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Level 6

6AAT3402 Contemporary Theology & Philosophy


The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee this module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr Edward Epsen
Assessment: One 2,500-word essay (40%) and one 3,000-word essay (60%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: Two-hour weekly classes over ten weeks
Pre-requisites: none

This module is an introduction to contemporary philosophy and theology where these two subjects interact with one another. It is therefore particularly concerned with the the ways in which philosophers borrow from theology or theologians from philosophy in terms of shared questions, methods and insights. We shall begin with an historical overview of the contexts of these two disciplines and their interaction in the tradition before focusing upon the work of specific authors in the modern period. Students are invited to consider different typologies of the interaction of theology and philosophy and to develop their own criteria of judgment from first principles. This is a course that will appeal to students who are concerned to understand better the place of contemporary rationalities in Christian theology on the one hand and the continuing influence of Judaeo-Christian perspectives and debates in the philosophy of today on the other.

Sample topics


  • Historical and Theoretical Background: where do contemporary philosophy and theology come from? 
  • The Contemporary in Thought: Husserl and Heidegger
  • The Jewish Reaction to a German Point of Departure: Emmanuel Levinas
  • The Evolution of a French Hermeneutical Philosophy: Paul Ricoeur
  • A Radical French Hermeneutical Response to Heidegger: Jacques Derrida


  • Jacques Lacan
  • Slavoj Zizek
  • Alain Badiou
  • Radical Orthodoxy


  • Emergent Futures

Preliminary / suggested reading 

  • Flood, Gavin, The Importance of Religion in our Strange World, Oxford: Blackwell, 2012.
  • Harink, Douglas, ed., Paul, Philosophy and the Theopolitical, 2010.


  • Davies, Oliver, P. Janz and C. Sedmak, Transformation Theology: Church in the World, London: T&T Clark, Continuum, 2007.
  • David F. Ford, ed., The Modern Theologians. An Introduction to Theology in the Twentieth Century (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997). ‘Epilogue: Christian Theology at the Turn of the Century’.
  • Shakespeare, Steven, Radical Orthodoxy. A Critical Introduction, London: SPCK, 2007.


  • Critchley, Simon, A Companion to Continental Philosophy, Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.
  • Cutrofello, Andrew, Continental Philosophy. A Contemporary Introduction, London: Routledge, 2005.
  • Mullarkey, John and Lord, Beth, Continuum Companion to Continental Philosophy, London: Continuum, 2009.

Past syllabus

Please find syllabus document here for academic year 2015-16. Please be aware that the content of the syllabus will differ each academic year.

Further information

Module aims
  • To introduce students to definitions of the concept of the contemporary and to the problematics associated with identifying it.
  • To introduce students to the different inherited presuppositions and traditions of contemporary philosophy and theology.
  • To equip students with the methodology and tools which will allow them to analyse the evolving relation between philosophy and theology in the contemporary world.
  • To provide students with a comparative typology of the different kinds of relationships that can exist between theology and philosophy with respect to the degree that one influences the other.
Learning outcomes

By the end of the module students will demonstrate:

  • The ability to analyse competently primary sources of either a theological or philosophical nature and to discern how their different elements contrast or combine.
  • The ability to engage critically and dispassionately with the different kinds of claims that these traditions make, and to analyse the effects of their interaction.
  • The confidence to be able to use the evidence of textual sources and refined second-order, scholarly theory in order to construct and articulate well-supported arguments, both in class discussion and in written work.
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