Religion, Culture and Ethics BA


Fact file - 2018 entry

Religion, Culture and Ethics | BA Hons
UCAS code
3 years full-time
A level offer
Required subjects
IB score
Course location
University Park  
Course places


This course offers a broad grounding in ethical theory and literature, focusing especially on the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity that helped shape western culture.
Read full overview

Religious studies is an essential tool for making sense of today’s diverse and complex world, while ethics helps us comprehend what constitutes human flourishing. Our unique degree course will allow you to study the relationship of culture to both religion and ethics, and to examine the nature and function of music, art and literature in this respect. You will also have the opportunity to study the wider influence of religious cultures on their contemporary contexts. 


This course offers a broad grounding in ethical theory from Plato to Nietzsche, literature from Greek tragedy to contemporary fiction, and focuses especially on the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Islam and Christianity that helped shape western culture. You will develop the knowledge and skills to tackle some of the most enduring, fundamental and fascinating human questions: What is beauty? How is it related to truth and goodness? Can we express God and transcendence in music, art and literature? Does humanity’s cultural creativity reflect something divine? How do religious cultures influence politics? How do ancient religious cultures and philosophies influence our understanding of justice and the good life? How do art and literature influence worship and prayer? Does human life have a purpose?


Year one

Core modules in year one will introduce you to a wide range of issues in religion, culture and ethics through study of central elements of Christian philosophical and theological thought and their impact through to the present day as well as introductory modules in Islam and Judaism. You will also take Great Religious Texts 1 and 2, which are core modules for all our first year students and taught in small seminar groups. Optional modules will be chosen from those on offer in theology and religious studies and you may also choose to take subsidiary modules in other departments.


Year two

You will take three core modules in year two. Optional modules will allow you to develop your interests in those areas studied in year one or choose from a wider range of optional modules on offer in theology and religious studies. You may also choose to take subsidiary modules in other departments.


Year three

In your final year you will take the core dissertation module. Beyond this there is a wide range of choices such that you can choose whether to focus on particular areas within the study of religion, culture and ethics or continue with a broader range of studies.


Entry requirements

A levels: ABB or equivalent

English language requirements

IELTS 7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

If you require additional support to take your language skills to the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional course at the Centre for English Language Education, which is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

Students who successfully complete the presessional course to the required level can progress onto their chosen degree course without retaking IELTS or equivalent.

Alternative qualifications

We accept a broad range of qualifications. Please contact us to discuss your particular qualifications.  

Flexible admissions policy

In recognition of our applicants’ varied experience and educational pathways, the University of Nottingham employs a flexible admissions policy. We may make some applicants an offer lower than advertised, depending on their personal and educational circumstances. Please see the University’s admissions policies and procedures for more information.  


Typical year one modules


Great Religious Texts 1

In this unique module you’ll read and discuss a wide range of important religious works including scriptural, philosophical, theological, and mystical texts. The aim is to explore the scope of the discipline of theology and religious studies and become familiar with a range of central questions as well as the processes of debate and critique. You’ll study primary texts from the Bible, the Qur’an and the Bhagavad-Gita as well as extracts from the work of Plato, Augustine, Anselm and Julian of Norwich, among others. Teaching is carried out through weekly seminar discussions led by your tutor for the module.

Great Religious Texts 2

This module follows on from Great Religious Texts 1 and gives you the opportunity to continue to read and discuss a wide range of important religious works including scriptural, philosophical, theological, and mystical texts. The aim is to explore the scope of the discipline of theology and religious studies and become familiar with a range of central questions as well as the processes of debate and critique. You will study works by Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and other well-known figures, and texts ranging from 17th century Sikh hymns through to the Kairos document of 20th century apartheid South Africa. Teaching is carried out through weekly seminar discussions led by your tutor for the module.

Christian Thought and Culture to 1600

In this module you’ll learn about the lives and works of some of the main theologians ranging from the first Christian thinker in the 2nd century, up to the Reformation and Counter-Reformation movements of the 16th century. You’ll study figures such as Augustine, Aquinas and Luther, looking at their ideas but also placing them in their broader historical and ecclesiastical context. For this module you’ll have a combination of two hours of lectures and a 1-hour seminar each week.

Theology and Ethics in the Modern World

This module introduces the development of Western Christian theology from the Enlightenment to the present. It surveys the challenges posed to Christian faith by modernity and a range of theological responses to these challenges. In this way you’ll deal with central theological and ethical questions arising in the work and historical context of key thinkers such as Descartes, Kant, Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard and Barth. You’ll be taught through two hours of lectures each week and a seminar every other week.

