Philosophy A2

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Religious Language (1)

-In the 20th century there has been some shift towards how the study of religious langauge is used, and when we talk about God words take on a special sense

-Peter Vardy likens everyday talk about God to black holes, as we might know a little about black holes, but know little about their creation and our thinking about them is a little confused, when we talk about God we know what the terms mean, and unless we spend lots of time thinking about it and discussing it, we are likely to make mistake like talking about black holes

-Need understand concept of God to talk of religious topics, secular meaning is primary as it was first developed and applied to God after, everday meanings (good, loving) begin to cause problems

1. Equivocal: the same word is used with different meaning or is ambiguos, Univocal: the word is used with exactly the same meaning

2. Cognitive: language that conveys info/makes true claim of reality, Non-cognitive: language does not depend on external facts that can be observed

3. Analytic statement: explains meaning of terms (red is a colour), Synthetic statement: can be proved true/false with reference to evidence (there is a monster under the bed)

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Religious Language (2)

-J.H Randall: religious symbols belong with social/artistic symbols, both representative and noncognitive, symbolize no external thing but what they do, have 4 functions:

1. Arouse emotions/stir to actions, strengthen practical commitment to what they believe is right

2. Stimulate cooperative action and bind people together

3. Communicate qualities of experience that cannot be expressed through literal language

4. Evoke and clarify our human experience of the Divine

-Criticisms: Religious believer use this langauge cognitively (convey factual information), and Randall assumes there is no trancedent, metaphysical God

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Religious Language (3)

-R.B Braithwaite: religious language fulfills a largely ethical function; a religious statement express commitment to a certain way of life and recommends to others, here "God"=symbolic personification of human ethical values, example of "God is Love" (agape life committed/recommended)

-He argues that the differences between different religions is not so great when religious language is viewed from this view, different myths/parables express ethical ideas, but this is unimportant as they are all unimportant vehicles for the truth, belief in God acts as psychological reinforcement for actions, and stories and rituals associated with religion are simply vehicles for communicating a different way of life

-Criticisms: Braithwaite assumes that there is no metaphysical transcendent being (God), John Hick criticises the theory by arguing that it implies that no one can do anything intetionally wrong, and claims people's actions often override their conscience and this is commonplace in wrongdoing, religious believers would criticise Braithwaite's description of langauge as "psychological reinforcement", more like bedrock from where the truth flows (literal story of wise/foolish builder in Bible)

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Religious Language (4)

-Apophatic way (via negativa): Because of all problems with positive language, should use negative language, positive language tells us nothing/limits our understanding of God, whereas negative language is less constraining, and while it may not tell us more it does not limit what we mean

-Moses Maimonides (1135-1204CE): Supported this view, attributes of God could only be understood by what they are not, use positive statements is disrespectful as it brings Him down to our level

-Pseudo-Dionysius (6th century): Supported view, believed this was the only way to speak truthfully about God, because God is beyond all human understanding

-Thomas Aquinas (13th century): Argued this could be a negative path to God, God is beyond anything concievable to the best way to understand God is to speak negatively of him, as while this does leave some confusion this is the closet humans will ever get to understanding God

-Dan Stiver (20th century): Argues that via negative is not scepticism but designed to lead to God, and that no cognitive or descriptive statements are allowed in this movement, and this principle undercuts any approach involving a cognitive meaning

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Religious Language (5)

Weaknesses of via negativa:

1. Brian Davies: states that simply describing something as what it is not gives us no clue to what it actually is, e.g "God is not a robot" does not bring us closer to God

2. Use of negative language means the individual must have a presupposed idea of what God is not like, and this in itself can be subjective

3. Negative language is meant to bring us closer to God through the use of language which does not tell us what God is-contradictory and impossible!

4. Could be argued that language that only speak negatively of God "DIES THE DEATH OF A THOUSAND QULIFICATION" Antony Flew (20th century)

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Religious Language (6)

Logical Positivism: 1920s Vienna Circle, members include Moritz Schlick, Rudolf Carnap and Otto Neurath, impressed by advances in positive sciences such as Einstein, critical of metaphysics which they believed dealt with none of the world's problems, started from knowledge being based on experience, and experience was key if an utterance was to have any meaning, role of philosophy was to anaylse this and they produced the verification principle from this

The Verification Principle (1):

-Statement can only be meaningful if it can be proved true/false by empirical evidence, if it cannot it is literally nonsense, believed their were two kinds of propositions; Analytical propositions (statements that contain all the information within the statement e.g red is a colour, 2+2=4) and Synthetic propositions (factual statements which can be confirmed a posteriori)

-Locke and Hume argued truth/knowledge were to be found in that which is observable through the senses, Vienna Circle agree but the difference is language as we they argue we cannot know whether or not God exists, and that the existence of God is therefore a meaningless issue, the athiests and agnostics talking as much nonsense as the theist

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Religious Language (7)

Verification Principle (2):

-A.J Ayer: adapted this principle, leading to two kinds of verification:

1. Strong verification (Vienna Circle): occurs when there is no doubt a statement is true, as one verifies it using sense experience observation e.g "Mary has Red HaiR", look at Mary's hair

2. Weak verification (A.J Ayer): view that there are some observations that are revelant to proving whether or not an observation is true/false, e.g "Columbus discovered America" is true because people at the time affirmed the event, and the teliological argument is accepted through this kind of verification

-A.J Ayer was greatly influenced by the Vienna Circle, and the 1st chaper of his book Language, Truth and Logic was entitled "The Elimination of Metaphysics", Ayer argued in his work that empiricism cannot account for all knowledge of necessary truths, accepted analytic propositions because to reject such statements would be illogical, and also accepted a priori truth in maths and linguistics as God would already be fully aware of these things and this would "add nothing to our knowledge".

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Religious Language (8)

Strengths of the Verification Principle:

1. Saves wasted time discussing God

2. We often regard verification/falsification as ways of distinguishing between sense and nonsense in the world

3. Supports the Design Argument for God's existence because it is based on a posteriori evidence

4. Supports the claim of the afterlife and of religious experience

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Religious Language (9)

Weaknesses of the verification principle:

1. No empirical evidence for the verification principle: it cannot verify itself

2. It is too rigid as we cannot make statements about history

3. Scientific laws are meaningless as we cannot verify things like gravity, and also theoretical modern science (like atoms) becomes meaningless because of no empirical evidence

4. If you apply the weak verification principle you can justify anything

5. Keith Ward: argued God's existence can in principle be verified since God himself can verify his own existence

6. John Hick: argues God's existence needs "eschatological verification" (can only prove if God is true or false once we die), and that as we do know how to verify statements like "God exists", religious language does have meaning, supports this idea with the Parable of the Eschatological City: two men, one think of great celestial city (theist) and the other nothing (athiest), both cannot fault the details of the road but as they turn final corner one will be wrong/right, makes point that even if the theist is right he is dead anyway so still no verification

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Religious Language (10)

The Falsification Principle:

-Antony Flew: influenced by Sir Karl Popper, applied the falsification principle to religious language and concluded that religious statements are meaningless because nothing can count against religious statements, and they can be neither verified nor falisified

-Flew believed that a statement was meaningful when we know what empirical evidence counts against it, in other words if it can be verified, but by using the example of the Parable of the Gardener and the Weeds (two explorers return home, garden looks tended to in certain places, one argues there must of been a gardener while the other argues there cannot have been because of the weeds in other areas) Flew argued that religious believers do not give a condition which count against their claim

-How propositions can be falsified is statement "all swans are white", as we may see hundreds of white swans but as soon as we see one black one the statement is falsified

-Flew argued Christians say "God is good" no matter what counter-evidence is offered, and stated that these constant qualifications render religious statements meaningless as they "die the death of a thousand qualifications", always has to be some sense experience that can count against claim

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Religious Language (11)

Strengths of the falsification principle:

1. Depends on falsification rather than verification to decide whether a statement is meaningful

2. Challenge of falsification is based not on language used but that the basic insight of to assert something is to deny something else, proof of existence of God must be absed on what the believers knows rather than just what he believes

3. Adheres to Hume's "matters of fact", example of sun rising-we can never extend with certainty paste experiences to future ones, Popper/Flew's theory allows for this, never able to universally disprove theories but conclusively disprove them

4. Falsification stops scientists from being bias in trying to "prove" the theory, often a lot of pressure to come up with solutions and only a particular one is wanted which can of course affect the methodology/research design, however falsification allows the elimanation of certain factors from the science, and is a step closer to solving the problem, and there is a lot less personal involvement in this

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Religious Language (12)

Weaknesses of the falsification principle (1):

1. Realists argue that is is true if it corresponds to the state of affairs that it attempts to escribe e.g Qu'ran being dictated by Archangel is either true or false depending on if it happened, most religious believers are realist about God, wouldn't say that given statements are true or false but that there is a truth to be known

2. Anti-realists argue that a statement is true if it corresponds within a specific form of life e.g  Qu'ran being dictated by Archangel is true because it is coherent with Islam, also talk about God being meaninful as it is coherent with certain religious groups

3. Swinburne: "analogy of toys in the cupboard" to support realism, we cannot prove that when the toys are unsupervised they move and leave the cupboard, but we the concept of movement still has meaning because we can understand it

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Religious Language (13)

Weaknesses of the falsification principle (2):

1. Basil Mitchell: argues Flew was wrong to believe that religious believers never allow anything to counta against their beliefs, used the Parable of the Stranger to explain how religious language cannot be verified/falsified: stranger meets a resistence worker who is on his side, asks him to trust him even though he may see him do things that go against their cause and sure enough he does so, argues in the same way Flew missed the point of believers commitment to God based on faith, religious believers do not allow anything to conclusively disprove their faith but show real problems of which they are aware

Criticisms: Parable of the Stranger is a weak analogy in compairson to the problem of evil

2. R.M Hare: argued believers statements were "bliks", way of regarding the world that are neither verifiable/falisifiable, called them bliks because of the impact they have on people's view of the world, illustrated this with the Parable of the Lunatic: guy convinced all dons are out to kill him, and each time one retires his friends comment how he didn't want to kill him, but he refutes this as don's cunning: people can have right or wrong bliks, and in this case the lunatic has the wrong one and his friends the right one

Criticism: John Hick: If bliks cannot be verified/falisifed than they cannot be called right or wrong

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Religious Language (14)

Symbols (1):

-Many philosophers believe it is possible to say something meaningful about God, even if it is not "direct" and one such approach is symbolic language, as a symbol is something which stands for something else, an object or image that represents something and it's power

-Paul Tillich: Believed symbols grew out of a "collective understanding", believed all religious language was symbolic rather than literal and therefore was not subject to verification/falsification principles, view is similar to Wiggenstein's, language is a product of the community, its meaning coming from agreements within the group which uses and express their world view

-Outline 4 main functions of symbols according to Tillich:

1. Point to something beyond themselves

2. Participate in what they point to

3. Open up levels of reality which are closed to us

4. Open up dimensions of the soul

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Religious Language (15)

Symbols (2):

-Tillich believed that there were different spheres to life, each made up of self-contained realm of understanding, each realm has it's own criteron for truth/falsity, objects are seen by different realms differently, the langauge of the realm depends on who uses it, each realm has it's own langauge and these langauges grow and die depending on use in the community

-He believed that language used in a literal sense conveyed a false impression of God, who is no so much a being as the "ground of being", only literal non-symbolic statement that can be said about Him is "God is Being itself".

-For Tillich, religious language taps into the poetic/mystical/imaginative side of human nature to convey fundamental truths, and for Tillich there are no other way to get these truths

-Don Cuppit:Religious langauge is not about the transcendent/metaphysical, but our feelings and psychology, therefore the problems of religious langauge disappear, and this seems to be a form of reductionism (seeing religion not as a complex system but the sum of its parts)

-Keith Ward disagrees with this idea, maintaing that God is transcendent.  

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Religious Language (16)

Symbols (3) Tillich's view applied to Judeo-Christian Theism:

-Coincide with St. Thomas Aquinas' analogy theory in asserting the inadequacy of language: analogies conceal more than they reveal, symbolic expressions have their meaning "negated by that to which they point"

-John Hick argues that this theory helps to guard against the idolatry that God is just a greater magnified human being (anthropomorphism)

-Can be confusing, as Tillich failed to spell out exactly how religious symbolic expression participates in or connects with the ultimate reality to its points.

-John Hick argues it overemphasises the aesthetic aspect in religious language at the expense of other valid forms of communication

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Religious Language (17)

Symbols (4) Opposition to the view of religious langauge as symbolic:

1. Paul Edwards: in opposition to Tillich's view, Edwards believes that symbols do not convey factual knowledge and that they are meaningless, symbols used are not adequate or appropriate as they are intended to point to knowledge beyond human understanding which is not possible, and there is no way of knowing if the symbols give the wrong insights about the ultimate reality, and therefore there is no way of knowing if they are approrpiate or not.

2. Lewis Carroll argued that you could have a "private langauge", which is used between certain groups and individuals, and this goes against Tillich's ideas of language.

3. Richard Dawkins argues that understanding religious langauge in symbolic terms is an elaborate attempt to hide the utter meaningless of talk about God.

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Religious Language (18)


-This kind of langauge a common feature of religious discussion wherein the fluency in a religious text is often a prerequisite to participating fully in a conversation

-Not just conceptual metahpors that make up everday langauge, but extremely specific metaphors involving proper names or use of concrete nouns to express generics or processes

-Only by learning the underlying pattern of events that are considered important in the religion/ethical/polical system would one be able to comprehend what was said, and thus the religious text acts like a code book, and since many religious authorities believe in the self-evident truth of their doctrines, a mere exposure of the truth in the book would tend to convert outsiders trying to learn the language, however the use of such language is not confined to religious groups

-Janet Soskice (20th century): argues reality of God is articulated in metaphors,require revision over time, but despite this convey transcedent reality which can't be spoken of in any other way

-Sally McFague (20th century): argues personal power on the side of life and it's fulfillment which we then express in appropriate symbols, for her these include "lover" and "mother"

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Religious Language (19)

-Ludvig Wiggenstein: supported logical positivism but rejected verification principle, decided the meaning of words existed in their use; they function they perform as agreed by the particular group or society using them, each activity has it's own langauge, and Wiggenstein regarded it as rather like a game with it's own set of rules

-Language games exist in all forms of human acitivty/life, people not in the game will be unable to understand the language, and if people do not understand the langauge it seems meaningless, religious belief has it's own langauge and so the non-believer will see the language as meaningless, but that does not make it so just because they are outside that particular "game"

-A "form of life" is a set of behaviours, assumptions or practices that condition how we see the world, statements only make sense in the form of life they are used in, otherwise theya re utterly meaningless and mean nothing, and if we assume that religious language is the same as scientific langauage we are confusing two forms of life, for example "God is love" only has context in the religious form of life, it means nothing in the scientific form of life

-Individuals couldn't have a private language, how would they know when it was used correctly? Language is a social product with socially agreed upon rules of how it is used/understood

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Religious Language (20)

Strengths of Language Games:

1. Recognises the distinctive value that relgious langauge has

2. Negates the need to distnguish between cognitive/non-cognitive uses of langauge, replacing this distinction with the purpose which a language serves

3. Language game theory polices the boundaries between different uses of language, thereby preventing confusion

4. It is possible to defend the use of religious language within a religious form of life

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Religious Language (21)

Weaknesses of Language Games:

1. Language games provide no criteria for objective truth outside of a particular game and so lead to relativism

2. Those outside of the religious language games will not understand it unless they first immerse themselves in it

3. Because the rules of a language game merge within the forms of life it is not clear how the rules get revised

4. Some people argue that some uses of language are not bound to a form of life, but have an absolute meaning that transcends the context in which it is used

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Religious Language (22)

Analogy (1):

-An analogy is an attempt to explain something which is difficult to understand by comparing it to something as a frame of reference, earliest advocate of this was St. Thomas Aquinas, who rejected via negativa as it says little about God, and analogies were an alternative to speaking about God either univocally or equivocally

-Univocal language: means using things like "good" and "love" the same as when describing God, Aquinas rejected this as while these are contingnent in our being, these are part of the necessary essence of God (e.g God doe not have love, God IS love)

-Equivocal language: means words do not have the same meaning in a human context that they do when we speak about God, Aquinas rejected this because thie meant we could never know anything of God (His version of good would be so different to our own we could never understand it)

-Analogy in this way provides a middle way between the two, as an analogy is made when we take a word from one context and apply it to the other in order to illuminate some feature of the second context that otherwise would go unnoticed or unexplained

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Religious Language (23)

Analogy (2):

-Aquinas argued there were two kinds of analogy:

1. Analogy of Attribution: made when we establish a casual relationship between the two things which are compared, used example of healthy diet and a healthy person, and in the same way an analogy could be drawn of God "living" from human experience of life because God is the cause of all life, God can be said to be good because God is the cause of all goodness, the relation of the terms link to the relation of the cause, and this is Aquinas moral argument for God's existence

2. Analogy of Proportionality: made when we use words in proportion to the nature of the thing being described, example of understanding dog's faithfullness in terms of human faithfullness, but we acnowledge that it is a mere shadow of being faithful, in the same way human faithfullness is a shadow of God's faithfullness, anaology of proportion is thus qualified by the nature of what it is being applied to, Aquinas' theory would argued that religious language could not be proved/disproved, as they are metaphors of something we cannot described fully in human language

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Religious Language (24)

Analogy (3):

-For Aquinas words are used neither univocally or purely equivocally of God but analogically, the link between God and creatures is imperfect but one that still allows us to speak of God without limiting his infinite reality

-Similar approach was taken by Ian Ramsey (20th century), who argues that words like "good" and "wise" are models which disclose something about God, but these words have to be qualified by words like "infinite" and "eternal" when applied to God, in this way the models are used in proportion to the reality of God rather than the reality of human beings.

