Theology and Religion modules

The optional modules listed on the website for this programme may unfortunately occasionally be subject to change. As you will appreciate key members of staff may take study leave or leave the University and this necessitates a review of the modules that are offered. Where the module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

First Year

Introduction to the Study of Religion

This module surveys wider theories and debates in sociology, cultural studies and anthropology as a basis for the study of religion, focussing especially on the social and cultural analysis of religion.

  • Assessment: One essay of 3,000 words and one 90-minute examination
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Question: Critically assess the representation of religion within a book, film, monument or website.
  • Value: 20 credits

Introduction to Islam

This module introduces students to the core elements of Islamic faith and practice with reference to the key Islamic sources and methods of religious thought. It summarises the development of Islamic thought, and the current state of Islam in majority and minority situations.

  • Assessment: Two essays of 2,500 words each
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Question: What is the importance of the Qur’an in Islamic legal, theological and social thinking?
  • Value: 20 credits

Introduction to the History of Christianity

This module introduces students to the history of Christianity from the early church to the present, with particular focus on schisms and denominational histories including Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, the early and later Protestant Reformation, non-conformist churches, and the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement of the twentieth century.

  • Assessment: One essay of 3,000 words and one portfolio of 3,000 words
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Question: Debate and discuss African Independent Churches as a critique of colonialism.
  • Value: 20 credits

Introduction to Biblical Studies

This module aims to give students an introduction to Hebrew Bible and New Testament from the perspective of academic Biblical Studies. Topics covered relate to the historical background to these texts; questions of authorship, dating, and original audience; literary relationships between biblical books; the historicity of the biblical narratives; different theological interpretations of the events the Bible describes; and the relationship between academic and confessional approaches.

  • Assessment: Two essays of 2,500 words, one per semester
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Question: What is the role of Biblical Archaeology, and how can it be treated as an independent source?
  • Value: 20 credits

Widening Horizons

You will need to choose a module that is of interest to you from outside Theology and Religion. There will be a fair at the beginning of the academic year, which you attend in order to make your choice of a module.

  • Value: 20 credits

Defining Jews, Jewishness and Judaism(s)

This module introduces and explores a number of different and competing narratives (or accounts/explanations) of ‘who is a Jew?’, Jewishness, and the nature of Judaism(s), how they have developed over time and how they relate to each other. Considerable attention is paid throughout the module to questions of definition and methodology, paying particular attention to key moments in Jewish history, such as Second Temple Judaism, Haskalah (the Jewish Enlightenment ) and the contemporary period.

  • Assessment: One essay of 2500 words
  • Value: 10 credits

Introduction to the Study of the Holocaust

The module explores contemporary debates about how to define, describe and account for the Holocaust, including the nature of non-Jewish victimhood and whether or not this should be understood as part of ‘the Holocaust’, and how events were written about and understood differently from the perspective of victims and perpetrators.

  • Assessment: One essay of 2,500 words
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Question: Is it possible for an individual or group of people to be both a victim and a perpetrator of the Holocaust? Or is it necessary to maintain a clear-cut distinction between these two categories?
  • Value: 10 credits

Themes in Christian Theology

This module will consider some major doctrinal and/or thematic aspects of Christian theology. Such doctrines/themes may include Creation, the Human Person, Word of God, Sin, Trinity, Ecclesiology, Christology, Soteriology, Eschatology to mention a few. In critically reviewing such themes, students will study different theological perspectives and viewpoints offered by figures selected from Christian history (and from different regions).

  • Assessment: Two essays of 2,000 words
  • Value: 20 credits

Second and final year

Dissertation Preparation

This module provides a structured framework enabling you to gain professional skills in presentation and teamwork, as well as identifying an appropriate dissertation area, research question and supervisor, and completing the initial planning and research for your dissertation.

