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RS A Level at Birkdale is an opportunity to study philosophy and theology in depth. Our syllabus takes us to some of the most profound questions of philosophy and ethics in our Western intellectual tradition and then considers their relationship to faith and religion. In our Christian Theology sections, students gain a significant insight into the key ideas of the Christian worldview.
If you are interested in ideas and taking them apart, in debating moral questions and in an in-depth study of Christianity, this A Level is worth considering.
Component 1: Philosophy of Religion and Ethics (50%)
Section A: Philosophy of Religion
This course begins with arguments for the existence of God. We learn about Paley’s argument by design and its modern equivalents. We go on to Anselm’s ontological argument – God exists by definition! We study the famous cosmological arguments of Aquinas. Can the universe tell us there’s a God? This is followed by a study of the problem of evil. How can belief in a benevolent God be defended in the face of evil and suffering? Hick’s ‘soul-making’ theory is one response, Griffin’s ‘process theodicy’ is another. We then look at religious experience. Could this be a source of knowledge about God? Then, religious language is analysed. What is the relationship between religious language and reality? Does it reveal truth or simply express emotion? Could miracles be real: can natural laws be broken? Finally, we study questions of life after death. What is a soul? Could humans live on after death?
Section B: Ethics and Religion
This course begins with an overview of ethical theory, understanding the difference between rule-based ethics and consequence based ethics. Issues of human life and death takes us into the territory of difficult moral dilemmas like embryo research, cloning and designer babies. We also work through questions about abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment. Issues of animal life and death looks into the morality of using animals in scientific procedures and in blood sports. In an introduction to meta-ethics, we ask fundamental questions about what ‘good’ really means, is it what God commands, or just what causes the most happiness? In free will and moral responsibility we ask that age old philosophical question, are humans genuinely free or merely socially conditioned? We’ll go on to study theories about the conscience. What is it and where is it from? Is it from God? Can it be trusted? The final section of this course compares the work of famous philosophers Bentham and Kant.
This component is assessed by one three hour exam.
Component 2: Study of Religion and Dialogues (50%)
Section A: Christianity
This course creates a thorough insight into those key concepts which build a Christian worldview. It begins with sources of wisdom and authority, understanding different approaches to the Bible, conservative and liberal. We then study the nature of God – triune, revealed in Jesus Christ. We raise further questions about death and the afterlife, studying the theological complexities of Heaven and Hell. We look at the key moral principles which form the structure of a radical Christian ethic. Then there are sections on applied theology: How should Christians make sense of issues of gender and sexuality? How can Christians respond to modern, often atheistic science? What are the challenges presented to Christians by an increasingly secular and pluralistic society?
Section B: The Dialogue between Philosophy of Religion and Christianity
Section C: The Dialogue between Ethical Studies and Christianity
To end the course, these sections present an opportunity to further develop our student’s evaluative skills by bringing together key aspects of their A Level studies. What happens when critical, philosophical studies are applied to issues of faith and belief? What happens when the Christian faith is analysed from a critical, moral perspective? And, how has Christianity contributed to moral debate?
This component is also assessed by one three hour exam.
Studying Philosophy and Theology provides an outstanding education in thinking and communicating. You will learn to evaluate and argue with precision, skills your future university is looking for. In the past, students looking to go on to study Medicine, Law, Business Studies and Psychology have chosen to take RS A Level for the skills it provides. Of course, many of our students are inspired to go on to study degree courses in Philosophy or Theology.
Religious Studies complements many A Level subjects, from Physics and Maths to English, History and Art. In RS we consider fundamental questions of human nature and existence. This helps to deepen our students’ understanding of their other subjects.
There is no need to have studied GCSE RS to go on to take the A Level.