-For example, by saying "God is good" we know what we mean by it (Mother Theresa) was a good women, but we need to adapt this using qualifiers as God cannot be "literally good" in the same sense as we use, so we add "infinetly" on to make the statement "God is infinetly good", and because of this we can develop a greater insight into the nature of God's goodness, allowing us to responde with awe/wonder to this insight

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Religious Language (25)

Strengths of Analogy:

1. Given the infinity of God and the finitude of the human language, analogy provides an appropriate way of speaking about God that is neither empty of content nor is to be taken literally

2. Analogy gets beyond the impasse found in the failure of both equivocal and univocal language to say anything about God

3. Avoids agnosticism because it conveys knowledge about God

4. Challengded the verification principle by explaining the complexity of language

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Religious Language (26)

Weaknesses of Analogy:

1. Duns Scotus: argues the analogy of proportion implies a connection between these items rather than just a casual relationship, and this connection must also imply some form of univocity, Aquinas denies this idea.

2. Swinburne: questions what is wrong with using univocal language for God, we can legitimately speak of God's goodness and our own goodness univocally.

3. Analogy of attribution raises the problem of evil, does God possess this too?

4. Makes assertions about God, even though it recognises words are limited, seems somehwat contradictory

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Religious Language (27)

Myth (1):

-Myths don't solve problems/questions, but they express an attitude in the presence of mystery, so like religious experiences they are not verifiable, myths seek to explore humanities relationship to God , myths could be stories that are not true but have some other value like inspiring us

-Alasdair MacIntyre: cannot ask people in mythical terms whether they see a myth as literal or symbolic as that assumes a gap between the myth and world view, this argument would suggest that once we become aware of myths they lose their power; they no longer operate as myths because their immediacy to world view is broken by critical self-awareness, the most effective myths are the ones we do not consciously recognise

-Sarah Tyler: defines myth as a literary form describing otherworld matters in worldly terms: myths are linguistic methods of interpreting ultimate reality, myths are essentially vehicles for conveying complex religious truths in cosmic dimensions, in a manner that other worldly descriptions could not convey

-John Macquarrie: argues myths answer not the how but why questions concerned with human existence, allow an insight into what man's relationship with God should be

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Religious Language (28)

Myth (2):

-Rudolf Bultmann: tried to make New Testament more revelant in the 20th century, argued that behind the mythical language of the Bible lies not the history but the teachings (kerygma) of the early church in mystical form, process of understanding this centres on the significance of Jesus for human existence and Bultmann believed the early church expressed this in the language of their day, and our task now is to look through this mythical language to see the truths about human existence announced in the teachings of Christ, the process called "de-mythologising" -Influeced by Martin Heidegger, he went on to include the ressurection and the miraculous stories in his classification of stories that need to be de-mythologised, for Butlmann it is the facts of human existence within the mythical language of the Bible that concerns our own time -Gianni Vattimo: argues it is de-mythologising which needs de-mythologising, as we come to see today that myths about society and life (not just religion) clearly shape our world view

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Religious Language (29)

Strengths of Myths:

1. Provides a way of conveying complex religious beliefs about God to the next generation in an easy way

2. Convey religious truth/meaning in a way that doesn't need to be taken literally

3. Acceptance of science (creation story as a myth can be in big bang/evolution) and traditional religious (Jesus was a myth rather than uniquely God, acceptance of other religious ideas which Jesus remains central in) narratives

4. Myths offer a positive way of speaking about God making the via negativa unecessary

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Religious Language (30)

Weaknesses of Myth:

1. Scholars disagree over which stories are meant to be a myth/ whether or not early writers of these stories (esepcially the Gospels) intended them to interpreted as myths

2. Over-adundance of meaning in myth creates such a diversity of Christian interpretations that the Christian faith may hold together as a coherent whole

3. Danger in secular culture that religious narratives will be understood as myth not because of deep valuation of myth as a narrative form but because understanding these narratives as myth becomes the only way to hold onto them with some sort of credibility if they cannot be understood as history

4. People like Keith Ward and Tom Wright are not happy to see this shift to myth to placate secular sensibilities-for them, resurrection is a historical and not a mythical event

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Religious Experience (1)

-A religious experience is a non-empirical event which many regard as supernatural, and it can be described as a "mental-event" in which a person undergoes a change of which they are self-aware

-Such an experience can either be spontaneous or brought about through intense training and self-discipline, recipients of religious experience often claim that it has drawn them to a closer and deeper understanding of God

-Experiences are not a subsitutue for the Divine, but a vehicle which brings the Divine closer, experiences is usually unique and cannot be shared with anyone else, and religious experiences seem to help people lead a better life and are therefore encouraging

-There are infinite different kinds of them, but they can split into 3 rough categories:

1. Most religious experiences are "mystical", there is some kind of "union" with the "Divine"

2. Many are classified as "prayer experiences", brought about via intense reflection/meditation

3. Effects can be permenant and life-changing, often classified as "conversion" experiences

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Religious Experience (2)

William James (1):

-Wrote a book The Varities of Religious Experiences: a study of human nature (1902) using a variety of case studies (such as the homeless man who felt a great presence and went on to become a preacher) in order to present the findings from a psyhcology perespective and look at what implications it has for religious experience in philosophy

-For James these experiences were at the "heart of religion" whereas the teachings, practices and attitudes were "second hand religion" and anaylsed different forms including conversion, prayer and saintliness

-Viewed conversion as a transformation from a divided/imperfect self to a more unified conscious, many critics argue the experiences in the work are psychological disorders whereas he argues they are central to understanding any religion, tried to remain objective, taking accounts of religious experiences seriously and making observations about them

-More concerned with "does it work?" than "is it true?", not trying to prove or disprove the experiences but simply study them, and James therefore does offer an argument for God in terms of the phenomena of religious experiences point towards a higher order of reality

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Religious Experience (3)

William James (2):

-James believed the spiritual value of a religious experience is not undone if we cannot find a psychological explanation for it, rejects idea that experiences is the result of a repressed or perverted sexuality (Freud's idea) as an attempt to discredit experiences from those who already started with an antipathy towards religion

-Did not agree there was a single aspect to define all religious experiences, but noted that those who experienced them stood together in the sense that they all understood it in relation towards the Divine in some form or another

-He believed the religious experiences of figures (such as St. Teresa of Avila) set convetional patterns for fellow believer to study, and this was more usefula nd important that focusing on the study of the relgiious institutions e.g churches

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Religious Experience (4)

William James (3):


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Religious Experience (5)

William James (4):

-Acknowledges the difficulty in defining religious experience so he proposed 4 criteria that he considered to be characteristics of all religious/mystical experiences:

1. Ineffable: experience beyond proper description, no adeqaute description can be given in words, langauge limitations prevent descrpitions of the experience

2. Noetic: not just "feelings", but a deep and direct knowledge of God which could not have been achieved by reason alone, the "truth" was revealed to them

3. Transient: experience is temporary and cannot be sustained, although it's effects may last a long time, and this can deepen with subsuquent events so as to last a lifetime

4. Passive: experience not intiated by a mystic but rather they have a sense that something is acting on them, the experience is controlled from outside themselves

-Main conclusion: religious experience gives no proof of anything, however its reasonable to believe there is a personal God interested in world/individuals, and its clear indivduals should not reject clear evidence of experiences just because they started from scepticism

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Religious Experience (6)

William James (5):


1. Many first-hand testimonies offered as evidence

2. Many similarities between the experiences are proven in James' work

3. Show the positive/powerful effects of experiences, difficult to explain without reference to God

4. Experiences have been a powerful force in history, and David Hay suggests it is widespread


1. Betrand Russell: argued fantasy stories could inspire people too, does not make them true

2. Antony Flew: Testimonies in James' work can't be empirically tested therefore meaningless

3. Study too subjective, focuses on what is true for the believer and not a God in the real world

4. Many different religions have experiences they argue prove their faith, all cannot be right

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Religious Experience (7)

William James (6):

-Draws on knowledge of psychology/neurology in accepting that religious experiences are psychological phenomena of our brains, but also argues they may well have a spiritual/supernatural element to them as well

-James' conclusion/findings was based on 3 key principles:

1. Empiricism: case studies used are empirical evidence of the effects of religious experience, which provide us with clues as to the reality beyond with what we see/hear

2. Pluralism: his experiences in different faiths led him to conclude they were similar, those having experiences may be experiencing the same ultimate reality e.g Christian may interpret it as a holy spirit whereas a Hindu will interpret it differently

3. Pragmatism: observed that the truth was not fixed and what is ture is whatever has great value for us, therefore on observing the effects of religious experience, we have to conclude that there is truth to be found in religion, being a pragmatist James deemed the truth of something to be determined by it's practical effects/consequences

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Religious Experience (8)

F.C Happold (1):

-Sought to establish some sort of context in which to discuss religious experiences than to set a critieria like James, divided mysticism into two kinds "for convienience":

1. Mysticism of Union and Love: suggests this is the longing to escape loneliness and "feeling seperate", requires some sort of union (or on your theology re-union) with God, believes two urges (desire for seperation and the desire to be a part of something bigger) govern us and conflict with one another and Happold believes they have an origin in what we could call the "divine life", suggests that despite the need of the individual we are always trying to get back to God, hence the desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves

2. Mysticism of knowledge and understanding: argues people have another urge to try find the meaning of life/secret of the universe, and the way we can find the answer to such questions is through experiental knowledge of God, argues that philosophers often use logic and reason to try find this when in fact this knowledge is intutuive in experiences, suggesting a noetic quality according to James'

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F.C Happold (2):

-Happold also argues there are 3 kinds of mystical experiences:

1. Soul-mysticism: concept of the soul as something hidden or numinous, does not deal with the concept of union with God, mystical experience in this context is the idea of finding your soul and complete self-fulfillment, does not deal with the God fo Classical Theism, although does relate to certain Hindu and Buddhitst philosophies

2. Nature-mysticism: found in the belief that God is immanent, he is everywhere and therefore "united with" many aspects of nature, Happold suggests that William Wadsworth expressed this idea in many of his works, amazed by the beauty of nature in the world he lived

3. God-mysticism: contention that the souls of humankind desire to return to God, suggestions that mystical union with God requires the human soul to be defied (it almost becomes God by retaining it's identity), this something that Sufi Muslims seek through various forms of worship

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Rudolf Otto and numinosity:

-Many testimonies claim to feel the presence of an awesome power yet feel distinctly seperate from it, word given to this is "numinous" and while many regard it as a feature of a religious experience, some like C.S Evans claim it is a type in its' own right, Rudolf Otto in The Idea of the Holy (1936) used this term to refer to a being with awesome power

-Suggested that religion must derive from a being that it is totally seperated from this world, it is in the presence of such a being in which numinosity is experienced, argued this experience underlies all religions and has 3 key components: mysterium tremendum et fascinans (fearful and fascinating mystery)

-Numinous is "wholly other", entirely different from anything we experience in normal life, evokes the reaction of silence but the mysterium tremendum provokes terror because it presents itself as an overwhelming power and then finally the numinous presents itself as fascinans, as merciful and gracious

-Examples of this are many, especially in the old testament e.g Ezekiel's vision of Seraphim found himself indescribably insignificant/sinful in comparison to the the majesty of his vision

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Objections to numinosity:

1. Many religious believers are unhappy with this idea, as notion of God being seperate through numinous experiences makes him impersonal, contradicts with the idea of a personal God

2. Immanuel Kant argues we cannot use our sense to experience God, since he exists in the noumenal world (world of philosophical ideas), whereas humans are stuck in the phenomenal world (world of physical senses)

3. Seems somewhat subjective, as feelings (such as those of numinosity) are dependent on interpretations of the situation and is linked to the external world, so the fact that numinosity has some external world influence means it perhaps does not point towards the divine

4. Feelings of a similar nature could also be experienced from listening to music or watching a stirring march of soldiers-clearly the character of the individual has an element to play, and therefore the subjectivity of how different peoplem will react to different experiences with this kind of emotion means it is more likely a psychological phenomenon than a spiritual one

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Friederich Schleimacher (1):

-Thought of religious experience as an immediate, eternal, mystical movement when a person becomes aware of the all-surronding, invasive, incredible presence of God in and through the universe, believed man can find moral laws within himself, emphasized the completion of nature and it's ever-present miracles

-Redefined basic ideas of Christanity, as for him every event (even natural and usual ones) became miracles as soon as the religious view of it could become dominant, distinguished between first-hand belief and second-hand acceptance of the belief of another, argued within the religion was always an individual experience as to hold it based on second-hand belief is impossible

-Felt religion belonged to the "experential category" (that of feelings), the feeling which he described as "awareness of infinite", that everyone senses as they interact with the universe, when man subconsciously experiences the infinite he is experiencing something apart from himself and nature and expresses this in terms of religion, however he was not advocating a completely subjective view as he believed there was an "Infinite" that all humans could experience

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Friederich Schleimacher (2):

-He later narrows his definition of religion to bring the feeling of absolute dependence, as God reveals himself to man, man becomes increasingly aware of his complete and total dependence upon God to sustain his very existence, and this feeling of dependence is ultimately what defines religious experience

-Points out a common feeling sensed by most human beings, that man does not exist on his own, but is dependent upon something bigger than and outside hardly be absolutely dependent unless there is something other than ourselves, on which we are absolutely dependent, this "something" he concludes is God, but not the God of the Bible-argues God is simply an "expression" which one uses to describe the feeling of dependence

-Objections to Schleimacher: 1. Antony Flew would argue that Schleimacher puts too much emphasis on the individuals it makes religious experience useless to talk about, or be used as evidence for the existence of God

2. The "self-authenticating" aspect of religious experience suggests that people are able to trigger their own experiences such as by drugs or by mental illness and call them religious

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Martin Buber (1):

-Humans frequently view both object and people by their functions, and this can be good (better for doctors to view as organisms not people) and these process are I-IT RELATIONSHIPS

-However we view people in the same way, rather than truly making ourselves completely available to them (understanding/sharing/talking) we observe them or keep part of ourselves outside the moment of the relationship so we can protect our vunerabilities/get something from them

