Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



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

This unit examines some of the fundamental philosophical and cosmological questions that underlie and inform theological thought. Metaphysical questions such as existence, space and time, causation and God are studied together with, and in the light of, recent scientific cosmological theories. Of basic importance in this unit is a consideration of the impact of philosophical and scientific ideas on theological understanding. The unit aims to provide students with a broad understanding of this field, while also enhancing their critical thinking skills and helping them develop their philosophical acumen. 

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 explain some of the key metaphysical concepts underlying theological thought (GA4; GA5)

LO2 - analyse and assess the historical and contemporary importance of metaphysics for western theology, in terms of how it informs and shapes it (GA4; GA5; GA9)

LO3 - use a variety of resources to analyse and evaluate the historical and contemporary importance of discoveries in the natural sciences for the practice of theology, in terms of how they inform and shape it (GA4; GA5; GA8). 

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: 

  • debates concerning the existence of God, focusing on selected debates such as the cosmological and teleological arguments;
  • debates around models of God’s relationship to (and interaction with) the universe;
  • metaphysical issues of direct importance for theology, such as the notions of necessary and contingent existence, the problem of universals, conceptions of transcendence, and the status of possible worlds;
  • natural scientific theories that raise philosophical problems and are of relevance to theology, such as theories of space and time, of matter and causation, of thought and freedom in physical systems, and of cosmogony, inflation, emergence, and the origin of life and consciousness;
  • issues in the epistemology of science such as the nature of explanations, the problem of induction, and the idea of ‘laws of nature’;
  • conceptions of life, soul and subjective immortality.

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 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 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, GA8

Second written analysis task


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8

Research Essay


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Clayton, P. and A. Peacocke, eds. In Whom We Live and Move and Have our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God’s Presence in a Scientific World. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2004. 

Corey, M.A. The God Hypothesis: Discovering Design in our "Just Right" Goldilocks Universe. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.  

Davies, P. The Mind of God: Science and the Search for Ultimate Meaning. London: Penguin, 1992. 

Görman, U. and N.H. Gregersen. Design and Disorder: Perspectives from Science and Theology. London: T &T Clark, 2002. 

Nielsen, K. Naturalism and Religion. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2001. 

McGrath, A. Science and Religion: A New Introduction. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 

Polkinghorne, J. Science and Creation: The Search for Understanding. Philadelphia: Templeton Press, 2006.   

Southgate, C. God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2005.  

Tipler, F. The Physics of Immortality: Modern Cosmology, God and the Resurrection of the Dead, London: MacMillian, 1995. 

Ward K. The Big Questions in Science and Religion. Philadelphia: Templeton Press, 2008. 

Have a question?

We're available 9am–5pm AEDT,
Monday to Friday

If you’ve got a question, our AskACU team has you covered. You can search FAQs, text us, email, live chat, call – whatever works for you.

Live chat with us now

Chat to our team for real-time
answers to your questions.

Launch live chat

Visit our FAQs page

Find answers to some commonly
asked questions.

See our FAQs