ph.D. dissertations must meet the formatting and editorial standards specified on the dissertation guide in the WMU PhD Handbook.

PT820   Doctoral Colloquium (0 credits)

Once a student passes the Comprehensive Examinations, s/he submits a prospectus for the doctoral dissertation one month prior to a new semester for approval. Students are expected to submit a dissertation prospectus of 10 to 20 pages in length to the adviser for the approval. Doctoral colloquium is designed for a student to prepare his/her dissertation prospectus through the continuous process of presentation of proposal and revisions by the advisor and the director. Upon approval by the dissertation advisor, s/he may proceed to write his/her dissertation.

 PT821   Research Clinic for Doctoral Dissertation (4 credits)

This course introduces basic method of writing dissertation, including the final approval of the official prospectus for the dissertation.  This course places its focus more on the contents of individual interests and concerns to use them towards his/her dissertation. Results must be submitted in the form of dissertation prospectus.

PT822   Dissertation and Oral Defense (4 credits)      

The dissertation is the result of reflective integration of course materials and extensive scholarly research centered on the student’s academic focus and educational experiences. The dissertation should include thorough literature review and students’ actual ministerial or missionary experiences. Dissertation should demonstrate the student’s outstanding competence in the integration of religion and culture regarding the context of the ministerial preaching or missionary education.

The length of the dissertation should not be less than 200 pages nor exceed 300 pages without the expressed approval of the advisor. During the entire process of dissertation writing, the student and the advisor are expected to interact regularly regarding the structure, content, and style of the dissertation. When the student needs extra semesters to work on his/her dissertation, s/he can take extra credits in Dissertation Continuation I-IV (1 credit each) to complete.

When the dissertation is ready for formal submission, the advisor and the student should choose four additional examiners to evaluate it, two of whom can be an expert in other discipline than religion and culture to provide the interdisciplinary perspective. Oral defense should be completed in May or December for the timely graduation.