-It is possible to have a relationship where people truly understand one another without pretences or words, and these are called I-THOU RELATIONSHIPS, each person comes without preconditions and the result is true dialogue and sharing, such relationships are not constant or static, and people move between I-IT and I-THOU, I-THOU cannot be created as the process of identifying objectifies it and makes it I-IT, best you can do is be available for such moments

-Buber maintains you could also have an I-THOU with object in the world as well, like art of poetry, and then moves ot his religious explanation of God as the eternal Thou, and by trying to prove/define God's existence, rationalist philosopher automatically assumes an I-IT, in order to experience God we must not define him as this sets up preconditions

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Martin Buber/Soren Kierkegaard (2):

-Buber also offers a Jewish insight into the I-THOU relationship, where he argues after the redemption from Eygpt the entire people were open to an I-THOU relationship with God, and they experienced a sinai moment as people and as individuals, and subsuquent teachings such as the Torah and rabbanic texts contain this potential relationship

-Kierkegaard: supported Buber's position as he believed that faith was a miracle, and stated that the only way in which God could be known by an individual was through a leap of faith, and faith arouse through human experience which could include in some cases religious experience

-Buber and Kierkegaard basically saying that "knowledge of God" could be different for each individual, and this knowledge would depend on the personal level of faith, the demonination of faith (Christian or Muslim) or the "type of faith" (e.g strict of liberal Catholics)

Objections: 1. Buber's theory is not scientific because there is no objective understanding of when "dialogue" happens, dialogue cannot be measured or predict a future outcome

2. "Faith is Blind" (Basil Mitchell), arguments from faith will not allow scientific evidence to discredit it, just simply ignores it 

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Swinburne (1):

-Believes religious experiences help to prove the existence of God, divides them into two categories:

1. Public experiences: ordinary experiences like the the beauty of the sky and extraordinary experiences like Jesus walking on water

2. Private experiences: experiences that are descriable in normal language, experiences are ineffable (cannot be explained by language)

-Argues no reason why religious experiences should not be accepted, offers 2 support principles:

1. Principle of Credulity: we must accept that what appears to be the case unless we have clear evidence to the contrary, clear evidence may mean that you have good reason to doubt the person unless you prove that God does not exist or you show the experience was not caused by God

-However, some argue religion itself is evidence to the contrary, as you are more likely to see things which aren't there if you belong to a religious group

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Swineburne (2):

2. Principle of Testimony: unless we have positive evidence that they are misremembering or are untrustworthy, we should believe the testimony of the experience, and claims that "other things being equal, we usually think what other tell us that they percieved probably happened"

-However this can be criticised as a view that is far too optimistic and idealistic for mankind

-Swinburne also argues for the prior probability argument, whereby he states that the probability of the existence of a cosmological God is higher than that of say, the existence of UFOs, so the likelyhood should be taken seriously

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Objections to Swineburne:

1. Antony Flew: criticises prior probability argument, accusing him of adding up theories to make a culmative case, using the analogy of ten leaky buckets (argument for God is a bucket, flaw in this argument puts a hole in the bucket, pointless trying to fill up a bucket)

2. Michael Martin: has criticised Swinburne's use of the principle of credulity with his own principle of incredulity or negative principle of credulity, if Swinburne suggests experiences are generally to be treated as verdical (accurately representing the world), then this allows an argument for the absence of religious experience to be constructed, as an athiest who experiences the absence of God can argue (using the principle of credulity) that the world is probably as this experience represents it being; godless, arguments from religious experience to the existence of God can thus be met with athiests experiences to the non-existence of God; what will result is presumbly a tie, all other things being equal

-Swinburne responds by arguing the negative credulity is false, he carefully states his postive credulity: "if it seems to a subject that x is present, then probably x is present" so that it does not apply to the experience of absences, the negative principle "if it seems to a subject x is not present, then probably x is not present" he rejects, the negative principle he suggests would only be a good one in cases where it is reasonable to believe that if x were present then the subject would experience x, there is no reason however, to suppose that if God existed then the athiest would experience him, and so the negative principle of credulity does not apply to the athiest experiences of the absence of God

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Religious experience through prayer (1):

-Some refer to mystics, as those who experience a particular type of mental prayer, in simple terms prayer is a method of communication between man and God, this should be focused upon for the purpose of religious experienced, as opposed to "set formulas" of prayer

-Auguste Sabatier: attempted to place prayer in its authentic religious context by arguing that religion was a conscious and voluntary relation entered into the soul in distress with the mysterious power upon which it feels itself to depend on, prayer is religion in act, so as su7ch whenever the prayer stirs the soul you have living religion in action

-Petionary prayers are prayers that ask for something, and they form an important part of proper activity, however there is a problem inherent with such a notion: How can human petition affect divine will? Instead of petition therefore, the prayer may involve the recognition of the power and goodness of God, and a resignation to his will, Islam is a prime example of this

-Some would object to this, maintaining a petionary prayer is a natural reaction to a personal God, to conclude one might suggest that the reward sought after by the perosn wishing is not a detailed fulfillment of their wish but the relaxation from their state of tension by the recognition it is now in the hands of God

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Religious experience through prayer (2):

-Frederich W.H Myers: saw prayer as a vital component of psyhcological well-being of many individuals, he defined prayer as the general name for an "attitude of open expectancy", he suggests that it does not really matter who you pray to, as prayer is so completely subjective that "it would be rash to say that Christ himself hears us"

-Myers also points out the recognition that we have no absolutely no idea as to how prayer operates

-There have been many attempts to define prayer into various classifications, one being that of St.Teresa of Avila, who was passionate mystic and also a very practical women, and it is these qualities that provide us with a classification that is particuarly useful, as it moves from clearly distinguishable psyhcological points

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Religious experience through prayer (3): R.A Gilbert built on Avila's ideas:

1. Prayer of Quiet: brought about by medtiation and/or contemplation, can be maintained for a few seconds but as an individual becomes more experienced it can maintained for many hours even during physical activity, contemplation accompanied by "thoughts and images", and this does not result in a loss of body function, although movement can result in a loss of state

2. Prayer of Union: intermediate stage between quiet and ecstasy, would appear to be a more intense and emotional experience than the prayer of quiet, and the "distractions" are not reported to occur and again, the power of voluntary movement and sensory perception are not lost

3. Ecstasy: stage of classification appears to be fairly erratic dancing, and can be accompained by phenomena like "speaking in tounges", and this state is accompained with the complete loss of sesnsory perception and the power to make voluntary movements,

4. Spiritual marriage: however it would appear that commands from a spiritual superior are obeyed, and this is the state where visions and revelations can occur, moreover individual feels like they are in a "wedded bliss" with God

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Visions and Voices (1):

-Religious experience of visions/voices are often described in terms of ordinary perceptions, however the sights and sounds are not usually shared by others

-William James studied the impact of a wide range of religious experience and found a common factor in many of them, noted a loss of anxiety, gaining of new knowledge and a changed understanding of the world as the impacts of religious experience, impact may lead to a greater understanding of faith/conversion, religious conversion is the process that leads to the adoption of a religious attitude/way of life

-Religious experiences have been recorded throughout history, from Old Testament to modern day visions/voices often frequent them, historical argument is that the experience of key individuals is so great and impressive it must be true, culmlative argument that so many people have had experiences God must be behind them

-St.Teresa of Avila offered two tests to figure out whether an experience was genuine:

1. Does it fit with Christian teaching?

2. Does the experience leave the individual feeling at peace?

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Visions and voices (2):

-However, some thinkers have raised the issue of how to prove the voice comes from God, some people we mental disorders believed God is speaking to them (Yorkshire Ripper), and experiences like visions/voices are often linked to physical factors (fasting), so putting the body in a weakened state could lead the individual to believe they are having an experience from God

-Different kinds of visions:

1. Imaginative visions: a person is imaginatively aware of a figure they cannot see, experience is beyond their control and refers to visions that occur in dreams (Joseph being told in a dream not to be afraid of marrying Mary: Matthew 1:19-24)

2. Intellectual visions: a person becomes aware not of a figure but of an abstraction or concept, such as the essence of soul or grace of God, may be accompanied by a similar imaginative experience such as persistent life, or a call towards a more religious life, more of an experience rather than something to be observed (St. Teresa of Avila was aware that Jesus was there)

3. Corporal visions: knowledge is communicated through a form or image of a physical person (St.Bernedette seeing the Virgin Mary at Lourdes)

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Visions and voices (3):

-Different kinds of voices:

1. Disembodied voice: voice that does not show a form spekaing (who the voice is coming from, St. Paul on the road to Damascus)

2. Revelation (noetic): voice that communicates a revelation from God which reveals God and his wishes (God and Moses on Mount Sinai 10 commandments-Exodus 20)

3. Authoratitive: passes on God's authority (at Jesus' baptism where God confirms that Jesus is his son Mark 1:11)

-Example of visions; Moses encounters a burning bush in the middle of the desert which does not burn and the voice of God comes out (bible), apparition at Lourdes in 1858 by Saint Bernedette, believed they saw the virgin mary, vision referred to itself as the "immaculate conception" (modern)

-Examples of voices: St.Paul on the road to Damascus (Bible), Joan of Arc claims to have heard voices from the Saints who were delivering messages from God

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View of philsophers on visions/voices:

-Swinburne: Responds by using two criteria for experiences, private descriable in ordinary language religious experiences (imaginative/corporal visions) as they cna often be explained to people, also private non-descriable relgious experiences (intellectual visions) as they are difficult to put into words, and public extraordinary experiences (authoratative, noetic and disembodied voices) as hearing the voice of God seems to violate natural laws

-Believes in visions/voices, as God would want to interact with his creation so we should expect relgious experiences to happen, also puts foward principle of credulity/testimony to support this

-James: Agress visions/voices are legitimate religious experiences as they fit at least one of the criteria, each type of vision/voice is transient and passive, with many times being ineffable, noetic and mystical, another reason he would accept them is that they both can be explained a psychological phenomena

-Richard Dawkins: Dismisses visions/voices as they are personal experiences, argues people are ignorant of straightforward physical/psychological explanations which individuals percieve as messages from the Divine

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Conversion experiences (1):

-Term conversion in relation to religious experience refers explicitly to a "regeneration", an assurance of the "truth of the Divine"

-On a personal level, result of conversion is usually a greater understanding of faith, "religious conversion" is the process that leads to the adoption of a religious attitude/way of life

-In the mind of every individual, there is a series of diverse aims, each one consisting of a group of ideas ranked in importance of order, through conversion religious ideas that previously insignificant now take now take a central place and form the "habitual centre" of the person's energy

-Neither observer nor the subject can explain how the experience undergone has changed that person's life so dramtically by changing his/her aims

-Edwin D. Starbuck: showed that the conversion of young teenagers in evangelical circles was the same as the conversion experienced by most teenagers, symptoms like depression, anxiety and a sense of incompleteness would be felt, result of conversion is universally similar as they both feel a "happy relief", however points out that theology does seem to shorten the stress

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Conversion experiences (2):

-William James: argues some individuals that are particulary pessimistic/cynical can never be converted as these qualities prevent religious ideas becoming the centre of their spiritual energy, argues these inhibitions are rarely overcome, although some people only have "temporary inhibitions" which can be overcome in later life 

-Basically two forms of conversion: conscious and voluntary experience (the voitional type) and an involuntary and unconscious experience (the self-surrender type)

-Voitional type slow and gradual process of developing new moral/spiritual habits, an individual may one day "realise" they've changed, subconscious effects more evident in self-surrender type

-James argues that the concept of conversion by self-surrender is illustrated by "man's extremity is God's oppurtunity", and even voitional types have to include an element of self-surrender, as past a certain point the conversion must be left to "other forces"

-Starbuck maintains that quite a person must stop "trying" to change, this conversion must come naturally, as rule two things in the mind of a conversion candidate: the current wrongness in their life and positive changes they wish to make

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Conversion experiences (3):

-Majority of conversions are gradual, but sudden experience would seem to be more significant/profound and it often affects people who had no religious faith before the conversion

-Most signficant element is the process, individual starts with complete rejection of the religion, then starts to accept certain elements before the "climax"- a complete acceptance of the religion, this process is the vehicle in which the most complicated objections to faith can be resolved, and it produces some of the most passionate and fundamentalists of that religious group

-Those who experience sudden conversion usually have little knowledge of their religion (preacher/leaflet as source), and later finding issues with the religion means the "fall-off rate" for sudden conversion experiences is mugh higher than that of gradual conversion

-Religious conversion is likely to include a change in belief on religious topics, which in turn leads to changes in the motivations for one's behaviour in a social environment, and as such it is approriate to speak of intellectual/moral/social conversions

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Conversion experiences (4):

-Intellectual conversions consist of conflict between two systems of thought, result of this conflict is the old one is "false" and the new is "true", can be from athiesm to religion or from religion to a different religion

-Example of moral conversion provided by Robert H. Thouless in "Swearing Tom", godless 17-year old went to a church one day when he heard a preacher say change was possible provided an individual prayed, and Tom went home and did and became "Praying Tom" and lived a good life, illustrates morality as does not revolve around and individual's school of thought but lifestyle

-Another example if Nicky Cruz, who after a terrible childhood rose to become leader of the evil biker gang the Mau Maus, David Wilkinson (evangelicist) reached out and changed his ways

-Example of a sudden social conversion is St.Paul on the road to Damascus, idea of conversion slowly taking place in the subconscious followed by a rapid and sudden conscious experience

-James concluded that conversion was very real to those who experienced it, those who went through the process saw it as a miracle and even though James saw it as a natural process, he maintained it was inspired by the Divine

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Corporate experience (1):

-If one person claims to have had a religious experience from God it is easily disproved, however when several claim to have had an experience it becomes more difficult to disregard, two key events support the argument from corporate experience:

1. 1916 Fatima Portugal 3 children saw the Virgin Mary, who told them to keep coming back on the same month and same day on the same spot, and more people began to join them-in 1917 70,000 people joined to see the Virgin Mary but only the children could see, and instead they saw the sun glow bright in the sky and begin to "dance"

2. Charismatic worship inc church happenes every sunday all over the world, inspired by the events of "Pentecost" when the Holy Spirit visited the final 11 disciples and gave them the "gift of tounges" so the message of God could be spread across the world, this happened in 1994 the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Toronto, Canda, people reported being given the gift of tounges and passing out in bliss

-Because of the large number of people in corporate experiences there is a large body of evidence, Roman Catholic Church proclaimed Fatima a miracle and many people claim to gain the ability to speak in tounges

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Corporate experience (2):

-Richard Dawkins has applied one of Hume's criticisms to Fatima and we have to balance the probabilities to work out if the event is true or not, on one hand have a massive con-trick/mistake involving 70,000 people, on the other that the sun really did move that day

-Dawkins argues if this is the case why was no one else able to percieve it?, in addition if the sun moved the solar system would have ended and the universe would have been destroyed, more likley mass hysteria affected the inhabitants of Portugal, however it is argued that Dawkins being an athiest doesn't accept the possibility that God could suspend the laws of physics momentarily

-As for charismatic worship, the experience can lead to serious profound and emotional spiritual moments, however these experience may be seen as neccessary to become part of the group, after all if the pastor lays his hands on an individual and this happenes every week wouldn't you want to join in, many people might feel pressured to join in

-Many pastors are often charamatic individuals whipping people up into a frenzy over hellfire, and much like mob mentality at football matches extreme and hysterical reactions may occur within the crowd

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Corporate experience (3)

Strengths of corporate experience:

1. Often more numerically valid

2. Show shared feelings and response, which are often more valid than individual experiences

3. Suggests that experience comes from God, not individual imaginations

Weaknesses of corporate experience:

1. Toronto Blessing as an example, why would God show himself to humans by making them laughing/bark like dogs?

2. Hank Hanegraff: Argues corporate experiences are the result of mass hypnosis

3. Christian psychologist John White refers to them as "learned patterns of behaviour"

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Corporate experience (4):