The Bible in Music, Art and Literature

The Bible is one of the bestsellers and its influence on Western culture is unparalleled. This module explores the way in which the Bible is drawn upon in art, music and literature ranging from Jewish synagogue mosaics and early Christian iconography, to contemporary secular films and music. You’ll be encouraged to engage with case studies of works of art and critically consider the way in which art, music and literature function as biblical interpretations. You’ll have a two hour lecture each week for this module.

Philosophy for Theologians

In this module you’ll be given an overview of the most important philosophical ideas, theories and arguments and their relation to religion and theology.  You’ll begin by studying the Greek ‘natural theology’ of the pre-Socratic thinkers and end with the postmodern ‘turn to religion’ of Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida. For this module you’ll be taught through a combination of two hours of lectures each week and a seminar every other week.

Introduction to Islam

This module examines the narrative and textual foundations of the Islamic tradition including the Qur'an, the prophetic tradition and the life of the Prophet Muhammad. You’ll also look at the development and structure of Islamic society, law, doctrine and spirituality through the classical period, and Muslim responses to challenges posed by modernity including questions of gender and the nation state. You’ll have two hours of lectures each week and a seminar every other week.

Introduction to Judaism

This module introduces Judaism from the beginnings of its formation to modernity. You’ll study major texts from the Second Temple period and Late Antique Judaism, the major developments of medieval Jewish culture under Islamic and Christian rule, and key topics in early modern and contemporary Judaism. There will be an emphasis on textual strategies of Jewish readings of the Bible and the Bible’s importance as a central religious symbol, particularly in terms of the foundation of the state of Israel. For this module you’ll have a lecture and a seminar each week.



History, Literature and Theology of the Hebrew Bible

In this module you’ll be introduced to the literature, history and interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Old Testament. You’ll consider the biblical text as history, literature and scripture in both the Jewish and Christian Traditions. For this module you’ll have a two hour seminar each week.

Introduction to the Study of the New Testament

In this module you’ll gain an overview of the texts that makes up the New Testament and cover central methods, topics and issues in studying them including: the formation of the New Testament canon; the Roman, Greek and Jewish background to the New Testament; the development of historical criticism of the Synoptic Gospels; the historicity of the Synoptic Gospels and Acts, and the authenticity of Paul’s letters. You’ll have a total of three hours of lectures each week for this module.

Biblical Greek

In this module you’ll be introduced to the Greek language as used in the New Testament. You’ll gain the ability to understand and translate basic sentences into English by the end of the module. The module is taught through four hours of classes each week.

Biblical Hebrew 

In this module you’ll be introduced to the basics of reading Biblical Hebrew. You’ll gain the ability to understand and translate basic sentences into English by the end of the module. You’ll have four hours per week of classes for this module.In addition, a number of optional modules can be chosen from departments other than Theology and Religious Studies.

Islam and Gender

This module examines different approaches to the study of Islam and gender. We will look at texts of women and gender relations in the Qur'an, the Hadith and Islamic law. We will also consider the lived experience of gender and the development of Muslim feminist theology and critique, especially in 20th and 21st century Egypt and Iran. Topics will include Islamic marriage and family, Muslim women's rights and culture, sexuality and veiling (including recent European discussions), the gendering of space, and homosexuality. You’ll have two hours of lectures each week for this module.


Typical year two modules


Narrative and Theology

This module offers you a grounding in the various ways in which narrative shapes theological thinking, looking at the Yale School in particular and their promotion of 'narrative theology'. This will include questions about the tragic nature of the gospel, its 'realistic' character, the history of ways of reading scripture, and the relation of narrative and liturgy. It also looks at the ways throughout Christian history whereby narrative has been used to describe the religious life through autobiography (Augustine's Confessions) and lives of the saints. There will also be a comparative element in which we shall look at Jewish and Sufi story-telling as well as life-writing in Judaism and Islam and holocaust writings. Second year participants will be expected to contribute to non-assessed joint presentations.

Explaining Religion

This module surveys influential modern conceptions of religion and critically examines the theories of knowledge, interpretation, society and culture associated with them. It seeks to address forms of reductionism in the study of religion and to assess the role of religion in various aspects of society and culture. Among the approaches you’ll consider are neurology and evolutionary theories, Augustinian theology and Enlightenment scepticism, sociology, economics and Marxism. You’ll have a weekly two hour lecture for this module.

Presentations: Great Religious Debates
Great Religious Debates is part of a pathway - together with Great Religious Texts in the first year and the dissertation in the third year – that is intended to help you to develop your independent study skills and a range of transferable skills. Great Religious Debates develops the theological themes of the seminar-based Great Religious Texts module and is assessed by a presentation relating to one of the texts studied in the earlier module. You will have a weekly two hour seminar for this module.

