Academics

Programs

The M.Th. program is designed to offer a general introduction to Oriental Orthodox theology through the introductory graduate level study of church history, dogmatics, ethics, scripture, patristics, spirituality and liturgics.

The Master of Theological Studies (MTS) in Eastern Christianity and the Contemporary World is a 36-credit hour (2-year) graduate degree comprised of six taught modules and a 14,000-word dissertation.

The humanities are at the heart of Agora University and its wide-ranging, interdisciplinary curriculum focused on the most important ideas of human civilization discussed through Eastern Christian wisdom.

Master of Theology

in Oriental Orthodox Theology

Agora University is offering a Master of Theology (M.Th.) in Orthodox Theology. Candidates for the M.Th. must successfully complete the first three terms of Graduate courses in Orthodox Theology. The candidate will then start research under the guidance of an advisor. The candidate will be expected to submit a research thesis of about 14,000 words in one term. The M.Th. program is 36 credit hours (27 Courses + 9 Thesis). The program tailored to young professionals who have busy schedules yet are able to dedicate 10 to 15 hours of reading and writing per week. The program is designed to engage with roots of Eastern Christianity and make them relevant to our contemporary challenges. The program of study is 3 courses per term for 3 terms. Each course is 15 weeks and requires a total of 2 research papers.

The M.Th. program is designed to offer a general introduction to Oriental Orthodox theology through the introductory graduate level study of church history, dogmatics, scripture, patristics, spirituality and liturgics. In addition to three semesters of academic study, students are afforded the opportunity to write a master thesis in a specialized area of study.

The MTh program outcomes are intended to prepare students to:

  • Understand diachronic approaches to Orthodox Christian theology.
  • Articulate a holistic understanding of the Orthodox religious heritage.
  • Think theologically and critically about the Orthodox Christian tradition both historically and within contemporary church and society.
  • Communicate coherently, effectively, and persuasively in writing.
  • Construct in a thesis a coherent, sustained theological argument in an area of specialized study.

Introduction to Orthodox Theology and Methodology

Description: This course explores an introductory discussion of the nature of theology. The aim of this course is to highlight the two-fold nature of theology both as an encounter of the human soul/heart and an expression of the human mind. Basic and fundamental themes and concepts of Orthodox theology will be discussed. Various sources, resources, and methodologies will be discussed to show the inner-coherence of theological loci and their relevance to everyday life.

Church History I: The Early Church                             

Description: This course provides a survey of the history of the Christian Church from an Orthodox perspective from the coming of our Lord to the Council of Chalcedon (451). Topics to be covered include the Apostolic period, the Early Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils, and the development of the Church’s ecclesiology noting the beginnings of East-West divergences.

Liturgical Theology: Sanctification of Life     

Description: Here the student is introduced to the subject of Liturgical theology, Liturgical science and traditions. The readings emphasize the integral character of Baptism, Chrismation, and Eucharist constituting together the beginning of the Christian life. Also, it emphasizes the understanding of sacrament or mystery as an action of the Church, rather than a “private” rite. The course also focuses on the sacraments of penance, unction, marriage, and holy orders as well as on the liturgical services of Vespers, Matins, and the Eucharistic liturgy. It focuses on how the prayer of the Church transfigures the life of the Christian.

Holy Scripture I: Old Testament                     

Description: This course provides a survey of the Old Testament within the context of Orthodox Christian theology as well as modern biblical criticism. The course content is divided into three parts, each focusing on different aspects of Old Testament studies: Part 1 focuses on the introduction to Old Testament studies as they are presented in the modern era; Part 2 is a (re)reading of the major portions of the Old Testament in light of the modern scholarly conversation; Part 3 looks at Byznato-Chalcedonian approach to the Old Testament in the modern era as a dialogue partner with our own Orthodox tradition within the non-Chalcedonian communion.

Church History II: The Oriental Church             

Description: Council of Chalcedon to the present day by tracing key historical events and themes to gain a better understanding of the Oriental Orthodox Christian tradition and its legacy in the Middle Eastern religious mosaic. The examination of this trajectory provides an opportunity to delve into the Oriental Orthodox viewpoint of Christian history. Participants analyse historical themes in order to strengthen their knowledge of and develop an appreciation for this tradition.

