Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Credit Hours


Years to Complete

  • Residential

    The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program is designed to equip you for teaching and research in colleges, theological seminaries, and universities, and for advanced church leadership.


    The depth of study and the breadth of research to reach the heights of your calling.

    What Is a Doctor of Philosophy?

    A doctor of philosophy, also known as a PhD, is a doctoral degree in a specific area of study. At Calvin Theological Seminary, this terminal degree is available in the area of theology.

    What Is a Theology PhD Program?

    Calvin Theological Seminary’s PhD focuses on Christian theology. The graduate program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree is designed to afford students advanced training in independent inquiry, academic research, critical analysis, and scholarly writing as they define their own theological positions in dialogue with other points of view. It is aimed at equipping scholars from all parts of the world for teaching and research in colleges, theological seminaries, and universities and for general ecclesiastical leadership.

    Theology Doctorate Career Opportunities

    An PhD can prepare you for many roles, including:

    • Professor: Share your knowledge through undergraduate- or graduate-level teaching.
    • Author: Curate your learning and research through written works.
    • Center or institute staff: Serve as a leader for a faith-based center, institute, think tank, or other organization that values theology.

    Learning in the Reformed tradition: Calvin Seminary is committed to the confessional and theological standards of the Christian Reformed Church, but students from all Christian traditions are welcome to apply. The academic freedom to probe the foundations of Reformed theology and to explore the validity of other approaches is a fundamental assumption of the PhD program.

    Seminary PhD Concentrations

    PhD concentrations are offered in the History of Christianity, Moral Theology (Ethics), New Testament, Philosophical Theology, and Systematic Theology.

    • History of Christianity: If you love studying history and the life of the global church, this concentration offers you a deeper study of the development of Christian communities over time.
    • Moral Theology (Ethics): For students who have a passion for ethical living, personally and communally, this concentration offers a philosophical and practical look at moral theology.
    • New Testament: Does the life of Jesus, and the acts of the early church, excite you? Do you pore over Scripture with an eagerness to understand more deeply? This concentration offers an up-close look at the New Testament of God’s living Word.
    • Philosophical Theology: If you are drawn to the work of thought provoking authors throughout time, energized by philosophical conversations with your peers, and curious about the implications of philosophy for the church and the world, this concentration is your key to open doors of the mind.
    • Systematic Theology: What is theology? Why does it matter? What is the story being told in the whole of Scripture? Explore these questions and more through the systematic theology concentration.

    What Makes the PhD Program at Calvin Different from Other Seminary PhDs?

    International Learning Community
    Calvin Seminary offers an international community of Christian scholars eager to learn from one another. Calvin is a truly global community, with students coming from over 20 countries around the world. Over 30% of students come from outside the United States and Canada.
    Calvin Seminary is a learning community in the Reformed Christian tradition that forms church leaders who cultivate communities of disciples of Jesus Christ. Here you will receive a thorough grounding in confessional Reformed thought.
    Diverse Scholarly Literature
    The program helps develop an awareness and appreciation of scholarly literature representing diverse points of view in the worldwide church today and of ways in which cultural and religious contexts challenge and enrich theological education.
    Know Your Christian History
    Students will learn about key figures and issues in the history of Christian thought and throughout church history.
    Solid Methodology
    The Calvin Seminary PhD program teaches and practices a solid methodology of theological research. You will be introduced to proper research methods and their application as well as to important theological issues and developments.
    A Broad Range of Biblical and Theological Topics
    Calvin Seminary enables teaching competency across a variety of biblical and theological topics through a broad range of coursework and comprehensive examinations. In addition, each PhD concentration provides depth and breadth of learning in a specific area.
    Insightful Pedagogy
    The PhD program offers instruction in pedagogy that provides insights, skills, and practice in teaching. Courses are innovative and engaging, built on the learning and expertise of world-class professors.
    A Supportive Community
    At Calvin Seminary you will find a supportive community from the first course to the last chapter of the dissertation. Faculty, staff, and fellow students are here to support you throughout your seminary journey.
    Significant Financial Support
    Calvin Seminary PhD students will find substantial financial support and options for reasonable living expenses. You are guaranteed to receive tuition support, between 25% and 100%.
    Library and Study Space Resources
    Calvin Seminary offers high-quality literary resources and study space. Here you will discover Hekman Library—the largest private library in Michigan, and home to an entire floor of resources devoted to theology, biblical scholarship and ministry practices.