  • Assessment: One portfolio of 2,500 words
  • Value: 10 credits

Placement

The placement module allows you to spend time in a school, charity, or other situation in the UK or abroad for about two weeks and then to reflect critically on this in a written report in the light of your studies in Theology and Religion and your career aspirations.

  • Assessment: One essay of 3,000 words
  • Value: 20 credits

Auschwitz in History and Memory

The module allows the student to gain an appreciation of the intrinsically interdisciplinary nature of study and representation of the Holocaust. It involves close study of ONE particular theme/aspect from a variety of perspectives, in a range of media, both as events were happening, and in terms of the cultural ‘afterlife’ of the Holocaust. Students will work closely with a range of secondary sources and primary sources where appropriate.

  • Assessment: One essay of 3,000 words (End S2, 50%) and one 90 minute examination (summer exam period, 50%)
  • Value: 20 credits

Biblical Hebrew Language

This module is designed to help you to read and understand the texts of the Hebrew Bible at a basic level and as a foundation for further study.

  • Assessment: Four class tests, two per semester
  • Value: 20 credits

Biblical Hebrew Texts

This module will help students read and interpret extracts from the Hebrew Bible in the original language. Seminars will introduce intermediate-level Hebrew grammar whilst giving students the opportunity of reading, translating and interpreting the Hebrew Bible, with both prose (from the Pentateuch and Former Prophets) and poetic (from Psalms and the Latter Prophets) texts under consideration.

  • Assessment: Two translation/exegetical essays of 1,500 words each excluding translation
  • Value: 20 credits

Buddhism

This module will provide an overview of the Buddhist tradition, covering historical backgrounds and subsequent development; key concepts and teachings, including the Four Noble Truths, concepts of ‘no-self’, emptiness, rebirth and enlightenment; the diversity of traditions; and practice. Contemporary movements and issues will be explored, and there will be an opportunity to engage with Buddhist communities in the West Midlands.

  • Assessment: One essay of 2,500 words
  • Value: 10 credits

Islam and the West 

The module explores the background and current interactions between Muslims and the Western world. It explores definitions of the terms ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’, and provides an overview of the historical contacts between the Muslim world and the West, assessing their contemporary relationship. The images of Islam and Muslims in the Western context will also be discussed. The module will focus on the impact of 9/11 and the subsequent war on terror and their implications for the relationship between the two cultural and religious contexts. The module will in particular explore contemporary developments in the Muslim world and their impact on future international relations, such as the rise of radical Islamist groups.

  • Assessment: One 3,000 word essay
  • Value: 10 credits

New Testament Greek

This module aims to introduce students to New Testament Greek. A text-book will be followed which will offer an introduction to vocabulary and grammatical concepts based on passages from the New Testament. Students will be shown how to use standard reference works, such as dictionaries, to assist in understanding texts in the original language. The course will enable students to translate simple passages as well as increase their awareness of some of the challenges of biblical interpretation.

  • Assessment: Two formally assessed class tests (one in each term; 25% each) and one exam of 1.5 hours in the summer exam period (50%)
  • Value: 20 credits

Advanced New Testament Greek 

This module involves the reading, study and translation of at least one New Testament writing in the original language. Students should already have completed an introduction to Greek grammar and vocabulary with the help of a course book. In this course, they will be introduced to more advanced constructions as they appear in the text, build up their Greek vocabulary and develop their translation skills. They will also develop a more advanced ability to use reference works to elucidate passages of Greek text. Matters of exegesis, of textual transmission and of manuscript attestation will also be explored.

  • Assessment: Two formally assessed class tests (one in each term; 25% each); one exam of 1.5 hours in the summer exam period (50%) 
  • Value: 20 credits

Paradigms of Belief

The module will address issues and questions that occur at the ‘borderlands’ between Philosophy and Theology/Religion. The module will focus on: a) the human predicament as described in a number of selected religious and philosophical  traditions; and b) the meaning and goal of human life, again, as understood in a number of selected religious or philosophical traditions. Such issues, taken together, are given the title ‘paradigms of belief’ to indicate the different structures, worldviews and systems that inform and direct human life and activity in its global variety. 