Individual strengths:

1. Corporate experiences can be explained as mass hypnosis

2. They can be authenticated personally

3. They are less likley to be a result of social conditioning

Individual weaknesses:

1. Don't appear as valid as corporate experiences

2. There are often no witnesses to these experiences

3. Lack of empirical evidence

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Concept of revelation through sacred writings (1):

-Religious believers and those who have undergone a religious experience accept that there is an authority from God which teaches them how to live and proves that he exists through His communication to the world

-In it's strongest form the religious authority is believed to be the direct word of God in either an oral or written form, and this is the scripture accepted by the faith-tradition as not created an invented but directly from God (or Jesus for Christians)

-In it's weakest form authority may be a teacher/guru that others follow because the guide helps them to interpre to be behave, such leaders often gained their knowledge the same way, in the early development of a religion it may be directly from the founder of faith but with the passage of time, a diversity of attitudes within a religion develops, and as such the way in which an individual becomes aware of God's message is usually through a religious experience

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Concept of revelation through sacred writings (2):

-Bible divided into Old Testament (66 books split into 3 sections; Torah (Law), Nevi'im (Prophets and Ketuv'im (writings) and New Testament (27 books made up of four Gospels, one historical book Acts of the Apostles, 21 Epistles (by Paul and other writers) and one book of prophecy, Revelation, list of books that make up New Testament were agreed upon in the 2nd century but not finalised until the Council of Elvira in 375CE

-Old Testament is evidence for God's plan with the world including the Messiah, Christians view New Testament as the fulfillment of this with the arrival of the Messiah, believe that the Messiah (Christ) is Jesus, and New Testament teaches people to follow Jesus' example as he is the Son of God and therefore God's will

-Brevards Childs: Argues Old Testament to be historically repoduced and studied as such, regards it as a set of ancient writings inspired by Judaism and formed the basis of the faith

-Philip Davies: disagrees with Childs, argues that historical period the Bible refers to was over and it is instead the historical dynamics of collecting these stories in the Middle Ages that affect the Bible, and led to it containg biblical scholarship accepted by both Christians/Jews, but the authority given to these writings will be different for each faith

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Concept of revelation through sacred writings (3):

-Literalist view: Accepts Genesis as the only factual part of the Bible, other passages may be symbolic, however this means they can disregard no part of the Bible and this can cause issues when the view come into conflict with one another (Moses saying revenge is okay in Exodus, but Jesus condemnes it in the Gosepls), Bible at the heart of the literalist community as the authority of God

-Conservative view: God inspired the Bible and see it as a message directly from God, therefore it is the Bible that has ultimate authority not the leaders of the Church, and these leaders cannot add to the Bible's teachings/practices (protestant ideas), however accepts there may be errors in the Bible because the writers were human and influenced by the society they lived, however this approach encourages individual interpretation of the Bible, and this may lead to friction when Christian elements of society as whole must decide on ethical and moral stances on issues

-Liberal view: Accepts the Bible's words as those of the writers and are influenced by the lives of other/societies they lived in rather than directly by God, Bible must be used alongside reason and consicence, so certain passages will be accepted and other rejected, this also allows it to work with science, however many argue it weakens the ultimate authority of the Bible

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Revelation in philosophy (1):

-Revelation is a term used to refer to any act in which God/God's nature is revealed, in Judeao-Christian tradition two main ways in which people understand the idea of revelation (Most people consider the Bible as a propostional revelation, whereas experiences are non-propositional):

1. Propositional revelation: revelations about God's nature are statements of fact, because they comunicate facts religious believer argue they are true and so beyond debate, examples of this are the Ten Commandments for Christians/Jews, Qu'ran for Muslims, key feature is that it reveals info about God that is without error or needs reinterpretation, many types of this revelation (holy books/visions), role of faith is to accept the revelation-Islam means "submission to God"

-Saint Thomas Aquinas: argues faith concerns knowledge about a transcendent God, and while this is more certain than opinion it is not as certain as science, believed faith was based on something factual so not opinion but not science because it cannot be proved by reason, however propositional revelation believers do not reject reason (use it in teliological/cosmological arguments), usually distinction is made between revelation and natural theology (using natural world to prove God's existence), Aquinas argued should use both of these in accordance with the Churches teachings

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Revelation in philosophy (2):

2. Non-propositional revelations: refers to the idea that God does not reveal facts but that the religious believer recognises God acting in human history/experience, instead looks to nature to reveal God to them, although this revelation is indirect and a matter of interpretation

-Bible records these historical acts that God performed (such as Jesus' miracles), and this is an indirect experience of God which can lead believers to understand something about Him

-In this sense faith is about how a person experiences God through events in daily life, faith is a way of seeing the world

-In this way the role of the reader/how they interpret the Bible is crucial, because the non-propositional revelation takes place in the believer's life

-The authority of this kind of revelation stems from the fact that human beings are free to respond to God's revelation or not, since the revelation is recorded passively

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Revelation in philosophy (3):

Criticisms of propositional revelations:

1. How can we know which revelations are true propositions, as despite the suggested criteria of fitting in with the accepted church teaching, this does not gurantee that a revelation is genuine, as while the after-effects of a revelation could be pointed out (Saul to Paul), this is not absolute proof of the genuiness of the revelation

2. Different religious claim to have received propositional revelations, yet sometimes the truth claims of different religious conflict, how can these contradictions be resolved? How can you know which truth claim is correct? Or does this mean that all revelations from God are limited by the fact that when they are revealed to human beings the person experiencing the revelation may misunderstand it?

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Revelation in philosophy (4):

Criticisms of non-prositional revelations:

1. Result of human understanding/interpretation of events so do not reveal direct knowledge of God, nor can they be considered errorless, and therefore there is no way of resolving theological debates without appealing to one's experiences, advantged of this is that propositional believer can appeal to a fact revealed by God as the basis of the debate

2. William Paley marvelled at the beauty of the world and based his views on God upon them, but equally it is possible to appreciate the world and not have a non-propositional revelation from it, Dawkins is equally moved by the beauty in the world, and the fact that we evolved through our genes and developed a sense of consciousness which enable us to undertsand a little of our place in the universe is astouding, yet it does not lead him to belief in god-impossible for the non-propositional believer to claim absolute certainty as the propositional believers do (too subjective)

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Revelation in philosophy (5):

-Many argue that the Bible is a propositional revelation because it is the word of God, role of authors in this process are limited/non-existent because the Bible is God-revelation

-The inspiration for each book of the Bible is divine and this is what causes the author to write his book, authority of the Bible derives from the fact that it is a propositional revelation from God that reveals God to the people

-Among fundamentalist Christians the term "verbal inspiration" is said to indicate the divine origins or authorship of every word in the Bible which the authors of the Biblical book were inspired to write, in this view God dictates the Bible and therefore it is without error

-While many Christians believe the Bible is divinely inspired not all support verbal inspiration, however all Christians believe that the Bible is/contains propositonal revelations from God that points out God and God's wishes for human beings

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Strengths of religious experience:

1. Swineburne's principle of testimony/credulity gives a good defence for religious experience

2. Ockham's Razor: if no other explanation is more obvious, we should accept that it is an experience of the Divine

3. William Alston: Argues that if our sense perceptions are generally reliable, why should we doubt our senses in the case of religious experience?

4. Effects of religious experience are powerful/positive, they change the lives of individuals/communities in a way that is difficult to explain without reference to an outside agency like God

5. Religion based on the experience of it's founders has been a powerful force in history, and much recent research has suggested that the experience is widespread

6. There are considerable similarities between descriptions of religious experiences that would not be present if they were primarily made up

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Weaknesses of religious experience:

1. Antony Flew: Argues that collecting a series of weak arguments doesn't make a strong argument (10 leaky buckets analogy)

2. Betrand Russell: Rejects the argument from religious experience because it is impossible to confirm/deny what is happening inside someone else

3. People who are dying of thirst in the desert often have illusions of an oasis, but this does not make the hallucinations real. If religious experiences are like this, then they do not reveal God

4. Religious people could be more likely to have religious experiences because they have a greater chance of recognising an experience as religious

5. Various alternative explanations can be found in sociology/psychology/physiology

6. Believers in different faiths claim the experiences prove the truth of their faith, they can't all be right

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Arguments against religious experience (1):

1. Psychological:

-Ludwig Feurbach: argues idea of God is a human projection, all attributes of God are human aspirations/desires, create God in our image "God is man written in large letters"

-Sigmund Freud: believed that human religious behaviour was a neurosis caused by childhood insecurities/desire for a father-figure to protect us (Oedipus Complex), believe religious experiences were merely hallucinations that were the product of our subconscious and are caused by the desire for security and meaning

-Carl Jung: Accepted the reality of numinous experiences and argued that the development of the spiritual aspect of us was essential to psychological wholeness, claimed in contrast to Freud that each of us has the archetype (idea) of God within a shared collective unconscious

-William James: Accepted that religious experiences had a psychological dimension, but did not agree that this meant that religious experiences were just religious experiences

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Arguments against religious experience (2):

2. Physiological:

-Much work in the last 20 years have focused on the functions of various areas in the brain, and some scientists suggest that there are neuropsychological mechanisms which underlie religious experiences, refer to the "holistic operator" and the "casual operator" in the brain, and these have been found in Buddhist monks meditating

-Fact there is a physical dimension to religious experience may not lead us to reject the experience completely, all experiences can't be reduced to a series of neurological blips that show up on brain scans, some thinkers have suggested that our brains are constructed in such a way that we are wired up to experience God

3. Difficulty of interpretation:

-Religious experiences tend to be described in terms of people's prior religious faith and this means that it is subjective and impossible to verify, could be argued all experiences are interpretations, doesn't mean they are wrong-pluralistic argument could also be used (William James) in that different religions are experiencing the ultimate reality of God

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Arguments against religious experience (3):

4. It is logically imposible to experience God:

-Key objection derived from Immanuel Kant, argues our sense can only experience things in the empirical realm (phenomena) and it is impossible for us to experience the realm of God as it is a matter of logica (noumena)

-Whilst accepting that humans can't experience God, it may be possible for humans to experience God as he chooses to reveal himself to them, William Alston argues religious experiences may be similar to our normal sensort perceptions, C.D Broad gives the analogy of blind people with some who evolve the capacity to see-the others would naturally be sceptical of what they claim

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Arguments against religious experience (4):

5. Sociological argument:

-Karl Marx: used four key images to reinforce his ideas about religion:

1. Humans in flower-covered chains (religion oppresses us, even if it seems to comfort us)

2. Religion is a false sun (it appears to give light and clarity, but it does not)

3. Religion is the opium of the people (dulls the people to real issues)

4. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed (allows the oppressed expression when they should be fighting for a new society)

-Similary Starbuck argued that religious experiences were often a result of social pressures

-However, Marx wrote in a time when religion was very corrupt, arguably not the case in modern day society, and in some cases has actually helped to free the people (Liberation Theology)

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Miracles (1)

Examples of miracles (1):

-Genesis 19: Lot's wife turns into a pillar of salt after looking back to Sodom, a city full of sin which was destroyed by God; this miracles could possibly tell us to lead a good life obeying God or face his wrath

-Exodus 10: Moses summoned a plague of locusts in order to pressure the Eygptian Pharaoh to let the Hebrew slaves go, and shows that God possibly favours some others although it could be argued that the Eygptian society was wrong and needed to be changed

-Matthew 15:32-38: Jesus gets a crowd of supporters around him, many were poor and sick and he wanted to feed them and managed to feed the 4000 with very few bread and fish, is it possible this arguably just elaboration, many different stories of how many food and people there were, possible exaggeration

-Miracles of Lourdes: medical bureau at shrine, people come in about ailments being miraculously cured, strict criteria with a 10 year minimum in order to count as cured, 3 key elements to this process: claim of patient, work of doctors and church conformation, only 1% of claims are miraculous and this approach is strong in it's harsh criteria/scientific method but is weak because criteria is subjective and they are religious so will still try to accept miracles

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Examples of miracles (2):

-Miracle of the sun in Fatima: after a period of rain the dark clouds broke and "the sun" appeared as an opaque spinning disc in the sky, which was duller than usual and cast multicolour lights across the landscape then headed towards the earth in a zig-zag pattern, witnesses reported their wet clothes suddenly becoming dry attributed it to Our Lady Fatima, however it could be argued that this is simply a case of crowd psychology (like mass hysteria) or possibly a phenomenon within the sky

-Teeside toddler falls of a cliff (2005): 6-year old toddler fell more than 45 metres (150ft) from dangerous sea cliffs that had already killed other, only came out with cuts/bruises and could be explained as a miracle or simply as pure luck and this depends on the perceptions of those who interpret it

-Verses from the Qu'ran appear on a baby's body in Russia (2009): in Dagestan a baby became the object of pilgrmage after his parents/village reported seeing Qu'ranic verses in Arabic on his skin, and this could be argued to be a religious miracle or what PatientUK explains as "demographic urticaria", that is a skin disorder which causes it to flare up from rubbing/stroking, so it is possible the verses were etched onto the skin

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What is a miracle (1):

-From Latin "miraculum" meaning "wonder", the traditional concept of miracle is generally understood to include two key things:

1. An interruption to the processes of nature that cannot be explained by natural laws

2. An interruption that bears some deeper, usually religious significance

-David Hume defines it as: "A transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent"

-To illustrate the concept of such "trangression", Richard Swinburne gives some examples taken from the Bible; Levitation, ressurection from death whose heart had not been beating for 24 hours, water into wine without the assistance of chemical apparatus/catalysts and a man getting better from polio in a minute

-Breaking down Swineburne's examples we find occurences that happen frequently within nature, men can recover from illness and wine can be produced using water as it's main ingredient quite naturally, but it is the time-scale the events happen in that make them considered to be miraculous

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What is a miracle (2):

-Generally considered miracles need to hold some deeper significane than the transgression itself; that is miracles are considered to point beyond themselves to some underlying plan/reality, and Swinburne uses the examples of God making a feather land here rather than there or upsetting a child's toy box out of spite as to why miracles must point to a plan

-In contrast to Swinburne's examples, a supernatural healing believed to be the work of a loving God could be considered miraculous; for it would have the significance of demonstrating God's nature to the world and demonstrating that He has a plan fro everyone, and some philosphers suggest that even if it does not break natural law but the divine sense is strong enough it can still be considered a miracle

-R.F Holland: argues that a coincidence can be taken religiously as a sign and called a miracle, and he uses the example of a child playing on a railway line and the driver of an approaching train has no idea the child is on the track, and the train stops and the child comes to no harm but not because the driver saw him, but because he fainted and consequently leant on the brakes, and there is no doubt that the mother would class this event as a miracle, whereas others would just view it as a happy coincidence

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What is a miracle (3):

-Stephen Evans: argues miracles are not just magic tricks,a dn that they have a function and a purpose, and that function is usually a revelatory one

-Mike Poole: makes a distinction between laws of nature and scientific laws, and his point is that science has always had provisional understanding, our current formulation of our belief in a particular regularity in the way the universe appears to behave, according to our investigations so far, is not necessarily equivalent to either how the universe actually is, or how the universe has to be at all times and in all place

-Issue of defining miracles came about after the death of Mother Theresa in 1997, as many people wanted her canonised, but for this to happen it had to be proved that she had performed at least two miracles, many individuals claimed she performed miraculous events, and it became difficult to determine what was a miracle and what wasn't

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What is a miracle (4):

-St. Thomas Aquinas argued the notion that all miracles break all laws of nature/science, and this leaves the viewer with no alternative explanation and he goes on to state that an event had to be intrinsically wonderful (everyone agrees) not just to the recipient alone, and this rules out the birth of a baby which may be a miracle to the parents but normal to others, and he also claimed that for an event to be a miracle it must have a cause which is "absolutely hidden"

