The Scriptures speak to all of human life, and theology has significant implications for public life. Our beliefs influence our expectations and goals for life in community—including political community. Theology casts a particular light on questions about justice, the common good, and the ordering of our lives in community.

Every Christian has a functional theology of public life, whether church teaching directly addresses the subject or not and whether individual Christians are conscious of it or not. The question is whether such a theology will be formed through teaching, reflection, and prayerful discernment.

The Institute of Theology and Public Life is grounded in a biblical theological framework tracing God’s work in redemptive history and integrating Reformed understanding of creation, the gospel, the kingdom of God, and the nature of human community among other foundational doctrines.

The mission of the Institute of Theology and Public Life is to equip believers theologically to exercise their responsibility for the public good. Living “between the times” gives us a unique perspective on that good.



Why RTS Washington?

The Institute of Theology and Public Life is especially suited for a seminary based in the nation’s capital, where many are called to serve in public policy. The program is particularly interested in equipping Christians who work in policy-related fields and those who shepherd them. It is geared toward specific application for the time and place in which we live.

Why graduate studies?

The Theology and Public Life program integrates biblical, systematic, historical, and practical theology to equip Christians to witness to God’s kingdom in public life. Reformed theology has a rich tradition of reflection on issues of public theology that can be mined to enrich our understanding of our responsibilities and goals in today’s civil sphere. Students will engage a disciplined Reformed approach to biblical and systematic theology in order help hone an outlook cognizant of our place in redemptive history and the doctrinal framework needed to form a sound public theology.

Answering the call to witness to God’s kingdom in public life involves the integration of three perspectives. Taking the standards of God’s Word, honing our knowledge of the situation, and reflecting on our sphere of influence, we seek to develop a faithful witness as Christian citizens. The seminary environment’s methodical approach to such questions is ideal for cultivating this integrated perspective.

What is the need?

We live in an increasingly pluralistic culture that challenges basic biblical truths and traditional religious commitments. Christians are looking for practical ways to apply their deeply-held theological commitments in the public zones of their lives, whether professional, political, relational, or otherwise. This requires more reflection on biblical presuppositions and how to articulate them in an increasingly pluralistic culture. This is the goal of the Institute of Theology and Public Life at RTS Washington.

Program Overview

The Theology and Public Life program offers a suite of classes as a Specialization. These include two foundational courses and four courses of applied theology. Students may take these courses individually, as a certificate, or as part of a graduate degree.

Prospective Student Profiles

The Theology and Public Life program seeks to equip three groups of students:

  1. Individuals working in policy-related fields
    In an effort to serve the church in the greater Washington, D.C.- area, the Theology and Public Life program focuses especially on Christians working in policy-related fields. The program aims to help them reflect more systematically on Christian responsibility in the civil sphere, equipping them to honor God in their callings and serve their neighbors through public policy. Such students might elect to take individual classes, to pursue a Specialization in Theology and Public Life, or to enroll in a Master of Arts degree program (with or without such a certification). Class meeting times would be primarily in the evening or on weekends to accommodate the schedules of public policy practitioners. 
  2. Master of Arts degree students
    Students enrolled in the Master of Arts degree program have the opportunity to choose courses from the Theology and Public Life as a part of their elective requirements for the MAR. They could also pursue the Specialization plan in conjunction with an MAR degree.
  3. Pastors and prospective pastors (MDiv. Candidates)
    Theology and Public Life courses equip prospective pastors enrolled in an MDiv. program. Consistent with the seminary’s desire to serve area churches, Theology and Public Life courses will also be offered to local pastors. For a seminary in the D.C. area, local pastors often serve congregations with numerous people involved in policy-related fields.