  • Assessment: Two essays of 3,000 words (50% each, one per semester)
  • Value: 20 credits

Religion and the Arts

This module will assess the importance and significance of art in its many different forms as a tool for the communication, interpretation and critique of religious and theological ideas and ideologies. It will focus on a range of artefacts, including works of fine art, stained glass, sculpture, literature, film and music, and upon buildings and architectural features, offering an introduction to the development of religious art and seeking to read a range of works from the perspectives of Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Students will learn how to read and appreciate such artefacts as theological resources as well as cultural ones, and reflect upon issues such as what it is that makes art religious and how cultural outputs and artefacts can have spiritual impact.

  • Assessment: One portfolio of 2,500 words
  • Value: 10 credits

Religion in Contemporary Society

A variety of critical methods and approaches (e.g. sociology, anthropology) are used in this module to understand the nature and diversity of religion in the UK today. The module will enable students to begin to read effectively and appreciate the nature of religion in urban and other settings with some focus on lived religions in the city of Birmingham. 

  • Assessment: Two essays of 2,500 words, one per semester
  • Value: 20 credits

Religion in the Public Sphere

This module is a compulsory second year module for all students on the BA Politics, Religoin and Philosophy programme. It consolidates learning about the three subjects gained in the first year and continues to bring their concerns, insights and methods into dialogue by focussing on issues and regions of concern in the contemporary world. A main aim of the module is to ensure that students leaving the Politics, Religion and Philosophy programme can offer analysis and advice in public arenas on religious, political and philosophical issues in an informed and robust manner and can explain the value and skills of their degree studies to prospective employers. 

The module will enable students to analyse issues and policies concerning religion arising in the public square, critically integrating perspectives from the programme’s three disciplines. The module proceeds by equipping students with background and analytic tools developing and understanding and ability to use principles and approaches to understanding religion and social and intellectual context via looking at issues and varying contexts in the history of religious and social relations. Students will then be able to apply these principles and approaches to the analysis of current issues in a variety of contexts around the contemporary world.

  • Assessment: One essay of 2,000 words (50%) and one Policy Analysis of 3,000 words (50%) 
  • Value: 20 credits

Sikhism

This module covers the origins and fundamental beliefs of Sikhism, as well as analysing religious and cultural issues facing Sikhs today. Particular attention is paid to women and children, and to the Sikh diaspora.

  • Assessment: One essay of 2,500 words 
  • Value: 10 credits

Special Study

This module affords students the opportunity of detailed critical engagement with a specific issue in Theology & Religion in an independent study context working with a supervisor to be appointed by the Department.

  • Assessment: One essay of 2,500 words (end S2)
  • Value:10 credits

Theological Ethics

This module will introduce you to the nature, methods, insights, and contested dynamics of contemporary theological ethics.

This module will help you to think and argue better, and improve your analytical skills. It will require you to contribute fully to complex discussions of issues - helping you to speak more confidently and cogently. Your most treasured assumptions, norms and values may be called into question as you engage with some of the most contentious and interesting issues of our time. Ethics is about dynamic discussion, disagreement and argument about the nature of reality and of God and moral norms. This means that this module will involve your full participation, both orally and in writing. You may not be a morally better person when you have finished it, but you should be more aware of the complexity of contemporary ethical debates and assumptions, and you should be better able to hold your own in a complex and sensitive ethically-related discussion.

  • Assessment: 1 essay of 3,000 words (end S1, 30%), plus seminar handout (end S2, 20%), plus one 90 minute seen exam (summer exam period, 50%)
  • Value: 20 credits

Use and Interpretation of the Bible

This module encourages you to think creatively about how a biblical text can be read and interpreted, moving beyond the historical-critical method to consider newer reader-oriented approaches (narrative, queer, feminist and gender criticism) to biblical texts and how they have developed within recent scholarship.  