Typical year three modules


You will research and write a dissertation on a subject and title selected in consultation with academic staff in the department. You’ll also give a presentation on your research in progress during the course of the spring semester. The presentation will help you to crystallise your ideas and gain a clearer idea of the overall shape of your work in order to help with the writing process and to continue the development of important transferable skills. You will have regular dissertation tutorials with your supervisor, and will attend dissertation presentations during the Spring Semester.

Typical optional modules

Year 2 & year 3

Virtue Ethics and Literature

In this module you’ll be introduced to virtue ethics as an ancient form of moral practice, which has come back into prominence in recent years. Virtue ethics emphasises the lived experience of a tradition and is therefore narrative in character, offering itself naturally to literary embodiment. You’ll study key ancient Greek texts of the virtue tradition including Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics as well as works by Theophrastus, Cicero, Aquinas and contemporary reconstruals of the virtue tradition by Alasdair MacIntyre and Stanley Hauerwas. Virtue ethics will then be analysed in literary texts, such as Homer's Iliad, the medieval poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Jane Austen's Mansfield Park and Graham Green's Brighton Rock. You’ll have a one hour lecture as well as two hours of seminars every week for this module.

Religion and Fantasy

This module offers an investigation into the rise of the fantasy genre at the precise point at which religion in the western world was challenged by the rise of rationalism, materialism and historical criticism. You’ll analyse a range of literary fantasies and fantastic tales as apologies, theodicies or critiques that seek to address these challenges. Authors studied include George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, Charles Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien's and C.S. Lewis. You’ll have three hours of seminars each week for this module.

The Philosophy of Religion

In this module you’ll explore significant problems in the philosophy of religion, such as the credibility of the existence of God, the relation between religion and science, the relation between religion and morality, the problem of evil, and the possibility of an after-life. There will also be discussion of significant themes such as the nature of being, of faith, of religious experience, of religious language, and of religious love. You will consider significant thinkers including Plato, Anselm, Aquinas, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Freud and Weil. You’ll have two hours of lectures each week and a seminar every other week.


Twentieth Century Theology

Examining the major theologians of the last century this module will ask – what is nature, and what is grace? Likewise, what is natural and what is supernatural? This module will explore how theologians (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox) have articulated this division and the many profound consequences that have arisen from such attempts. One central question will be how theology speaks of a creator and of creation, what their relation is, and how we are to understand the difference between them? Should we speak of an analogy of being – analogia entis, as Balthasar does or is such an idea idolatrous as Barth seemed to think it was, instead speaking of an analogy of faith? Is it theologically legitimate to posit a pure nature (natura pura) with its own independent telos or end to which grace is extrinsic, or is nature already imbued with a natural desire for grace? This module will trace the development of various heated debates that tackled the above questions and in so doing influenced the shape of twentieth century theology, the idea of secularism, the relation between philosophy and theology, and lastly, between theology and science. You’ll have two hours of lectures each week and a seminar every week.


What is Darwinism? Is it metaphysics, a philosophy, or ‘merely’ science. Does it entail atheism? Could it even accommodate theism? This module will explore Darwin’s theory of evolution, outlining its historical development up to the present day and considering the various debates that shaped its formation. You’ll explore the theory’s application in terms of Social-Darwinism, Sociobiology, and Evolutionary Psychology and the consequences this might have for our own self-understanding, and for how we interpret the world. The module is taught by Conor Cunningham, whose book Darwin’s Pious Idea and BBC documentary on the topic have ignited much debate. You’ll have two hours of lectures and an one hour seminar each week for this module.

Religion in Nineteenth Century Britain
 In this module you’ll explore nineteenth-century religious life and thought in Britain – a period that is often regarded as the last great age of Christian faith, and when Britain was at its height as a world power. You’ll gain an informed understanding of the world from which Christianity in contemporary Britain emerged and cover topics including the concept of church reform, the dynamics of the major Christian denominations, the expansion of the Jewish community, revivalism, worship, church buildings, missions, and education. Teaching is carried out through two hours of lectures and a seminar each week.
Religion in Twentieth Century Britain

This module investigates religious life and thought in Britain over the course of the 20th Century allowing you to understand further the immediate context of religion in contemporary Britain. Topics covered include: the transition from the Victorian to the modern age; the birth of ecumenism; the impact of the two World Wars on religion; the Second Vatican Council, the secularisation debate, the growth of multiculturalism, the church-state relationship. The module addresses the changing fortunes of the established Churches, the Free Churches and Roman Catholicism, and the patterns of growth of other world religions. You’ll be taught through one 2-hour lecture and a 1-hour seminar each week.

