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Blackfen School for Girls

Blackfen School for Girls

Raising aspirations - releasing potential

Religious Studies  (RS) A Level

RELIGIOUS STUDIES (Philosophy of Religion & Ethics)


Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion and Ethics (RS) at A Level is an A Level only course - we do not currently offer an AS.  Students follow the OCR Religious Studies course -, where they study three units, sitting an exam for each.  All three units are equally weighted (33.3%) and the course is 100% exam-based.  Students complete the following:

Paper 1: Philosophy of Religion

2hr written exam

This unit explores philosophical issues and questions raised by religion and belief.  Students will:

  • Consider ancient philosophical influences which provide important foundational knowledge for the study of philosophy and ethics
  • Explore philosophical language and thought and scrutinise significant concepts and works of key thinkers
  • Critically analyse contrasting arguments regarding for the existence of God
  • Be introduced to ideas relating to religious experience and alongside discussions and debates about the significance and meaning of such experiences and be encouraged to consider how these experiences may shape religious belief
  • Explore the problem of evil and suffering – a topic debated for millennia, but still of immense relevance today; often cited as the main criticism to the existence of God – and be encouraged to draw their own conclusions
  • Identify the nature and attributes of God and consider how individual understanding of these attributes affects beliefs about God
  • Consider how ideas within philosophy have developed over time and make comparisons between different ideas presented in works of key scholars
  • Develop an understanding of religious language which will enable a deeper awareness of philosophy and a more accurate understanding of scholars and religious teachings

Paper 2: Religion & Ethics              

2hr written exam

This unit explores key concepts related to religion and ethics.  In this unit, students will: 

  • Study four normative ethical theories, which collectively provide a range of religious and non-religious approaches to moral decision making
  • Apply the four normative ethical theories to two issues of importance; euthanasia and business ethics, thus exploring contemporary issues and deepening their understanding of the ethical theories
  • Be introduced to ethical language, considering how language has changed over time and been interpreted by different individuals in relation to ethical issues
  • Compare the works of two ethical thinkers in relation to conscience, thus developing an awareness of the importance of significant concepts within the study of ethics
  • Examine areas of sexual ethics, specifically pre- and extra- marital sex and homosexuality, both of which are hugely relevant today, identifying how attitudes have influenced and been influenced by developments in religious beliefs

Paper 3: Developments in Christian Thought

2hr written exam

This unit is a systematic study of key concepts within the development of Christian thought.  In this unit, students will:

  • Identify and explore religious beliefs, values and teachings, their interconnections, how they have developed historically and how they are presently discussed
  • Explore human nature in the context of the purpose of life, the self and immortality, examining Augustine’s ideas regarding the human condition, as well as different Christian interpretations of the promise and nature of the afterlife
  • Question our knowledge of God and the value of natural and revealed theology in understanding God, including the relationship between faith and reason
  • Comprehend how Christians may understand their relationship with God
  • Explore historical and theological understandings of the person of Jesus Christ, considering evidence for Jesus as the Son of God, teacher of wisdom and a liberator, which will give them an insight into both traditional and contemporary Christian theology
  • Identify the role of the Bible, Church and reason as sources of wisdom and authority for Christians, considering the use of these in shaping Christian moral values and practice and investigating the principles that shape and express religious identity, and the diversity of practice within Christianity
  • Study the ideas and impact of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, exploring the use of Christian moral principles in action in a real-world context.
  • Explore the concept of pluralism, a significant development within Christian thought, vital in this age of migration and multi-cultural societies
  • Consider the differing ways that Christian traditions view other religion and non-religious groups worldviews, whilst considering the issues raised, in relation to salvation, religious tolerance, respect and recognition of opposing views
  • Investigate the changing roles of men and women, and feminist approaches to theology
  • Reflect on issues of gender identity, equality and discrimination and the social influence of religious institutions
  • Explore some of the challenges posed by secularism, and a range of responses to this

Consider how developments in beliefs and practices have, over time, influenced and been influenced by developments in philosophy, politics and studies of religion, as well as an investigation into the diversity within Christian practice

RS A Level is a challenging and thought-provoking subject; a more demanding and rigorous course than the GCSE, Philosophy and Ethics/Religious Studies is considered by many universities as academic subjects.  This A Level course gives students the opportunities to:

  • Fine tune their essay writing skills
  • Learn about the history and emergence of Christianity from conception to current form
  • Study numerous philosophical ideas linked to theories and arguments studied and dissected
  • Develop a contextual understanding about the times in which philosophers lived and worked
  • Understand the cultural, social and historical background of some of the most challenging arguments in relation to ethics and the existence of God
  • Challenge and develop their own personal beliefs, fine-tune and re-affirm where applicable, in a safe environment
  • Increase their general knowledge
  • Grow as an individual and an independent and resilient learner
  • Challenge the way they see, understand and experience the world around them

RS A-Level is an ideal course for any student who enjoyed RS at GCSE as well as for those seeking to develop their critical thinking skills and enjoy having discussions and debates.  It is a stimulating and demanding course, both in terms of work and topics, providing opportunities to work as part of a team, to challenge themselves and their way of thinking and to develop a more inquisitive mindset.  Philosophy and Ethics compliments many other subjects, like History, Law, Sociology, Art, Maths, Languages and Science, as many the philosophical and ethical ideas appear in these subjects too.  However, you do not have to be studying one of these subjects to do RS and you certainly do not have to be religious; faith or no faith - it makes no difference!

At Blackfen School for Girls, students study for all three papers simultaneously.  The table below outlines the topics by term across KS5.  Throughout the two years students have numerous formal and informal assessments to ensure their learning is on track and in line with expectations, both in terms of understanding the course content and hitting or exceeding their target grades.  Within each topic, references are made to key works of scholars, as identified by the exam board.


Paper 1: Philosophy of Religion

Paper 2: Religion & Ethics

Paper 3: Developments in Christian thought

Term 1

Year 12

Topic 1: Philosophical Language and Thought

  • Ancient Philosophical Influences (Plato and Aristotle)
  • Soul, Mind and Body

Topic 1: Normative Ethical Theories: Religious Approaches

  • Natural Law – Aquinas
  • Situation Ethics - Fletcher

Topic 1: Insight

  • Augustine’s teaching on human nature (relationships pre- and post- Fall; Original Sin; God’s grace)
  • Death and the Afterlife

Term 2

Year 12

Topic 2: The Existence of God

  • Arguments based on Observations (Design and Causation; challenges)
  • Arguments based on reason (Ontological)

Topic 2: Normative Ethical Theories

  • Kantian Ethics
  • Utilitarianism

Topic 2: Foundations

  • Knowledge of God’s Existence (Natural and revealed theology)
  • The person of Jesus Christ (Jesus’ authority as the Son of God, a teacher of wisdom, a liberator)

Term 3

Year 12

Topic 3: God and the World

  • Religious Experience (nature, influence and understanding)
  • The Problem of Evil

Topic 3: Applied Ethics

  • Euthanasia
  • Business Ethics

Topic 3: Living

  • Christian Moral Principles (the Bible, the Church and love (agape))
  • Christian Moral Action (work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

Term 4

Year 13

Topic 4: Theological and Philosophical Developments

  • The Nature or Attributes of God

Topic 4: Ethical Language: Meta-ethics

  • Meta-ethical Theories (Naturalism, Intuitionism, Emotivism)

Topic 4: Development

  • Religious pluralism and theology (exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism)
  • Religious pluralism and society (multi-faith societies and Christian responses)

Term 5

Year 13

Topic 5: Religious Language: Negative, Analogical or Symbolic

Topic 5: Significant Ideas

  • Conscience (Aquinas and Freud)

Topic 5: Society

  • Gender and Society (changing views of gender and gender roles)
  • Gender and theology (feminist theology)

Term 6

Year 13

Topic 6: Religious Language: Twentieth Century Perspectives

  • Logical Positivism
  • Wittgenstein’s Language Games
  • Factual quality of religious language



Topic 6: Developments in Ethical Thought

  • Sexual Ethics (pre- and extra- marital sex and homosexuality; debates about the morality, legality and tolerability; application of ethical theories)


Topic 6: Challenges

  • The Challenge of Secularism (rise and challenges posed)
  • Liberation Theology and Marx