    Learning Resources

    Resources for Supporting Your PhD Studies

    Calvin Seminary offers access to a variety of resources to supplement your PhD studies.

    Centers and Institutes

    The centers and institutes of Calvin Seminary and Calvin University are dedicated hubs of scholarship, promoting focused study and research in their fields. As a PhD student, you will have the opportunity to make connections with the centers and institutes relevant to your studies, including but not limited to:

    • Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
    • Center for Excellence in Preaching
    • H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies
    • Institute for Global Church Planting and Renewal
    • Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research
    • Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity (Calvin University)
    • The Bavinck Institute
    • The Timothy Leadership Training Institute

    The Hekman Library

    The Hekman Library is home to more than 520,000 books, including an entire floor of resources devoted to theology, biblical scholarship, and ministry practices. As a PhD student you will receive a dedicated library study carrel.


    Calvin Seminary Supports Students

    Calvin Seminary offers a wide range of scholarships and other financial assistance.

    Calvin Seminary offers a wide range of scholarships and other financial assistance. In fact, in recent years, nearly $1.5 million in scholarship funds were awarded annually. Doctoral Fellowships, Doctoral Assistantships, and Doctoral Tuition Scholarships are available to students in the PhD program at Calvin Theological Seminary. In addition, modest PhD living stipends are available on the basis of financial need.

    Course Work and Outcomes

    The PhD Program

    Courses focus on areas of current faculty interest and research. They are designed to introduce students to proper research methods and their application as well as to important theological issues and developments.

    Students are required to complete a total of twelve PhD courses for credit. Full-time students take six courses per year (typically three per semester) for two years. Part-time students take either four courses per year for three years or three courses per year for four years. At least three courses must be taken in the student’s discipline of specialization and at least two courses in each of the other three areas.

    In addition to the twelve required PhD courses, students in the program must take seminar 903P, “Teaching Seminar,” during the first two years in the program and are expected to take seminar 902P, “Dissertation Seminar,” if they have completed the required PhD courses and reside in the Grand Rapids area. Students ordinarily will take the dissertation seminar during more than one semester. These seminars are offered on a credit/no credit basis and do not count toward the twelve required courses in the program.

    Outcomes: Program graduates will leave the program with the following skills and competencies:

    • Academic research skills.
    • Critical analytical skills.
    • Scholarly writing skills.
    • Ability to teach across the entire field of biblical and theological studies, with mastery of one biblical or theological discipline.
    • Ability to provide thoughtful, fair, and respectful analyses and interpretations of positions with which they agree and of positions with which they disagree.
    • Ability to articulate their own biblical and theological positions and engage in informed, respectful dialogue with other points of view.
    • Understanding of and appreciation for Christian thought from around the world and from diverse points of view.
    • Ability to strengthen the church’s biblical and theological understanding and its ministry, including the ministry of proclaiming the gospel and discipling believers for Christ-like service in everyday life.


    Called to Serve

    Past graduates have applied their learning to a variety of ministry-based opportunities. Here are some of their stories:

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    Application Requirements and Deadlines

    For the PhD Program

    The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program has some specific admissions requirements, unique to the program. Below are some of the specifics. If you have any questions, the admissions office is here to help.

    Admission Requirements

    The PhD committee, in partnership with the admissions office will make all admissions decisions. A Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Theology, or an equivalent degree, with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 (B+), from an accredited institution. All applicants must show transcript evidence that they know Hebrew, Greek, and a modern foreign language (preferably German, French, or Dutch). Applicants must also submit scores of the Graduate Record Examination and a research paper that demonstrates their ability to do theological research and analysis at an advanced level. Additionally, an Autobiography (250-500 word autobiography, focusing on personal history, academic/professional background, and church/ministry involvement) and a Statement of Purpose (500 words describing your academic interests and vocational goals in pursuing a PhD at Calvin Seminary) are required.

    For more information on the PhD admissions process, please see the PhD Handbook.

    GRE Exam:
    All applicants must submit offical GRE scores to Calvin Seminary.

    Non-native in English: Applicants who are non-native in English must submit official TOEFL exam results as a part of their application for admission. A minimum internet-based total score of 90 with a score of 23 in the writing section is required. Use Calvin Theological Seminary's institutional code 1096 to order scores.

    International Student Admissions: For information on international student application requirements, visit the international student information page below.

    Admission Deadlines

    The deadline for PhD application materials to be submitted is January 15.

    The PhD program has one start date: the Fall Semester. Admitted students will typically be required to be on-campus for an orientation in mid-August.

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