Dr Joanna Leidenhag
After leaving school, I did a foundation year in Fine Art from the University of the Creative Arts, and I still like to paint with oils in my freetime. However, I realized that I was passionate about the ideas that mould soceities and shape lives, and so decided to go to university. I originally intended on studying English LIterature, but during undergraduate at the University of St Andrews (2009–2013) I discovered theology for the first time – the exploration of ideas about God and everything in relation to God from within a particular religious tradition. I paired this with modern history, as a way to understand how philosophical ideas, the scientific revolution, and Christian theology are interwoven in modern Western soceity to inform our beliefs about how we are, what matters in life, and how we should act. These questions continue to animate me.
I went to Princeton Theological Seminary (2013–14) for a taught master’s programme where I was enriched by reading and discussing some of the most important theologians in Western history – Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Hans von Balthasar, and Karl Barth. After a year off, I started a PhD with Prof David A.S. Fergusson at the University of Edinburgh (2015–2019). I discovered a recent work in analytic philosophy of mind regarding the idea of panpsychism, and I decided to explore its implications for the doctrine of creation; how Christianity views God’s relationship to the world and how human should interact with the natural environment.
After compelting my PhD, I got my first job as a postdoctoral research fellow, and then a lecture, in science-engaged theology at the University of St Andrews (2018–2021). I worked on two large grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the St Andrews Fellows in Science & Religion and the New Visions in Theological Anthropology . At St Andrews, I developed and taught undergraduate modules on “Science, Religion and the Mind”, “The Problem of Evil,” “Holy Scripture, Sacred Earth: The Bible and The Environoment”, and “Saints and Cyborgs: The Imagination in Theology and Science”, as well as assisted in teaching on the taught postgraduate masters programme in Analytic and Exegetical Theology.
I was thrilled to join the School of Philosophy, Religion, and History of Science at the University of Leeds in 2021.
- Deputy Director of Liberal Arts
- International Foundation Year Academic Lead for PRHS
I am a Christian theologian interested in interdisciplinary engagment with analytic philosophy and with the natural and psychological sciences.
My doctoral research and first book developed a vision of theological panpsychism, which pairs classical Christian doctrine (i.e. doctrine of creation ex nihilo, the incarnation, the resurrection of the body, etc.) with the metaphysics of panpsychism. Panpsychism, as recently developed by analytic philosophers of mind, is the idea that consciousness is not unique to human beings or even animals, but comes in gradients as a fundamental and ubiqutious feature of reality. I argue that this recent revival in panpsychism is something Christian theologians should welcome as way to articulate creation’s value and praise of the unique Creator. I have also published a short popular level book called Creation and Ecology introducing readers to the Christian doctrine of creation with Grove Books.
I then worked as a postdoctoral researcher in science-engaged theology at the University of St Andrews for three years. I am writing a Cambridge Element with Dr John Perry on what science-engaged theology is, how it differs from the wider field of science-and-religion, and some guidelines for theologians wanting to use empirical studies as a resource within their work. You can find a special issue I edited in the journal Modern Theology on this topic, which includes the article “What is Science-Engaged Theology?” written by myself and Dr Perry.
My current research project is a monograph on exploring what neurodiversity, and autistic people in particular, can teach theologians and the church about what it means to be human, a child of God, and members of the body of Christ. I have published three articles on autism and theology to date:
- ‘The Challenge of Autism for Contemporary Theological Anthropology,’ International Journal of Systematic Theology (2020)
- ‘Autism, Doxology, and the Nature of Christian Worship,’ Journal of Disability & Religion (2021)
- ‘Accountability, Autism and Friendship with God,’ Studies in Christian Ethics, Vol. 34, Is. 3 (2021).
I have also published on other topics, many of them beginning with “p”: pantheism, panentheism, participation, pnematology, and pica (ok, the last one really refers to an article looking at eating disorders more widely, not just pica). If you want to read more about these publications you can find my CV and many pre-publication drafts on my academia.edu cite.<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>
- PhD in Systematic Theology, University of Edinburgh
- M.A. Theological Studies, Princeton Theological Seminary
- M.A. Modern History and Theology, University of St Andrews
- Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
- American Academy of Religion
- Society for the Study of Theology
- European Society for the Study of Science and Theology
- Centre for Theology and Public Issues
I teach on the Liberal Arts BA and offer other modules broadly in the sphere of Christian theology, philosophy of religion, and intellectual history. The modules I teach typically tackle questions like, ‘what should be the goal of education?’, ‘what does it mean to be human?’, ‘what is social justice?’, and ‘what are university’s for?’
Research groups and institutes
- Centre for Philosophy of Religion