-Believed miracles could be ranked, with miracles done directly by God that no human could ever do at the top of the list, and gave biblical examples such as Isaiah 38:7-8 where God made a shadow move backwards as a sign to Hezakiah

-Miracles of the second ranks are those of which God deoes something that nature can do but in a different order, such as the blind being able to see, people dying for a minute or two within an operation and people being able to walk after paralysis, and today one argue that paralysed being able to walk can be explained by medical science, but blind is extremely uncommon

-Third rank is miracles that are things done by God but humans usually do, broken limbs mending in an instant whereas one would expect a gradual healing process, if it were a miracle however God could intervene and make the same happen whilst bypassing natural means

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Can miracles occur:

-Answer to this depends upon which definition of a miracle we accept, upon Holland's definition it is clearly the case that unusual/striking coincidences happen all the time, but the difficulty here is that every single event in the world can be attributed to a unique and enormously complex set of coincidences, and it is not possible therefore to isolate any one of these coincidences and prove that it has been caused by something different from all the others

-Holland admits that: "it cannot without confusion be taken as a sign of divine interference with the natural order"

-David Hume flatly denies that such an event happens in the common course of nature could ever be considered miraculous

-Miracles are often disputed from a number of different foundations/sources:

1. Doubt as to the existence of natural laws

2. Argument against miracles from the definition of a natural law

3. Hume's critique of miracles

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Doubt as to the existence of natural laws:

-Definition of miracles breaching natural law can only be upheld if we accept there are natural laws, certain theists would argue that every single event in the world is totally and directly dependent on God

-As Brian Davies explains, for such people God is as present in what is not miraculous as he is in miraculous, and if God is equally present in every action it would not make sense to speak of His "intervnetion", in reality however this is not a serious criticism, since the majority of theists would accept that is is through natural laws that God continues to sustain the world

-In other words, God has put into place a set of natural laws which enables the world to govern itself, one reason for His doing so Swinburne argues is to give humans a consistent environment in which we can predict with reasonable accuracy the results of our actions, and in this case it still makes sense to say that in certain exceptional circumstances, God can choose to interrupt the working of His laws

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Argument against miracles from the definition of natural law (1):

-Been argued that our definition of natural laws can preclude the possibility of anything being termed a miracle, John Hick defines natural laws as generalisations formulated retrospectively to cover whatever has in fact happened, in which case (bearing in mind that a miracle is a breach in natural law) he argues we can declare a priori that there are "no miracles"

-Upon this basis the occurence of an unusual, previously unwitnessed event should make us widen our understanding of natural law so as to incorporate the possibility of the new event, and there would certainly be no grounds for assuming that this new event breaks the law, for the law itself is only established on the basis of empirical evidence

-Technically speaking, Hick's argument is unassailable, as everyone accepts that natural laws must be widespread as and when new discoveries are made, and what is now considered impossible may one day become common, yet this does not mean that certain events might not be found to go completely against our expectations on the basis of all past experience, and as a result we might reasonably look for a cause that is seperate from the normal world of our experience

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Argument against miracles from the definition of natural law (2):

-Swinburne for examples allows that natural laws are not adequately able to cover every single happening everywhere, and he believes however that they are able to give a generally accurate picture of what we should expect to happen in a given situation

-He concludes therefore that an event such as the Resurrection of Jesus could reasonably be considered miraculous, since it is totally contrary to the normal results of death and since it would not be expected to happen again under similar circumstances

-Hick's comment then is more of a technical point about the definition of miracles and natural laws, it does not rule out the possibility of events in which a cause outside the world is involved, and for this reason Hick himself admits that there are unusual and striking events evoking and mediating a vivid awareness of God

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Hume's critique of miracles (1):

-David Hume offers a traditional and comprehensive argument against the occurence of miracles in his work An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748) under "Of Miracles", his point not so much that miracles are impossible, but that it would be impossible to prove one ever happened

-He writes that a miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can be possibly imagined

-He argues it is more probable that things like all men die and that fire consumes wood and is extinguished by water as it is agreeable to laws of nature, rather than miracles preventing these things form happening

-Certain miracles (Feeding of the Five Thousand) clearly purported to have many witnesses, but to Hume this makes no difference, who argues that no testimony is sufficient unless it would be more miraculous that the person would lie about what they saw, and even then the argument can be destroyed if it is inferior to the counter-argument

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Hume's critique of miracles (2):

-Hume's argument is that the laws of nature have been supported innumerably over a period of many hundreds of years, as there are literally millions of examples to show that humans (once dead) do not return to life; nor that pieces of metal when dropped continue to hang in the air

-An apparent miracle therefore which contradicts a natural law would need to outweigh all the evidence that had established the law in the first place

-Hume would seem to be saying that it would be unreckonably more probable that the miracle be false than the evidence in favour of the natural law be proved incorrect

-It would be more likley, for example, that one was hallucinating than one was truly witnessing an exception to the law

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Hume's critique of miracles (3):

-Hume then gives 4 reasons as to why a miracle has never been established

1. Never in history has there ever been a sufficient number of witnesses to a miracle that are of such repute/integrity that they would have too much to lose form lying, and would never do so

2. Supports the first, claims that those testifying have a natural tendency to suspend their reason and support the miracle claim, arguing that those who experience it "first-hand" find the emotions so agreeable that they award a sensible tendency towards it, and this goes as far as those who cannot enjoy it immediately enjoy it second-hand form hearing such stories

3. Makes the further claim that it forms a strong presumption against all supernatural and miraculous relations that they are observed chiefly among ignorant and barbarous nations

4. Rests upon the premise that the different religions are mutually exclusive, and as a result the miracle accounts arising from each religious traditions, with the intentions of supporting it in reality cancel each other out

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Critique of Hume's critique (1):

-Hume's constitue a grave attack upon the possibility of the occurence of miracles, however there are a number of flaws in his argument and for this reason it can be argued that even the culmulative weight of the criticism does not make it impossible to accept miracles

-Can be argued that Hume's criticism that a miracle account would need to outweigh all the evidence in favour of natural law is based on the assumption that there must be a mutually exclusive choice between the generally accepted law and the miraculous exception

-This assumption is hard to justify, as the whole point to a miracle is that it is an exception to the rule, and as such it's occurence in no way challenges the force of the general rule, except upon that one occasion

-If Hume's argument were to be accepted, we should need to reject a large proportion of the scientific development in recent centuries, and this is because many of these have forced us to accept as possible things that which would once have been considered impossible upon the basis of past experience, Davies supports this argument with the example of human ability to walk on the moon because of space travel, in that people first doubted it, and by holding Hume's view this would be rejected as untrue whereas it clearly is not

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Critique of Hume's critique (2):

-Swinburne offers an additional argument against Hume's assumption that natural laws (as scientific evidence) will always outweigh the evidence in favour of miracles, based upon mere testimony

-For Swinburne there are 3 types of histroical evidence that can be used to support miracles rather than the scientific evidence in the form of scientific laws:

1. Our apparent memories

2. The testimony of others

3. The physical traces left behind of the event in question

-In discrediting Hume's counter that scientific laws are more objective, Swinburne emphasises that our knolwedge of scientific law is in itself based upon these three types of evidence, if such evidence is not sufficient to establish the occurence of a miracle, neither is it sufficient to establish the certainty of a natural law

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Critique of Hume's critique (3):

-Hume stated there has never been a sufficient number of men to provide a valid testimony, but did not explain what a "sufficient number" would be in order to provide a valid testimony

-His claims that miracles are abound in ignorant/barbarous nations is hard to accept, since just about every nation has provided such claims and moreover the presumption that any eyewitness should require some proof of intelligence before their cliam be accepted is objectionable

-Fourth objection misses the mark in that it assumes all miracle accounts are mutually exclusive intervention of their own religious tradition, yet although clearly the miracles of different traditions cannot support the existence of the whole tradition, there is no reason why the individual miracles themselves may not have occurred objectively unless they are self-contradictory themselves

-Hume's arguments against miracles do not therefore mean that miracles could not occur, and this leaves open several questions

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Hume case study to prove effectiveness-retroactive intercessory prayer study:

-2001 study by Leonard Leibovici used records of 3393 patients who developed blood infections from 1990-1996 at Rabin Medical Centre, and to compound the alleged miraculous power of prayer itself the prayers were performed in 2000 after patients already left the hospital

-Two of the outcome, length of stay and duration of fever were significantly improved in the intervention group, implying that prayer can even change events in the past, however the mortality rate was lower in the intervention group but the difference was not that significant

-Leibovici concluded that it did improve the health of the individuals and he notes in the past people knew the way to prevent diseases (he cites scurvy) without understanding why it worked, and in saying so he suggests that if prayer truly does have a postive effect on patients in hospital, then there may be a naturalist explanation for it that we do not yet understand

-Hume's principles surronding testimony can be used to disprove some of the points of the study (few witnesses, nation that is substantially more releigious, Leibovici motives)

-Andrew Thornett's paper (BMJ, 2002) draws attention to the no significant difference to the most clinically important outcome (mortality), and that the median values in fact varied little between prayer and non-praye group varied little in length of stay/duration of fever

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Alistair McKinnon's view (1):

-Defined miracle as "an event involving the suspension of the actual course of events"

-His ideas of suspension of natural law is self-contradicting:

1. Natural laws describe the actual course of events

2. A miracle is a violation of natural laws

3. But it is impossible to violate the actual course of events (what is, is) what happens, happens-therefore miracles are impossible

-Compared to Hume: Agreed miracles are violations of natural laws and that miracles contrary to what actually happened is highly illogical, however McKinnon is not a sceptic (Hume was) nor focuses too much on issues of testimony from different individuals

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Alistair McKinnon's view (2):


-Natural laws aren't normally broken

-Fits in with most people's definition of natural laws


-Wrong definition of natural law (should be about what usually happens)

-Miracles might be outside our world (Kant and James' idea of another reality)

-His definition of natural laws is against miracles (his ideas go against miracles, every time they happen just revise the rules so it still doesn't count)

-Natural laws and miracles are not in the same clear classification

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J.L Mackie's view:

-Argues against miracles, the laws of nature show how the world works when it is left to itself

-A miracle is what happens when the world isn't left to itself and is intervened with, an event is only a miracle if a natural law is broken, presumably by God

-He said for someone to claim a miracle they need to provide evidence that it happened, and they also need to provide evidence that there was a natural law broken

-Whatever violates a natural law tends to be very unlikely, so evidence to find for unlikey events is very hard

-Compared with Hume: shouldn't believe miracles without evidence, unlikley as it has to break natural laws which make it more outlandish, miracles in essence are breaking of natural laws

Strengths: If you can provide evidence you will be believed, it is possible to experience them

Weaknesses: Evidence very hard to find, doesn't deal with what would happen if God intervened

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C.S Lewis' view:

-Defend miracles against the arguments from naturalists and scientists, a naturalist to Lewis is someone who believes everything has a natural cause

-Believes all Christians have to accept miracles

-If all thoughts are effects of a physical cause, we cannot assume they are correct, as our knowledge then jumps from reason to consequence

-Miracles do not violate the laws of nature but supersedes them (suffers from the weaknesses of J.L Mackie's argument therefore)

-Compared with Hume: Hume could be considered a naturalist (as he believes miracles cannot break the laws of nature), and Lewis in this sense could be seen to agree with Hume in Lewis' statement that miracles do not violate laws of nature but supersedes them, but Hume's work indiciates that he would not agree with the supersede rule

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John Polkinghorne's view:

-Hasn't personally experienced a miracle but has seen God's effect on other people

-He says that miracles are based purely on the Christian faith because of Jesus' resurrection, miracles are defined as one-off events and science doesn't deal with one off events

-Compared with Hume: Polkinghorne argues that an apparently simple event like boiling water where a small quantity of liquid changes into steam (a phase transition) would seem miraculous to someone who had not seen it every day and that we change our view depending on the miracle, he was not a sceptic (Hume was) and he mentions nothing about undeducated people

Strengths: Links both Christian and scientific view together and God made the world and thus made the laws of nature and Polkinghorne argues that science follows these rules, essentially making him an advocate of the Design Argument

Weaknesses: Account anomalies too much, chance is how new things come about, God intervenes gently in the direction that moves the system where he wishes to go and this issue calls into question the omnipotence of the traditional God of the Abrahamic religions

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Biblical miracles (1):

-Examples of biblical miracles include;

1. Parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 14:12-2 highlights God's svaing power and personal interest in His people

2. The second catch of fish in Luke 5:4-6 illustrates that Jesus, the Son of God, had God's absolute power over nature

3. Healing of the Blind in Matthew 15:31 indicates what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like (both enlightenment and salvation)

-Many Christians believe that the whole essence of Christianity is based upon miracles: God becoming incarnate, born of a virgin; the miracles of His taking of the sin of the world; and the miracle of His resurrection

-One might argue therefore that to reject the view that God performs miracles is to reject the whole of Christianity itself

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Biblical miracles (2):

-In the New Testament the three terms we tend to translate into "miracle" into English are: Semeion-a "sign" (focus on the purpose), Teras-a "wonder" (focus on the effect) and a Dunamis-an "act of power" (focus on cause

-The Old Testament shows acts of God that support and help the faithful and show the glory of God and punishment on those opposed God's people (Exodus stories-plagues and the death of the Egyptians who attempt to follow the Israelites through the parted Red Sea)

-The New Testament centres on the person of Jesus, in which there are over 30 miracle accounts in the four gospels are divided into miracles of healing, excelsior and nature and they demonstrate the Kingdom of God and bear witness to Jesus as the Messiah and the new era being unveiled in and through Him

-The purpose of miracles for Christians are: to demonstrate God's: love, compassion/goodness, power over nature/illness/death, his continual involvement in the world

2. A demonstration of God's power over nature, illness and death

3. Shows God's continual involvement in the world

4. Signs God's continual involvement in the world

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Understanding miracles:

-Advances in science have called into question the validity of "miraculous" events in the Bible, while some Christians contend that what is important is the message behind the stories

-Form Critics (theological movement that analysed Biblical texts to discover what for, they were originally used in) such as Gunkel who argued that the key to understanding miracle accounts was to understand the period where the stories we're passed down by word of mouth before being written down, the Gospels tell the stories of miracles in the "form" that they were told in the early Church

-Rudolf Bultmann attempted to demythologise (remove elements of Biblical accounts that were purely 1st century myth to discover the real message of Jesus) New Testament accounts, and by removing the supernatural elements he argued that it is possible to get closer to the real message of Jesus rather than the interpretations by the early Church

-Jesus' resurrection is a key event in Christian history and confirms Jesus as the Son of God and his ability to give his followers eternal life, and for most Christians it is essential to believe that this was a real, physical event even if they doubt other miracles, while for others like Rev. Dr. David Jenkins the resurrection story does not have to be taken literally

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Antony Flew's view (1):

-Flew's argument can be summarized in this way:

1. Miracles are by nature particular and unrepeatable

2. Natural events are by nature general and repeatable

3. In practice, the evidence for the general and repeatable is always greater than that for the particular and unrepeatable

-Key to argument: counts greater evidence events which are regular and repeatable, therefore in practice the evidence will always be greater against miracles for them

-Compared with Hume: Hume's theory based on the character of the person who is testifying for miracles whereas Flew focuses more on scientific methods, Hume criticised a priori whereas Flew respected this method, however both were empiricists and valued this kind of knowledge in refuting miracles

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Antony Flew's view (2):


-Defining miracles as particular and unrepeatable effects is a good definition of miracles

-Support from scientfic laws (repeatable events)

-This prompts Christians to have to base their ideas on greater evidence


-Does this view imply all of nature is uniform?

