We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Email and Telephone Directory

Staff Profile

Professor Jeff Astley

Honorary Professor
(1 Oct 2018 - 30 Sept 2021) in the Department of Theology and Religion
Professorial Fellow of St Chad's College

Contact Professor Jeff Astley (email at


I have been an honorary lecturer in the University of Durham since 1981, Honorary Professorial Fellow in Practical Theology and Christian Education since 1997, and Honorary Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion since 2012. I currently also hold a part-time post at the Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln, as Alister Hardy Professor of Religious and Spiritual Experience.

I read Natural Sciences (specializing in the biological sciences) and then Theology at the University of Cambridge, and continued my theological studies at the University of Birmingham while training for ordination at The Queen’s College, Birmingham. I was ordained in the Church of England in 1970 and served as an assistant curate in South Staffordshire before moving to Durham as a College Chaplain and Lecturer in Divinity in St Hild’s College, later the College of St Hild and St Bede. While in Durham I began working part-time for my PhD in the philosophy of religion (on the religious epistemology of Ian T Ramsey; awarded 1979).

From 1977 to 1981 I was Principal Lecturer and Head of Religious Studies at Bishop Grosseteste College, Lincoln and Associate Tutor at Lincoln Theological College, responsible for a joint degree in Theology and Ministry of the University of Nottingham, taught at the two colleges.

I returned to Durham in 1981 as Founding Director of the ecumenical and independent North of England Institute for Christian Education, whose primary task was to create links between Christian theology and education, particularly by promoting research in Christian learning in all its aspects, but especially within congregations. The Institute closed in 2013. For details of NEICE, its work and related publications, see

I am the author or editor of around forty books in Christian education, practical theology or religious faith, including academic monographs, such as The Philosophy of Christian Religious Education (1994) and Ordinary Theology: Looking, Listening and Learning in Theology (2002); readers and edited collections, such as Theological Perspectives on Christian Formation (1996), The Idea of a Christian University (2004) and Exploring Ordinary Theology (2013); student texts, such as Choosing Life? Christianity and Moral Problems (2000), Exploring God-Talk: Using Language in Religion (2004) and the SCM Studyguides to Christian Doctrine (2010) and Religious and Spiritual Experience (2020); and works on popular theology and spirituality, such as Beyond the Here and Now (1996) and Christ of the Everyday (2007). My 150 journal articles, chapters in books and research reports cover a similarly wide field. (A full list of publications may be accessed here.)

I have a range of research interests within Christian education and practical theology, including conceptual research in the philosophy and theology of Christian learning and moral and spiritual education, and studies in ‘ordinary theology’. I have also undertaken both qualitative and quantitative empirical studies among churchgoers, teachers and students.

Within the field of Theology and Religion my main academic interests are in the Philosophy of Religion and the Science and Religion debate, and I have taught at undergraduate level in the Department in both areas. I have collaborated with colleagues in the production of a series of six undergraduate readers on key issues in Theology and Religious Studies. I have taught a MA module in ‘Christian Formation, Faith Development and Critical Education’. My current research interests extend to theoretical and empirical studies of religious and spiritual experience.

From time to time I am able to supervise research students within the fields of Christian education and practical theology, or other areas of Theology and Religion and Theology and Ministry. Because of my other commitments, however, this is not always possible. Prospective students should contact me directly at

