Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module THEO1901: God and Evil

Department: Theology and Religion

THEO1901: God and Evil

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To examine the theological basis for Christian responses to the problem of evil and distinguish theological proposals from philosophical treatments of the problem.
  • To introduce students to broader reflections and debates on the nature of sin, suffering and evil in the Christian theological tradition.


  • Can the presence of evil in the world be compatible with the existence of a good and powerful God? The question will be familiar to anyone who has studied philosophy of religion, but in fact the construction of theodicies and the attempt to answer the problem of evil has not been so central a focus for the Western theological tradition as it has become in recent philosophy of religion. In this module we will explore a range of ways in which evil, and evil’s relation to God, has been understood in Christian theology. Topics may include the interpretation of the Book of Job; conception of evil as a privation of the good; conflicting theologies of sin; conceptions of suffering, including debates about whether God suffers; theological responses to the Holocaust; and Christian theological responses to the problem of evil and suffering from liberation, practical, and pastoral theology.
  • The study of key texts, both ancient and modern, will be a central strand of the module. Students will be expected to engage with these texts on a weekly basis.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A knowledge of central biblical and theological texts grappling with the existence and nature of evil.
  • A knowledge of core concepts in the development of Christian teaching on sin, suffering and evil.
  • An understanding of differences between the disciplines of philosophy of religion and theology as regards purpose, context, and mode of argumentation.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Capacity to evaluate, from multiple perspectives, philosophical and theological proposals.
  • Capacity to reflect on the practical and ethical import of philosophical and theological positions and arguments.
Key Skills:
  • Skills in the acquisition and interpretation of information through reading and research, and in the structured presentation of ideas.
  • Skills in the development of arguments.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures convey information and exemplify an approach to the subject-matter, enabling students to develop a clear understanding of the subject and to improve their skills in listening and in evaluating information.
  • Seminars enhance subject-specific knowledge and understanding both through preparation and through interaction with students and staff, promoting awareness of different viewpoints and approaches.
  • Examinations assess subject-specific knowledge and understanding, along with student skills in the structured presentation of information in written form under time constraints.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 10 in MT, 10 in EpT, 1 in EaT 1 hour 21
Seminars 8 4 in Michaelmas, 4 in Epiphany 1.5 hour 12
Preparation and reading 167
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative essay (EpT) 1500 words 100%
Component: Examination (final) Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

A 1500 word formative essay at the end of MT.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University