This course will help you see what Derrida and Foucault are really saying, and show you how you can bring their thought into conversation with the Bible. You will get an accessible introduction to the thought of two of the most influential French philosophers of recent decades, and you will learn methods for fostering meaningful engagement between philosophical ideas and biblical doctrine. The course is written primarily with Christians in mind, and everyone is welcome to join.

The Team

Christopher Watkin       273 kudos

Hi there! Here's a bit of information about me... I received my PhD in French philosophy from Cambridge University in 2006. After holding a Junior Research Fell...

The Community

202 Students           806 Comments


More Information

What will you gain from this course?


·        An introductory overview to the work of two of the most important and influential postmodern thinkers of the twentieth century, whose ideas help shape our thinking today, including diagrams and explanations of key terms and quotations.

·        A way of thinking about the bible that helps you bring it into conversation with philosophical ideas in an authentic and rigorous way.

·        Weekly online discussion about the ideas and texts you are studying with an international community of fellow students who share your interest in the bible and postmodernism. This means that you get to learn from your fellow students, not just from the lecturer and tutor. You can comment, like, share documents, videos and images, and just chat or DM with people who share your interests.

·        Through the online discussions you will gain a network of people interested in the same areas you are: friends, collaborators, mentors and mentees that you can keep in touch with once the course has finished.

·        Expert help and support from a qualified tutor who will interact with your online discussions and help you with your questions.

·        Helpful weekly multiple choice quizzes that enable you to track your learning.

·        Weekly video lectures that include diagrams and real-time mark-up of texts.

·        Recommended primary and secondary readings that allow you to explore Derrida, Foucault and the Bible for yourself.

·        The option to complete a final assignment on a theme of your choice from the course, to share with your fellow students and to receive feedback from a qualified tutor. You can complete your assignment your way: a poster, a song, a poem, a video, a flash animation or a good old-fashioned essay.



Who is the course for?


Anyone interested in learning about two of the most important postmodern philosophers and how to bring their thought into conversation with the Bible.



When does it start?


Monday 13 March 2017, but you can enrol right now.


How long does it last?


Seven weeks.


What are the elements of the course?


·        Weekly online video lectures

·        Guided questions leading to online discussion forums where you can discuss the material with fellow students, comment, like, share documents, videos and images, and just chat with people who share your interests.

·        Weekly lecture notes available online that you can add to, expand and comment on.

·        Weekly suggested primary and secondary readings

·        Weekly online multiple choice quizzes

·        An optional final essay in which you can explore in more depth a theme from the course that interests you.

·        Learn anytime-anywhere and never miss a thing with the free OpenLearning mobile app! Download on iTunes - Download on Google Play


How is it assessed?


·        Weekly online multiple choice quizzes

·        Optional final assignment


Is this course for credit?




Weekly breakdown

Week 1. Introduction


What is the “death of God” and why is it important for contemporary philosophy? We will study the parable of the madman from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science and see how it raises new sets of problems to which subsequent philosophy tried to respond.


Week 2. Derrida #1: metaphysics


What is deconstruction, and what does Derrida mean when he famously says that “there is nothing outside the text”? We discover that Derrida is not saying that we can make language mean anything we want it to.

We bring Derrida’s thought into conversation with the prologue to John’s gospel, and meet for the first time the tool of biblical “diagonalization”. The biblical creator/creature distinction and the Trinity help us to engage with Derrida’s metaphysics.


Week 3. Derrida #2: ethics


For a long time it was thought that there was no ethics of deconstruction, but in recent decades this has been shown to be misguided. This week we think carefully about Derrida’s famous pronouncement that “every other is wholly other”, and show why Derrida is anything but a relativist. We touch on what Derrida has to say about the gift, justice and violence.

We bring Derrida’s “every other is wholly other” into conversation with Colossians 1, and his thinking on justice into conversation with the distinctive biblical positon of absolute personality theism.


Week 4. Derrida #3: Theology


Derrida’s thought has been very influential among theologians. This week we see why it is mistaken to think that Derrida is saying God can be whatever you want him to be. We consider the question of whether Derrida was an atheist, and weigh his critique of the god of “onto-theology” before walking through his own “messianicity without messianism” and the “democracy to come”.

We return to absolute personality theism in order to bring it into conversation with onto-theology, and use Calvin’s idea of divine accommodation to diagonalize Derrida’s thought, before briefly comparing Derrida’s messianicity without messianisms with biblical predestination.

Week 5. Foucault #1: History and Truth


This week we consider Foucault’s “archaeological” period. We see how he rejects Hegel’s understanding of history and embraces a model that privileges ruptures and abrupt transformations. We explore the three “epistemes” that Foucault discusses in The Order of Things, and walk through his history of madness in Madness and Civilization to become acquainted with some of his characteristic moves.

We bring Foucault’s account of history – and his understanding of Christianity – into conversation with the story of Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection and glorification as related in Philippians 2.


Week 6. Foucault #2: Power and Knowledge


Foucault’s “genealogical” period broadened his field of investigation beyond language and saw his thought and life become more political. It is also now that the theme of power relations becomes prominent in his work. We consider what Foucault means by “power”; we focus on Discipline and Punish to trace the key notions of sovereign power and disciplinary power, and dip into his later lectures to familiarize ourselves with the notion of biopower.

Paul’s account of his ministry in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 1 allows us to open a conversation between Foucault and the bible on the theme of power. Touching on Luther’s distinction between theologians of the cross and theologians of glory, we explore themes of truth and normativity across Foucault and the bible.


