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Theology & Philosophy

Theology and Philosophy pose to our students the most important and fundamental questions faced by humanity. The two subjects involve a critical examination of our most fundamental beliefs about truth, reality, right and wrong. Many of our assumptions about what we know are challenged, encouraging us to reflect on how we should live.

Both subjects have been studied for centuries, but their importance has never been diminished. Between three and four billion of the world’s population is directly involved in the major religions, rendering the fostering of religious understanding a necessity. Theological study is at the forefront of the response to this complex situation. Theology pursues questions of meaning, truth and practice in relation to the religions of the world.

Philosophical questions are some of the first questions we ask as children. Why is there something, rather than nothing? Why am I here? Who am I? The good philosopher has an open and enquiring mind, is prepared to listen to a range of different views, and is passionate about the search for answers to some of life’s trickier questions. Philosophy rewards people who like to question, scrutinise, think and debate. It deals with the most up-to-date issues in the world today, giving our boys a chance to study and discuss areas that they are already interested in.

Ultimately, the study of Theology and Philosophy provides a unique opportunity for pupils to take ownership of their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.

Departmental Aims

• To give pupils the opportunity to discover truth for themselves, so they can: 
o look at, question and understand the world, and their place in it
o articulate their own world-view

• To contribute to pupils’ spiritual, moral and personal development, through:
o considering the role, and implications, of truth and belief, specifically in religion, but also in life
o exploring how theological and philosophical questions connect with world events and society at large
o reflecting on their own experiences of faith, as well of others

• To promote the academic study of Theology and Philosophy and develop, through discussion and written work, academic skills such as:
o understanding of, and empathy with, the beliefs and experiences of others
o critical ability and powers of analysis
o balanced evaluation

• To nurture in pupils:
o assurance of their own place in the world
o positive attitudes towards people who might hold different beliefs to their own
o independence of mind and intellectual curiosity
o courage and integrity in supporting views they believe to be right
o an awareness that knowledge is bounded by mystery

Syllabus

Students take Theology and Philosophy as a required subject from the Lower First, to the Upper Third. During this time, they explore philosophical problems concerning knowledge, reality and the existence of God. They also engage in a thorough and analytical study of the major world faiths of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism.

In Fifth Form, students have the option of taking Theology and Philosophy at GCSE level. Students explore philosophical, ethical and theological issues, such as the nature of deity, evil and suffering, the end of life, medical ethics, social justice and human relationships.

In the Sixth Form, students can take either Philosophy or Theology for A Level, or they can opt to study Philosophy as part of their IB diploma.

At all levels, the Department has a strong and consistent track record of excellent results.

Teaching Methods

Philosophy and Theology are presented as ways in which the students will be encouraged to search for truth.

In Philosophy, this is done by a process of rational and critical enquiry into the causes and nature of things. There is a slight difference in the approach to Theology, where the boys study the language that people used to talk about God, or express important truths.

Theology and Philosophy force students to question, and to argue. Emphasis is placed on critical thinking, and reasoning to reach a justified conclusion. Students are expected to think carefully about the reasons behind those opinions, and learn how to construct arguments in defence of them.

The Department uses the Community of Enquiry and Philosophy for Children methods in its Junior School teaching. It also provides extensive opportunity for debate and public speaking throughout all year groups.

Schemes of Work

All learning is centred around three Existential Questions, which are introduced in First Form and referred to throughout the Junior School scheme of work:

1. Who Am I?
2. How do I relate to others?
3. What is my place is space and time?

Pupils are also encouraged to situate themselves within three, broad, world-views:

Theistic – where God is believed to be the source of absolute truth
Secular – where absolute truth is found in observation of the material world only 
Postmodern - where absolute truth is denied and subjective truths are created by the individual

Trips

The Lower First visit the Jewish Museum, London, with Upper First boys making a trip to St Paul’s Cathedral. The Lower Third make a more local excursion, to the Croydon Buddhist Centre.

In the Senior School, students are given the opportunity to visit the Holy Land.

  • Fifth and Sixth Formers Holy Land Trip
  • Fifth and Sixth Formers Holy Land Trip
  • Theology and Philosophy at Whitgift