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Class Type
16-week courses, 100% Online
Start Date
September 1, 2021
Credit Hours

Agora University is offeringThe Master of Theological Studies (MTS) in Eastern Christianity and the Contemporary World is a 36- credit hour graduate degree comprised of nine taught modules and a 14,000-word dissertation. Each term has three online modules where lectures, seminars, and other research related activities are provided.

Each module is comprised of 16 weeks of study. Within each week you will read required material in addition to researching other sources. Typically, each module will require that you submit 2 research papers. An average paper is 3000 words. It is possible to register for studying a-la-carte modules. For example, you can take one or two modules if you are interested in a topic but are not planning on pursuing the MTS degree

At the end of your taught modules and upon satisfaction of the academic requirements, you will then advance to independent research where you will write your 14,000-word Master dissertation. The dissertation topic must be approved by one of the faculty members of Agora University who will act as a first reader. Agora University will then appoint a second reader based on the topic. Typically, students have six months to complete and submit the dissertation. There are nine 3 credit modules and a 9-credit hour thesis.

The student will utilize the knowledge and skills attained through studying the theological foundations of Orthodox Christianity as a hermeneutic to understand contemporary issues, to challenge inaccurate or unsupported claims, to make careful comparisons across time, space, and culture, and to take an informed position as students at an international university and as global citizens.

The MTS program outcomes are intended to prepare students to:

  • Equip students with the framework and tools to engage with contemporary challenges from Eastern Christian Wisdom.
  • Demonstrate a basic knowledge of the specified theological discipline.
  • Exhibit a focused knowledge in a chosen theological discipline.
  • Conduct research and construct a theological argument.
  • Communicate coherently, effectively, and persuasively in writing.
  • Interpret and apply theological knowledge in relation to contemporary issues.
  • Construct in a thesis a coherent, sustained theological argument in an area of specialized study


Master of Theological Studies courses are research-based, involving regular meetings with the professor for guidance and evaluation. The guided research and reading is adapted to the specific goals of each student.


We study the development of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and related themes from Scripture to the 20th century. We pay close attention to significant texts in the Christian tradition (including creedal statements, and the writings of Origen, Augustine, and others), and to discussions of the doctrine of the trinity and its relationship to diversity. The course requires careful reading of key primary texts and secondary sources.

 In this course, we will be examining the phenomenon of human suffering as our approach to encountering the scriptures, focusing on the Old Testament. By exploring the notion of suffering in the human condition, we will unlock some of the more important points of Christian theology that will provide us with the exegetical framework for reading, understanding, and integrating the Old Testament narrative into our lives.

This course looks at the matter of the textualization of the incarnation event as the remedy for the ailing human condition and is a companion piece to the course Suffering and the Scriptures. In this course, students will approach the message of the Gospel from the lens of healing, examining the formation of the New Testament in light of the early Christian movement amidst the backdrop of the emergence of rabbinical Judaism and the transition from Hellenic to Roman rule in the region.

This course examines the fundamental elements of Eastern Christian worship as it developed in the early centuries of the Church, in order to historically ground subsequent theological discussion of contemporary renewal. After several weeks exploring the common repository of Orthodox liturgical tradition, we consider examples of current scholarship on the extant Rites in use among the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches: Armenian, West Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian, East Syrian and Byzantine. The selected readings showcase key scholars in the field, highlight the value of comparative and interdisciplinary methodologies, and illustrate the challenges of integrating history and theology with pastoral practice. The final weeks invite students to synthesize what they have learned by means of reflection on their own identity as worshippers in the modern world—with all its challenges: how does the beauty of the Lex Orandi (“rule of prayer”) relate to the truth of the Lex Credenda (“rule of belief”), while also cultivating the goodness of an authentic spirituality, that is, a faithful and fruitful Christian Lex Vivendi (“rule of living”)?

