Doctor of Philosophy in Historical and Theological Studies

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Program Snapshot

70 Credit Hours
4 Years to Complete
Modular Learn more

Prepare to serve the church and the academy with the premiere faculty in Church History and Systematic Theology.

The Ph.D. in Historical and Theological Studies is designed to qualify graduates to teach in both disciplines. Students will be supervised by a faculty member in either Church History or Systematic Theology and write their dissertation in that field.

Modular format – relocation to Louisville not required.

Students will complete this program with trips to campus twice each year for doctoral seminars. Each seminar session will last two weeks. Travel to campus only required during the Ph.D. coursework stage.

Advance your education. Grow in your love for God.

Phd Student Stage
Course Number Description Credit Hours
81020 Graduate Research Seminar 2
81260 Foundations for Theological Studies 2
81270 Course Development and Design 2
81300 Higher Education 2
8 Seminars 32
4 Colloquia 4
Prospectus Development 1-4 4
2 Research Languages 4
Comprehensive Exams 2
Total 54
Phd Candidate Stage
Course Number Description Credit Hours
81910 Dissertation Writing & Defense 16
Total 16

Total Doctor of Philosophy in Historical and Theological Studies: 70


Students in the Historical and Theological Studies concentration will take seminars and colloquium on topics in Church History studies such as: Ancient Christianity, the Reformation, and Global Christianity. In the area of Systematic Theology, students will take seminars on topics such as: Christology & Atonement, Pneumatology and Ecclesiology, and Modern Theology.

84490 The Ancient Church and its LegacyThis course will offer a study of the ancient church and its overall theological contribution to Christian doctrine, especially as it relates to Trinitarian doctrine, ecclesiology, the Bible, mission, and the theology of history.
84491 The Legacy of the Reformation and PuritanismThis seminar assesses the historiographical and theological issues of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century and sixteenth and seventeenth-century English Puritanism.
84492 Baptist HistoryThis seminar is a detailed study of interdenominational controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention during the period from 1979 to 2000. Special attention will be given to the role of biblical inerrancy, gender roles, social and cultural factors, personal and political dynamics, and Baptist identity in the controversy.
84400 Christianity and Culture in AmericaThis seminar is a focused consideration of American Christian nationalism, a sub-field of American church history. It will study the many intricacies of the concept of Christian nationalism, as it has been expressed over the past four centuries since the Puritans established the New England colonies.
85010 Theology Proper and ProvidenceThis seminar presents an intensive study of critical issues and major movements in understanding the doctrine of God, giving special attention to the historical positions and contemporary proposals. It will also focus on the Reformed understanding of the doctrine of providence, as articulated in the Reformed confessions of faith of the 16th and 17th centuries.
85020 Christology and AtonementThis seminar presents an intensive study of critical issues and major movements in understanding the person of Christ, paying special attention to historical positions and contemporary proposals in light of Scripture’s teaching on Christ and the incarnation.  It will also analyze various theories of the atonement, both ancient and contemporary.
85030 Pneumatology and EcclesiologyThis course leads students through a biblical, historical, and systematic study of the person, intratrinitarian relations, and work of the Holy Spirit, as well as an exploration of the nature of the church and the practice of ministry in and through the church.
85040 Modern TheologyThis course studies the dominant theological movements from the nineteenth century to today and their impact on evangelical theology. Special focus will be given to the Enlightenment, Classical Liberal Theology, Neo-Orthodoxy, Process Theology, Liberation Theology, Post-Liberalism, Theological Interpretation of Scripture, and recent theological developments in the twenty-first century.

Students can be supervised by the following faculty:

Church History

Michael A. G. Haykin

Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality

Stephen O. Presley

Associate Professor of Church History

Gregory A. Wills

Professor of Church History

Research Interests

Southern Baptists
Jonathan Edwards
American Evangelicalism

John D. Wilsey

Associate Professor of Church History and Philosophy

Research Interests

History of Religious Nationalism
Church History
Religious Liberty

Shawn D. Wright

Professor of Church History

Research Interests

The Reformation

Systematic Theology

Gregg R. Allison

Professor of Christian Theology

Research Interests

Ecclesiology, Pneumatology, Theological Anthropology

Bruce A. Ware

T. Rupert and Lucille Coleman Professor of Christian Theology

Stephen J. Wellum

Professor of Christian Theology

Frequently Asked Questions

Dr. Allison talking with group of students

No. The Ph.D. in Historical and Theological Studies is available in a modular format, requiring two trips each academic year to Louisville for doctoral seminars. Students should plan for each campus session to last two weeks.

Winter seminars are typically held during the last week of November and the first week of December. Summer seminars are typically held during the second & third week of May each year.

Refer to the academic calendar for current year seminar dates.

Applicants should have (or be on track to graduate with) a Masters of Divinity or its equivalent (72 credit hours minimum in specific disciplines).

If you do not have an M.Div. but you do have a M.A. or other masters-level divinity credit, you may submit a doctoral equivalency evaluation to the admissions office to find out if you qualify for SBTS PhD programs.*

A minimum master’s level cumulative grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale is expected.