Holy Scripture II: New Testament   

Description: A survey of the New Testament, this course covers the life and redemptive work of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the early development of the Church through the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles. Readings outside of scripture set the historical background for the reading of the primary texts.

Pastoral Theology and Spirituality        

Description: The purpose of this course is to help the student understand the basics of pastoral care, with an emphasis on “foundations,” covering both theories and types of personalities and various methods in pastoral care. It will also help the student to discern the most important elements of the Spiritual life in the Eastern Christian experience. The course will highlight the importance of prayer and encounter as a key to theology and the different aspects of spiritual life.

Patristics

Description: This course surveys the Church Fathers of the East and the West. Despite the emphasis of the course on the Fathers who wrote in Greek and Latin, it will touch on the Fathers who wrote on other languages like Syriac, Coptic, and Arabic. This Course also introduces the student to the historical context of the various Church Fathers. It also aims to give biographic information about those Fathers, their writings, how their thoughts were shaped, and what contributed to their formation. It then explores the literature of the various Fathers, the specific characteristics of each of them, and the contribution of the literature on the overall Christian thought that was preserved by the Church. Introducing the Patristic literature would require us to be introduced to the heretical teachings that urged the Fathers to confront them by their orthodox teachings.

The Theology of Christian Mission        

Description: This course explores the theological evolution of Christian Mission with particular emphasis on Orthodox theology of mission. It provides an account of multiple ranges of biblical, theological, and liturgical perspectives of the theology of mission. By analyzing the works of Orthodox mission theologians, the course explains the relevance of the Orthodox mission theology in today's global and local contexts. It furnishes relevant missional narratives from various historical contexts for illustrating the Orthodox mission practices. The course also examines the salient features of mission theology in other Christian traditions to encourage a more comprehensive understanding of the theology of Orthodox Christian mission.

Master Thesis              

Description: Students will research, write and submit their 14,000-word Master thesis under the guidance of a supervisor from the Faculty. The University will assign a second reader. Typically, students have six months to complete and submit the dissertation.

The Master’s thesis concludes the Master’s program. The preparation and supervision of the thesis both take place during the last term. Initially, students will develop a research question for their thesis with feedback from fellow students. For this purpose, they will decide on a research method and topic that corresponds with their Master’s specialization and they will develop this into a preliminary draft. The next step is to find a supervisor with expertise in the chosen subject or the chosen research method. Students complete these steps individually. The Master’s thesis is completed at the end of the last semester.

Aim

By completing the Master’s thesis, students will demonstrate their academic ability, i.e. their ability to think critically, write according to academic standards, and conduct independent research that is critical, methodical, and systematic. In concrete terms, students must show their insight into a theme and in at least one or more methods of approaching that theme by clearly identifying a well-defined research problem in scholarly debates followed by logically structured arguments supported by evidence.

Master of Theological Studies

in the Christian East and the Contemporary World

The Master of Theological Studies (MTS) in Eastern Christianity and the Contemporary World is a 36-credit hour graduate degree comprised of six taught modules and a 14,000-word dissertation. Each term has two online modules where lectures, seminars, and other research related activities are provided.

Each module is comprised of 15 weeks of study. Within each week you will read required material in addition to researching other sources. During each module, you will engage in online discussions moderated by your lecturer. The remaining time of your module is reserved for your private research and writing. Typically, each module will require that you submit 2 research papers. An average paper is 3000 words. It is possible to register for studying a-la-carte modules. For example, you can take one or two modules if you are interested in a topic but are not planning on pursuing the MTS degree.

At the end of your taught modules and upon satisfaction of the academic requirements, you will then advance to independent research where you will write your 14,000-word Master dissertation. The dissertation topic must be approved by one of the faculty members of Agora University who will act as a first reader. Agora University will then appoint a second reader based on the topic. Typically, students have six months to complete and submit the dissertation.  There are three 6 credit hour modules, three 3 credit modules and a 9-credit hour thesis.

The student will utilize the knowledge and skills attained through studying the theological foundations of Orthodox Christianity as a hermeneutic to understand contemporary issues, to challenge inaccurate or unsupported claims, to make careful comparisons across time, space, and culture, and to take an informed position as students at an international university and as global citizen.