Selected Publications

Authored book

Edited book

Chapter in book

  • Francis, Leslie, Penny, Gemma & Astley, Jeff (2019). Theologies of Religion, and Attitude Towards Religious Diversity: A Study among 13- To 15-Year-Old Students Across The UK. In Young People and the Diversity of (Non) Religious Identities in International Perspectives. Arweck, Elisabeth & Shipley, Heather Springer. 87-107.
  • Astley, Jeff (2019). What Can we Learn about Young People’s Religious Experience, and Why Should We Bother? Reflections on a Study from the Republic of Ireland. In Religion and Education: The Voices of Young People in Ireland. Byrne, Gareth & Francis, Leslie Veritas. 103-121.
  • Astley, Jeff (2018). The Naming of Parts: Faith, Formation, Development and Education. In Christian Faith, Formation and Education. Stuart-Buttle, Ros & Shortt, John Palgrave Macmillan. 13-27.
  • Astley, Jeff & Barnes, L. Philip (2018). The Role of Language in Religious Education. In Learning to Teach Religious Education in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience. Barnes, L. Philip Routledge. 73-88.
  • Astley, Jeff (2016). ‘I Warn You Not To Be Ordinary’ The Disabilities and Capabilities of Ordinariness. In Diversity and Intersectionality: Studies in Religion, Education and Values. Astley, Jeff & Francis, Leslie J. Oxford: Peter Lang. 219-234.
  • Astley, Jeff (2016). ‘Ordinary Theology’ und Jugend. In Jahrbuch für Jugendtheologie Band 4: "Jedes Mal in der Kirche kam ich zum Nachdenken" Jugendliche und Kirche. Schlag, Thomas & Roebben, Bert Stuttgart: Calwer Verlag. 26-41.
  • Astley, Jeff (2016). Researching the Field of Christian Education: Reflections on an English Experiment. In Religion and Nationhood: Insider and Outsider Perspectives on Religious Education in England. Gates, Brian Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. 327-348.
  • Astley, Jeff (2014). Being Faithful: Trusting Beyond. In Teaching Virtue: The Contribution of Religious Education. Felderhof, Marius & Thompson, Penny. London: Bloomsbury. 166-178.
  • Astley, Jeff (2013). Ordinary Theology and the Learning Conversation with Academic Theology. In Exploring Ordinary Theology: Everyday Christian Believing and the Church. Astley, Jeff & Francis, Leslie J. Farnham: Ashgate. 45-54.
  • Astley, Jeff (2013). The Analysis, Investigation and Application of Ordinary Theology. In Exploring Ordinary Theology: Everyday Christian Believing and the Church. Astley, Jeff & Francis, Leslie J. Farnham: Ashgate. 1-9.
  • Astley, Jeff (2012). A Theological Reflection on the Nature of Religious Truth. In Teaching Religion, Teaching Truth: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives. Astley, Jeff, Francis, Leslie J., Robbins, Mandy & Selçuk, Mualla. Bern: Peter Lang. 241-262.
  • Astley, Jeff (2012). Can we Choose our Beliefs? A Philosophical Question for Religious Education. In Religious Education and Freedom of Religion and Belief. Parker, Stephen, Freathy, Rob & Francis, Leslie J. Bern: Peter Lang. 81-93.
  • Astley, Jeff (2012). Christianity. In The Routledge International Handbook of Learning. Jarvis, Peter with Mary Watts. Routledge. 467-474.
  • Astley, Jeff (2012). Church Schools and the Church’s Service for the Poor. In Anglican Church School Education: Moving Beyond the First Two Hundred Years. Worsley, Howard J. Bloomsbury Academic. 101-118.
  • Astley, Jeff (2011). Forms of Faith and Forms of Communication. In Communicating Faith. Sullivan, John. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. 16-30.
  • Astley, Jeff (2011). Religion and Language. In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences. Hogan, Patrick Colm. New York: Cambridge University Press. 712-713.
  • Astley, Jeff (2009). Evolution and Evil: The Difference Darwinism Makes in Theology and Spirituality. In Reading Genesis After Darwin. Barton, Stephen C. & Wilkinson, David. New York: Oxford University Press. 163-180.
  • Christie, Ann & Astley, Jeff (2009). Ordinary Soteriology: A Qualitative Study. In Empirical Theology in Texts and Tables: Qualitative, Quantitative and Comparative Perspectives. Francis, Leslie J., Robbins, Mandy & Astley, Jeff. Leiden: Brill. 177-196.
  • Astley, Jeff (2009). The Psychology of Faith Development. In International Handbook of Education for Spirituality, Care and Wellbeing. de Souza, Marian, Francis, Leslie J., O’Higgins-Norman, James & Scott, Daniel G. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer. One: 231-245.
  • Astley, Jeff (2008). Giving Voice to the Ordinary: Theological Listening and the Mother Tongue. In Exchanges of Grace: Essays in Honour of Ann Loades. Watson, Natalie K. & Burns, Stephen. SCM Press. 202-212.
  • Astley, Jeff (2007). Crossing the Divide? In Inspiring Faith in Schools: Studies in Religious Education. Felderhof, Marius, Thompson, Penny & Torevell, David. Aldershot: Ashgate. 175-186.
  • Astley, Jeff (2007). Public and Personal Peace in Life, Religion and Education: An Exercise in Ordinary Theology. In Peace or Violence: The Ends of Religion and Education?. Astley, Jeff, Francis, Leslie J. & Robbins, Mandy. Cardiff: Cardiff: University of Wales Press. 151-173.
  • Astley, Jeff (2005). The Science and Religion Interface within Young People's Attitudes and Beliefs. In Religion, Education and Adolescence: International Empirical Perspectives. Francis, Leslie J., Robbins, Mandy & Astley, Jeff. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. 39-54.
  • Astley, Jeff (2004). Christian Teaching, Christian Learning and Christian Love: Education as Christian Ministry and Spiritual Discipline. In The Idea of a Christian University: Essays on Theology and Higher Education. Astley, Jeff , Francis, Leslie J., Sullivan, John & Walker, Andrew. Milton Keynes: Paternoster. 132-146.
  • Astley, Jeff (2004). Religious Non-Realism and Spiritual Truth. In New Directions in Philosophical Theology. Hyman, Gavin. Aldershot: Ashgate. 19-33.
  • Astley, Jeff (2003). Spiritual learning Good for nothing?. In Spirituality, Philosophy and Education. Carr, David & Haldane, John. London: RoutledgeFalmer. 141-153.
  • Astley, Jeff (2001). From Religion to Science: Religious Education and Scientific Understanding. In The Fourth R for the Third Millennium: Education in Religion and Values for the Global Future. Francis, Leslie J., Astley, J. & Robbins, Mandy. Dublin: Lindisfarne Books. 17-45.

