3.2 Component 2: Thematic studies

Students should study a total of four themes from Component 2. Students may study either four religious, philosophical and ethical studies themes or two religious, philosophical and ethical studies themes and two textual studies themes.

3.2.1 Religious, philosophical and ethical studies

Students should be aware of different religious perspectives on the issues studied within and / or between religious and non-religious beliefs such as atheism and humanism.

Students must also study religious, philosophical and ethical arguments related to the issues raised, and their impact and influence on the modern world.

Students will be expected to show their understanding of religion through the application of teachings from religion and beliefs. They will also be expected to make specific references to sources of wisdom and authority including scripture and/or sacred texts. They may refer to any relevant religious text such as the Pali Canon, the sermons of the Buddha, the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Vedas and Upanishads, the Qur’an and Hadith, the Torah and Talmud, and the Guru Granth Sahib.

As part of the supporting material for this specification, AQA will publish a list of appropriate texts; alternatives may be used and no questions will be set on them.

Students must demonstrate knowledge and understanding that:
  • the religious traditions of Great Britain are, in the main, Christian
  • the religious traditions in Great Britain are diverse.
Students may draw upon Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism, as well as other religions and non-religious beliefs such as atheism and humanism.

3.2.1.1 Theme A: Relationships and families

Students should study religious teachings, and religious, philosophical and ethical arguments, relating to the issues that follow, and their impact and influence in the modern world. They should be aware of contrasting perspectives in contemporary British society on all of these issues.

They must be able to explain contrasting beliefs on the following three issues with reference to the main religious tradition in Britain (Christianity) and one or more other religious traditions:

  • Contraception.
  • Sexual relationships before marriage.
  • Homosexual relationships.

Sex, marriage and divorce

  • Human sexuality including: heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
  • Sexual relationships before and outside of marriage.
  • Contraception and family planning.
  • The nature and purpose of marriage.
  • Same-sex marriage and cohabitation.
  • Divorce, including reasons for divorce, and remarrying.
  • Ethical arguments related to divorce, including those based on the sanctity of marriage vows and compassion.

Families and gender equality

  • The nature of families, including:
    • the role of parents and children
    • extended families and the nuclear family.
  • The purpose of families, including:
    • procreation
    • stability and the protection of children
    • educating children in a faith.
  • Contemporary family issues including:
    • same-sex parents
    • polygamy.
  • The roles of men and women.
  • Gender equality.
  • Gender prejudice and discrimination, including examples.

3.2.1.2 Theme B: Religion and life

Students should study religious teachings, and religious, philosophical and ethical arguments, relating to the issues that follow, and their impact and influence in the modern world. They should be aware of contrasting perspectives in contemporary British society on all of these issues.

They must be able to explain contrasting beliefs on the following three issues with reference to the main religious tradition in Britain (Christianity) and one or more other religious traditions:

  • Abortion.
  • Euthanasia.
  • Animal experimentation.

The origins and value of the universe

  • The origins of the universe, including:
    • religious teachings about the origins of the universe, and different interpretations of these
    • the relationship between scientific views, such as the Big Bang theory, and religious views.
  • The value of the world and the duty of human beings to protect it, including religious teaching about stewardship, dominion, responsibility, awe and wonder.
  • The use and abuse of the environment, including the use of natural resources, pollution.
  • The use and abuse of animals, including:
    • animal experimentation
    • the use of animals for food.

The origins and value of human life

  • The origins of life, including:
    • religious teachings about the origins of human life, and different interpretations of these
    • the relationship between scientific views, such as evolution, and religious views.
  • The concepts of sanctity of life and the quality of life.
  • Abortion, including situations when the mother's life is at risk.
  • Ethical arguments related to abortion, including those based on the sanctity of life and quality of life.
  • Euthanasia.
  • Beliefs about death and an afterlife, and their impact on beliefs about the value of human life.

3.2.1.3 Theme C: The existence of God and revelation

Students should study religious teachings, and religious and philosophical arguments, relating to the issues that follow, and their impact and influence in the modern world. They should be aware of contrasting perspectives in contemporary British society on all of these issues.

They must be able to explain contrasting beliefs on the following three issues with reference to the main religious tradition in Britain (Christianity) and non-religious beliefs such as atheism and humanism:

  • Visions.
  • Miracles.
  • Nature as general revelation.

Philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God

  • The Design argument, including its strengths and weaknesses.
  • The First Cause argument, including its strengths and weaknesses.
  • The argument from miracles, including its strengths and weaknesses, and one example of a miracle.
  • Evil and suffering as an argument against the existence of God.
  • Arguments based on science against the existence of God.

