Theology & Religious Studies BA (Hons) (with Foundation Year)
UCAS Code: V601|Duration: 4 years|Full Time|Hope Park
UCAS Campus Code: L46
Work placement opportunities|International students can apply|Study Abroad opportunities
About the course
This degree gives you the opportunity to study Christian Theology whilst at the same time exploring other major religious traditions of the world. We live in an increasingly interconnected and fast-moving world. Ideas and people are on the move – and the ability to understand the perspectives of others, to learn from them, and to enter into conversation with them is essential for the future. Our Theology and Religious Studies degree is designed to help you to be at the cutting edge of that dialogue.
You will investigate the rich history and diversity of human religious experience and look in detail at the ways in which the lives of billions of people across the world are shaped and affected by questions of religious identity and faith. The degree combines the study of Christian theology with an exploration of several other major World Religions, and places particular emphasis on the possibilities – and limits – for dialogue between the religions, with particular emphasis on practical issues such as ethics. Study with us and you will be taken to the very heart of some of the major issues that are faced by our Age.
The degree embodies Hope’s commitment to take faith seriously and at the same time to be intellectually stretching, stimulating and challenging. The teaching staff represent a broad range of Christian traditions, and all of our lecturers are experts in their field and well published. To further support your studies, you will have access to our special collections archives, which house texts dating back to the 15th Century.
Teaching on this degree is structured into lectures, where all students are taught together, seminars of smaller groups of around 15-20 students, and tutorials which typically have no more than 10 students. You also have the opportunity to have a one-to-one meeting with your tutor each week.
In your first year, there are approximately 12 teaching hours each week, which reduces to approximately 10 teaching hours in your second and third years. On top of teaching hours, you are also expected to spend a number of hours studying independently each week, as well as studying in groups to prepare for any group assessments you may have.
Assessment and feedback
Throughout your three years of study you will have a number of assessments, including formal written exams, essays, vivas (oral exams), textual analyses, fieldwork reports case studies and portfolios. You also complete a dissertation on a research topic of your choice.
You will receive your feedback via the University’s Virtual Online Learning Environment (Moodle), and you are also welcome to discuss the feedback with your tutors.
The Foundation Year is a great opportunity if you have the ability and enthusiasm to study for a degree, but do not yet have the qualifications required to enter directly onto our degree programmes. A significant part of the Foundation Year focuses upon core skills such as academic writing at HE level, becoming an independent learner, structuring academic work, critical thinking, time management and note taking.
Successful completion of the Foundation Year will enable you to progress into the first year (Level C) of your chosen honours degree. Further details can be found here.
Foundations in Theology and Religious Studies
We begin by introducing you to the exciting subject of theology and discuss its scope and importance. How does it relate to profound issues such as life and death, the body and the mind? How do ancient beliefs and the Bible relate to present issues such as culture including art and music, sexuality and gender? Is this life the only one? Are we living at the end of the world? And what can reason and revelation tell us about God and God’s role in all of this?
Who is Jesus?
Jesus is obviously the central figure of the Christian faith but what have and do Christians believe about him? We follow old and new debates about what it means for the faith in terms of beliefs, values and behaviours if we stress his divinity over his humanity or vice-versa.
Introduction to the Bible
The Bible has influenced Western (and not only) culture and civilisation in manifold ways, and thus its significance extends well beyond Christian communities which consider it inspired and authoritative. In this course we first introduce broader issues of canon and interpretation, and then provide an overview of the contents of the Christian Bible as well as the various methods and approaches used by scholars to interpret biblical writings.
Initiation is process by which someone begins a new phase of life, or is admitted to membership of a particular group or association. Christian initiation describes the processes by which an individual becomes a member of the Christian Church. This unit involves a detailed study of the rituals and theology of Baptism, Confirmation and admittance to Holy Communion in the period up to 1453. It covers different aspects of initiation, including historical and theological issues, asking what rites of initiation do for believers and how they fit into the faith experience and the life of the Christian Church.
The mediaeval period was an era rich in expressions of spirituality, from the building of our cathedrals containing huge windows of stained glass art, carved misericords, statues of saints and Mary. This was high point of the spirituality of penitence and its accompanying spirituality including relics, pilgrimage and indulgences. This was an era when heaven and earth, the material and the spiritual, seemed so close. It also gave rise to a flourishing of mystical theology, in which female and male mystics reflected deeply, and controversially, on the mysteries of God and the soul. In so doing, they pushed the frontiers concerning how it may be possible to know and even to become one with the divine.