History of Christian-Muslim Relations
This module will examine the history of Christian-Muslim relationships from the rise of Islam to the present. After a brief overview of Christianity in the Middle East before the coming of Islam, we will focus on the Prophet Muhammad's encounters with Christians, the teaching of the Qur'an about Christianity, early Christian and Muslim writings about the other, and how Christians fared under Muslim rule. Following this, we will turn westward to study medieval European perceptions of Islam, the Crusades and early Catholic mission efforts among Muslims. The latter part of the module will discuss Muslim-Christian debates in the modern period, the spectrum of contemporary Muslim perceptions of Christianity, and recent efforts in Christian-Muslim dialogue. Case studies of Muslim-Christian relations in Africa and other regions may also be considered. You’ll have a two-hour lecture each week for this module. 
Islamic Theology and Philosophy
This module examines how Muslims have addressed fundamental theological and philosophical questions relating to their faith. These questions concern the foundations of religious knowledge and authority, God's unity and attributes, God's relationship to the world, divine determinism and human freedom, prophecy, and eschatology. The module proceeds historically, beginning with early Muslim theological views and moving on to major philosophical developments in the medieval period that continue to frame much Islamic theological thinking today. You’ll have a two-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar each week for this module. 

Medieval Islamic Reform: Ibn Taymiyya and His Legacy

Ibn Taymiyya was one of the foremost Muslim scholars of the medieval period, and he is well known today for inspiring movements ranging from violent extremism to Salafism and reformist modernism. Ibn Taymiyya campaigned for jihad against the Mongol invaders of Syria, and he landed in jail several times for challenging the religious and political status quo. He also wrote prolifically on law, theology, philosophy, spirituality, Christianity and Shi‘ism in an attempt to reform and commend the Islamic religion. This module examines Ibn Taymiyya’s life and thought and traces his legacy to the present, and it will ask how he is best characterised: as a jihadist, a theologian, or perhaps something else. You’ll have two hours of lectures and a one-hour seminar each week for this module. 

 Modern Jewish Thought

This module will present modern Jewish thought from a theologico-philosophical perspective as an interesting alternative to both Christian and secular models of thinking. Modern Jewish thought emerges from 'the crisis of tradition' (Gershom Scholem) which it tries to resolve in many different ways: either intrinsic to Judaism itself (e.g. Lurianic Kabbalah) or in dialogue with Western philosophy (from Spinoza to Derrida). The module will emphasize the creative impact of Jewish thinkers on the development of modernity by showing the various ways in which these thinkers renegotiate and redefine the most crucial opposition between Athens and Jerusalem, or, in their own rendering, between Yaphet and Shem.



The following is a sample of the typical modules that we offer as at the date of publication but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and the module information in this prospectus is provided for indicative purposes only.



A degree from The University of Nottingham is highly sought after among graduate employers. Studying in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies will equip you for a variety of positions that call for the careful analysis of texts and complex issues, reasoned decision-making, sensitivity to cultural and religious diversity, and the ability to communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively. 
Recent graduates from the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and the Department of Philosophy are currently working in areas such as: law; teaching; accounting and finance; journalism and publishing.

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2015, 94% of first-degree graduates in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £18,154 with the highest being £30,000.*

* Known destinations of full-time home and EU first-degree graduates, 2014/15.

Careers support and advice

Studying for a degree at The University of Nottingham will provide you with the type of skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take. Throughout your time with us, our Careers and Employability Service can work with you to improve your employability skills even further; assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our careers page for an overview of all the employability support and opportunities that we provide to current students. 


Fees and funding

Scholarships and bursaries

The University of Nottingham offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships. These funds can provide you with an additional source of non-repayable financial help. For up to date information regarding tuition fees, visit our fees and finance pages.

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £2,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International/EU students

Our International Baccalaureate Diploma Excellence Scholarship is available for select students paying overseas fees who achieve 38 points or above in the International Baccalaureate Diploma. We also offer a range of High Achiever Prizes for students from selected countries, schools and colleges to help with the cost of tuition fees. Find out more about scholarships, fees and finance for international students.


Key Information Sets (KIS)

KIS is an initiative that the government has introduced to allow you to compare different courses and universities.


This course includes one or more pieces of formative assessment. 

How to use the data

This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.


sharing your beliefs and understanding others
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Department of Theology and Religious Studies

School of Humanities

University of Nottingham

University Park


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