Journal Article

  • Francis, Leslie J., Astley, Jeff & McKenna, Ursula (2019). ‘Science Disproves the Biblical Account of Creation’ Exploring the Predictors of Perceived Conflict between Science and Religion among 13- To 15-Year-Old Students. British Journal of Religious Education 41(2): 188-201.
  • Francis, Leslie J., Astley, Jeff & McKenna, Ursula (2018). Belief in God, Belief in Science: Exploring the Psychological Correlates of Scientific Fundamentalism as Implicit Religion. Implicit Religion 21(4): 383-412.
  • Astley, Jeff (2017). Asking Questions and Analysing Answers about Religious Experience: Developing the Greer Tradition. Mental Health, Religion & Culture 20(4): 348-358.
  • Astley, Jeff (2017). Conceptual Enquiry and the Experience of ‘the Transcendent’ John Hick’s Contribution to the Dialogue. Mental Health, Religion & Culture 20(4): 311-322.
  • Astley, Jeff & Francis, Leslie J. (2016). Introducing the Astley-Francis Theology of Religions Index: Construct Validity among 13- to 15-year-old Students. Journal of Beliefs and Values 37(1): 29-39.
  • Astley, Jeff (2015). Beyond Science and Nature? Reflections on Scientific Reductionism and Mental and Religious Experience. Journal for the Study of Religious Experience 1(1): 32-48.
  • Astley, Jeff (2015). Forming Disciples: Some Educational and Biblical Reflections. Rural Theology 13(1): 4-17.
  • Astley, Jeff (2014). Anglican Perspectives on Christian Religious Education. Theo-Web. Zeitschrift für Religionspädagogik 13(2): 75-91.
  • Astley, Jeff (2013). Afterword: Some Reflections on Implicit Religion and Ordinary Theology. Mental Health, Religion & Culture 16(9): 975-978.
  • Astley, Jeff, Francis, Leslie J. & Robbins, Mandy (2012). Assessing Attitude Towards Religion: The Astley-Francis Scale of Attitude Towards Theistic Faith. British Journal of Religious Education 34(2): 183-193.
  • Astley, Jeff & Francis, Leslie J. (2011). Promoting Positive Attitudes towards Science and Religion among Sixth Form Pupils: Dealing with Scientism and Creationism. British Journal of Religious Education 6(2): 189-200.
  • Astley, Jeff (2009). Religion versus Darwin: Should Evolution Denial Go to School? Theology CXII(868): 270-278.
  • Astley, Jeff & Francis, Leslie J. (2009). Vocation to Ordained Ministry: A Qualitative Study. Practical Theology 2(2): 253-267.
  • Astley, Jeff (2005). Religious Schooling and the Challenge of the Poor. Journal of Empirical Theology 18(1): 41-47.
  • Astley, Jeff (2004). Christian Ethics in the Classroom, Curriculum and Corridor. Studies in Christian Ethics 17(1): 54-68.
  • Astley, Jeff & Francis, Leslie J. (2002). Christian Education and Openness: An Empirical Investigation among Undergraduates. Religious Education 97(1): 4-22.
  • Astley, Jeff (2002). Evangelism in Education: Impossibility, Travesty or Necessity?. International Journal of Education and Religion 3(2): 179-194.
  • Astley, Jeff (2002). In Defence of Ordinary Theology. British Journal of Theological Education 13(1): 21-35.

Show all publications