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2021/22 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

THEO5030M Sin, Public Discourse and Public Life

30 creditsClass Size: 20

Module manager: Dr Alistair McFadyen

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

This module is mutually exclusive with


This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

What is sin? Is it only concerned with sex? And is even that concern trivial? Can it have anything to do with issues in public life? How might it relate to secular ways of discerning and describing what goes wrong in human affairs? What is the proper use of the language of sin, and how might and has it been misused? Why do Christian and post-Christian feminists have such a problem with the doctrine of sin? Is the doctrine of original sin offensive to moral reason or undermined by modern science? Is institutional racism an example of it? Students on this module will seek answers to these questions by engaging with a range of theologies of sin, from Augustine to contemporary feminist reconstructions and critique, and by engaging with public issues and debates concerning human pathologies. This is a Level M module and students should have taken or be taking appropriate Level 3 or M modules in theology.If the module recruits three or fewer students, it will be delivered via 3 hours of supervision with the module leader (instead of the format specified below).


This module will enable students to engage in advanced study of the substantive and methodological issues in Christian theological engagement with aspects of public life in a 'secular' context focussed on extended and deep consideration of the Christian doctrine of sin. Students who complete the module will be able to assess patterns of theological engagement and discernment in relation to a range of issues in secular thought and practice as they bear on public life. Students will be expected to identify and defend the criteria against which such assessments may be made, and self-critically to develop a method of theological engagement between the doctrine of sin and at least one secular discipline informing public discussion and policy formation, or one area of public life. The module will equip students for further postgraduate study in the general area of public life.

Learning outcomes
On completion of this module, students will have gained a deep understanding of:
- the historical diversity of Christian views of sin;
- the relationship of the doctrine of sin to loci in Christian doctrine and in Christian ethics and pastoral and practical theology;
- the relationship between the theological language of sin and secular discourses identifying and analysing human pathologies, especially in relation to issues in public life;
- and the methodological issues involved.

They will be able to analyse primary theological texts, construct conversations between divergent views and make judgments with sensitivity and subtlety. They will have developed their own criteria for making theological judgments in this field, relating the various positions taken on the doctrine of sin to other doctrines and theological themes (such as grace, salvation, humanity, creation, christology, church), to biblical material, secular intellectual disciplines, and questions of practice.

Skills outcomes
Directed and self-directed reading; independently evaluating a body of work / the work of others; presentation skills; extended and complex forms of writing.


The syllabus will include consideration of such topics and questions as:
- sin as act and sin as situation or state;
- the relationship between theological and secular languages of pathology;
- Biblical understandings of sin; freedom and sin;
- original sin;
- Augustine;
- Pelagius;
- Liberation Theologies;
- Feminist Theologies;
- individual and social sin;
- forgiveness and confession;
- structural sin;
- the explanatory power of sin in relation to issues in public life, such as addiction, institutional racism and diversity, criminal
- justice, genocide, child abuse, sexual morality;
- political order and political responsibility;
- terrorism;
- genocide.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours20.00
Private study hours257.00
Total Contact hours23.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

3 hours reading per lecture (33 hours)
5 hours average per seminar preparation (55 hours)
169 hours essay/report and literature review preparation.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Weekly seminar presentations, either individual 20 minute presentation or collaborative group presentation/led discussion of 40 minutes.
Individual tutorials re. draft essay and literature review.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4,000 words70.00
Literature Review2,000 words30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Resit = 6000 word essay, 100%.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/06/2021 14:25:35


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