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Study information

Incarnation: Topics in Philosophical Theology

Module titleIncarnation: Topics in Philosophical Theology
Module codeTHE3185
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Jonathan Hill (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The doctrine of incarnation – that God has become a human being – is arguably the central doctrine of Christianity. But what does it mean? And how can it make sense? In this module you will explore some of the answers that Christian thinkers have given to these questions. You will be introduced to the theological and philosophical problems associated with the doctrine of incarnation, and examine in detail the many different solutions proposed by ancient, medieval, and modern theologians. The main emphasis throughout is on critical philosophical engagement with these ideas, but you will also study their historical context.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This option module will:

  • Examine the different metaphysical models of incarnation offered by Christian thinkers over the centuries, placing them in their historical context, focusing on the philosophical strengths and weaknesses of each model, and how well they address the problems associated with incarnation whilst remaining true to the doctrine
  • Examine the ways in which the doctrine of incarnation relates to other theological themes, such as salvation, eschatology, human nature, and the doctrine of God
  • Develop your ability to examine doctrinal statements using the tools of analytical philosophy, and relate those statements to wider theological and philosophical topics

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate detailed understanding of the major models of incarnation, and the motives behind them
  • 2. Demonstrate detailed understanding of the major philosophical difficulties with the doctrine of incarnation, and the relation between the doctrine and other philosophical topics
  • 3. Demonstrate close familiarity with the broad history of Christian thinking on the incarnation, and the major individuals and events that shaped it

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Understand, and analyse critically, different interpretations of theological doctrines and the arguments supporting them
  • 5. Use the conceptual tools of philosophical analysis creatively on theological topics

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Shape detailed information into a coherent account, with some guidance
  • 7. Demonstrate consistency and rigour in method and argument
  • 8. Make thorough use of selected written sources
  • 9. Communicate clearly in oral form

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • An overview of the key philosophical and doctrinal issues related to the incarnation
  • An overview of the history of Christian thinking on the incarnation
  • Transformationalist models of the incarnation (and physicalism)
  • Logos-sarx models of the incarnation (and dualism)
  • Compositionalist models of the incarnation
  • Two-mind theories of the incarnation
  • Kenotic theories of the incarnation
  • Reduplication and relative identity
  • Incarnation and atonement
  • Incarnation and exaltation

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching11Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching11Seminars
Guided independent study278Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan (for summative assessment)200-300 words1-8Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay503000 words1-8Written
Examination502 hours1-8Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8Referral/Deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

(These are just suggestions. Not everything in each book is relevant, and some are heavy going in places, so feel free to skip/skim.)

  • Crisp, O. (2007) Divinity and humanity: the incarnation reconsidered Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Davis, S. (1983) Logic and the nature of God London: Macmillan
  • Davis, S., Kendall, D., and O’Collins, G., eds. (2002) The incarnation: an interdisciplinary symposium on the incarnation of the son of God Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Evans, C. S. (1996) The historical Christ and the Jesus of faith Oxford: Oxford University Press esp. ch. 6
  • Evans, C. S., ed. (2006) Exploring kenotic christology: the self-emptying of God Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Hebblethwaite, Brian (1987) The incarnation: collected essays in christology Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • O’Collins, Gerald (1995) Christology: a biblical, historical, and systematic study of Jesus Oxford: Oxford University Press esp. ch. 10
  • Morris, T. (1986) The logic of God incarnate Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press
  • Swinburne, R. (1994) The Christian God Oxford: Clarendon esp. chs. 9-10
  • Weinandy, Thomas (1985) Does God change? Still River, MA: St Bede’s

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

  • ELE –

Key words search

Incarnation, Christology, Philosophical Theology, Philosophy of Religion, History of Doctrine

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date