The MTS program outcomes are intended to prepare students to:

  • Equip students with the framework and tools to engage with contemporary challenges from Eastern Christian Wisdom.
  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of the specified theological discipline.
  • Exhibit a focused knowledge in a chosen theological discipline.
  • Conduct research and construct a theological argument.
  • Communicate coherently, effectively, and persuasively in writing.
  • Interpret and apply theological knowledge in relation to contemporary issues.
  • Construct in a thesis a coherent, sustained theological argument in an area of specialized study.

The Christian Doctrine of God and Diversity 

Description: We study the development of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and related themes from Scripture to the 20th century. We pay close attention to significant texts in the Christian tradition (including creedal statements, and the writings of Origen, Augustine, and others), and to discussions of the doctrine of the trinity and its relationship to diversity. The course requires careful reading of key primary texts and secondary sources.

The Old Testament and Suffering

Description: In this course, we will be examining the phenomenon of human suffering as our approach to encountering the scriptures, focusing on the Old Testament. By exploring the notion of suffering in the human condition, we will unlock some of the more important points of Christian theology that will provide us with the exegetical framework for reading, understanding, and integrating the Old Testament narrative into our lives.

Healing and the Word

Description: This course looks at the matter of the textualization of the incarnation event as the remedy for the ailing human condition and is a companion piece to the course Suffering and the Scriptures. In this course, students will approach the message of the Gospel from the lens of healing, examining the formation of the New Testament in light of the early Christian movement amidst the backdrop of the emergence of rabbinical Judaism and the transition from Hellenic to Roman rule in the region.

From Cult to Culture: Retrieval and Re-appropriation in Orthodox Liturgy

Description: This course examines the fundamental elements of Eastern Christian worship as it developed in the early centuries of the Church, in order to historically ground subsequent theological discussion of contemporary renewal. After several weeks exploring the common repository of Orthodox liturgical tradition, we consider examples of current scholarship on the extant Rites in use among the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches: Armenian, West Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian, East Syrian and Byzantine. The selected readings showcase key scholars in the field, highlight the value of comparative and interdisciplinary methodologies, and illustrate the challenges of integrating history and theology with pastoral practice. The final weeks invite students to synthesize what they have learned by means of reflection on their own identity as worshippers in the modern world—with all its challenges: how does the beauty of the Lex Orandi (“rule of prayer”) relate to the truth of the Lex Credenda (“rule of belief”), while also cultivating the goodness of an authentic spirituality, that is, a faithful and fruitful Christian Lex Vivendi (“rule of living”)?

Church, Culture and Tradition  

Description: Church, Culture, and Tradition is a 3-credit module, which aims to investigate the meaning of the Church and its diverse expressions through a study of ecclesiology, Tradition and culture. The module will start by defining the term ‘Tradition’ followed by an overview of the true identity of the Church and its expression within different contexts throughout history. The module will then discuss our contemporary context and the appropriate ways of engaging with a theology of incultration by incarnating in a multi-cultural and pluralistic society.

Second Century Christians: Politics and Ethics

Description: This course will focus on certain aspects of Second century Christianity along with its implications and applications on everyday life. The main aim is to allow students to acquire a comprehensive view of the climate of this historical era to enable them to obtain a perception to how it is relevant to modern day Christian life. Students will be able to relate the core Christian message to the ethical dilemmas of modern societies, which in turn allows a much positive engagement in society to proclaim the kingdom of God. The course would help those who are interested in Apologetics as they will be acquainted with apologetic works of Second Century Christianity.

Anthropology of Asceticism Description: One definition of asceticism is that it is a practice of bodily discipline and self-deprivation, usually for religious purposes. Some ascetical practices include prayer, fasting, prostration, and night-vigil. While asceticism plays an important role in cultivating morality in Christianity generally speaking, reducing these practices as simply reflections of religious belief diminishes their broader social importance. In order to understand asceticism, this course uses anthropological tools to contextualize the wider conditions that influence how ascetical practices come to be understood in different Orthodox Traditions. What do people of various socio-cultural and Orthodox Traditions understand asceticism to be? How are ascetic practices linked to the wider-socio-political conditions of respective communities? How can we understand morality in relation to asceticism? Using ethnographic and historical examples, the course considers these questions as they relate to a wide range of Orthodox contexts. It offers an overview of the ways in which anthropological analyses of ascetical life can provide scholars new perspectives with which to make sense of larger questions of theology, religious identity, politics, imagined community, nationhood, and belonging.

