An Introduction to the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy
The disciplines of Theology and Philosophy 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 in the search for meaning and purpose in life.
The Faculty offers a wide range of courses including a Bachelor of Theology (including Honours), Master of Theological Studies, and specialist Graduate courses in Catholic education, health, welfare and ministry. At the graduate level, many of our courses are offered in fully online and/or Blended delivery modes that ensure a distinctive, responsive and relevant learning experience.
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 four main internationally recognised areas of research strength; all of which are encompassed within the Institute for Religion and Critical Enquiry which promotes interdisciplinary and collaborative study that seeks to enrich and extend the traditional fields of philosophy and theology at an international level.
Biblical and Early Christian Studies: The major focus of research in this Centre is the manner by which Christianity establishes its identity and the extent to which it seeks to define itself as part of, and/or in contrast to, the existing Jewish and Greco-Roman religious, social and cultural heritages. A further important area of research is exploring the processes and ramifications associated with the transition of Christianity from being a minority religion into a mainstream, dominant religion within the Roman world through to the late Imperial period.
Contemporary Catholic Thought and Practice: Research in this Centre incorporates the ongoing investigation of questions and issues that each generation encounters at one time or another pertaining to belief in the divine and the nature and place of humanity in the world. Drawing on such areas as moral, systematic and practical theology, we explore contextual approaches to the interpretation of the sources of faith in dialogue with contemporary culture. A further key area of inquiry is the theological and philosophical frameworks for effective inter-religious dialogue. The research is aimed at facilitating understanding and appreciation so that the wisdom of the faith traditions is not neglected in public discourse.
Moral Philosophy and Applied Ethics: Research in this Centre focuses on questions concerning the origins and nature of moral value and theoretical frameworks for the discernment of this value (including interrogation of particular normative ethical models). Particular areas of applied ethics such as healthcare ethics, bioethics, political and social ethics at an individual and a communal level, feature in this program. Questions emanating from the interplay between personal identity and moral agency are explored by considering the extent to which affirming the primacy of individual autonomy trumps moral imperatives. Among these imperatives are individual responsibility for others, the protection of the vulnerable and the development of community.
Philosophy and Phenomenology of Religion: This is a strong and rapidly growing area of research strength for the Faculty that engages questions concerned with the complex relationship between faith and reason. We examine the history of Western philosophy and philosophical theology as they have been received and mediated in our own times. Particular attention is given to questions of rational reflection on the existence of God, models of God’s interaction with the world, the problem of evil, religious language and religious experience.
The theologians and philosophers engaged with such questions are highly qualified with strong international reputations in research and publishing and a wealth of expertise in the supervision of higher degree research students. The Faculty of Theology of Philosophy offers supervised research degrees across all of these core research areas and we welcome enquiries from suitably qualified students for any of the following programmes: Master of Theology (Research), Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
Our students come to the study of theology and/or philosophy for a wide range of reasons, some for professional development and career advancement, but many for the sheer joy and interest in exploring the meaning of life and the significance of faith in contemporary culture. Irrespective of motive, the skills learnt and developed in these disciplines, and particularly the ability to think critically around a range of complex issues; to contextualise different standpoints and perspectives in a coherent and convincing manner; to work within a team; and finally, to be a self-directed, independent learner will set you apart in what is an increasingly competitive and multicultural labour market.
Many graduates from the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy have been drawn towards those professions that are committed to promoting human flourishing such as pastoral care roles, counselling, chaplaincy, teaching, social work, psychology, advocacy, and humanitarian aid and development; either within the Church itself or in the wider public or private sector. Many more have seen fit to apply their particular skills to government policymaking roles and/or administrative departments. The expertise and broad skills base of Theology graduates are also highly prized by many large scale commercial organisations and are equally at home in the legal profession, journalism, library and information management, public relations and Human Resources roles.
We welcome you to your study at ACU. We also hope that you have the opportunity to take some of our course offerings and discover a real passion for the questions raised by the disciplines of theology and philosophy.
As the Psalmist says, “taste and see the good things of the Lord” (Ps 34:8).
Professor Dermot Nestor Executive Dean, Faculty of Theology and Philosophy