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PHIL510 Introducing Philosophy 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

Throughout its history, Christian theology has always been in constant dialogue with the western philosophical tradition. This mutually enriching and often vigorous exchange continues to the present day. It is, therefore, crucial for students of theology to have a basic understanding of some of the key themes in the philosophical tradition, especially concerning the major metaphysical, epistemological and anthropological problems and theories that have animated this relationship, Specific topics covered will be drawn from a wide variety of concerns for theology, philosophy, philosophical theology and the philosophy of religion. This unit aims to provide students with a broad understanding of philosophy and its importance for theology, while also enhancing their critical thinking skills and helping them develop a level of 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 - 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 and assess key positions taken by philosophers within these debates, and present a well-reasoned philosophical position (GA4; GA5; GA9);

LO3 - effectively present a coherent and well-reasoned philosophical position that is reflective of an understanding of current theories and debates (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

Written analysis task

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and debates.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA9

Written analysis and evaluative task

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and debates and express a reasoned opinion of their own.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA9

Argumentative/Research Essay

Requires students to critically analyse an important debate in the field and to develop a coherent position.


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.

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

Edwards, M. Aristotle and Early Christian Thought. London: Routledge, 2019.

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

Lamb, M. Theology Needs Philosophy: Acting Against Reason is Contrary to the Nature of God. Washington DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2016.

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.

Wallis, R.T, Neoplatonism. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1995.

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