Philosophy and Theology (Horizons in Theology)

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The first step of the conversion dynamic to a permeable horizon informed by the paschal mystery involves recognizing the gift offered, or awakening to a new awareness, by means of an inquiring hermeneutics of deliberation. As an introduction to the first theological hermeneutics, I want to present some preliminary remarks on awareness and affectivity. Openness to the transcendent dimension where recognition of the reality of God can occur requires that a certain level of awareness be achieved. In other words, it is the realm of awareness where we become aware of the value systems that are informing our intentionality.

This is the realm where subjective reflection can open us to the possibility of conversion, transcendence and to God as personal Other. In the objective sense, a guiding horizon helps us to interpret our experience in the present from the past wisdom that makes up the infrastructure of that horizon. The subject is not simply an objective observer, nor simply involved in self-reflection or self-determination.

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The perceptions of the feelings mirror the experienced reality of the person as an engaged subject. The process of deliberation, then, must include both the external horizon, as it extends our understanding of reality, as well as this internal horizon of perception. This affective horizon of perception provides a check or balance for how authentically one is engaging reality — the level of personal openness and freedom.

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Instead, it serves as a trusted starting point for growth. But horizon always serves as an opening to or a clarifying tool for the journey to faith. As spiritual midwife towards deeper mutual communication, theology works with people starting from their horizon, without criticism or condescension, helping them to expand and develop their own horizon as they draw on the rich experience, tradition and culture of their people. This stage of conversion to new awareness is a work of interpretation.

The subject moves through a deliberative process of receptivity to recognize the truth and love of God. To simplify the understanding of this inquiring hermeneutics of deliberation , I divide my reflection into four parts: questioning knowledge, questioning values, appealing to tradition, and culture as life and text. Here the subject questions the limits of his or her worldview, including personal interests and the effectiveness of those interests for informing the fullness of life. As a form of knowledge, faith stands ready to offer reason a sensible vista to explore.

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The deliberation leads one to question operative values as well. The shared set of common values that give culture its form and expression reflects the cumulative acts of freedom and learned wisdom from long experience. Once deliberation reaches to the level of questioning values, a new caution presents itself.

The internal dialectic has to be free to consider reality in its totality as experienced: the good, the bad, the emotions, etc. All has to be considered so that the process is not too abstracted from real life and does not subsequently end in an overly simplistic observation. The questioning of values is essential to a critical evaluation in search of truth. But as relates to freedom, only good, not evil, is of value concern. Similarly, in its discernment of the signs of the times, theology assists a culture in its value-based developments by remaining free of societal manipulations.

By continuing to listen to the good and the true, while avoiding the manipulations and ideologies of what otherwise might be understood as new social norms, theology not only discerns the signs of the times but contributes creatively to forming them. As subjects question frameworks of knowledge and operative values, they appeal to the tradition of their culture for possible answers or insights to their inquiries.

History and the tools of social analysis and critique offer the most effective means for obtaining this critical distance.

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In history, time opens up new sources of meaning. The aim consists, not so much in distinguishing claims of truth and falsehood, but in opening up doors of understanding, discovery and meaning. This requires claiming the subjectivity of the past, rather than looking for a strictly objective analysis. With this attempt to understand the subjectivity involved in the historical events, a previously unrecognized meaning and wisdom has opportunity to emerge. Social analysis and critique are meant to uncover the contextualized struggle for the freedom of a people.

The goal is to help liberate a culture from unjust interests that may have negatively distorted its value system. But such data have to be examined carefully to discover the internal biases that may have been used to gather the information. Theology has to examine the data closely to uncover the contextualized struggle of a people, thus reaching deeper understanding, discovery and meaning. The data cannot be used for mere judgment of what they did rightly or wrongly, well or badly, but as an indicator of their struggle for freedom and of their receptivity to the grace offered by the Holy Spirit and the possibility of hearing the Word of faith.

Representing the cumulative acts of freedom made by a people over time, culture provides a living text for interpretation. Any movement of conversion begins as deeply personal and intimate. It can then become communal and historical as demonstrated in culture. Timing, then, becomes a vital element in the accompaniment of a person engaged in an inquiring hermeneutics of deliberation. The Church in general, and theology in particular, has to cultivate respect for the active intricacies of the dynamic as the new awareness of God unfolds.