-Problem with a priori knowledge (Hume's sun)

-Christians could argue that "normal science" is enacted by God

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Arguments against miracles-coincidences/pointlessness:

-First criticism towards miracles concerns those events hailed as miraculous upon Holland's definition of the term

-Mel Thompson: gives the example of a Roman Catholic Priest in 1995 who had a stroke and was likley to die, but when the mummified hand from an English martyr was placed upon his head he made a full recovery, in this example, there is no gurantee that the recovery of the priest is not simply a coincidence, and not even an exceptionally remarkable one at that, certainly there is not sense in which what happened here is outside the bounds of nature

-Second criticisms concerns the point that some miracle accounts do not fufil Swinburne's requirement of attesting to some deeper significance

-In this we refer to another of Thompson's examples in which people gathered in St. Clare's Basilica in Naples claim to see the dried blood of St. Gennaro who died in 305 liquefy, and while this may break natural laws it may not be considered miraculous because it has a lack of purpose/religious significance as to why it would do that

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Miracles (29)

Wiles' view (1):

-Third criticism concerning the actual occurence of certain miracles is that they may be incompatible with a just and loving God, a view championed by Maurice Wiles in his work God's Action in the World (1983), in which he proposes that God's action in the world is a challenge to those who believed that miracles are acts of God that go against laws of nature

-Wiles argues that the world is a single act of God that encompasses the world as a whole, this only one act of God is God's continuous creative activity in which divine purposes are being slowly revealed in creation through nature's laws which God has ordained

-Some events in history take on a particular significance such as the resurrection of Jesus/crossing of the Red Sea because they reflect these purposes but are not special miraculous acts of God

-Rather they are bound within a matrix of faith and a communities' expression of its religious identity as it reflects upon the ways in which God's purposes emerge through its developing tradition and the natural processes of the world which is God's one continuous act

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Wiles' view (2):

-For Wiles miracles are understood as special acts of God, breaking the laws of nature is not an essential belief for Christians to hold:

1. Do not need miracles to prove Christian faith true because their doubtful nature make them poor proof, may even do the opposite when considering problem of evil and Jesus always refused to perform them as proof of his authority

2. Do not need miracles to act as answers to prayers, prayer is not a second technology as it is a way to bring out aspirations in line with God's purposes, it is a discipline rather than an alternative technology for getting things done

-Wiles argues this type of belief in miracles undermines science/history, science requires a predictable pattern of predictable laws in order to make predictions and history requires a relatively fixed pattern of possible human behaviours to tell a plausible story of the past, believed understanding of world we recieve from science/history weight heavily against miracles

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Wiles' view (3):

-Wiles accepts the view of Ernst Troeltsch that reliable history requires the adoption of the principle of analogy, this requires the historian to assume that on the whole past events are similar in kind to events that happen now, and on this methdological criteria (rather than evidence) miracles like resurrection cannot be understood as historical

-Wiles concludes that miracles do not occur because God does not intervene in events in the world on an individual basis, if miracles did occur then God would undermine the laws of nature and the accepted order of things, and if even if this does happen why would God choose to perform miracles for some and not for others

-Wiles asks why miracles have not taken place at times of great tragedies as thos who claim miracles do exists give trivial examples in comparison, in his work personally commenting on how strange it was God did not step in to prevent horrors like Auchwitz/Hiroshima, yet turned water into wine

-Wiles concluded that either God does not intervene in the natural order or He has an arbitrary will that results in His intervention to help the plight of some and ignores the needs of others

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Wiles' view (4):

-If God is one who would cure an individual case of cancer (Jeanne Fretel) but ignores the plight of the 3000 people trapped in the Twin Towers in 9/11, then Wiles concludes that such a God who acts selectively is not worthy of worship

-This leads to a belief in a God who is "arbitrary" or "partisan" in his judgements

-Wiles' restriction on God also applies to his action in Jesus Christ, as it would be wrong to say that miracles cannot happen and then allow the exclusive Christian doctrines of incarnation/resurrection

-His ultimate solution to this is to champion his earlier views that the whole universe is the single creative act, and as a consequence the whole of the universe reveals God to people and God's activity is present, sustaining every part of the universe, since God causes the whole universe to exist

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Strengths of Wiles's argument:

1. Wiles' view may appeal to educated believers as it allows them to believe in God and uphold scientific laws

2. It may be seen as solving the problem of evil, as God does not intervene whether because he cannot or because he is willingly bound by the laws of nature

3. It allows believers to reinterpret the ideas of prayer, it is not about presenting wish-lists to God that make God act; it is rather about allowing individuals to connect with God's will

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Weaknesses of Wiles' argument:

1. Wiles' view does not accord with the traditional teachings about God, it requires the claim that believers have completely misunderstood the notion of miracles for 2000 years, Bible clearly depicts God acting in the world in a far more direct way than Wiles' suggests

2. To suggest that miracles stories show God's love and power lose impact if God is not able to intervene in the world as a personal God

3. It is not appropriate to make God conform to human rationality, as question's about God's actions being arbitrary/partisan only arise if you first suggests that His actions have to conform to some form of rational order that we understand, and for many believers God is a mystery whose purposes and nature transcend human abilities to interpret and understand them

4. John Polkinghorne: argues Wiles' view does not reflect the Christian religious experiences of God (e.g difficult to make sense in a traditional way of the idea of petionary prayers yet many people claim that God answers these prayers), and Polkinghorne points to the fact that many scientists are also Christians but have not rejected the possibility that God does act in the world despite Wile's compatible view of God acting through natural laws, and this lack of following suggests modern science does not exclude this possibility

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Rejecting arguments towards miracles (1):

-On theological grounds: Wiles would argue that a miracle-working God does not help us to solve the problem of evil (both moral and the much harder to justify natural evil), and this is argubly because miracles would compromise the goodness of God as it if unfair if he chooses to help some and not others 

-Could also be argued using an Irenaen-type theodicy that the world presents us with opportunities to grow and develop our character, therefore repeated intervention by God prevents us from growing and developing ourselves, we might become lazy and expect God to constantly perform miracles rather than work to make things better ourselves and alleviate suffering

-Counterargument: However it is not inconceivable to suggest that God may act seemingly at random in performing miracles in order to have an impact on humans

-God gives human's freedom to choose to love him and others, and it may be that miracles act as signs to encourage some people to respond to God, and the Bible supports this view with stories such as John 2:11, in which Jesus reveals his power to the disciples and they believe him

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Rejecting arguments towards miracles (2):

-On scientific grounds: Many scientists argue that nature is a closed system with fixed casual laws, this raises another difficulty as presumbly nature was created by God and therefore natural eveil (e.g earthquakes/floods) is a closed system with fixed casual law

-If he were to intervene to prevent it that would indicate that the world he made was not perfect, but if he did not intervene questions would arise regarding his goodness

-Counterargument: These objections may ignore the effects of human free will and sin

-In Augustine's theodicy, the blame for both natural and moral evil is laid at the door of human beings who misuse their free will

-This would indicate that God may choose to intervene occasionally but is not morally obliged to do so

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Defending arguments for miracles (1):

-As symbolic stories: Rudolf Bultmann regarded the stories of miracles in the New Testament as later additions to inspire us to follow God and be morally good, and he argues miracle accounts should be read symbolically as they teach us about God's power or Jesus' compassion and should inspire us to help people in a similar way

-This eases some of the difficulties regarding the problem of evil as God does not literally intervene in people's lives in an arbitrary manner which would raise issues of fairness, however one question that remains is whether the lack of divine intervention is because God cannot or because God chooses not to

-Counterargument: Bultmann is arguably right in the sense that miracle stories contain theological truths and may inspire humans to do good things

-But wouldn't these stories have more effect if they were true? Admittedly they do seem mystical and sometime impossible, but surely God's power allows him to do such things?

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Defending argument for miracles (2):

-Literal belief in miracles: Christians see miracles as a way that God reveals his power, and miracles usually go against the natural law of the universe and in some biblical miracles, God punishes the wicked as well as helping the righteous, but does this solve the problem of evil or add to it?

-Believers point to God's overall plan for the Kingdom of God and the return for Christ, and here evil will finally be defeated by God and goodness will triumph

-God is omniscient and knows the future in a way that humans cannot, what makes no sense to us may form part of God's plan, and it is argued that we ought not to question the workings of God

-Counterargument: This position may well be correct but it becomes impossible to engage in dialogue about it, as it is neither verifiable nor falsifiable

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If miracles do occur, what do they prove:

-Swinburne argues that a miracle would point to the existence of agents other than humans, suppose for example that a tumour afflicting a women were to disappear overnight, occurences similar to this occur frequently in the operating theatres of surgeons and are attributed to human agents, and his arguments suggests that since our case is strongly analogous we should readily postulate an agent similar to humans at work there too

-It is justifiable to postulate a non-material cause however on the account of the "slight difference" in effect, for example the fact that no material interference is involved in bringing it about, Swinburne's argument carries some force although in some cases a natural, but as yet undiscovered reason may be the cause of the effect, and there is no grounds to presume that these miracles are the work of a God, let alone the traditional Christian one

-This depends on prior beliefs, for if we believe in a Christian God it would make sense to attribute miracles to him and the principle of Ockham's Razor could be applied here, although miracles could be attributed to any source and this flaw makes it impossible to argue the existence of God from a miracle standpoint, nor can this argument prove one religion correct over  another-at best it can strengthen faith that is already there in a chosen deity

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Attributes of God (1)


-Religious people talk about personal belief in God, whereas philosophers look for a more coherent understanding of what God is like

-Traditional qualities of God must include:

1. Simplicity

2. Eternal

3. Omnipotent

4. Omniscient

5. Omni-benevolent

-Revising one of these qualities has an implication on the others, and this must be beared in mind at all time, omni-benevolence also an important element in deciding whether or not a good God should be allowed to reward and punish

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Attributes of God (2)

Simplicity (1):

-Using the word "simple" philosophers are referring to the traditional way in which God was thought of as not being changeable and not having parts or characteristics

-Augustine commented that God is unchangeable and thus cannot lose or gain characteristics, and Aquinas spoke of God being simple as God signifies "being/existing", God cannot be broken down or explained in terms of parts, Aquinas himself argues that God's nature and God's eixstence are the same thing, because to talk of God is to talk of a being that exists, and in the Ontological argument Anselm claims that existence is a predicate of God

-Brian Davies: explains Aquinas' statement of "God is not a kind of thing" suggesting that God is not like a "human being", but God is a thing in the same sense as you might talk about "the human race" as one whole, God is unchanging because he is perfect and God lacks nothing and is not capable of changing into something else and remaining perfect

-Christian philosophers have also argued that only something unchanging can logically be the cause of the created world that changes, Davies also claims that anything that changes is part of the world and not distinct from it whereas God is, God is immaterial argued by Aquinas and also argues God does not have a body which has characteristics and that God is simply God

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Simplicity (2);

Challenges to God's simplicity:

1. Argument: God changes

-Counter: God cannot change because he is perfect

2. Argument:How can a simple God love his people

-Counter: Love can be different for God, regard for our well-being

3. Argument: God is not defended as simple in the Bible but as a immaterial beings with definite characteristics that were complex

-Counter: Bible's provenance as a book written by many, Malachi 3.6:"I am the Lord and I donot change" defends God as simple

4. Argument: The simple God is transcendent and therefore unknowable

-Counter: Many Christians argue He is a personal God

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An Eternal God:

-Nicholas Wolsterstorff argues an eternal God is appealing because of His removal from our own experiences of life, as we often regret the past or long for the day gone by, but God is removed from this issue

-Everyone agrees the God of Classical Theism is eternal, but does this mean that God's eternity is inside time or outside time?

-Either God is:

1. Eternal/Timeless: past, present and future are all present to God (attemporal, exists outside of time)

2. Everlasting: immortal but within time (semipiternal)

3. Moving through time and changing with it: Process Theology

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God as Timeless (1):

-Six main reasons why Christians traditionally believe that God is eternal:

1. The Bible suggests that God always exists (Isaiah 57:15a: "For thus says the high and lofty one, Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy")

2. God is not a physical being like us

3. God is the Creator of the universe, time passing is a feature of the universe, and God as the creator of the universe is therefore outside of time

4. God is the ultimate cause of why things exist and why there is change in the universe

5. God is perfect and so is not subject to time because time passing implies imperfection (when time passes you change and lose what you were previously) and this argument is found in Anselm's Proslogion

6. God exists necessarily

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God as Timeless (2):

-St. Augustine: "The years neither come nor go, whereas ours does", arguing time does not affect God as he is outside of it and he does not change because is Immutable (unchanging)

-Boethius: Argued that God is changeless (impassable), God does not exist in time and that eternity is "the whole, simultaneous and perfect possesion of unending life", also argued that God's life is limitless and posses the whole of His/Her life eternally without end, and for God there is no past, present or future, believed God observes everything at "one glance", and God is timeless because he is simple and therefore cannot learn new things

-Aquinas: Heavily influenced by Boethius' ideas, and he believes that God exists unendingly without a beginning or conclusion, God is the creator of the univers and all life who always exists without end, time does not pass for God, time involves living life "succesively" i.e one event follows another, but for God this is not the case as he exists outside of time and nature of God is to exist

-Aquinas' analogy of Timlessness: in that individuals cannot see the who comes before or after on the road when travelling along it but individuals (God) who can seen from a height and see all those travelling at one time, and this explains his views outlined above

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God as Timeless (3):


-God would be subject to change if He was in time, would not be in line with the traditional interpretation

-Shows that God's powers are not limited

-Suggests that God is immutable (incapable of change) which is argued by some to be necessary if God is also perfect

-God is not a physical being like use so is not subject to change

-God is omniscient and knows what the future holds, but being outside of time and observing this allows human beings to preserve their free will

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God as Timeless (4):

Weaknesses (1):

1. Time not applying to God contradicts plain reading of the Bible, which speaks of him promising and remembering

-Counter: Supporters of timelessness say that Bible stories are metaphorical rather than literal

2. Timeless God seems like a heartless God, a God who is personal or active with creation deosn't fit with timelessness as such a God cannot interact within time and would logically have to be removed

-Counter: But with timelessness it's easier to believe that God is immutable (unchanging), if he is within time and proposes that he may change and no longer fit the traditional interpretation

3. Antony Kenny: It is absurd to say God timeless because tomorrow, yesterday and today are all happening at the same time seems like nonsense

-Counter: Boethius-God looks at all events at "one glance", an individual can point to the number 3 and there's no problems understanding it without context, why not God?