The nature of the divine and revelation

  • Special revelation as a source of knowledge about the divine (God, gods or ultimate reality) including visions and one example of a vision.
  • Enlightenment as a source of knowledge about the divine.
  • General revelation: nature and scripture as a way of understanding the divine.
  • Different ideas about the divine that come from these sources:
    • omnipotent and omniscient
    • personal and impersonal
    • immanent and transcendent.
  • The value of general and special revelation and enlightenment as sources of knowledge about the divine, including:
    • the problems of different ideas about the divine arising from these experiences
    • alternative explanations for the experiences, and the possibility that the people who claimed to have them were lying or mistaken.

3.2.1.4 Theme D: Religion, peace and conflict

Students should study religious teachings, and religious, philosophical and ethical arguments, relating to the issues that follow, and their impact and influence in the modern world. They should be aware of contrasting perspectives in contemporary British society on all of these issues.

They must be able to explain contrasting beliefs on the following three issues with reference to the main religious tradition in Britain (Christianity) and one or more other religious traditions:
  • Violence.
  • Weapons of mass destruction.
  • Pacifism.

Religion, violence, terrorism and war

  • The meaning and significance of:
    • peace
    • justice
    • forgiveness
    • reconciliation.
  • Violence, including violent protest.
  • Terrorism.
  • Reasons for war, including greed, self-defence and retaliation.
  • The just war theory, including the criteria for a just war.
  • Holy war.
  • Pacifism.

Religion and belief in 21 st century conflict

  • Religion and belief as a cause of war and violence in the contemporary world.
  • Nuclear weapons, including nuclear deterrence.
  • The use of weapons of mass destruction.
  • Religion and peace-making in the contemporary world including the work of individuals influenced by religious teaching.
  • Religious responses to the victims of war including the work of one present day religious organisation.

3.2.1.5 Theme E: Religion, crime and punishment

Students should study religious teachings, and religious, philosophical and ethical arguments, relating to the issues that follow, and their impact and influence in the modern world. They should be aware of contrasting perspectives in contemporary British society on all of these issues.

They must be able to explain contrasting beliefs on the following three issues with reference to the main religious tradition in Britain (Christianity) and one or more other religious traditions:

  • Corporal punishment.
  • Death penalty.
  • Forgiveness.

Religion, crime and the causes of crime

  • Good and evil intentions and actions, including whether it can ever be good to cause suffering.
  • Reasons for crime, including:
    • poverty and upbringing
    • mental illness and addiction
    • greed and hate
    • opposition to an unjust law.
  • Views about people who break the law for these reasons.
  • Views about different types of crime, including hate crimes, theft and murder.

Religion and punishment

  • The aims of punishment, including:
    • retribution
    • deterrence
    • reformation.
  • The treatment of criminals, including:
    • prison
    • corporal punishment
    • community service.
  • Forgiveness.
  • The death penalty.
  • Ethical arguments related to the death penalty, including those based on the principle of utility and sanctity of life.

3.2.1.6 Theme F: Religion, human rights and social justice

Students should study religious teachings, and religious, philosophical and ethical arguments, relating to the issues that follow, and their impact and influence in the modern world. They should be aware of contrasting perspectives in contemporary British society on all of these issues.

They must be able to explain contrasting beliefs on the following three issues with reference to the main religious tradition in Britain (Christianity) and one or more other religious traditions:

  • Status of women in religion.
  • The uses of wealth.
  • Freedom of religious expression.

Human rights

  • Prejudice and discrimination in religion and belief, including the status and treatment within religion of women and homosexuals.
  • Issues of equality, freedom of religion and belief including freedom of religious expression.
  • Human rights and the responsibilities that come with rights, including the responsibility to respect the rights of others.
  • Social justice.
  • Racial prejudice and discrimination.
  • Ethical arguments related to racial discrimination (including positive discrimination), including those based on the ideals of equality and justice.

Wealth and poverty

  • Wealth, including:
    • the right attitude to wealth
    • the uses of wealth.
  • The responsibilities of wealth, including the duty to tackle poverty and its causes.
  • Exploitation of the poor including issues relating to:
    • fair pay
    • excessive interest on loans
    • people-trafficking.
  • The responsibilities of those living in poverty to help themselves overcome the difficulties they face.
  • Charity, including issues related to giving money to the poor.

