Dr Joanna Leidenhag

Dr Joanna Leidenhag

Profile

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. Since coming to Leeds I have mostly taught on the BA in Liberal Arts. 

Responsibilities

  • Deputy Director of Liberal Arts

Research interests

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 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. With Dr John Perry, I co-wrote a book on Science-Engaged Theology, exploring how this idea differs from previous trends in the field of science-and-religion, considering what it means for the standing of theology in modern research universities, and offering some guidelines for theologians wanting to use empirical studies as a resource within their work. You can find a special issue I co-edited in the journal Modern Theology on this topic, which gives concrete examples of scientifically engaged theological research. 

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: 

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>

Qualifications

  • 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

Professional memberships

  • 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
  • International Society for Science and Religion

Student education

I teach core modules on the Liberal Arts BA. Liberal Arts students at Leeds can study a wide range of modules in different disciplins, while taking 1 year-long core module with me. 

The first year core module, “Introduction to Liberal Arts” tackles questions like, ‘what is a ‘liberal arts’ education?’, ‘what should the goal of education be?’, and ‘how is (or isn’t) the goal of education achieved through different methods of teaching and learning?’. We also explore, ‘what is social justice?’ and look at different social justice issues from different angles. The second year core module is a Research Parternship module where students participate in live-research projects with academics across the university, sometimes with external partnerships (e.g., charities, buisness, social services). In the third year, the core module is an Independent Final Year project, or dissertation. 

You can read more about the BA in Liberal Arts at Leeds online.

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Philosophy of Religion

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>