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God as Timeless (5):

Weaknesses (2):

4. Arthur Prior: (links eternal with omniscience) treating God's knowledge as timeless would restrict his knowledge to truths (if any) that are known timelessly- "A2 2014 exams are over" is not known timelessly because it is not timeless, and this means God's knowledge is restricte dbecause he cannot know temporaries, and Prior argues he needs to know these to know his creations

-Counter: Paul Helm argues that we can know temporary things at a glance, just like some can solve a crossword puzzle at a glance (simultaneity), difference between human and divine simultaneity man in train sees lighting in one place, man outside sees the lighting front/back

5. Davies: God's creative activity makes more sense if he was everlasting, for when God makes a temporal being (e.g human) then that creative act itself would have to be temporal and within time

-Counter: Hugh McCann argues though things are brought in at the same time, doesn't mean that God has to exist at some time to bring them about, he can act from the ouside of time

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God as Everlasting (1):

-Regarded as more biblical view and more widespread, he moves through time with us but still doesn't change and has always existed

-Stephen Davis gave 3 reasons why Everlastingness is better than timelessness:

1. God's creative activity makes more sense if we say he exists in time, because if God makes a temporal thing his act of making it is itself temporal and in time

2. A timeless being can't be the loving God of the Bible, such a timeless God would have to be lifeless and impersonal, and that's not what the Bible reflects

3. Notion of simultaneous time leads to absurdities e.g 3021BC not earlier than 2014 for God, makes times seem illusory, no reason to think that so timelessness is incoherent

-Everlasting makes better sense for God's Omnipotence and Omniscience without creating a problem for human free will

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God as Everlasting (2):

-Swinburne: Supports everlasting, doesn't make sense to say everything is simultaneous to God, everlasting fits better with the Bible, as it shows that God interacts with people, describes God as both "fowardly eternal" and "backwardly eternal"

-Cullman: Textual analysis of the Bible shows eternal should not be understood as Everlasting, most logical translation of eternal is "endless duration not outside time"

-Stories such as Joshua 10, shows God helping him to win the wat, suggests that he is everlasting, and saying this does not lessen his power, all it is stating his existence without end

-Wolsterstorff: also supports this view of God as everlasting, arguing that some of God's actions in the Bible can only be understood as responses to human behaviour, therefore time must pass for God

-He also stated that it is in God's power it bring about change that make him worthy of worship, people do not worship God because he is outside of time, also notes an everlasting God is better because it allows him to be a personal God keeping in Christian tradition

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God as Everlasting (3):


-Swinburne: "There was no time at which he did not exist"

-Allows more compatible version of a personal God, which is important to the Christian tradition

-Davies' 3 reasons could provide a formidable strength


-Difficult to see how God could be in time and not be affected by some extent by creation and consequently change, after all we're changed change by our interactions with others as time progresses

-Counter: Only alternative that allows us to fulfil the task of preserving omnipotence and omniscience and his action in the world, plus it is more Biblically-based

-Everlastingness puts God under human rationality, but God is beyond reason, furthermore it make God seem human-like, therefore it limits his perfection

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Process Theology (1):

-Alfred Whitehead: argues reality of God is not fixed an He himself is developing, God is "dipolar" (has two poles, one mental and one physical), physical pole it the material world which acts as "God's body", because of this relationship God is partly distinct and partly immersed in the world, just as we are in our bodies

-Any suffering in creation is also undergone by God, and creation itself is seen as a cooperation between God and all other beings, whether this cooperation actually takes place is thus up to humanity, in other words God cannot force humans to do his will, only influence them

-Whitehead founded movement, criticised Christian conception of God that is "the Church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exclusively to Caesar", and he is criticisng for defining God as primarily a divine king who imposes his will on the world, and whose most important attribute is power

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Process Theology (2):

-Charles Harthorne: based his work on Whitehead's, but instead favoured a dynamic changin relationship with humanity (di-polar deity), by this meant that God's concrete pole organic growth in God's perfect knowledge of the world as the world itself develops and changes

-Hartshorne did not accept the classic theistic claim of creatio ex-nihilo (creation out of nothing) and instead held to creatio ex materia (creation out of pre-existent material)

-God is not identical with the world, but God is also not completely independent from the world, He has a self-identity that transcends the earth but the world is also contained within God, rough analogy is the relationship between mother and fetus (mother has self-identity, but intimate connection with the fetus attached ot the mother via the umbilical cord)

-Disregards Anselm's Ontological Argument as he maintains that classical Christian theism has held a self-contradictory notion of perfection, and thus the classic concept of God fails

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Process Theology (3):

-John B. Cobb: does not believe God is omnipotent in the sense of having unilateral control over all events, since Cobb sees reconciling total coercive power with love and goodness to be an impossible task

-Instead all creatures are viewed as having some degree of freedom that God cannot override, Cobb solves the problem of evil by denying God's omnipotence, stressing instead that God's power is persuasive rather than coercive, that God can influence creatures but not determine what they become/do, God's role is to liberate/empower

-Also denies God is immutable (unchanging) and impassible (unfeeling), instead stressing that God is affected and changed by the actions of creatures, both humans and otherwise

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Process Theology (4):


1. Fits certain difficult Bible passages, presents God as a dynamic entity and not so much a static being (Genesis 18:16-33 where Abraham negotiates with God not to destroy Sodom if a few righteous citizines could be found), Hill confirms the strength of Process Theology lying in it's appeal to the Bible, could explain differences between Old and New Testament God (God changes)

2. A central element to Process Theology is that it's God endows humans with free choice due to his dynamic nature and organic growing in the world

3. To some extent solves the problem of evil by implying that God can only act as an influence on individuals, much like soft-determinists argue factors like biology, society and psychology can 

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Process Theology (5):


1. As God is omnipotent, he should be able to do anything, people do not just want God to suffer along with them, but they want God to stop the suffering

2. Unclear about the afterlife, rather than God rewarding the good in heaven and making everything right, instead there is just the comfort of knowing that the good parts of life outweigh the bad, and this isn't true for each individual, perhaps it is not even true for humanity as a whole

3. Doesn't seem consistent with the teachings of the Bible, in which God does have the power over the laws of nature because he created them and God is omnipotent as described in the Book of Job, and if Process Theology is to be accepted, then Christians need to take a very different view of how the Bible is to be understood

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God as omniscient (1):

-God knowing everything considered an essential belief, does it mean that he knows everything? Or are there clear limits?

-We gain knowledge through the senses, but God is immaterial and doesn't have these (so does God know what chocolate tastes like?), someone can study food for ages, but will only know more about it once they experience it, and this suggests that God's knowledge is restricted in terms of senses

-Response to this is to seperate knowledge and sensations, God can have all the knowledge we have but doesn't need the the sensations to have complete knowledge of things, and this eads to 2 different definitions of omniscience:

1. Unlimited knowledge: all history, past, present and future, this view fits with Timelessness because it argues that God is outside of time and observes the whole time continuum

2. Limited Omniscience: knowledge is limited to what is logically possible to know or God chooses to limited what he knows to allow humans free will, God's knowledge changes over time as he gets new knowledge as things happens, this fits with the Everlasting view

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God as Omniscient (2):

-If God is eternal his knowledge can't be the same as ours, we have knowledge gained through senses which God can't get, if God is Simple he doesn't get the knowledge the way we do through learning

-Aquinas: God has knowledge because it is not physical, humans get knowledge but again it's not physical e.g square roots are not physical things but we still know them, knowledge being non-physical means God who is immaterial can have knowledge, and God's knowledge is self-knowledge (i.e he knows what he creates), and so Aquinas argues if God has perfect knowledge what is more perfect than knowing everything that is to be known

-His knowledge is occurent (i.e he actively knows things to be true) whereas human knowledge if more dispositional (i.e we are inclined to believe), this can obviously be false but God knows all that is true and not false

-However if he knows "everything" he must exist in time because only then may he have an idea of human experiences (e.g he knows that I am married means as well as Mike is married), if God was timeless he wouldn't be able to know the differences between "I'm glad today is Friday" and "I'm glad yesterday was Friday", however Antony Kenny argues these actually describe the same fact, and so this issue of experience should not be a problem for God

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God as Omniscient (3):

-If the everlasting view was taken then God can gain new knowledge as time progresses, omniscience in this understanding allows what is logically possible for God to know so the future is not known, but this does not limit omniscience because it is impossible to know what is going to exist or currently does not exist, and God is perfect therefore in the sense that he knows everything that is happening and has happened

-Middle Knowledge: Possibly omniscience includes this, this is a bank of certain other choices, what would happene if things happened differently, God knows all the possibilities of your life (like a flow-chart, knows what would have happened if you failed your A-levels or passed them), however problems with this is are all these "what ifs" actual knowledge? Or fake? This theory is favoured by Swinburne, called the Middle Way, God only knows logical possibilites of future

-Bible argues that omniscience does include knowledge of the future (Psalm 139:16) but philosophers debate whether it can be called knowledge because it hasn't happened yet, however his knowledge is different to ours so he may know all possible choices, problem at looking at omniscience in conjunction with omnipotent as Flew/Mackie argue that God must have seen that evil things were going to happe, so could have used omnipotent to make people freely do good

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God as Omniscient (4):

-Criticisms: If God is omniscient how can man possess free will, God has all knowledge so to say if he knew you would shoot a man in the face and you did, there is nothing you can do about it, and even if you made a last minute decision to use an axe instead he still knew you would do that, so it seems omniscience and free will are incompatible concepts

-This is a problem for libertarians who believe that they are totally free, because it would be hard to fit omniscience and free will together, plus free will wouldn't make any sense if omniscience was there, some are hard determinists argue that there is no free will (Calvinism fits into this) and are determined and this allows God to be all-knowing:

1. Ted Honderich: God has moral responsibility (predetermination) not humans, and this woudl suggest that God not only knows what we are going to do but also have some power over our actions showing he is both omniscient and omnipotent

2. Kant: said we must be free to make our own moral decisions and we are morally responsible, excercising free will "if we are not free we are not responsible and therefore cannot be punished"

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God as Omniscient (5):

-However, the Bible states that God gave humans free will and St. Augustine said that God himself gave epistemic distance so that he could not interfere and humans could be free to make their own choices, supported by Peter Vardy and the Analogy of the King and the Peasant, therefore humans must have free will and therefore the issue of God's omniscience must be explored

-The eternality of God does provides 3 different solutions however, Process Theology, doesn't believe in Omniscience in the traditional sense, Timelessness: God is outside time, and he knows but doesn't cause our actions, Everlastingness: moves through time and knows everything possible, knows futures but doesn't cause them

-Solution of Scleimacher: even divine foreknowledge cannot endanger free will, analogy of close friends in that they have close intimact and are able to know each other's characters closely, and this gives them knowledge to foreknow the actions, and this still allows for human freedom as you can still accuratel predict the actions a person will take but they are still free to take another option, however this means that God's knowledge is not infalliable, God cannot be wrong at guessing actions because he does not make mistakes

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God as Omniscient (6):

-Solution of Boethius: timelessness holds the key to keeping both eternity, omniscience and free will because foreknowledge isn't in God's case foreknowledge at all, God is an eternal presence and all time is present to him, and foreknowledge is a never-ending presence

-Antony Kenny criticised this view, arguing that if all history was simultaneous to God as Boethius suggested this meant that all of history was essentially happening at the same time, "Therefore, while I type these very words, Nero fiddles heartlessly on"

-How can the timeless God of Boethius' theory be outside time and have knowledge of what is happening in time, this clearly comprimises the immutability of God

-In order for God to interact with the world, God would require middle knowledge to know what the outcomes would be if human choices were different, and this in itself once again causes further issues surronding free wil for Boethius

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God as Omnipotent (1):

-Biblical support for this view, Mark 10:27 "With God all things are possible"

-A key attribute of God in the Christian tradition shows that God's power allows all things to be possible, when defining this trait God can do anything, so can he sin or make 2+2=5?

-There are some problems Omnipotence raises but there are 3 different ways at looking at it:

1. God can do anything, even the logically impossible: Descartes is a supporter of this view, believed that God made the laws of logic and therefore could unmake them (so yes there could be a 5-sided triangle), and to think otherwise was to dishonour God's greateness, however many philsophers believe this view is incoherent and destroys any rational talk of God, criticised by Peter Vardy who points towards Hebrew 6:13 and 6:18 which tell us God cannot lie or swear to be higher than himself

-Aquinas: God abides by logic, but does absolutely possible, logically impossible actions (2+2=5) aren't real actions, no "proper things" so can't apply to God, however criticised by Geach "there must be some logicall possible feats that are beyond God's power, one good example suffices: making a thing which its maker afterwards cannot destroy."

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God as Omnipotent (2):

-Paradox of the Stone: first addressed by Averroes, can God make a stone heavier for him to lift?

-Yes=You have found something God cannot do (lifting it)

-No=You have found something God can't do (not creating it)

-Is there always one of these he can't do=paradox

-Aquinas counter: it's silly to even ask this paradox because this isn't even a real action, meaningless for omnipotence, however crtiics like Antony Kenny argue that his definition does not work because there are always logicall possible acts cannot do

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God as Omnipotent (3):

2. Doing anything logially possible a perfect being can do: But it is incorrect to sugggest that God sins because it is impossible for Him to lie, St. Augustine argues this is because this is not what an omnipotent God would do, it is impossible for an omnipotent being to sin as this is contrary to omnipotencency, however this does not solve the problem because you're still limiting God by saying he cannot do things

-Despite this definition is more accepted, and it talks about what is logically possible for God to do such things may not be logically possible for us though, e.g it's logically possible for God to create a universe, but not for us

-Aquinas: God's power is omnipotent because it's infinite, because hs is infinite (timeless), whatever involves a contradiction (like the stone) is not held by omnipotent because it can't be made possible, the nature of contradiction is that no one can understand it

-To preserve goodness and God's immaterialness Kenny says this is a good definition, but is it a narrower omnipotentence which allows him to do logically possible

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God as Omnipotent (4):

-Plantinga: God may choose to limit his omnipotence to allow free will, but this definition (while getting around the problem of the stone/free will) no longer makes God omnipotent, essentially destroying the whole argument

-Some philosophers argue this is a better definition a God that can do everything even the logically impossible, but has it's own issues as the omnipotence it's saying that God can do all things that God can do, and this tells us nothing about omnipotence

-Aquinas argues that God cannot sin because his actions would become good because he is God, this raises several issues towards free will (strange he would give humans free will and not himself)

-Geach criticises this definition as it relies on the acceptance of a particular view of God's nature as perfect, which not everyone may accept, and this leads him to suggest that omnipotence be understood as a statement of his power rather than his power to do anything

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God as Omnipotent (5)

3. Omnipotent is just a statement of the power of God, that is all:

-Geach: New Testament Greek word for omnipotence is "Pantokrator" meaning "almighty", this is understood as a capicity for power and power over everything rather than to do everything

-Kenny: Omnipotence is a statement: "A being is omnipotent if it has every power which it is logically possible to possess"

-However, this goes against the Christian tradition which has often interpreted ominpotence as a literal power of God rather than a statement of his abilities

-Flint and Freddoso argee with Geach on the two distinct concepts of "almighty" and  "omnipotent" in his theory of God's omnipotence, but criticises it by arguing God is in fact both of these things due to their five points of "maximal power" which makes the this a possible interpretation

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God as Omnipotent (6):

Are there solutions to the pardoxes shown by these definitions (1):

-George I. Mavrode: The task of the Paradox of the Stone is impossible for someone such as God, assuming he has unlimited power, it's self-contradictory, how an an unlimited being not do something? Therefore for an omnipotent being it is impossible

-Wade C. Savage: God can't draw square-circles, failure to draw a circle shows a failure in my maths skills, but failure to do a square-circle doesn't show any lack of skills because it is impossible, this analogy can be applied to God and the Stone to show that the paradox fails because the very omnipotence of God makes the Stone impossible

-Harry Frankfurt: If God is able to do one impossible thing, he can do another impossible thing by lifting that stone, so omnipotence is not incoherent, in fact shows how omnipotent he is!

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God as Omnipotent (7):

Are there solutions to the pardoxes shown by these definitions (2):

-Plantinga/Swinburne: God's omnipotence would allow to make stone, but would lessen his omnipotence if he does, and this might stop him being omnipotent

-Wiggenstein: the paradox doesn't need to bother religious believers because this is not what God's omnipotence is about

-William of Ockham: Two powers of God:

1. Absolute power of God: The power he had before he committed himself to a particular way of action and laws, before creation God could have done anything like creating the world or not

2. Ordained power of God: Refers to options currently available to God, now he has made the world, he can do many things within it, but can't uncreate it once he has chose to create it in the past

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God as Omnipotent (8):

Criticisms of Omnipotence: 

1. Can God change the past: Augustine argues that God can't change the past as this would affect what we know to be: "Whence, that the past should not have been, does not come under the scope of divine power", and this is a contradiction which is illogical and God cannot do the illogical unless you follow definition that God can do anythign, even the logiclal impossible

2. Can God Sin: Definition 1 (No will stop his perfection), Definition 2 (No because sin causes change and he can't change, Definition 3 (No, sin involves a lack of power over actions, but God always has control), even if he did something that seem bad, because he is omniscient he may know something we don't

-Nelson Pike: God's omnipotence would allow him to sin, but because he is morally good, he would never do it, otherwise he wouldn't be free and his goodness would not be worthy of praise

3. Omnipotence relies on pre-existing concept of God's nature and perfection: Omnipotence is an aspect of God's nature and is thus a statement of how God is and is an aspect of God's perfection

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Boethius views (1):

-His main work is Consolation of Philosophy: Book V, Chapters 2, 3 and 6, and the central question of this book is that If God's providence means that God controls all things how can human beings be understood as freely choosing their fate?

