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What Is Sacred Theology?

By Laura Metz
Updated May 23, 2024
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Sacred Theology, in its most basic sense, is the study of divine revelations, specifically those found in texts such as the Bible or the Quran. While it can apply to a number of religions including Islam, Judaism, and Mormonism, it typically refers to Christianity. A Master of Sacred Theology is available to anyone who has already earned a master's degree and is looking to expand their theological knowledge.

Christianity first applied the word “sacred” to theology in order to distinguish it from secular theology. The word sacred is used in both the Old and New Testaments to signify people, places, or things that are holy and set apart. Those who practice Sacred Theology truly believe what they are studying.

The study of secular theology was firmly established in the 1960s. It added Altizer’s Death of God theology and Kierkegaard’s existentialism to the study of the divine. Reconstructionist Judaism is a branch of secular theology which combines traditional Judaism with Deweyan naturalism.

Most Christians accept only the Holy Bible as a subject for Sacred Theology. Some branches of Christianity, however, have additional sacred texts. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints considers the Book of Mormon divinely inspired.

The main sacred writings in Islam are the Quran and the Hadith. Sacred theology for a Muslim would be the study of these texts by one who believes they are true. Some people would also include various visions as well as portions of the Bible.

Judaism uses sacred theology to better understand the Old Testament, referred to by Jews as the Torah, the Writings, and the Prophets. They believe God revealed his words to Moses and the prophets, who recorded them for future generations. Traditional Jews believe the Old Testament is the only divinely inspired book.

Students must already have a Master of Divinity or a Master of Arts in a theological field before working on a Master of Sacred Theology (MST). Many people use the MST to prepare to work on a Doctorate, especially if they did not complete a major research project with the first Masters degree. The program is an additional 36 hours of coursework, including a thesis or a major research project.

In the Catholic tradition, a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (LST) takes the place of the MST. Studies are built upon in a purely Catholic context. The LST is the second degree in progression for Catholic students, between a bachelors and a doctorate.

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