- Some Christians baptise their children at a young age
- The child is usually taught to pray and they go to church.
- Families usually celebrate Christmas and Easter (and the meaning of those festivals and stories around them)
- Some Christian parents arrange for their children to attend a ‘Sunday School’ where there is encouragement to be a good Christian and lead a Christian life.
How would this support a person’s belief in God?
- Being born into a Christian family might support someone’s belief in God because they are surrounded by others who are convinced of the existence of God.
- If the religion has been handed down through generations it may seem perfectly natural to members of that family to believe in God.
- Learning about God at home, school and in the church could lead some people to decide that God must exist.
Sometimes religious experiences can convince people that God exists without a religious upbringing.
- For some this is the ‘wow’ factor and they see something that takes their breath away and gives feelings of awe and wonder. This is called numinous and could be felt by looking up at a starry sky or a wonderful sunset and convinced that God is behind it all.
- Prayer is an important and personal way for some people to communicate with God. If a prayer is answered then it can strengthen a person’s faith in God.
- Miracles can also convince people that God exists e.g. surviving a plane crash, Jairus’ daughter
- Conversion happens after an event where people believe they have experienced God and want to commit their life to God e.g. St Paul on the road to Damascus
Several hundred years ago WIillam Paley put forward the design argument. He said that if somebody happened to find a watch and had never ever seen one before, they would be astounded. The fact that finding something so tiny with lots of mechanisms inside it had been made by someone very clever (a designer) and it could NOT have been made by accident.
Paley said that the same argument could be said about the universe which is even more complicated than a watch! The universe must have been designed by an extremely clever being, not by accident. The only possible designer of the universe must be God – therefore God exists. E.g.s of design = DNA, evolution…
Things do not happen by themselves; for example, if we drop an egg it may smash (the cause would be us dropping it – the effect would be the smashing of the egg) the causation argument says that the existence of the universe proves that God exists.
If the universe has a beginning then something must have caused it, it did not happen by accident so something caused it and brought it into existence – this is God, and so this proves that God exists.
Scientific Explanations of the world
Science can explain how the universe began without the need for God e.g. the Big Bang says how the universe began and Evolution explains where animals and humans came from. Christians respond in 3 ways;
- Science is true but God controlled the process e.g. not strictly due to chance.
- Science and the Bible are correct. Main points fit e.g. 7 days of creation could be 7 periods of time.
- Science is wrong! God made world look older Apparent Age Theory
God not answering ‘good’ prayers e.g. end poverty, cure cancer…
- Agnosticism- not being sure whether God exists
- Atheism- believing that God does not exist
- Theism- believing that God does exist
- Prayer- an attempt to contact God, usually through words
- Omnibenevolent- the belief that God is good or kind
- Omnipotent- the belief that God is all powerful
- Omniscient- the belief that God knows everything that has happened and everything that is going to happen
- Conversion- when your life is changed by giving yourself to God
- Miracle- something which seems to break the law of science and makes you think that only God could have done it
- Numinous- the feeling of presence of something greater than you, e.g. in a Church or looking up at the stars
- Religious Experience – an event where people feel that they have had direct contact with God
- Free Will – the idea that human beings are free to make their own choices
- Moral Evil – actions done by humans which cause suffering
- Natural Evil – things that cause suffering but have nothing to do with humans
Many philosophers have argued that either we can believe in an omniscient God – that is one that is all-knowing and therefore knows everything that we have done, are doing and will do in the future or we can believe that God is not all-knowing and that humans are in fact free. Some people have argued that if it is the case that God is all-knowing then it must be that humans cannot be free to make their own choices if God already knows what they will do. Some however, have argued that the notions of free will and omniscience are compatible and this seems to the strongest argument of the three.
- Some philosophers have argued that humans do not have free will and that if fact they are determined allowing God to be all-knowing
- Locke – free will is an illusion
- Ted Honderich- God has moral responsibility (predetermination) not humans
- This would suggest that God not only knows what we are going to do but also has some power over our actions showing that he is both omniscient and omnipotent
- Kant said we must be free to make our own moral decisions and we are morally responsible, exercising free will ‘if we are not free we are not responsible and cannot be punished’
- Sartre – existence precedes essence
- The bible states that God gave humans free will and Augustine said that God gave himself epistemic distance so that he could not interfere and humans could be free to make their own choices.