Introduction to the Study of Religion
This unit covers the main theories of religion, key ideas and themes (sacred texts, myth, ritual, sacred objects), questions such as the insider/outsider debate, religion and identity, as well as key theorists in the study of religion (for example, Emile Durkheim, Rudolf Otto, Mircea Eliade, Max Weber, William James and Clifford Geertz).
African Traditional Religion
This unit introduces you to some of the key aspects of the study of religion through the lens of the traditional religions of Africa. You will explore how ritual behaviour, myths, song, dance and the creation of religious artefacts come together to express people's understanding of the world and of themselves as communities. We use one of the great classics of African Literature, Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart to enter into a world that is very different to the religions that are generally studied at A-Level.
Introduction to Islam
The course aims to introduce students to the contemporary study of Islam. It begins by covering matters to do with the origins of Islam, the Quran and the tradition-literature. It goes on to consider Sunni and Shi’i traditions, and the institution of Sufism, theology and jurisprudence. Throughout, consideration is given to contemporary relevance of the early articulations of Islam.
Introduction to Judaism
Is Judaism a religion, an ethnicity, or a culture? This unit introduces students to Judaism in its rich and varied traditions and history, as well as contemporary practice. The themes covered in this course include the authoritative writings of Judaism (the Hebrew Bible, the Mishnah and the Talmud); the essentials of Jewish belief; the Jewish calendar, rituals and feasts; Messianism; gender; Zionism and the State of Israel.
Introduction to Hinduism
Hinduism is one of humanity's ancient and complex religious traditions. This unit helps students to navigate the rich ideas, texts and images of Hinduism by discussing a number of key dimensions, particularly through the study of text and imagery. The course discusses the concept of Brahman as One and Many and the broad traditions of ?aivism, Vai??avism and ??ktism along with their religious literature. We also consider Dharma and society - looking particularly at notions of Caste as Var?a and J?ti. We will explore Hindu philosophy - looking especially at M?m??s? and Ved?nta. Finally, the unit discusses the revitalisation of Hinduism in India today.
Religion and Violence in Liverpool
This unit focuses on Liverpool and its often violent religious past. The themes covered include the slave trade, the religious arguments used for and against slavery in Liverpool, the impact of emigration from Ireland on the religious landscape of the city, and the roots of the 1909 Liverpool sectarian riots. A guided walk through the historic centre of Liverpool with a focus on the traces of the slave trade is an integral part of this course.
Explorations in Theology and Religious Studies
Reformation Theology and Responses
The Reformation was a complex, epoch-making event that even today affects the landscape of Christian thinking across the globe. We focus on central Catholic and Protestant actors, such as Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli, Henry VIII, Calvin, Arminius, among others, who through their thought and actions created an enduring reality of division experienced and engaged differently, then and today, by Christians depending upon their ecclesial, social, and geographic location. By exploring this period we approach a deeper understanding of the dramatic emergence of the modern era and how it has shaped our own.
New Testament Epistolary Literature
Letters written by, or ascribed to, the Apostle Paul, form an important part of the New Testament, and some of the main controversies during the Reformation period centred around theological ideas first attested in the Pauline and other early Christian letters. In this unit we study select New Testament letters, including 1 Thessalonians, Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and James. We relate them to the Reformation debates, and thus focus on the themes of particular significance for the reformers and those opposing them, but our aim is primarily to understand the writings and themes under consideration in their first century context.
Theology in an Age of Enlightenment
Exploring the rise of modernity and the dynamic emergence of the Enlightenment, we consider theological responses to important challenges facing Christianity, many of which persist today. In particular, we focus on the radical tensions emerging between Faith and Reason, God and Self, Religion and Truth. We examine such themes as arguments for the existence of God, the turn to Romanticism, the Atheism controversies, the Jesus of History/Christ of Faith debate, and the apparent conflicts between Science, Philosophy, and Religion.
Biblical Perspectives on Marriage, Divorce, and Sexuality
Issues of gender, sexuality, and so-called ‘family values’ remain a matter of controversy among contemporary Christians. While in these debates biblical writings are often referred to, the complexity and diversity of the views that we find in the Bible, and specific presuppositions about gender and sexuality, are rarely acknowledged in popular understanding. In this unit we examine biblical perspectives on marriage, divorce and sexuality, including same-sex relations, by first of all studying them in their ancient contexts, and then asking questions about their reception and use in contemporary controversies.