  • Assessment: Two essays of 3.000 words each
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Questions: What are the aims of feminist approaches? What reading strategies do they employ? How does a man read ‘as a feminist’?
  • Value: 20 credits

Women in Islam

This module surveys the position of women in Islam, dealing with their legal, social and political status by analysing the institutions of education, marriage, inheritance, divorce and family life.

  • Assessment: One essay of 3,000 words
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Question: 'Honour killing is a crime against the sacred text of Islam; nevertheless, some Muslims continue to commit it.’ Discuss.
  • Value: 10 credits

Dissertation

This is a major piece of independent work for which a topic is identified and research is carried out with supervisory help to produce a 12,000 word essay.

  • Assessment: One dissertation of 12,000 words
  • Value: 40 credits

6,000-word Dissertation  

The 6000-word dissertation is a piece of substantial independent research on a subject in Theology and/or Religion chosen by the individual student, but subject to approval by the Department. 

  • Assessment:  One dissertation of 6,000 words
  • Value: 20 credits

Placement-based Dissertation 

The placement-based dissertation is an extended piece of substantial independent research (9000 words) on a topic in Theology and/or Religion linked to a specific placement context chosen by the individual student, but subject to approval by the Department. Students negotiate a placement involving a minimum of 100 hours in a setting of their own choice, subject to approval from the Department. 

  • Assessment:  One dissertation of 9,000 words 
  • Value: 40 credits

Link Dissertation (Joint Honours)  

This module enables students to combine independent study and research in their two disciplines into one project, for which they will receive joint supervision from staff in the two disciplines. The length, format, number of supervisions and other conventions relating to the project will follow the arrangements in place in the Home department, though the subject-matter should be roughly equally divided between the two discipline areas. Students will have access to research support provided by both disciplines in the form of any lectures, workshops and other sessions available to single-discipline Dissertation students. The 40 credits of the module will count equally towards both subjects taken – i.e. 20 towards the home department and 20 towards the partner department – when it comes to calculating the final degree title.

  • Assessment:  One dissertation of 10-12,000 words 
  • Value: 40 credits

Bible and Sacred Space

This module looks at spatial concepts within biblical texts and reads them using spatial-critical theory. There is an emphasis on the original settings of the texts and also on the history of their interpretation in different contexts, including the ethics of examing biblical space in light of contemporary political conflicts (Israel/Palestine and Jerusalem in particular). 

  • Assessment: One essay of 2,500 words
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Question: Is it possible for the study of biblical sacred space to be non-political?
  • Value: 20 credits

Dead Sea Scrolls: Text and Context

This module examines the contribution of the Dead Sea Scrolls to our understanding of the history of the Second Temple Period. Particular emphasis is placed on the nature of the collection and various attempts to classify the material. A variety of scholarly assessments of the social realities reflected in the Qumran texts and the site of Qumran are critically evaluated.

  • Assessment: One essay of 2,500 words
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Question: You have been invited to put together a television documentary about the archaeology of Khirbet Qumran. Which scholars would you invite to participate and what conclusions would you, as editor and presenter, draw at the end of the programme?
  • Value: 10 credits

Islamic Philosophy

The module traces the development of philosophy in the Islamic world from its beginnings in the ninth century to its full flowering in the thirteenth century and beyond. It examines the relationship between Islamic philosophy and its Greek and Persian antecedents, focussing on the contributions made by the major philosophical figures of the Islamic world.

  • Assessment: One essay of 3,000 words
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Question: Who was the first true philosopher in Islam?
  • Value: 10 credits

Jewish Religious Responses to the Holocaust

This module analyses a broad range of Jewish religious responses to the Holocaust both as events were happening and in their aftermath.