Week 7. Foucault #3: Ethics and Identity


Foucault’s latter publications are often classed as his “ethical” period. In this final week we study Foucault’s understanding of Christianity with its major themes of pastoral power and confession, before turning to the first volume of his History of Sexuality in order to see how he understands sexuality in the modern world and how he builds an ethic of the “care of the self”.

Foucault’s account of identity is brought into conversation with the biblical account of “cruciform identity”, and we see how both Foucault and the bible problematize identity in terms of the two binaries of open/closed and autonomous/heteronomous.


Endorsements and student testimonials

I found Dr. Chris Watkin’s course on PostModern and Bible exhilarating. After forty years as an academic sociologist I too rarely find a set of ideas, a teacher, and a theological encounter that are both evocative for my scholarship and deepening of my faith. Post-modernism as a concept, movement and slogan has been in the air for a long time in my academic realm and perhaps even more in academic evangelical circles as a bête noire. Its practitioners have often been so obscurantist that most of my discipline and interdisciplinary field (law and social science) simply ignore it. By contrast, Dr. Watkin excites a respectful and learned conversation with Derrida and Foucault. He takes on their big themes and big ideas on power and identity, meaning and truth, among other concepts. He embeds each enormously influential scholar in his historical and intellectual milieu. He explicates their often difficult ideas and misunderstood theories with lucidity and analytic clarity. His exemplary pedagogy of short videos, images and metaphors, diagrams and brief quotes, are complemented by further reading and bibliographic recommendations for those who want to dig deeply. I consider the web-based conversations with students to be an outstanding model of a Christian academic’s encouragement and respect for the 200+ class members from diverse backgrounds and countries. Dr. Watkin is invariably constructive and positive, offering supportive reinforcement for questions and comments and stimulating grace-filled exchanges. The course could be taken by every Christian academic as a way to be more reflective about how Godliness can permeate learning and teaching. Not least, this course offers a rich theological offering in its biblical understandings of constructive engagement with these influential thinkers. Dr. Watkin gets beyond reactive apologetics to explore what each side of this theory-theological conversation can say to the other. I ended the course with a richer understanding of my own faith than I had anticipated at the outset. And to my surprise the course also yielded insight for my current research and writing. Dr. Watkin uses Derrida and Foucault and their biblical counter-points to search out the faith-infused meaning we can make of our times, our selves, our ways of life, and our openness to change, creativity, renewal, rebirth. I recommend it unreservedly. 

Terence Halliday, Co-Director and Professor, Center on Law and Globalization, American Bar Foundation; Honorary Professor, Australian National University; Adjunct Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University, USA.


Postmodernism has had a pervasive influence on many academic disciplines and the wider culture. Christian students can be tempted to either adopt the postmodern paradigm wholesale, abandoning their faith, or adopt a bifurcated approach to life where their studies are never integrated with their faith. Neither approach will enable them to live out their calling to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength. Chris Watkin's course, Postmodernism and the Bible, offers students the opportunity to understand key postmodern thinkers on their own terms, without the common Christian misunderstandings that hobble so much Christian response to postmodernism, and engage with the pentrating insights that the Biblical perspective has into the claims of postmodernism. I wish this resource had been available when I was working with students from Cambridge and Oxford Universities and I am confident that it will be a very valuable resource in equipping students to walk with Christ and be a compelling witness to him during their academic careers. I commend it wholeheartedly. 

Graham Shearer, former UCCF Central Team Leader, United Kingdom


Dr Watkin's course on postmodernism and the Bible stands tall in the best evangelical, educational, tradition -- whilst it simultaneously educates, entertains, provokes and inspires, above all,  the course's most profound legacy is a deeper affection for our Lord's everlasting Truth. Christian students in the arts and humanities will especially benefit from the course as Dr Watkin's evangelical frameworks will be immensely helpful in navigating some of the most prominent concerns of the modern humanities classroom.

Dr Simon Angus, senior lecturer in the Department of Economics, Monash University, and lay-Pastor of City on a Hill Anglican Church, Melbourne, Australia


Exhortations from Christian leaders to understand the culture within which we live are common. How are we to optimise our witness if we do not understand the prevailing worldview and how the gospel critiques it? Far less common are high quality resources which enable this. That is why I am excited to endorse Chris Watkin's Postmodernism and the Bible course. In this course we have the rare combination of an expert in the field who holds deep evangelical convictions and is a great communicator. It is pitched at Christian university students by a university lecturer who desires them to grow in their faith and power to witness. We will certainly be using this resource among Christian students at Monash University.

Dr Stuart White, AFES Staff Team Leader, Monash University, Melbourne.


I can't tell you just how much I've valued this course. Your clear and genial explanations of Derrida and Foucault in relation to the Bible have slotted so many things about my grad school experience into place for me - I wish I had been able to take your course before I enrolled. Life would have been much easier if I'd been able to identify the framework for the presuppositions that governed what was taught in my classes.

2017 Student


Thank you so much, Dr Christopher Watkin for preparing and making this course available. It is well thought-out and worth the time for those who participated. I have been able to learn much and I am grateful. I am really looking forward and hoping that more courses like this would be made available across the world.

2017 Student


Thank you, once again for all the lectures, readings and spending your time on this. I enjoyed it.

2017 Student


Thank you very much for the time and effort put into offering this course. Christopher, you did an excellent job of opening up my understanding to many of these ideas.

2017 Student


Thank you Chris for the videos and prompt responses to our questions and comments for the past 7 weeks. It has been great learning from everyone who participated in this course.

2017 Student

Postmodernism and the Bible: Derrida and Foucault

Status: On now

Students: 202