Master Dissertation                 

Description: Upon satisfaction of the academic requirements, you will then advance to independent research where you write your 14,000-word Master dissertation. The dissertation topic must be approved by one of the faculty members of Agora University who will act as a first reader. Agora University will then appoint a second reader based on the topic. Typically, students have six months to complete and submit the dissertation.

The Master’s thesis concludes the Master’s program. The preparation and supervision of the thesis both take place during the last term. Initially, students will develop a research question for their thesis with feedback from fellow students. For this purpose, they will decide on a research method and topic that corresponds with their Master’s specialization and they will develop this into a preliminary draft. The next step is to find a supervisor with expertise in the chosen subject or the chosen research method. Students complete these steps individually. The Master’s thesis is completed at the end of the last semester.

Aim

By completing the Master’s thesis, students will demonstrate their academic ability, i.e. their ability to think critically, write according to academic standards, and conduct independent research that is critical, methodical, and systematic. In concrete terms, students must show their insight into a theme and in at least one or more methods of approaching that theme by clearly identifying a well-defined research problem in scholarly debates followed by logically structured arguments supported by evidence.

Academic Calendar 2020/2021

Spring
Fall
MTh Application & Registration
Jan. 15 – Apr. 30
MTh Classes
Jan. 20 – May 30
Sept. 1 – Dec. 15
MTS Application & Registration
Oct. 1 – Dec. 1
July 1 – Aug. 15
MTS Classes
Jan. 20 – May 30
Sept. 15 – Dec. 20

Agora University offices are closed during the following holidays: Martin Luther, King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Eastern Orthodox Holy Week, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Week, and the final two weeks of December through January 7th of every year.

Graduate Study Guidelines

Any distance learning program is predicted on the principle of highly motivated, self-directed students making use of its structure to enhance their knowledge in a particular area or their more responsible performance of a particular function. Without motivation, a distance learning program is a joyless drudge.

However, it is the experience of the staff of Agora University that the greatest barrier to successful completion of the program is not a lack of motivation or a lack or skill, but in the simple task of organizing time and using it effectively to complete the requirements for the course. Unlike other similar Eastern Christian programs, Agora University offers a complete program, developmentally arranged, and assumes the desire and ability of the student to complete the courses on time and in sequence.

If a person has no time to do the required reading and write the required research papers, then he/she should not take the program. If, on the other hand, he/she has the time or has the ability to utilize that time which one does have, the program can give him/her a fairly complete view of Eastern Christian life and thought, i.e. relative to academic study.

The rules to succeed in our programs include taking the following into consideration:

  1. Regularity is essential. No student should assume that the best way to get all of the work done is in spurts or at the deadline of submitting papers. The program is divided into two terms per year, each comprised of four months. The assumption is that the students will be doing their readings and preparations required for each course over that extended period of time.
  2. Select a specific and, usually quiet, place to do your reading and studying. Make certain that the rest of the family knows that the place – and you – are off limits for a specified number of hours each week.
  3. Each student is encouraged to abide by the reading schedule, making allowance for predictable interruptions of a significant nature – Christmas, Easter, Great Lent, major family events, job changes, etc.
  4. Read through several pages of the materials for each course at the beginning of each term. Time yourself on a per page or per ten-page basis. This enables you to avoid the “panic” when you see that a particular work is taking too long. You will know ahead of time how much time to allocate to getting a particular book done and so set aside enough time.
  5. Estimate the number of hours per week necessary of reading for one or all three of the courses (if you prepare them simultaneously). Again, set the hours aside each week on a particular day and particular time, and do not vary from that unless there is a good and exceptional reason. That is, for instance you will work for three, three-hour time slots per week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The only rule here is that you estimate the time needed to complete the work and set it aside ahead of time.
  6. We are assuming that each course will take approximately 80 hours of reading excluding essay-writing. This amounts to approximately 240 hours over a four-month period, or 15 hours per week of actual reading time. Depending on your reading speed and comprehension, it may take more or less.
  7. Each of the lecturers has been requested to work up detailed course outlines, including reading lists, supplementary reading lists, and research questions. Do not get caught up in secondary questions, footnotes, or tangential materials. Read over the research questions, as well as the objectives, before you begin reading to get an idea of what the instructor is looking for and what he/she thinks is important in the field.