  • Assessment: One essay of 3,000 words AND one critical reflection of 1,000 words
  • Value: 20 

Living Theology

Living Theology explores the crucial interplay between doctrine and practice in faith and religion.  Students will grapple with the ways that beliefs affect how we live (and vice versa) by exploring the developing field of Practical Theology; its history, methods and theory.  This module will encourage personal reflection and provide unique engagement with multi-faith perspectives on issues of praxis and faith.

  • Assessment: 90 minute (seen) examination
  • Value: 10 credits

Politics in the Name of God  

This module reviews and evaluates the significance of religion in global politics and international relations and its intersection with domestic politics and public policy. Whilst recent analysis of religion and politics has generally focussed principally on Islam, this module recognizes the role of the major religions (defined as those faiths with a ‘world-wide’ presence) in the shaping of the politics of nation-states and the development of the international system. The module will survey the approach to religion adopted by major theories of international relations and discuss their most relevant insights, in order to understand contemporary political challenges, which include those of democratization, political development, political violence, gender, the environment, economic affairs, humanitarian intervention, globalization and other concerns that can intersect both with religious groups and ideas. The module will also look at the role of religion in various aspects of politics: institutions and structures, political parties, civil society and social movements, and economic development.

  • Assessment: Two 2,500-word essays (one in each term; 50% each)
  • Value: 20 credits

Queer Bibles and Theologies

What happens when gay and lesbian people read the Bible? How do Christian congregations cope with someone who is transitioning to another gender? This module looks at LGBT and Queer ways of engaging with religious life, including reading biblical texts and constructing theologies.  

  • Assessment: One essay of 2,500 words
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Question: ‘Welcoming and Affirming, yes, but Queer worship is a utopian dream’. Discuss critically how far you agree with this statement
  • Value: 10 credits

Thealogy: Transgressive Travels with the Goddess

This module, unique to Birmingham, offers a critical consideration of key themes in thealogy (‘goddess spirituality’), its thinkers and its theoretical concerns. Female spirituality and feminist critiques of conventional religions are just two aspects of this unique and diverse module.

  • Assessment: One essay of 4,000 words
  • Sample Essay/Exam/Discussion Question: What kind of ‘liberation’ is available through programmes such as What Not to Wear?
  • Value: 20 credits

World Christianities

This module studies the enormous changes in the nature and demography of world Christianities from the 19thCentury to the beginning of the 21stCentury, with particular focus on schisms and denominational histories, including Roman Catholicism, Protestant churches, ecumenism, evangelical churches, independent churches, and Pentecostalism.

  • Assessment: One essay of 3,000 words and one written task of 1,000 words

Atheisms: From Voltaire to Dawkins 

The module rehearses classic atheist arguments from Voltaire to Nietzsche and juxtaposes them with more contemporary versions (especially Dawkins and Hitchens). The focus is on primary texts (in translation where needed) and their interpretation. Students will work through one classic text per week. Assessment will test rehearsal of arguments and (towards the end of the module) students’ ability to pit the classical texts against the contemporary ones, especially on themes of social justice and suffering.

  • Assessment: One 2,500 word essay
  • Value: 10 credits

Ethics of Character 

Ideals of character occupy a central—if sometimes underrated—place in our ethical life. Some of the most important moral judgements we make revolve not simply around the things people do, but around the qualities of character they manifest. This has been reflected in a long history of philosophical and theological engagement with conceptions of character, or the virtues and the vices. This module will investigate the concept of character using a variety of perspectives and approaches, focusing chiefly on philosophical accounts of character while also introducing religious perspectives on the subject. The core questions it will explore include: What is character, and why should we care about it? What constitutes good character? Do ideals of character vary across different cultural, historical and religious contexts? Are we responsible for our character? Can character be changed, and if so, how? The module will familiarise students with contemporary discussions of character while also engaging prominent texts from philosophical (and to a lesser extent) theological history in a thematic fashion.

  • Assessment: One 2,500-word essay
  • Value: 10 credits