List of Free Online Theology Courses and Learning Materials
See our list of the top free online theology courses. Learn about what courses are available and what topics they cover to find the course that's right for you.
Online Theology Courses for Credit
Some schools and faith-based organizations provide free online courses or learning materials related to the study of theology and various faiths. The providers of these learning materials, however, don't confer credit for their completion.
Students who'd like to use an online course to earn college credit applicable toward a degree program might want to consider Education Portal's Religion 101: Intro to World Religions course. Each lesson is taught by an experienced instructor and includes free transcripts. Videos and self-assessment quizzes are also available to registered members who pay a small fee that's considerably less than the cost of enrolling in a traditional course. Listed below are just some of the chapters included in the Religion 101 class:
- Bygone Religions - Instructors introduce theories used to explain the origins of religion. They also provide a history of religion's earliest forms, such as mystery cults, the myths of Babylon and Roman religious practices.
- World Religion: Islam - Lessons discuss Islam's founding, the five pillars of the Islamic faith and a brief history of the Ottoman Empire. Characteristics of Islam's various branches and sects are also covered.
- World Religion: Judaism - The core beliefs of Judaism, the contents of the Torah and the history of Jewish rituals are among the topics of study in this chapter. Jewish persecution in the Middle Ages is discussed as well.
- World Religion: Christianity - Instructors cover Christianity's early ties to Judaism, the ascent of Christianity, schisms between Eastern and Western churches, the Crusades and the Protestant Reformation.
Free Online Non-Credited Theology Courses
Bible.org offers an unaccredited six-course certificate program in theology online intended for lay persons, written by teachers with seminary training. Though the video lectures and some other materials are available for free online, students who pay course fees receive interaction with other students and instructors, grades and additional materials. In addition to theology classes, the site provides access to a theology question and answer page, articles on theology and a theology forum. Bible.org claims that the courses aren't affiliated with a particular denomination, though they may reflect a strong evangelical influence.
Bibliology and Hermaneutics focuses on how to interpret the Bible. In addition to interpretation (hermeneutics) issues, the course addresses the historical development of the Bible and questions related to its authority. Students need to register for this and other courses to receive access to the video lectures and student notes. Those taking free courses can also purchase teacher's notes in PowerPoint presentations through the website's store.
Students are advised to take the courses in a prescribed order beginning with Introduction to Theology. This course, addressing basic questions about truth from a Christian perspective, doesn't require registration. It includes additional materials, like PowerPoint presentations with teacher notes, vocabulary quizzes and student notes. Soteriology refers to the study of salvation. This course examines questions like whether salvation is predetermined.
BiblicalTraining.org is a nonprofit organization with the objective of providing accessible educational resources. The 'broadly evangelical' courses aren't associated with any particular Christian tradition or denomination. Free online courses in theology and other topics are available at the general levels of 'discipleship' (directed toward all Christians) or 'leadership' (Sunday school teachers, mission members, church elders and pastors). Most of the training through this website is offered through audio lectures; additional class resources may include visual aids or lecture outlines.
For students at the discipleship level, Biblical Theology covers the Old Testament, the New Testament and the writings of Paul. The course examines the organization of the books in the Old Testament and differences between the four gospels, among other topics. New Testament Theology, at the leadership level, examines the historical and philosophical underpinnings of the New Testament, looking at the key themes in the gospels and letters of Paul.
At the discipleship level, Theology of the Reformers covers topics that include Martin Luther, the importance of Augustine in Reformation theology and Calvin's theology. An advanced course, Theology of World Missions looks at being a missionary from the biblical perspective as well as creating cross-cultural dialogue, among other topics.
The Open University
The Open University in the United Kingdom provides access online to free learning materials used in its distance education courses. These units on religious studies provide printable text-based lessons. These short courses don't address the content from the point of view of any religion or assume that the learner holds a particular set of religious beliefs.
Religion Today: Themes and Issues engages various perspectives on religion as it explores themes and issues, like the tension between historical traditions and change over time in various religions. Studying Religion is also presented through printable lessons but features video clips of people from Liverpool talking about their individual religious practices and beliefs. This introductory course examines what religion is, perceptions about religion and reasons to study it; a full chapter is devoted to the practice of Hinduism in Calcutta.
University of Notre Dame
- Foundations of Theology: Biblical and Historical
- Introduction to Catholic Moral Theology
- Latino Theology and Christian Tradition
The University of Notre Dame, a Catholic institution, makes free learning materials available online through its OpenCourseWare initiative. These courses come from the school's Department of Theology. Foundations of Theology: Biblical and Historical focuses on the early history of the church, major theological themes and the relationship between the Jewish and Christian traditions. Course materials include lecture notes, a bibliography of secondary readings, quiz study guides and homework assignments.
Introduction to Catholic Moral Theology presents historical and contemporary perspectives of the Roman Catholic Church on issues that include biomedical research, sexuality and economic justice. Course materials consist of lecture notes, case studies, handouts and exam review sheets. Many of the required reading materials are available through the course website.
Latino Theology and Christian Tradition looks at the history of Latino religion in the U.S. and how Latino theologians define social justice and worship as well as other topics of theological concern. Students have access to lecture outlines, major assignment guidelines and a reading list with many links to reading assignments.
- Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature
- Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible)
Offered through Open Yale, these religious studies courses emphasize literary and historical perspectives rather than pursuing theological interpretations of the Bible as holy scripture. The lectures may be accessed as audio files, transcripts or videos. They're also available on YouTube and iTunes. Students have access to syllabi with lists of textbooks to accompany the lectures.
Introduction to the New Testament History and Literature explores the beginnings of Christianity, particularly focusing on differences among the early Christian movements. Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) emphasizes the historical and cultural contexts of the creation of the Old Testament. Learners study and interpret the Bible, applying theories from various schools of criticism. The midterm exam is available in PDF format.