3.2.2 Textual studies

Students entering for textual studies themes must also study Christianity or Catholic Christianity in Component 1. There is a separate entry code for this route (see Entries and codes). Students electing for this route must study both textual studies themes (Themes G and H).

In studying these themes, students should be aware of the significance, importance and influence of St Mark’s Gospel for individuals, communities and societies. They should understand how varied interpretations of the meaning of passages from St Mark’s Gospel may give rise to diversity within Christian traditions and consider how far Christian and non-religious communities give authority to St Mark’s Gospel, especially in relation to other sources of contemporary authority. Students should be able to show knowledge of the set texts for study and an understanding of their importance for Jesus, for his early followers and for people of the 21st century. Students should be able to consider the authority of the Gospel and the relevance of Jesus’ example and teaching.

3.2.2.1 Theme G: St Mark’s gospel: the life of Jesus

The early ministry of Jesus

  • John’s preparation for Jesus’ ministry: 1:1–8.
  • Jesus’ baptism and temptation: 1:9–13.
  • The paralysed man: 2:1–12.
  • Jairus’ daughter: 5:21–24a, 35–43.
  • The rejection at Nazareth: 6:1–6.
  • The feeding of the five thousand: 6:30–44.

The later ministry of Jesus

  • The conversation at Caesarea Philippi: 8:27–33.
  • The transfiguration of Jesus: 9:2–9.
  • Jesus’ passion prediction: 10:32–34.
  • The request of James and John: 10:35–45.
  • Bartimaeus: 10:46–52.
  • The entry into Jerusalem: 11:1–11.

The final days in Jerusalem

  • The Last Supper: 14:12–26.
  • Jesus in Gethsemane: 14:32–52.
  • The trial before the Jewish authorities: 14:53, 57–65.
  • The trial before Pilate: 15:1–15.
  • The crucifixion and burial: 15:21–47.
  • The empty tomb: 16:1–8.

Significance

  • The titles Son of Man, Son of God, Christ (Messiah) and Son of David, including their meaning for 1st century Jews and Jesus.
  • The significance for 21st century Christians of Jesus’ understanding of the titles Son of Man, Son of God, Christ (Messiah) and Son of David.
  • St Mark’s portrayal of Jesus as a teacher and miracle worker, including contrasting views on the historicity of the miracle stories.
  • Differing beliefs about the meaning of Jesus’ words and actions at the Last Supper.
  • Differing beliefs about the significance of Jesus' death and resurrection, and different explanations given for the empty tomb.
  • Differing views on the authority of St Mark ’s Gospel relating to the life of Jesus in relation to the challenges posed by secular sources of contemporary authority.

3.2.2.2 Theme H: St Mark’s Gospel as a source of religious, moral and spiritual truths

The Kingdom of God

  • Parable of the sower: 4:1–9, 14–20.
  • Parable of the growing seed: 4:26–29.
  • Parable of the mustard seed: 4:30–32.
  • Jesus and the children: 10:13–16.
  • The rich man: 10:17–27.
  • The greatest commandment: 12:28–34.

Jesus’ relationships with those disregarded by society

  • The man with leprosy: 1:40–45.
  • The call of Levi: 2:13–17.
  • The Greek (Syro-Phoenician) woman’s daughter: 7:24–30.
  • The epileptic (demon-possessed) boy: 9:14–29.
  • The widow at the treasury: 12:41–44.
  • The anointing at Bethany: 14:1–9.

Faith and discipleship

  • The call of the first disciples: 1:16–20.
  • The woman with a haemorrhage: 5:24b–34.
  • The mission of the Twelve: 6:7–13.
  • The cost and rewards of discipleship: 8:34–38; 10:28–31.
  • Peter’s denials: 14:27–31, 66–72.
  • The commission and ascension: 16:14–20.

Significance

  • The significance and importance for Jesus, for the people of his day and for people in the 21st century, of key events in the life of Jesus recorded St Mark.
  • Different ways in which the Kingdom of God might be understood, including as a present reality and a future hope, and as a personal inner state and a community.
  • Reasons for 1st century attitudes and those of Jesus to those disregarded by society.
  • The significance and importance for Christians of Jesus’ attitudes to those disregarded by the society of his day.
  • Different views on the significance and importance for Jesus’ disciples and for 21st century Christians of discipleship as seen in incidents relating to Jesus’ disciples and in Jesus’ teaching.
  • Different views on the nature and importance of faith as seen in St Mark’s Gospel.
  • Differing views on the authority of Jesus’ teaching as recorded by St Mark in relation to the challenges posed by secular sources of contemporary authority.