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PHIL626 Philosophical Contexts for Theology

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning. 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. 

Unit rationale, description and aim

Since the beginning of Christian thought, theologians have been in constant dialogue with the western philosophical tradition, this mutually enriching and often vigorous exchange continuing to the present day. This unit provides theology students with a broad, problem-centred and issues-based introduction to philosophy, focusing particularly on issues of crucial relevance to theology. Specific topics covered will be drawn from a wide variety of philosophical specialisations including philosophical anthropology, philosophy of mind, epistemology and hermeneutics, logic, ethics, social and political philosophy, life philosophy, metaphysics, philosophy of religion and philosophical theology.

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 - demonstrate understanding of key aspects of several major debates within the discipline of      philosophy, and explain how these issues are of relevance to theology (GA4; GA5; GA9);

LO2 - critically analyse key positions taken by philosophers within these debates (GA4; GA5; GA9);

LO3 - demonstrate appropriate skills in philosophical research, and clear use of philosophically effective English expression (GA4; GA5; GA8; GA9).

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 a selection from the following, picking up, wherever appropriate, on points of relevance and issues arising for theological anthropology, theological epistemology and the doctrine of God:

  • the mind-body problem;
  • personal identity and selfhood;
  • the problem of freedom;
  • reason and emotion;
  • truth, meaning and knowledge;
  • perception, mind and world;
  • reason and faith;
  • justice and liberty in society;
  • meaning in/of life;
  • birth; death; life after death;
  • arguments for the existence of God;
  • models of God and world

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning. 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 collaborative learning and project-based learning approaches, combined with direct instruction to introduce and draw out new and unfamiliar concepts and theories. The collaborative context of the unit is focused especially on the small group discussion of the weekly readings. The project-based aspect relates to the research project on which students work throughout the second half of the unit, culminating in their research essay. 

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 three graduated assessment tasks. The first two tasks prepare students for the third and principal task of writing an extended research essay. The two written analysis tasks examine students’ understanding of some key concepts and theories, and their capacity to engage critically with some key texts in the field. The research essay requires students to research an area of the unit in further detail, and it examines their ability 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

First written analysis task   


LO1, LO2

GA4; GA5; GA9

Second written analysis task


LO1, LO2

GA4; GA5; GA9

Research Essay


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4; GA5; GA8; GA9

Representative texts and references

Allen, D., & E.O. Springsted, eds. Philosophy for Understanding Theology. 2nd ed. Westminster: John Knox Press, 2007.

Primary Readings in Philosophy for Understanding Theology. Westminster: John Knox Press, 1992.

Baggini, J. What’s It all About? Philosophy and the Meaning of Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Crumley, J.S. A Brief Introduction to Philosophy of Mind. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.

Davies, B. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Haldane, J. A Reasonable Faith. London: Routledge, 2010.

McFee, G. Free Will. Chesham: Acumen, 2000.

Macquarrie, J. In Search of Humanity. New ed. London: SCM, 2009.

Pritchard, D. What is this Thing Called Knowledge? London: Routledge, 2007.

Sheppard, D. Plato's Republic, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009.

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