Christianity no longer a requirement for Oxford theology students

Originally published in Christian Today

Oxford coat of arms
The Coat of Arms of Oxford University. (PHOTO: Wikipedia)

Is this a sign of how the academic world is giving less and less value to Christian teachings?

The University of Oxford, the oldest such institution in the English-speaking world dating back to 1096, will no longer require its undergraduate theology students to enrol in a course tackling Christianity after their first year.

This development signals the end of a tradition that lasted for over eight centuries. Instead of requiring the study of Christianity, the educational institution located in Oxford, England will allow students to take courses tackling feminism, Buddhism, Islam and even mysticism.

Different interests
In an interview with Times Higher Education, Oxford’s theology faculty board chairman Johannes Zachhuber explained that the decision to drop the university’s ancient tradition was meant to cater to the different interests of their students.

“We recognise that the people who come to study at Oxford come from a variety of different backgrounds and have legitimately different interests,” Zachhuber said, as quoted by CBN News.

“If you have a very rigid curriculum, there will be an increasing mismatch between what lecturers are doing in their research time and what they’re having to teach,” he added.

The university official also noted the “receding” dominance of the Church of England in the past years.

“We want to offer to potential students what is interesting for them and that has changed a lot in the last 30 years,” Zachhuber explained in a separate report by The Telegraph.

Impact of global events
Benjamin Thompson, associate professor of medieval history and coordinator of undergraduate history at Oxford, meanwhile explained that recent global events have encouraged students to explore other areas aside from Christianity.

“These changes are what students want, because a bigger world is affecting them. The most obvious example is the rise of militant Islam, or how well the Chinese economy is doing,” Thompson told The Times Higher Education.

Of course, this decision did not sit well with Christian groups. Andrea Minichiello Williams of Christian Concern, for instance, said the university’s decision was indeed disappointing.

“I think it’s sad … The founding fathers of Oxford believed that truth was noble and it was found in the pursuit of theology which we understood to be the study of Christianity,” Williams told CBN News.

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