- Nature of Contextual Theology
Contextual theology is not understood as a two-step process in which one understands first and then the practical application follows later. Rather, the practical is already presupposed and integral from the beginning of the interpretation and theological process. Contextualization occurs in the very act of understanding. The result is a theology that is at once systematic, biblical, and practical. It is expected then that the research work of both faculty and students in the PhD program would have an academic as well as a practical orientation.
- Local and Global
In order to keep the global focus, ongoing interaction with scholarship in the West, as well as with other parts of Asia, Latin America, and Africa will be encouraged.
- Interdisciplinary and Integrative
While specialized and focused studies are important, these must be seen in a larger framework and related to other theological disciplines. Efforts will be made for integration to happen at different levels.
- Field Research Orientation
Data from field research is important for shaping a pastoral and missional response that is more reflective of and appropriate to the context. Hence, field research, which utilizes research tools drawn from the social sciences, is an indispensable component of this program.
- Rooted in the life of the church, but serving the academy and the world
The focus of the program is to prepare people for the various ministries of the church—whether as faculty of theological schools that prepare pastors for the local church, denominational heads and church leaders, research directors and staff, consultants and resource persons to Christian NGOs, parachurch organizations, and corporate organizations wanting to strengthen their Christian witness, and writers of theological books and commentaries. Hence, it is important that the work of students and faculty are rooted in the life of the church, but serving the academy and the world.
As an evangelical school, the ATS PhD program subscribes to the Beirut Benchmarks as developed by the International Council for Evangelical Theological Education for higher education evangelical schools around the world.
- Learning in Community
The PhD program is not set-off as separate from the ATS Master’s programs. PhD students participate in the life of the ATS community. To further enhance community life in an academic community, students will be structured as a cohort in a two-year cycle. Community activities will be scheduled with faculty participation to maximize academic and personal interaction.
- Importance of Discernment
Engaging one’s societal context calls for a spirituality that can undergird a discerning re-reading of Scripture and the emergence of new theological constructions. Hence, the program will emphasize the spiritual disciplines in order to cultivate the quality of wisdom and discernment.
- Adequate Mentoring
The program seeks to put in place a good mentoring system from the time a student is admitted until the time of submission and defense of the dissertation.