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One second level unit in Philosophy


PHIL208 God, Religion and Evil

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit examines various areas in the philosophy of religion and philosophical theology, and in this way it provides an important complement to studies in Christian theology. Students explore a range of issues arising within the philosophical study of religion and philosophical reflection on contemporary theology. These include issues such as God’s existence and nature, the meaning of religious thought and language, the nature of religious faith and its relationship to rationality, and the challenges posed by evil and suffering. In exploring influential historical and contemporary perspectives regarding those debates, students are required to develop reasoned positions of their own. In this way, the unit aims both to facilitate students’ understanding of some key theories and debates in the philosophy of religion, as well as to enhance their skills in critical analysis.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - identify and accurately explain some of the central problems and important theories in the philosophy of religion and philosophical theology (GA5);  

LO2 - critically analyse and evaluate selected contemporary debates in the philosophy of religion and/or philosophical theology, developing well-structured and pertinent positions in relation to them (GA4; GA8);  

LO3 - demonstrate strong skills in philosophical research, and philosophically effective use of English expression

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include many of the following: 

  • rational arguments for and against the existence of God;  
  • models of God’s nature and interaction with the world;  
  • the problem of evil and suffering; 
  • the relation between rationality and faith, and the possibility of religious knowledge;  
  • the nature of religious language.  
  • the philosophy of religious experience; 
  • the relationship between science and religion;  
  • the relationship between ethics and religion; 
  • understandings of death and afterlife; 
  • the significance of religious diversity; 
  • the meaning and significance of agnosticism and atheism 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit, that is offered in attendance mode, involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. 

The unit has been designed as a blend of project learning along with direct instruction within a collaborative context. The direct instruction ensures that students develop a grounding in understanding basic problems, concepts and arguments in the philosophy of religion (LO1). The project learning enables the students to apply those concepts and theories critically and reflectively to problems in the field, and this feeds into the achievement of the other aim of the unit concerning the development of philosophical skills of analysis, interpretation and argumentation (LO 2-3). The collaborative context of the unit is focused especially on the weekly tutorial, during which the emphasis is on small group discussion of the weekly readings. Students engage in class discussions, provide written critiques of significant theories, and present their reasoned position on matters at issue, after being introduced to them through readings and lectures. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit has been designed to examine students’ understanding of the philosophical issues and theories under consideration, as well as their ability to critically analyse those issues and theories. It does so through a series of three graduated assessment tasks. The first task examines students’ ability to demonstrate understanding of selected key concepts and debates in the field of philosophy of religion, while the second task requires them to apply this knowledge to critical reading and reflection of key texts in the history of this tradition of inquiry. Both of these early tasks prepare students for the third and principal task of writing an extended research essay, which examines students’ abilities to research and critically analyse an important issue in the philosophy of religion, and to develop and defend a coherent position of their own in a formally structured argumentative essay.  

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Written Analysis task 1 

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts, debates and/or texts in the field 




Written Analysis task 2 

Requires students to critically analyse important text/s in the history of philosophical theology 


LO1, LO2 

GA4, GA5, GA8 GA9 

Research Essay 

Requires students to further research and analyse an important issue in the philosophy of religion, and argue for a coherent position.   


LO1, LO2, LO3 

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Representative texts and references

Astley, (2004). Exploring God-talk: Using Language in Religion. London: Darton, Longman and Todd.   

Clack, Beverly and Brian Clack. (2019). The Philosophy of Religion: A Critical Introduction. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Polity.   

Fergusson, D. (2009). Faith and its Critics: A Conversation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Feser, Edward. (2017). Five Proofs of the Existence of God. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.  

Knepper, Timothy and Leah Kalmanson (eds). (2017). Ineffability: An Exercise in Comparative Philosophy of Religion. Cham: Springer.  

O’Grady, Paul. (2014). Aquinas’ Philosophy of Religion. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan.  

Phillips, D Z and Timothy Tessin (eds). (2001). Philosophy of Religion in the Twenty-First Century. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 

Roger, Katherin A. (2000). Perfect Being Theology. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 

Taliaferro, Charles and Paul Draper (eds). (2010). 2nd edition. A Companion to Philosophy of Religion. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.  

Trakakis, Nick (ed). (2018). The Problem of Evil: Eight Views in Dialogue. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Zagzebski, L. (2007). The Philosophy of Religion: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell. 

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