Theology, Ethics and Public Issues (THEM128)

StaffProfessor Susannah Cornwall - Convenor
Professor Christopher Southgate - Lecturer
Dr Esther Reed - Lecturer
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module introduces you to a range of political, ethical, and social issues arising from theological belief and religious practice in the modern world.
The module will have three taught segments, each lasting for three weeks. Each segment will be on a different topic. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):
Adventures in ecotheology
This segment will enable you to explore how recent explorations in ecotheology interact with classic frameworks in Christian theology. It therefore presumes a basic knowledge of those frameworks. It will include not only radical proposals in ecofeminism and Christanimism, but also work in ‘cli-fi’ futuristic literature, and in poetry. 
Decision-making: a brief guide from Thomas Aquinas
This segment investigates Thomas Aquinas’ approach to moral reasoning. It tests the proposition that his guidance is more comprehensive and therefore more useful than many modern approaches, and examines possibilities for dialogue with present-day behavioural sciences. The module takes in Aquinas’ theory of human nature and action, including the intellect, the will, and the passions of the sensory appetite. It considers the intellectual structure of decision-making, his explanation of wrong action, and privative account of evil. 
Theology and trauma
In this segment you will engage with and critically analyse Christian theologies of trauma. You will be introduced to material on the origins of trauma theology in psychology, chaplaincy and pastoral care. You will reflect on trauma theologies' interactions with and implications for elements of doctrinal Christian theology such as theodicy and atonement. You will engage in close analysis of writings by key scholars in this area. (Note that the segment is likely to include discussion of traumatic events and may involve engagement with difficult and upsetting material.)

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Engage with recent scholarship concerned with interconnections between theology, ethics and public issues
  • 2. Critically assess, in depth, one case study example related to the study of theology, ethics and public issues

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Critically assess the relationship between theology and matters of current social and political importance
  • 4. Weigh up the place of theological discourse in the public square

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. Develop a project that engages contemporary scholarship
  • 6. Shape detailed information into a clear written account
  • 7. Show significant originality and rigour in argument
  • 8. Demonstrate independent and critical research skills
  • 9. Convey ideas to your peers through oral presentation

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • introduction
  • research specialisms at Exeter
  • discussion of project proposals
  • oral presentation of project focus
  • directed research with supervisor

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching15Seminar time
Scheduled Learning and Teaching3Supervision meeting
Guided Independent Study282Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Annotated bibliography1000 words1, 8Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Oral presentation1015 minutes1-5, 7-9Written
Essay906000 words1-8Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Oral presentationOral presentation1-5, 7-9Refer/Defer period
EssayEssay1-8Refer/Defer period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Esther D. Reed, Theology for International Law (T & T Clark, 2013)
  • Susannah Cornwall, Sex and Uncertainty in the Body of Christ: Intersex Conditions and Christian Theology (Acumen, 2010); Christopher Southgate (ed.)
  • God, Humanity and the Cosmos , 3rd ed. (T&T Clark, 2011).

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Theology, religion, ethics, public issues