Theological Ethics

REF 2021

1st in the UK

Divinity at the University of Aberdeen was ranked 1st in the UK for overall quality of research

Theological Ethics

Theological Ethics at the University of Aberdeen draws upon a rich tradition of Christian moral thought for understanding and engaging contemporary issues and debates. On the one hand, this involves carefully attending to core concepts such as love, freedom, justice, discipleship, and sanctification, and attending to the work of major theologians in the tradition on their own terms, including such thinkers as Augustine, Martin Luther, Søren Kierkegaard, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Stanley Hauerwas. On the other hand, the work of Theological Ethics entails engaging a range of contemporary debates, including issues in bioethics, social ethics, political ethics, environmental ethics, and others.

Theological Ethics is a major research concentration in Divinity at Aberdeen. The department has a large and flourishing community of master’s and doctoral students from the UK and overseas, attracted by the high quality of teaching and supervision of our staff and by the energy and warmth of our community of scholars. We have worked hard to build a collaborative research community, in which students do not see one another as competitors but as collaborators.

Study in Theological Ethics (Christian Ethics) is enhanced by our close working relations with those undertaking research in other theological fields, especially practical theology, biblical studies, systematic theology, and the history of Christianity.

Click the tabs below for more information on what Aberdeen has to offer by way of research expertise and doctoral supervision, how to apply, and what students can expect when studying with us.

Studying Theological Ethics at Aberdeen

At Aberdeen, students can expect rigorous training in the historical development and contemporary articulation of Christian ethics through attentive supervision and an extensive programme of research seminars and postgraduate training.

Doctoral study at Aberdeen revolves around the doctoral thesis. Over the length of their programme (either full- or part-time), students will research and write an original contribution to scholarship on their chosen topic, in close consultation with their supervisor. To learn more about potential supervisors, click the ‘Supervising Staff’ tab. For more information about some of the topics and figures the department specializes in, click the ‘Areas of Study’ tab. For more about how to apply, click here.

Doctoral study at Aberdeen also extends beyond independent research. Students and staff meet year-round in the Theological Ethics Research Seminar to study and discuss key texts, hear and respond to papers by guest speakers, as well as for doctoral students to present their own work to other students and staff in a friendly and supportive forum. In addition, doctoral students in Theological Ethics are welcome to join other research seminars in the department, as well as to audit Masters-level courses. Students at Aberdeen not only receive regular one-on-one supervision, but also stimulation and support from their student colleagues and other Divinity staff members.

Research at Masters or PhD level can be undertaken at Aberdeen on a full-time or a part-time basis. One of the most exciting features of studying Theological Ethics at Aberdeen is the large full-time, on-campus cohort of students who regularly study, socialize, worship, and even reside together. Students enjoy additional discussion and camaraderie with one another and with staff in informal gatherings that take place throughout the year.

Supervising Staff

We are interested in hearing from students wishing to undertake postgraduate level work on Theological Ethics at research Masters or at Doctoral level. Please contact one of the supervisors below if you are thinking about applying for a research degree in their subject area.

Professor Brian Brock ( Supervision is offered in the general area of theological ethics, and in Augustine, Martin Luther, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Hans Ulrich; scripture, creation, moral reasoning and tradition; and technology, theology and disability, medical ethics, race theology, environmental ethics, and ethics and economics.

Professor David Clough ( David Clough offers supervision in the general area of theological ethics, with particular interests in the ethics of human relationships with the more-than-human world, engagement between theological ethics and the life sciences, the ethics of war and peace, theological ethics and race, and the ethics of Karl Barth.


Areas of Study

Study of Theological Ethics at Aberdeen spans a wide range of theological topics and figures. See the ‘Supervising Staff’ tab for specific staff interests.

The department as a whole specializes in theological ethics in a Reformational key, as a way of being formed by listening to the Word of God; on an ethos discovered in the Bible, both in the Old and the New Testament; and on the theological ethics of medicine, disability, technology, politics, economics, war and peace, and creation, including environmental and animal ethics.

In particular, the department offers a concentration of expertise on the Christian ethics of Augustine, Martin Luther, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

At Aberdeen, students can study these topics and figures in modes of enquiry that link biblical and historical sources with live questions today.

How to Apply

Application to study Theological Ethics at Aberdeen is competitive. The strongest applicants will have (1) adequate preparatory study, (2) a good fit with their intended supervisor, and (3) a well-developed proposal. This section, together with more general information found here and here, is intended to help prospective students put together the strongest application possible.

Applicants for the PhD in Theological Ethics are normally required to have completed significant prior study in theology. Successful applicants are likely to have a minimum of a high 2.1 or a Masters. In terms of GPA, successful applicants are likely to have at least a 3.3 GPA in an area of related study or a Masters. Applications will be considered individually, but a masters-level course of study is highly encouraged.

In preparation for a PhD, Divinity at Aberdeen offers two different options for masters-level study. The first is a taught Masters in Theology (MTh), where students undertake advanced coursework in the form of discussion-based seminars. Information about that program and how to apply can be found here. The second is a Masters in Theology (MTh) by research in which students have an opportunity to research and write on their own proposed topic in consultation with a supervisor, just as they would for a PhD thesis, but on a smaller scale. Information about that program and how to apply can be found here.

Either in combination with a preparatory Masters, or in place of one, students desiring further time and study for their PhD are encouraged to consider the Extended PhD. The Extended PhD is a four-year programme for full-time study, or a eight-year programme for part-time study. For more information, follow this link to the PhD Research page and then click on the ‘Extended PhD’ tab for more information.

Once applicants have considered their course of study, the next step is to develop a research topic and match that interest with a potential supervisor. With a proposal in mind, applicants are encouraged to contact their potential supervisor directly by email. Click on the ‘Supervising Staff’ tab for detailed information about staff research interests. Clicking on staff names will link to their contact page with more information about them and their work.

Potential supervisors will ask students to prepare the following documents:

1. a concise CV, including grades awarded for all degrees gained

2. an academic writing sample in the discipline of theology of substantial length in English

3. a research proposal for the MTh or PhD programme in view

Students normally begin their studies in September for the MTh and in September and January for the PhD.


Links for further information about the study of Theological Ethics at Aberdeen include:

Information about applying for doctoral study at Aberdeen can be found here and here.

Information about the taught Masters in Theology (MTh) can be found here.

Information about the research Masters in Theology (MTh) can be found here.


Links to academic societies, journals, and series in which staff are involved include:

American Academy of Religion

Journal of Disability and Religion

Society of Christian Ethics

Society for the Study of Christian Ethics

T&T Clark Enquiries in Theological Ethics