Our two disciplines address the big questions of life: Where have we come from? What is the purpose of existence? What can we expect when we die? What makes for a good life? Philosophy draws on the resources of human reason to answer these questions, while Catholic theology reflects on the Christian faith tradition, shaped by the Scriptures and Church teachings. Both philosophy and theology are key elements of the Catholic intellectual tradition, and together these two disciplines provide a rich set of resources for the search for meaning and purpose in life.
Much of the teaching of the Faculty is in service to courses in other Faculties, particularly Education and Arts and Sciences. We also offer a range of courses under the administration of the Faculty, including a Bachelor of Theology, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Theology and specialist Graduate courses in Catholic education, health, welfare and ministry. At the graduate level, many of our courses are offered online.
Research is a real strength of the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy. In the 2010 assessment of research performance under the Australian Research Council’s Excellence in Research (ERA) initiative, ACU’s research activity in the field of Religion and Religious Studies was assessed as being at a level “above the world standard.” This assessment placed ACU at the equal top of all Universities in Australia engaged in research in the area of theology.
The Faculty has three main internationally recognised areas of research strength.
1) Contemporary Catholic Thought: Working in such areas as moral, systematic and practical theology, several staff have expertise in contextual approaches to the interpretation of the sources of faith in dialogue with contemporary culture. Particular strengths lie in exploring the significance for twenty-first century Australia of the theologies of Trinity, ecclesiology, interreligious issues, Christology and questions of Catholic Identity, and the work of writers such as Lonergan, Balthasar, Rahner, and Panikkar. In terms of international collaboration in this research strength a number of ACU staff are members of the project Anthropos in the Antipodes, which is run through Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium and includes partners from Boston College, USA.
2) Early Christianity: The exploration of the origins and early history of Christianity is a major area of research activity in the Faculty. A significant number of staff has expertise in the following areas: biblical studies, early Christian literature and history, ancient languages, early Christian theology, and in Jewish and Roman history. They undertake research in a wide range of topics from the period of the New Testament through to the end of the seventh century of the Christian era. ACU has a strong track record of receiving a number of Australian Research Council Discovery Grants in this area. The Centre for Early Christian Studies, under the direction of Professor Pauline Allen FAHA, is located within the Faculty. ACU also has a number of biblical scholars that are active members of the prestigious Society of New Testament Studies.
3) Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology: This is a strong and rapidly growing area of research strength for the Faculty. Research addresses questions concerned with the complex relationship between faith and reason, particularly as this has been understood through the history of western philosophy and philosophical theology, and as this history has been received and mediated in our own times. Several staff bring expertise regarding questions concerned with rational reflection on the existence of God, models of God’s interaction with the world, the problem of evil, religious language and religious experience. These questions are approached from various perspectives including history of philosophy, the phenomenology of religion, other contemporary Continental approaches, contemporary analytic philosophy of religion, and the dialogue between east and west on such matters.
The Faculty contains four Centres with a research focus – Centre for Early Christian Studies, Plunkett Centre for Ethics, Golding Centre for Women’s History, Theology and Spirituality and Asia-Pacific Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue.
Our theologians and philosophers are highly qualified and many have strong international reputations in research and publishing. The Faculty also has a large number of Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Philosophy research students.
Our students come to the study of theology and/or philosophy for a wide range of reasons, some for professional development and career advancement, many for the sheer joy and interest in exploring the meaning of life and faith’s meaning in our culture and times. Admittedly, the study of theology and philosophy will rarely lead to a highly lucrative career, but the skills learnt and developed in these disciplines, particularly the use of critical reasoning and the close reading of text and tradition, are very valuable and very widely applicable in many settings. Theology students can find careers in teaching, ministry, chaplaincy work or proceed to roles in Catholic health and welfare agencies. Students of philosophy can find careers in the public service, in ethics committees, and wherever critical and disciplined thinking is prized.
We welcome you to your study at ACU and hope that you have the opportunity to take some of our offerings. It is not uncommon for students to discover a real passion for the questions raised by their theology and philosophy units, and then to find themselves completing majors or even whole degrees from our Faculty. As the Psalmist says, “taste and see the good things of the Lord” (Ps 34:8).
Dr Dermot Nestor
Acting Executive Dean, Faculty of Theology and Philosophy