As the awareness of God grows, the person moves from a stance of inquiry and deliberation to perform a credibility check on the new reality being discovered. Before going into the dynamics of what I call an investigative hermeneutics of assent, I first want to review the importance of freedom and the imagination on behalf of the subject. Freedom acts as the lens through which the person focuses the imagination. The imagination, in its turn, has to direct the lens of freedom to explore the horizon of truth.

A critical part of this recognition of the truth of reality is that the human being cannot satisfy his or her deepest longings. The higher level of existential freedom taps into the dynamism of the heart, allowing the person to be freed from focusing on oneself so as to shift the focus outward instead. A new sensibility makes itself felt which allows the person the freedom for a new receptivity. The horizon of truth teaches us that we cannot satisfy our own longings or search for meaning and fulfillment. Imagination has to embrace the full freedom available to it in order to awaken in the subject a deep sense of reality.

This affectively influenced cognitive perception belongs to the faculty of reason, which has been too often confined to a zone of the strictly rational. The imagination, then, belongs to reason, but in a way that is not limited to empirical, quantifiable realities. Imagination penetrates to the deepest sensibilities, which involve questions of life and death, of meaning and sacrifice.


Though not limited by any set patterns, it has the ability to derive new patterns and possibilities based on the sensibilities it perceives as it freely explores reality. I divide this investigative hermeneutics of assent into three main elements: 1 respecting a new sensibility; 2 the discovery of meaning; and 3 hearing the invitation for personal assent. The first consideration in the check of credibility has to do with respecting the sensibility of those who are on the journey of conversion. This implies being attentive to their shifting world of interpretation from inside their culture.

It is there that they have to begin to perceive their experience, indeed all of reality, as an expression of love. Such new sensibility cannot be imposed or overly rationalized. To respect a growing sensibility to love and an opening to the transcendent dimension, the hermeneutic direction is best employed from the affective to the cognitive, rather than vice versa. This shift in direction draws on existential activities of life where affective concerns usually precede cognitive capabilities, thus realigning these to the actual pattern of human development.

Respecting this sensibility, then, implies honoring the person or culture as more than a rationally cognitive creature who analyzes reality and employs ingenuity to use materials available. Unfortunately, culture can distort reason because of misplaced values in a historically conditioned manner. The tools of critical distancing discussed above, historical analysis, and the application of social analysis critiques have to be employed to uncover how culture truly cultivated the freedom of a people. Culture reflects the temporality of history, taking time seriously.

Tradition is that element of culture that allows us to respect this sensibility, not so much in its more synchronic sense, but in its more dynamic, diachronic sense. Daily reality offers us authentic novelty. God continues to reveal himself so that we might be converted and believe by the act of faith. The second critical element of any credibility check involves the discovery of meaning, which ultimately unfolds from its connection with the mystery of God.

In the investigation for assent to faith the subject addresses the reality of God as both meaningful and personally significant. The vertical vision allows reason to go beyond itself to enter the realm of mystery, while also keeping one grounded to existential being and values. It does this especially by forming the imagination and affectivity of the person before any specific articulations of faith.

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Their search for religious and scientific truth reflects their values. Communities struggle to sift through the pull of values and their apparent oppositions to one another, but the fruit of the work is the discovery of meaning and freedom from self-absorption. The understanding of a self-giving, suffering love gives the folly of the cross a foothold in the midst of every culture. Anger, bitterness and revenge may be tolerated for a while by a culture because of difficult circumstances, but every community knows deep down that these do not lead to life and meaning.

An element that marks the discovery of meaning is what I call a sense of harmonious reference. For the discovery of meaning, the verification is complex; it involves the complex emotional journey of coming to see community and the experiences of life in terms of gift.

When this is verified, the characteristics of complementarity and generosity mark the relationship in their harmonious reference to God. The full web of meaning ultimately comes to be discovered in the mystery of the cross and resurrection of Christ, the only source that can reconcile the many disparate, paradoxical experiences in our lives.

This allows a subject to build added layers or deeper insights onto any existing world of meaning in the culture through the revelation encountered. Although a revelatory event may initially shock or jolt a subject or culture, fundamental theology must artfully ensure that the dynamic fusion of new meaning onto existing cultural meaning unfolds seamlessly, just as grace builds on nature. In the final check of credibility for faith the person has to move from the more general zone of the discovery of meaning to claiming that meaning as directed to and significant for oneself.