Ethics and Evil
Among the greatest challenges facing theology is the problem of suffering and evil, an ancient enigma that persists in our contemporary world. Here we will engage with some of the deepest of questions: Is God really good? Is God in control of our world? Is evil the price for freedom? How can one believe in God when faced with the atrocious suffering caused by human and natural evil? We engage with such questions in the context of important events, critically evaluating key theological arguments and their fiercest critics.
Religion and Conflict in Old (and New) England
Differences in religious belief can often boil over into conflict, and even violence. This unit uses contemporary material to look at how the Reformation in England generated centuries of heated dispute in England and in its American colonies. Through a detailed reading of pamphlets published at the time, trial accounts, sermons and newspaper reports the unit brings all this to life. The Northwest of England is repeatedly returned to as a case study - and the three-generation career of the Mather family of Puritan ministers takes us all the way from Liverpool to the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts.
Religious Ethics and Spirituality
Can religious commands ever be unethical? With this question in mind, this course examines important ethical issues and theories in Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, and secular traditions. In doing so, we explore the often neglected relationship between ethics and spirituality, as well as asking whether there is anything distinctively ‘religious’ about ‘religious ethics’. Throughout the course, we examine specific case studies and controversial issues such as sacrifice, sexuality and gender, the holocaust, jihad and radicalization, environmental ethics, forgiveness, and the problem of evil.
In this course Christianity, a thoroughly global faith, is studied from a global point of view, examining diverse ritual practices, behaviours, beliefs and customs. Students will engage with film representations of Jesus, modern popular literature and music which draws its metaphors and imagery from Christian thought. The course delves into the agreements about belief but also the ethical divergences across traditions and cultures, particularly related to sex and gender, abortion, feminism, and stances to war.
This course offers an introduction to Buddhism, but is taught in a way that allows students to look at any specific area in depth and detail. We begin by looking at who Siddhartha Gautama (the historical Buddha) was and what he did, before exploring various key areas of Buddhism. These include: The Four Noble Truths; the meaning of no-self (Anatta); the nature and significance of liberation (focusing on Nirvana), the schisms that occurred after the Buddha’s death; the various schools that have resulted, namely, Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana; the notion of emptiness (Sunyata) and suchness (Tathata), before ending with a study of Zen Buddhism.
Islamic law and society
One of the great Western scholars of Islamic law, Joseph Schacht, argued that a clearly Islamic system of law began to form only after the Umayyads came to power; subsequently, under the Abbasids, Islamic law became a rigid theoretical structure. It was gradually recognized, Schacht argued, that by about the 10th century all important juristic questions had been posed and resolved, marking the closing of the doors of independent reasoning; this theoretical rigidity poses immense problems for modern jurists trying to reform Islamic law. Every aspect of Schacht’s account is now questioned in light of Islamic law’s adaptability to different societal contexts in particular. The course examines how Islamic law engages questions of politics, gender and its application within Western civil legal system. It also explores the differences between Shi’ism and Sunnism and how that is reflected in Iran today.
Your second year Religious Studies Tutorials will focus on critical analysis of various chapters from the Cambridge Companion to Religious Studies.
Advanced Studies in Theology and Religious Studies
Post/Modern Theology and the Darkness of God
We explore key thinkers and themes in C20th-C21st theology as they respond to a century of unprecedented conflict. Within this, we examine challenges arising in the wake of evil and suffering (including the Holocaust), the advent of postmodernism and feminism, liberation and black theology, and the revival of the mystical. Here students are encouraged to develop their own theological thinking concerning how ideas about ‘God’ might be (re-)interpreted in both the shadow of conflict and the light of new horizons.
The search for ‘spirituality’ is one of the most striking aspects of contemporary Western cultures, with many younger and older people seeking old and new ways to live out their fundamental beliefs and values while reaching for the mystical side of life. The course examines religious experience as experienced through contemporary religious movements, with a particular focus on the spirituality of land and sacred spaces.
Theological Trends in Eastern Christianity in the Twentieth Century and Beyond
This course surveys major theological trends in Eastern Christianity from the beginning of the 20th century until now. It explores the challenges faced by Eastern Churches, focusing especially on Churches of the Byzantine tradition.