For a complete listing of doctoral admissions requirements, see the “Admissions & Cost” tab.

*International transcripts must be evaluated by a NACES approved organization for both admissions consdiration and for equivalency requests.

During the application process you will indicate your preferred supervisor and be asked to describe your research interest but both can be subject to change until you are accepted and enrolled in the program.

During your faculty interview and during on-boarding to the program (if accepted) you will have the opportunity to discuss and receive advising on both your supervisor and your research topic.

Your final research area(s) will be determined in close consultation with and approval by your supervisor, this generally occurs during the coursework stage of your program.

Admissions for the Ph.D. program consists of:

Initial Application Submission

  • All required materials must be submitted to the Office of Admissions by the appropriate deadline (see “Admissions” tab for more information).

Entrance Exam and Interview

  • Students who are believed to have a reasonable possibility of acceptance are invited to participate in entrance exams and faculty interviews.
  • Exams and interviews are held remotely via Zoom (travel to campus not required) once each month.
  • For more information on Entrance Exams, click here.

The Ph.D. program is structured for 48 months (4 years). Students who take longer than four years will be assessed an additional $2,000 fee for each semester of extension beyond the four-year limit.

During the PhD student stage (coursework stage), students will complete eight seminars, usually five seminars in their major and three seminars that may be completed in any area.

Some concentrations, such as biblical studies, historical and theological studies, and philosophy and theological studies, will require four seminars in each of two separate areas. All students will take the four RDS general education courses, four colloquia, and four installments of Prospectus Development.

In addition, students must demonstrate proficiency in two research languages (for School of Theology concentrations) or research methodology courses (for Billy Graham School concentrations).


Admissions Prerequisites

To be considered for admission in our Ph.D. program we require the following for applications:

  • An M.Div. or its equivalent (72 credit hours minimum in specific disciplines) for most concentrations (exceptions are listed below):
    • For the PhD concentrations in Christian Apologetics, Christian Philosophy, Christian Ethics, Ethics and Public Theology, and Philosophy and Theological Studies, the 72 hours may consist of an M.A. or equivalent in the field (60 hours minimum in specific disciplines), with the addition of 12 credit hours in biblical languages
    • For the PhD concentrations in Christian Worship, Biblical Counseling and Practical Theology, Leadership, Missions, Evangelism, and World Religions, an M.A. or equivalent in the field (60 hours minimum in specific disciplines) may be acceptable.
  • If you do not have the required hours for your program of interest but you do have some masters-level divinity credit, you may submit a doctoral equivalency evaluation to the admissions office to find out if you qualify for SBTS PhD programs.
    • Students requiring additional coursework may attend Southern Seminary as a “Doctoral Leveling Student” online or on-campus.
  • A minimum master’s level cumulative grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale is expected.
  • International transcripts will require an official evaluation from a NACES approved organization (World Evaluation Services is preferred).

*For more information about our equivalency standards, leveling options, or to request an equivalency review based on your master’s level work, please email

Application Requirements

  • All applicants must receive a reference from the local church where they are a member. Family members may not complete this reference. If you are the pastor of your church, please select another church leader (associate pastor, elder, deacon, etc.) to complete the church recommendation. Recommendation forms are automatically emailed to references via our online application.
  • Two additional academic recommendations. We suggest that a professor or a business acquaintance who can speak to academic performance complete the 2 additional recommendations required for doctoral students.
  • Transcription from the educational institution or institutions that conferred any required degrees should be submitted to the Admissions Office. Contact the registrar or academic records office of your previous institution(s). They may e-mail the transcripts (directly or via 3rd party such as Parchment) to or mail copies to our physical address. Transcripts must come directly from schools either electronically or in sealed/unopened envelopes.
  • A graduate level research paper in the same field to which the applicant is applying must be submitted along with the application. You may upload this research paper directly onto the application.
  • $40 application fee – paid after application submission.

Application Deadlines

All application materials must be received by:

September 1 – Spring matriculation

March 1 – Fall matriculation

Entrance Exams and Interviews

Entrance Exams are exams designed to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their comprehension of the subject area in which they are applying and sometimes in related fields. Students will be notified soon after submitting all application components as to whether they are invited to participate in the entrance exam and interview.

Exams and interviews are held on one Friday each month and are administered remotely (travel to campus not required). Click here to learn more.

Ready to learn more?

Prospective doctoral students are invited to visit Southern Seminary.

Doctoral Visit Opportunities

Program Cost

$1,000 down payment, and remaining balance due equally over 48 months.*

Total CostMonthly Payment
Total cost for SBC students$27,670$555.62
Total cost for non-SBC students$39,140$794.58

*Program tuition shown is for the 2024-2025 academic year. Additional fees are subject to the current fee schedule.

Financial Aid

Southern Seminary does not offer fully-funded scholarships or grants for the PhD program. Limited financial aid may be available for students that meet certain criteria. Click here to view our financial aid page to learn more.

Outside Norton Hall


Contact Admissions

Phone: (502) 897-4200

Text: (502) 305-3554


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