The new freedom experienced from this wider horizon goes far beyond mere autonomy and choice; freedom comes to be lived in relation to God for others, rather than for oneself. That mystery is not some insight or notion that just clarifies and sheds light, but is the living relationship of love to which God invites us. Such a freedom needs the conviction of community. The key to this whole investigation, then, is to grasp the revelation offered, so that the boundaries of our old horizons and old prejudices open up new zones of meaning for us in our everyday life, as well as point to an entryway to faith.

The check of credibility not only confirms the truth being offered in the revelation but also calls forth the fuller wisdom latent from our culture and community context. Then, when assent is made in faith, the full resources of the revelation and the culture become available so that the imagination can construct a future based on relationship with God. The gift of faith cannot itself be earned; the discussion above did not imply that. The hermeneutic investigation is necessary for a credibility check and for fully disposing the subject to receive the gift of faith.

That check allows one to identify what indeed has become real to the imagination, not mere fancy or fantasy. The dynamic is not one of rational analysis or demonstration, but a growing into certitude that can connect all of the paradoxes, ambiguities, and doubts. Very often God chooses, instead, to reach us through our literary imagination, by which we can apply the metaphors and symbols needed to unite poetically the prose of the disparate experiences of life.

It is our narrative of life that has to find its place in a context of meaning. As that narrative comes into focus our truest identity is sharpened so that meaning, identity and life narrative all converge together in God. Only with the imagination operating freely can the risk be made in confidence, assuring us that we shall not lose, but truly find ourselves.

Faith leads us more deeply into a lived relationship of love. God emerges as the underlying, common referent for all of reality.

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Just as the journey to reach a freedom for faith was dynamic, so is the life of faith. The dynamic is lived with others as an expression of charity alive in the history of the believing community. New categories of thinking about and expressing this lived dynamic become necessary. The reordering that the imagination conducts bases itself on accumulated experience, but also on something more primal: a unifying principle on the part of the intellect that works towards an integrating unity of all reality.

For the move towards a permeable horizon which allows the Church to share her world of meaning while entering into and sharing the horizons of meaning from other cultures and religions, theology needs the tool of what I would call imaginative intellection. Philosophers have asked questions of the nature of existence and agency, while theologians have developed their own projects through dialogue with various philosophical traditions. During Year 1 you will study core philosophy courses and choose further courses from those offered in the subject areas of theology and ethics, biblical studies, history of Christianity and religious studies.

You will also have the option to choose a course from other subject areas across the University. You can choose a course in a subject that complements your two programme subjects, choose to study a language, or simply pick something that interests you. As Year 1, with the option of taking two outside courses in addition to compulsory courses in philosophy and a choice of courses in theology and ethics, biblical studies, history of Christianity and religious studies.

You will continue to choose advanced-level courses in philosophy and theology and ethics and also write a dissertation chosen from either of the two fields, with academic supervision. To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year. Teaching takes place primarily in the School of Divinity, based in New College.

You will also have access to all the University's libraries and computer facilities. There is a varied range of opportunities to spend time abroad. For shorter periods, these include summer programmes and work abroad. During Year 3, you will also have the opportunity to study abroad on exchange for up to a year at a wide selection of leading global universities.

Going abroad expands horizons and is great fun, as well as bringing academic and career benefits. You will be assessed in a variety of ways, including examinations, coursework, participation in seminars, presentation of your work and an honours dissertation. Find out more about this programme's aims, what you will learn, how you will be assessed and what skills and knowledge you will develop.

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. Graduates in philosophy and theology develop skills suitable for a wide range of careers including the voluntary sector, Civil Service, finance, management, law, counselling, banking, ministry and human resources.

This programme may also serve as the basis for further study at postgraduate level in either philosophy or theology. If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence. English language requirements. This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes. It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Tuition fees for MA Philosophy and Theology. For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information. Skip to main content. Toggle section links. Search: Search. Undergraduate study - entry Undergraduate study - entry. Contact us. Study abroad. Introducing MA Philosophy and Theology The subject areas of philosophy and theology overlap in many significant ways.

Expand all Contract all. What you will study. Year 1 During Year 1 you will study core philosophy courses and choose further courses from those offered in the subject areas of theology and ethics, biblical studies, history of Christianity and religious studies.

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