Theology and Disability Studies
In this unit we introduce different discourses and models of disability, and then probe theological assumptions and structures, as well as authoritative writings, from the perspective of disability. We consider questions such as: Why are disability perspectives important within theology? If disability is an integral part of what it means to be human, that it is part of ‘normality,’ as disability theologians suggest, what implications does this have for our understanding of the notion of being made in the image of God? What is ‘disability’ in the Bible? How might a disability lens affect the interpretation of biblical texts? What are the ecclesiastical implications of re-evaluating traditional interpretations of such ideas, as well as texts?
Islamic political thought
This course allows students to read and interpret primary sources in translation that reflect the main three genres of writings on political theory in medieval Islam: Legal, literary and philosophical. It also explores how the classical texts inform, or do not inform, the rise of contemporary political Islam.
Judaism in the Shadow of the Shoah (Holocaust)
Where was God in the holocaust (Shoah)? Who was God in the Shoah? Such questions remain profoundly challenging for Jewish belief, thought, practice, and identity. In this course, we examine ways in which Jewish thinkers, artists, and writers have responded to the horrors of the Shoah by both appealing to tradition and striving towards the future. In particular, we explore the rise of Holocaust Theology and the revival of interest in Jewish mysticism (kabbalah). We reflect on ways in which these two important modern trends interact, as Jewish thinkers draw on mystical ideas in their search for meaning in the shadow of the Shoah.
Islamic Sufism (mysticism)
In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries, it was common to think of Sufism as a non-essential part of Islam – mysticism was thought to be foreign to Semitic religious sensibility. Scholarly consensus since the seminal work of Massignon is united in rejecting this assumption but exploring why the assumption is wrong and how it came to be rejected is instructive. The course explores these questions as it looks at Ghazali’s pivotal role in synthesizing Sufi ideas with other sources of knowledge in Islam as he provides a broad definition of Islamic Orthodoxy.
Religion, Conflict, and Reconciliation
You will also engage with the broader theme of Religion, Conflict, and Reconciliation, critically evaluating key points of conflict around the world and the role that religions play in cultivating tensions and resolutions. A moment’s reflection attests that religion and violence are often woven together in history’s tapestries. Any number of religions have justified violence under certain circumstances, and others have become caught up in its processes. The course looks at various contexts in the world to assess the relevance of engaging religion for the coherence of societies and pursuit of peace even when conflict is associated with religious sensitivities.
This level also provides students with an opportunity to pursue a theme related to the programme through a substantial independent research project (a dissertation) led by the student working with a supervisor.
There may be some flexibility for mature students offering non-tariff qualifications and students meeting particular widening participation criteria.
As a graduate in Theology and Religious Studies, you will have developed excellent skills in critical thinking, which are highly-prized by employers. You will be competent in textual analysis and report writing, and will have developed high-level oral communication skills. You will have an in-depth knowledge of several living religious traditions, a detailed understanding of the breadth of Christian traditions, and an ability to empathise with and understand different points of view. This prepares you for a range of careers including, law, media, public administration and social and community work. Many graduates enter the teaching profession and a background in Theology and Religious Studies is excellent preparation for teaching the subject at A-Level.
You would also be well-positioned to pursue postgraduate study in theology, religion and related humanities subjects. More broadly, it equips you with the intellectual skills and perspectives needed for facing the ethical and ideological challenges of the contemporary world.
The Service and Leadership Award (SALA) is offered as an extra-curricular programme involving service-based experiences, development of leadership potential and equipping you for a career in a rapidly changing world. It enhances your degree, it is something which is complimentary but different and which has a distinct ‘value-added’ component. Find out more on our Service and Leadership Award page.
As part of your degree, you can choose to spend either a semester or a full year of study at one of our partner universities as part of our Study Abroad programme. Find out more on our Study Abroad page.
The tuition fees for the 2023/24 academic year are £9,250 for full-time undergraduate courses.
If you are a student from the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, your tuition fees will also be £9,250.
The University reserves the right to increase Home and EU Undergraduate and PGCE tuition fees in line with any inflationary or other increase authorised by the Secretary of State for future years of study.
As well as tuition fees, you will need approximately £200 to purchase key textbooks. There are a number of optional fieldtrips each year, details of cost will be given to you with plenty of notice.
You will also need to consider the cost of your accommodation each year whilst you study at university. Visit our accommodation pages for further details about our Halls of Residence.
We have a range of scholarships to help with the cost of your studies. Visit our scholarships page to find out more.
International tuition fees
The International Tuition fees for 2023/24 are £12,500.
Visit our International fees page for more information.
With Foundation year, this degree is only available to study as a Single Honours course.