MA Religions and Theology / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Christian Thought and Practice in Contemporary Society

Course unit fact file
Unit code RELT71201
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit develops critical theological perspectives on contexts and issues in contemporary society, with particular reference to UK.


  • Provide an opportunity to explore the engagement of theology with a range of social, political and ecological issues
  • Enable the exploration in critical and constructive ways the difference that theology makes in the interpretation of contemporary issues and challenges
  • Critically evaluate the secular, and its theological critics
  • Examine critically creaturely flourishing and wellbeing in theological perspective
  • Assess critically and constructively  theological issues raised by living in the city, as urban space and polis
  • Test critically the (ir)relevance of the pastoral role and witness of the churches in a postsecular context
  • Critically evaluate theological claims regarding the claimed public nature of theology


Knowledge and understanding

  • Critique and deploy a range of theological methodologies.
  • Present a range of theological critique of ‘the secular’, and be able to explain the methodological decisions that accompany this range.
  • Offer a theological characterisation of concepts of (civil) society.
  • Discuss the possible contribution of theology to sustainability and the integrity of creation.
  • Comprehend the plurality of contemporary society and the polydoxy of contemporary applied theology.

Intellectual skills

  • Explore the relationship between doctrine and practice.
  • Demonstrate a sensitive yet critical attentiveness to the role of the churches in contemporary society.
  • Analyse and critically evaluate theological responses to contemporary society and related issues.
  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the arguments, assumptions and concepts relating to society, environment and the Church.

Practical skills

  • Develop the ability to reflect on his/her theological thinking and religious ideas in the light of discussion and reading, and relate to the views of others in a civil, reasoned and informed manner.
  • Apply key methods and concepts of theological and ethical analysis as these relate to material covered in the unit.
  • Retrieve, select and evaluate information from a range of sources, including libraries, daily living and the internet.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Demonstrate an ability to respond critically but respectfully to diverse opinions.
  • Analyse primary and secondary sources and communicate these effectively in discussion and writing.
  • Develop independent thought and critical self-awareness about their own beliefs and practices.       
  • Develop problem-solving skills and demonstrate the ability to locate, analyse and utilize information.

Employability skills

1. Identify an issue or problem and propose a solution. 2. Manage and undertake self-defined research tasks. 3. Present and defend conclusions to colleagues.

Assessment methods

Tutorial discussion of essay plan 0%
Essay 100%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Seminar discussion


Oral and written feedback on essay plan


Written feedback on essay



Recommended reading

Beaumont, Justin, and Christopher Baker (eds.). Postsecular Cities: Space, Theory and Practice. (London: Continuum, 2011) 

Bevans, Stephen B., Essays in Contextual Theology. Boston: Brill, 2018. 

Luke Bretherton, Christianity and Contemporary Politics (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). 

Malcolm Brown (ed.), Anglican Social Theology (London: CHP, 2014). 

John Milbank, Theology & Social Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006 2nd edition) 

Oliver O’Donovan, The desire of the nations (Cambridge University Press, 1996) 

Michael Northcott and Scott, P.M.  Systematic Theology and Climate Change (New York: Routledge, 2014). 

Elizabeth Phillips, Political Theology (T & T Clark, 2012) 

Elizabeth Phillips, Anna Rowlands, Amy Daughton (eds), T&T Clark Reader in Political Theology (2021) 

Peter Scott and William T. Cavanaugh (eds), Blackwell Companion to Political Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006/second edition 2018) 

Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2007). 

Graham Ward and Michael Hoelzl (eds), The new visibility of religion: studies in cultural hermeneutics (Continuum, 2008). 

Rowan Williams, Faith in the Public Square (London: Bloomsbury, 2012). 

Woodhead, Linda, and Rebecca Catto (eds.). Religion and Change in Modern Britain. (London: Routledge, 2012)   

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 8
Seminars 12
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Peter Scott Unit coordinator

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