Philosophy A2

Philosophy revision for A2 exam

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Nature of God

  • Defining God's omniscience-God is all-knowing, along with his other key attributes:omnibenevolence and omnipotence which believers bestow upon him to make Him the ultimate perfect being.
  • Philosophical Problems-Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane: Causes difficulties with the wholly simple timeless model of God as how can a timeless God act in a temporal world and yet be in human form if people are to believe in the literal sense that Jesus is the Son of God. Is Jesus, God's only action within a temporal world. Secondly, within the passage Jesus says: "all things are possible to you", suggesting God's omnipotence. However, if Jesus is asking God to change his mind then what does it suggest about God? Can God make mistakes? Relate to Noah's Ark and God's Promise. If God is flawed, then does he have a right to reward or punish us? As a perfect being, one should not make exceptions for God to make such mistakes, if He punishes us likewise.
  • Moral problems-Problem of Evil. If God knows what is to happen, then why not prevent suffering? Reveals an arbitary nature. Why does God choose to make himself known through religious experience and yet not intervene to prevent suffering? Can he intervene?-Restricts omnipotence. Pain and purpose-is the price of suffering really enough in order to build strength of character? Greater good?
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Nature of God

  • Omnibenevolent-why allow cruelty to exist on earth?
  • Symbol of the Cross-God is not a stranger to suffering through Jesus-> God participates through this process. Is he still involved? Why is suffering allowed to continue?
  • As part of our covenant relationship with God, we have free will and so are free to make choices. However, if God is meant to be omniscient does that mean that He already knows our choices before we make them?
  • Can God know the logically impossible? Or can God know all that is logically possible to know although does that restrict His omniscience?
  • Appeal to mystery "God works in mysterious ways"-Isn't that running away from the philosophical problem?
  • Defining omniscience-how does God know?
  • Key themes to do with omniscience-Evil and suffering, Freedom, Reward and Punishment.
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  • Wholly Simple Timeless God: Has all time simultaneously present to God, so that events which, to us, are past, present and future are all alike to Him, i.e. God is like a great observer on a mountain who is able to see all paths below. However, if God's knowledge causes our actions then we are determined and not free, but if God's knowledge depends on our actions then there are real questions as to whether God can still be held to be simple. If God knows our future, is our future wholly determined? The theory of pre-destination implies that our lives are determined by God, can be seen as opposed to human freedom.
  • Everlasting God-The everlasting God knows the past and the present. Such a God can know the future only in so far as it is determined by the way things are in the universe now. If therefore, human beings only have the freedom to act in accordance with their determined nature then it would be possible for the everlasting God to know the future. If however, human beings have genuine freedom to choose between alternatives, then the everlasting God cannot know the future in so far as it could be affected by the free choices of human beings. Such a God could still be held to be omniscient, as God would know all that is logically possible to know-"middle knowledge".
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  • Anti-realist: If we instead adopt a revisionary account to explain theological language, then talk about omniscience is a way of showing that we cannot escape the effects of our actions. We become the sort of people our acts make us, all that is hidden will be revealed. Does this approach undermine God's divine authority?
  • Two alternative ways of presenting God's knowledge: 1, If God knows Y, then necessarily Y will happen (where Y is an event in the world) OR, 2, If Y happens, then necessarily God knows Y.
  • These are significantly different. In the first case, it is God's knowledge that causes event Y to happen. In the second case, it is the happening of event Y that causes God to know Y. The first premise leads to pre-destination whereas the second does not. In the first case, what happens in the world happens because God knows it will happen and therefore, human beings cannot be free in any real sense.
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Defining Human freedom

  • Genuine freedom (liberty of indifference): The freedom to act according to our own choices and are not determined by our nature. The everlasting God cannot, if we have genuine freedom know the future free actions of human beings; as there is no truth to be known. Of course, God may be able to predict our future with considerable accuracy as He like no one else knows our nature so can predict our course of action with a high level of accuracy. It is therefore, no limitation on God's omniscience to deny God knowledge of the future actions of human beings, since the future is open and full of many possibilities which will not be determined until human free choices are made. The problem with this really attractive view is that God's knowledge becomes really restricted, such limitations on God can detract from the idea of God being a necessary being and therefore not worthy of worship.
  • Freedom to act according to our nature (liberty of spontaneity): Human beings are free to do what they wish, but that is determined by their nature, background and education. We may have the freedom to act in accordance with our nature but our nature may be wholly determined. This view may be compatible with the idea of pre-destination. If we have this form of freedom, then the everlasting God could know in the present, our future free actions as they are wholly determined by our nature.
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Defining Human Freedom

  • Peter Geach's chess master: The everlasting God knows all the future possibilities that are open to us, even though God does not know specifically which choices we will make. However, because God is God and we are mere humans, we cannot frustrate God's long term purposes and intentions. God can know that God's external purposes will triumph, just as the grand master can predict that he will win the game.
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  • Problem He addresses: If the wholly simple, timeless God knows our future actions are we free? If our behaviour is determined, then God has to take some responsibility for the evil men do as he (a) knows it will happen and (b) you COULD argue that in knowing it will happen he has caused it to happen.
  • Discussion of eternity-argument for foreknowledge: God sees all things in his eternal present. Hence this divine foreknowledge does not change the nature and character of things; God sees them as present before His eyes as they will emerge at some time in the future. So when God knows that something is about to take place, something which He is well aware need not come to pass, this is not an opinion, but knowledge which rests on truth.
  • God's providence involves seeing the eternal present as governed by conditional necessity (future things are necessary, but only because of the condition of being known to God) whereas human providence involves seeing the present as being governed by simple necessity (acts of freewill are not necessary; or are only contingent.)
  • Boethius concludes that God sees future things that are the result of human free will; these things are necessary on the condition that they are known by God but considered only in themselves. They are still free in their own natures. However, if the freedom of will is above God's foreknowledge is human knowledge in itself is sufficient?
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Boethius-Knowledge and punishment for wicked

  • God derives this understanding and vision in the present not from the outcome of future events, but from his own simplicity.
  • Man's freedom of will remains intact and the laws which prescribe rewards and punishments for acts of will which are free of all necessity are not unjust. Moreover, God continually observes with foreknowledge all things from on high, and his eternal vision, which is ever in the present, accords with the future nature of our actions, and dispenses rewards to the good and punishments to the wicked.
  • Divine retribution- God sees us from above and knows all things in his eternal present and judges our future free actions, justly distributing rewards and punishments.
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