- Therefore humans must have free will and therefore the issue of God’s omniscience must be explored
Arguments in favour of Omniscient
- Some philosophers have argued that God’s omniscience prevents free will
- Aquinas – knowledge is immaterial and not physical therefore God can know all as he is not the same as us
- The idea of predestination suggests that God has complete knowledge of us and our actions suggesting that we are not free
- This can be criticised by the view of a God who rewards and punishes – Kant would support this due to moral responsibility
- Whilst there are strong arguments in favour of God’s omniscience, the view of a God who knows all seems incompatible with free will
- Some philosopher’s have tried to negotiate between these views arguing against God’s complete omniscience, and suggesting that God knows all we have done (past) and all we are doing (present) but cannot know the future thus preserving our free will
- Schleiermacher – even divine foreknowledge cannot endanger free will – analogy of close friends
- Swinburne – God knows what we have done and what we are doing but is only aware of the logical possibilities of our futures. This is known as the middle way
- An alternative view on this issue is to adopt a view of God as eternal rather than everlasting. If God is eternal, then time is different for him, than it is for us – he is outside of time and space
- However this seems illogical, firstly because this would mean that events such as ww2 are happening at the same time this essay is written and secondly because it means he is unable to interfere in the world
Belief and Faith
- Belief is an acceptance that something exists or is true especially without proof.
- Faith is having complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
- Different people believe different things:
- Theist - someone who believes in God
- Atheist - someone who doesn't believe in God
- Agnostic - someone who believes that it is impossible to know whether or not God exists
- Monotheist - someone who believes in one God
- Polytheist - someone who believes in many gods
- Judaism, Christianity and Islam are known as Abrahamic religions i.e. they can trace their ancestry back through to Abraham
The term Trinity refers to the Christian belief that the one God is made up of three persons:
- Holy Spirit
The three persons of the Trinity have separate roles and should not be confused:
- God the Father – Creator
- God the Son – Saviour i.e. Jesus
- God the Holy Spirit – Sustainer/Sanctifier
The Holy Spirit
Christian beliefs about the Holy Spirit:
- The third person of the Trinity.
- Coeternal with the Father and Son.
- Present at Creation, in Genesis the Spirit of God hovered over the waters.
- Inspired the writers of the Bible.
- Jesus was conceived by its power.
- Present at Jesus' Baptism.
- Jesus promised his disciples that he would send his Holy Spirit after he had returned back to the Father.
- At Pentecost it came down on the disciples as tongues of fire. The Holy Spirit gave them the courage to preach the Gospel.
- Christians believe they receive the Holy Spirit in a special way in the sacrament of confirmation and enables them to live out the Christian life.
- Pentecostal Christians believe in Baptism in the Spirit.
Argument put forward by St Anselm of Canterbury (1033 – 1109) in his Prosologian:
- God is that which nothing greater can exists
- Something which exists in reality is greater than that which exists only in the imagination
- If God is that which nothing can exist then God must exist in reality and not just in the imagination
- Therefore God must exist
Argument put forward by St Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274):
- Something cannot come from nothing
- The universe cannot have come about by itself
- Something else must have brought about the universe – a ‘first cause’
- That something is God
Argument put forward by the Christian philosopher William Paley (1734 – 1805). Sometimes known as the argument from design:
- If you walked along a path and found a stone you would assume that it had always been there
- If you walked along a path and found a watch you could only assume that it hadn’t come about by chance but someone had put it together and designed it
- If you look at the world about you, you will see how intricate it is e.g. the human eye
- There must be a designer
- Therefore there must be a God
Argument from experience
Some people argue that they have personally experienced God. God can be experienced:
- When prayers are answered
- When miracles happen
Some people argue that the fact everyone has a conscience is evidence of God’s existence:
- Everyone has a basic understanding of right and wrong
- This conscience comes from God
- God must exist
A miracle may be defined as:
- An event attributed to divine intervention
- A violation of a law of nature by a supernatural being
- A highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment.
- A remarkable set of circumstances
The Miracles of Jesus
There are a number of accounts of miracles performed by Jesus in the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Miracles in the New Testament can be divided into four main groups, as follows:
- Natural miracles
- Casting out demons (exorcism)
- Healing the sick
- Raising the dead
Christians would also say that the final miracle was the resurrection of Jesus and the appearances he made to his followers after his death. Christians have different views about the miracles of Jesus: some take them literally, others look for rational explanations, and some do not think they are important as other aspects of Jesus’ ministry.