This unit explores the philosophical underpinnings of some key theological turns in Christian history. Variants of Platonism provide the background against which the Hellenistic elements in the New Testament can be interpreted; subsequent Platonist developments inform Augustine s thought and thereby, much later, Luther’s. Similarly, Aristotle sets the scene for Thomas Aquinas; Kant for Schleiermacher and the nineteenth century liberal theologians; Hegel, in a different way, for Kierkegaard and Barth; Heidegger for Bultmann and Rahner. The unit concludes by exploring a contemporary philosophy with theological implications. Throughout, the student is given an engagement with the philosophers concerned, both in their own right and as they provide a background for scriptural and theological contemporaries and successors. The student is challenged to address critically the question of the whether there exists a theoretical limit to fruitful engagement between philosophical and theological approaches to discovering ultimate meaning.

Unit code: AP8000P

Unit status: Approved (Major revision)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Foundational

Unit discipline: Philosophy

Proposing College: Pilgrim Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Explain the difference between philosophical and theological approaches to exploring truth


Discuss the ways in which the particular philosophers studied have extensions of their philosophical claims that are essentially theological


Recognise the issues involved in assessing the theological merits and demerits of the various philosophical positions studied


Critically evaluate, with reference to original texts, the coherence of the philosophical positions studied as these bid to inform theological positions


Demonstrate understanding, through focus on a particular philosopher or philosophy, of the deeper issues uniting and dividing secular-philosophical and religious-theological approaches


Lecturing, with discussion and a weekly tutorial. Within the semester, a postgraduate seminar at which the student presents a draft essay, and leads discussion aimed at its improvement towards a final version.

Indicative Bibliography

  • Allen, Diogenes and Eric O. Springsted. Philosophy for Understanding Theology. 2nd ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster-John Knox Press. 2007. (recommended for purchase)
  • Allen, Diogenes and Eric O. Springsted, eds. Primary Readings in Philosophy for Understanding Theology. Louisville, KY: Westminister-John Knox Press, 1992. *Suggestion: seek second hand copies.
  • Bonsor, Jack A. Athens and Jerusalem: The Role of Philosophy in Theology. Marwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1993.
  • Brown, Colin. Philosophy and the Christian Faith: a Historical Sketch from the Middle Ages to the Present Day. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1980.
  • Copleston, F. A History of Philosophy. Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1962-1977.
  • Craig, William Lane, and J.P. Moreland, eds. The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Chichester, UK; Malden, MA: Wiley- Blackwell, 2009.
  • Gilson, Etienne. God and Philosophy. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1941.
  • Melchert, Norman. The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. 4th ed. Boston, MA: McGraw Hill, 2001; or 3rd. ed. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co, 1999.
  • Taylor A.E. Plato: The Man and His Work. Dover Books on Western Philosophy. New York: Dover Books 2011.
  • Vesey, Godfrey, ed. The Philosophy in Christianity. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

Essay 2 (3000 words)

3000 50.0

Essay 1 (3000 words), following prior presentation at seminar of a draft of the essay*.

*Seminar presentation of draft (clarity of presentation and leadership of discussion to be assessed), followed by the written-up essay

3000 50.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 1 Aug, 2019

Unit record last updated: 2021-06-07 08:43:49 +1000