Church, Culture, and Tradition is a 3-credit module, which aims to investigate the meaning of the Church and its diverse expressions through a study of ecclesiology, Tradition and culture. The module will start by defining the term ‘Tradition’ followed by an overview of the true identity of the Church and its expression within different contexts throughout history. The module will then discuss our contemporary context and the appropriate ways of engaging with a theology of incultration by incarnating in a multi-cultural and pluralistic society.

What is beauty? Why does it matter so? How does it relate to the Christian experience of God and the Church’s interpretation of divine revelation? What role should the arts play in contemporary Orthodox faith and witness? This course engages such perennial questions (and more) through a survey of the sources, themes and media characteristic of Eastern Christian aesthetic theory and practice, drawing also upon pertinent Western dialogue partners.

One definition of asceticism is that it is a practice of bodily discipline and self-deprivation, usually for religious purposes. Some ascetical practices include prayer, fasting, prostration, and night-vigil. While asceticism plays an important role in cultivating morality in Christianity generally speaking, reducing these practices as simply reflections of religious belief diminishes their broader social importance. In order to understand asceticism, this course uses anthropological tools to contextualize the wider conditions that influence how ascetical practices come to be understood in different Orthodox Traditions. What do people of various socio-cultural and Orthodox Traditions understand asceticism to be? How are ascetic practices linked to the wider-socio-political conditions of respective communities? How can we understand morality in relation to asceticism? Using ethnographic and historical examples, the course considers these questions as they relate to a wide range of Orthodox contexts. It offers an overview of the ways in which anthropological analyses of ascetical life can provide scholars new perspectives with which to make sense of larger questions of theology, religious identity, politics, imagined community, nationhood, and belonging.

In this course, we will be examining the human will, divine will, and the paradox notion that arises from discussions on the freedom of the human will.  The approach to the topic is grounded in how this phenomenon is envisioned in scriptures, then interpreted by church fathers, and medieval archimandrites in different schools of philosophical thought. By exploring the notion of human will (human desire) and divine will, the course offers venue into how to think about larger questions of what it means to be human, especially in our current technological world.

This course explores the epistemological grounds for understanding
Christianity’s view of concrete truth. The concrete reality of truth in
Christianity is fully revealed through a life of encounter and rational
expression. While encounter is a mystical experience, theological
expression is a colorful tradition that utilizes a spectrum of human
philosophies and ideologies. This course traces the commonality of the
Christian encounter while investigating the diversity of theological
expression from ancient times until our post-modern frames of mind.

 Upon satisfaction of the academic requirements, you will then advance to independent research where you write your 14,000-word Master dissertation. The dissertation topic must be approved by one of the faculty members of Agora University who will act as a first reader. Agora University will then appoint a second reader based on the topic. Typically, students have six months to complete and submit the dissertation.

The Master’s thesis concludes the Master’s program. The preparation and supervision of the thesis both take place during the last term. Initially, students will develop a research question for their thesis with feedback from fellow students. For this purpose, they will decide on a research method and topic that corresponds with their Master’s specialization and they will develop this into a preliminary draft. The next step is to find a supervisor with expertise in the chosen subject or the chosen research method. Students complete these steps individually. The Master’s thesis is completed at the end of the last semester.


Our faculty in the Master of Theological Studies program have decades of professional experience as scholars in their fields of expertise, and they are committed to helping students become excellent researchers and teachers.

Ani Shahinian, Ph.D. (ABD)

Assistant Professor of Armenian Studies and Apologetics

Brian Butcher, Ph.D.

Visiting Professor of Liturgical Theology and Early Christianity

Emmanuel Gergis, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Dogmatics and Systematic Theology

Joseph Youssef, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Anthropology of Religion

Fr. Michael Sorial, D.Min. (Cand.)

Assistant Professor of Ecclesiology, Missiology and Youth Ministry

Michael Wingert, Ph.D.

Dean of Holy Transfiguration College & Associate Professor of Old Testament and Syriac Studies