-This is an important question for Boethius, because for him human dignity rests upon our ability to respond freely and with acceptance of our misforutne as part of God's purposes, so free will is crucial

-His answer to this was that God's foreknowledge is not, from God's perspective, a foreknowledge of the future, rather knowledge is always knowledge of a never ending present, all things with time are seen by God (appearing to us as past/present/future) as one single eternal present

-Therefore God's eternal knowledge of all my actions does not contradict the freedom I have in performing them because how God foreknows events is not the same as if I were trying to foreknow events, my future is still mine to freely make but what I make of it is already seen with God's providential single vision

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Boethius' views (2):

-This is the traditional Christian answer and it was shared by St. Augustine in Confessions, who argued that God's today never ends but includes all our yesterdays and tomorrows

-Unlike Augustine, however it is notable how little Boethius refers to Christ, biblical revelation, grace, faith, the Chuch of the forgiveness of sin but instead he offers Philosophy (neo-platonic philosophy) as the consolation of life's ills, neverthelles his book is a classic of Christian spirituality and an indicator of the inter-relation between Christian ideas and Greek Philosophy

-At the end of part 2 of book 5 Philosophy, Boethius concludes that all events in the chain of causes are controlled by divine providence, but that the decisions of the rational soul, properly understood, are entirely free because they are grounded in rationality which is the divine mode of being

-The isolated soul is free to decide things for itself but what is enacted in the world is fully known to divine providence, the causal chain of events is determined but the soul is free and the closer the soul wills in accord with the divine will the more attuned it is to the running of divine providence

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Boethius' views (3):

-In Part 3 of Book V Boethius presents three arguments by which he hopes to show that while God may know future events it is possible that they are not determined by God knowing them

-In Part 4-6 of Book V Philosphy attempts to show that God does have forknowledge of events, that there is no dimunion of God's control over the outcome of events and yet the actors in these events, human beings, are perfectly free

-Philosophy does this by addressing the question: "can God foreknow contingent (chance or freely chosen) events before they have happened without undermining human freedom?"

-The answer Philosophy comes up with is ‘yes’; not just human freedom of the will but every contingent (chance) event is compatible with God’s foreknowledge

-It is because, according to Philosophy, who God is and the nature of God’s knowledge, it is the nature of God’s timeless eternity which makes divine foreknowledge and human freedom compatible

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Boethius' views (4):

-For Boethius, the nature of knowledge is relative to the knower, in God’s eternal knowledge there is no contradiction between God knowing the future and our free choices even if in our temporal knowledge there seem to be one, the knowledge we have is dependent upon the nature of knower: the mode by which the knower knows things

-Philosophy tells Boethius that just because knowledge of the future does not conform to one way of knowing (one type of knower: ours) does not mean that it cannot be known by a different way of knowing (another type of knower: God’s), a baby might know it is crying but not in the same way as we might know this who can explain how and why it cries, and in this sense we can draw an analogy between the we way we know things ‘now’ in the present moment within the movement of time and the way God knows things in terms of the present moment of the divine ‘now’.

-But God’s nature is different from our own time-bound nature and so God’s way of knowing ‘now’ will be different from our way of knowing ‘now’, the difference is in the mode of knowing available to the knower, and to understand how God knows the ‘now’ we need to understand the nature of God, and the most relevant feature of God’s nature, Philosophy tells Boethius is God’s eternal nature (God knows timelessly)

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Boethius' views (5):

-There are two ways in which it might be possible to understand Boethius’ presentation of God’s eternity, first we might think of God as standing outside time looking down on all time as existing in a single moment of God’s apprehension, in a single moment God sees past present and future, God understands in one moment what we perceive as future which we are free to actualise or not because God sees past present and future in one single eternal vision

-One problem with this way of thinking is that it would mean that God would see both our birth and our death simultaneously, and in which case what would God make of our prayers? This is not the way Philosophy explains God’s eternity to Boethius.  

-In God’s life, Philosophy says, God’s infinite mind grasps all that there is to grasp in a single perfect thought in time passing has no meaning, time belongs to human life not to divine life, God knows in God’s life, from human perspective, every time but without being bound by time

-God sees the process of our life from birth to death in a single every-time vision and God sees in an eternal present what is, for us, all that has been, all that is and all that will be- “Just as you men see certain things in this temporal present of yours, so God sees all things in his eternal present.” (Consolations V. 6:20) 

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Boethius' views (6):

-From God’s perspective, it is wrong to talk of past and future and so wrong to describe God’s knowledge as foreknowledge. 

-God’s  knowledge only appears as foreknowledge from our own temporal understanding, and God’s knowledge is part of the simplicity of God’s eternal unchanging present, all present moments all ‘past moments’, and all future moments are present in God’s eternal now

-With this understanding it is possible to see that there is no contradiction between human freedom and God’s control of events

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Boethius' views (7):

-Summary: Events which happen as a result of our willing them are, as events in the material world, connected to a chain of material causes and part of our fate and God’s providential knowledge

-However, willing, by which an individual chooses to do ‘x’ rather than ‘y’ is freely chosen, it is free because, as rational, it is a mirror image of God’s free rational will

-Nevertheless, because what is known is determined by the nature of the knower and because God’s nature is eternal, God knows all things, even our wills, in God’s eternal present, our acts are freely chosen but God knows them in his omniscient foreknowledge

-Without influencing our temporal freedom to bring about the future we choose God, nevertheless knows, all future events, everyone can be held accountable for their actions and divine reward and punishment distributed accordingly, prayers are genuine requests and yet all is providentially known already as God sees things in God’s eternal present

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Criticisms of Boethius (1):

-Antony Kenny: argues "the whole concept of a timeless eternity, the whole of which is simultaneous with every part of time, seems to be radically incoherent", used example of the founding of Rome being simultaenous with the Fall of Rome and this timeless eternity as pointe dout by Boethius clearly leads to absurdities

-Counter: Gregory Rich points out that Kenny is mistaken in that his point of view arises from the failure to distinguish between the temporal and non-temporal, between the human perspective and the divine perspective, events simultaneous for God do not have to be simultaneous in the temporal realm

-Another weaknesses is that it is hard to see how a timeless God could act in time as the Bible and traditional doctrines characterize him as doing, He hardened Pharoah's heart; He liberated the Israelites from *******; He ascended into heaven, Nelson Pike argues that the language used to describe these acts is clearly tensed language, and for that reason God is in time

-Counter: Gregory Rich points out that some language do not have tenses, like Chinese, and in spekaing it one unavoidably uses non-tensed langauge, and for this should we conclude that God and the rest of us are not in time? If not, then we must rejects Pike's argument too

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Criticisms of Boethius (2):

-Solution: The real worry concerns whether there is any way for a timeless God to act in time, and E.L Mascall suggests that we think og God's acts as having a subjective timeless pole and an objective temporal pole

-Mascall says that an act of God is at it's subjective pole (God's end), timelss, even though at it's objective pole (the creature's end) it is temporal, God timelessly exerts a creative activity towards and upon the whole spatio-temporal fabric of the created universe, and this will be experienced as temporal by each creature who observes/describes it from his own spatio-temporal standpoint, but it doesn't imply that God is in time

-Process Theology: Asserts that both creatures and God have a role to play through their relationship, however free will and divine providence is still compatible through an analogy used by William James/Peter Geach of a chess Grand Master, a chess Grand Master will sometimes play twenty other normal players simultaneously and win each game, this is because the chess Grand Master knows all the possible moves to make in the game but his opponents are free to make any move they choose. In the same way God’s ultimate goal for creation is guaranteed but the way human lives are played out is entirely down to our own free choices

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Criticisms of Boethius (3):

-Gregory Rich points out a key weaknesses of Boethius' theory which thinks are undefendable based on Boethius' Conditional necessity (For whatever is known,  must be as it is known to be) and Simple necessity (before acts of free will happened, they were able not to happen)

-According to Boethius, foreknowledge does not rule out free will because foreknolwedge only creates conditional necessity, not simple neccesity, (simple necessity=necessity due to the nature of thing thing involved), and while simple neccesity can rule out freedom, the absence of simple neccesity is supposed to leave room for freedom

-In contrast it is not in our nature to drink/play sports and not everyone does these things and about these there is an absence of simple neccesity and this absence is supposed to leave room for the freedom to do these things, however the trouble is that does not automatically lead to freedom of will (could be forced by God/Devil to drink, threatened to play sports)

-It is therefore hard to see how one does these freely if that is the case, therefore foreknowledge may be comptaible with an absence of simple necessity, more needs to be said to show how it is compatible with free will

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God as Omnibenevolent (1):

-Omnibenevolence often conflicts with certain definitions of omnipotence and omniscience for example, if God is all-powerful, he cannot be omnibenevolent, since he doesn't stop suffering, if God is all-knowing and all-powerful, he cannot be omnibenevolent, since suffering hasn't been stopped.

-Furthermore the inconsistent triad highlights the issue between the following three facts:

  1. Evil exists
  2. God is omnipotent
  3. God is omnibenevolent

-The Christian understanding is that God is omnibenevolent in the Old and New Testaments. God is intrinsically loving; it is part of his nature and is not caused or influenced by humanity. his brings about the issue of how God can be loving if he is immutable, the most frequent response to this criticism is that God possessed love as a quality; he isn't responding to anything so he doesn't have to change. 

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God as Omnibenevolent (2):

-Even if we reject God's love, Christians would argue that God's love is still unconditional. God is like a parent in this way, but, like any loving parent, God doesn't spoil us; he doesn't always give us what we want-Swinburne draws this analogy in that his role of parent involves both punishing and rewarding his creation, as a parent would

-In Hosea 11, God loves Israel as if its people were his children, when they turn their backs on God, however, it upsets him-so God asked Hosea to marry Gomer in order to show his love for Israel; but Gomer had cheated on Hosea, and God used this relationship to describe his relationship with Israel; they were worshipping other idols, but God kept forgiving them, this highlights God's omnibenevolent nature:"Woe to them because they have strayed from me." When people rebel against God, he often uses destruction to teach them a lesson - according to many, this act is loving, and this can be easily criticised - the destruction of whole towns and cities in the Bible doesn't seem loving, were there not other ways?

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God as Omnibenevolent (3):

-The fact that God suffers when he is rejected by the Israelites suggests that he is not impassable, this also links to Aquinas' view on omnipotence - that God can only do what it is logically possible for a perfect God to do, and this also links to the notion of an everlasting God; his knowledge changes as the future unfolds 

-Furthermore, certain Psalms place emphasis on the reliability of God's love, Psalm 62/63 refers to God's "steadfast love"; love that is committed, reliable and trustworthy and Psalm 118 gives thanks to God for his eternal love, in these Psalms, God's love seems reliable, trustworthy and unconditional. 

-However,this contrasts with his destructive love in the story of HoseaChristians may argue that the two examples are different because the people of Israel sinned, and punishing sin is part of being loving, God punished the people of Israel people he wanted them to be the best that they could be, but the Jews were also important to God, yet he didn't help them when millions died in the Holocaust - so how can God be truly loving? Was he not powerful enough or not loving enough? 

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God as Omnibenevolent (4):

-The resurrection of Christ is often seen as God's ultimate expression of agape love, because he forgives humanity's sins, this links to the view that God is everlasting, since he took on human form and entered our world to die for our sins

-John Stuart Mill openly criticised the idea of an omnibenevolent God, attacking the design argument in particular, Mill stated that God cannot be loving if he created a world where animals had to kill each other in order to survive and Schleimacher supported this view, arguing that God created evil and suffering because it could not be created out of nothing in a perfect world -Aquinas, however, states that we cannot judge the seemingly unjust world around us, because we do not know God's 'master plan', events may seem to cause suffering, but there may be a greater outcome, this is similar to the belief of Peter Vardy. Immanuel Kant also argues that God's omnibenevolence is redeemed in heaven, and links this to his moral argument for the existence of God, Aquinas also said that God understands our suffering and can empathise with us; this links to the idea of God being everlasting.

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God as Omnibenevolent (5):

-Overall, it is widely accepted that in order to be loving, God has to:

  1. Change - he cannot be immutable
  2. Respond, empathise and interact
  3. Be with us and love us
  4. Feel pain to understand us - he cannot be impassible

Once again, this fits with the idea of an everlasting God. This also means that an omnibenevolent God surely cannot be timeless, since:

  1. A timeless God is immutable (Plato)
  2. He cannot respond to us or answer prayers
  3. He is outside our timeline
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God as Omnibenevolent (6):

-So is there a way of having a timeless and omnibenevolent God?

-Descartes says that there is. Since God can do the logically impossible, he can be with us even if he is outside time. He is immutable but he can still love.

-Boethius, however, who argues for a timeless God, states that God has uncausal knowledge, His knowledge makes the future necessary, which suggests that God cannot answer prayer

-So he cannot be omnibenevolent -So if God is omnibenevolent, surely he must have limited omniscience? Because if he knows everything then he must know the future, and if God knows the future, how can he be omnibenevolent

-This goes against Anselm's view that God is: "That than which nothing greater can be conceived."

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God as Omnibenevolent (7):

-However, Aquinas argued that God can still be omnipotent, because he can do what is logically possible, and since a perfect God can answer prayer, Aquinas is sorted.

The traditional God of Christianity is as follows:

  1. Descartes's definition of omnipotent
  2. Omniscient in that he knows the past, present and future
  3. Timeless eternal nature
  4. Omnibenevolent

Although this mix may appear incoherent, it is still possible if God can do the logically impossible; what seems contradictory to us may not be so to God. 

-Augustine (evil exists because of human sin) and Irenaen (humans go to a "vale of soul-making" and eventually join God) Theodices can also help in defending a benevolent God against the problem of evil 

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Good God: Reward or Punish? (1)

-The traditional answer drawn from the Bible is that God rewards and punishes on the basis of God’s love and justice, most notably Adam and Eve sinned against God and they were punished, in traditional Christian belief this punishment of death is inherited by every human being but God provides a way back through faith in Christ who died to take the punishment of Adam and Eve on our behalf so that human beings are once more restored to a relationship with God

-In the Book of Amos it is God’s love for his chosen people which singles them out for punishment, some Jewish theologians have come to understand the holocaust as God’s judgement on a world that has forgotten God, the Jews are the chosen people through which God has made known his displeasure.  

-Other Jewish thinkers have rejected this interpretation, for them the holocaust was an act of evil people, and such people will always exist in a world that has been given genuine freedom, for them God’s just punishment for wickedness is tempered in the Bible by God’s love and forgiveness, God is defined in the New Testament as unconditional love, God will not stop loving human beings whatever they do, God sends his only Son to take God’s own punishment, meant for us, on Himself so that in Christ potentially all human beings are redeemed, God punishes but it is a punishment God takes for us in the death of Jesus on the cross

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Good God: Fortune and Misfortune (2):

-According to some Christians like John Calvin, God elects who are saved and who are not, this is not something we can earn by our own merits

Rather, it is a matter of God’s grace, this has led some Christians to believe in predestination (that God has already decided who is to be rewarded with heaven and who is to be punished in hell)

-For these groups of Protestant Christians, faith in Christ and prosperity came to be seen as markers indicating that an individual was among the elect and so fortune in this life was taken to be a possible indicator of God’s reward of salvation while misfortune came to be seen as a possible indicator of divine punishment

-However, predestination has been criticised for destroying human free will, as what is the point of acting moral or immoral if ultimately your actions will mean nothing?

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Good God: God does reward and punish (3):

-Kant had argued that, although it must never be understood as a reward, the rational moral law requires the postulation of God to ensure the correct proportioning of happiness to virtue, but we also saw that for many philosophers this was the weakest part of Kant’s moral philosophy and seemed to undermine his main point that ethical action is disinterested and done for its own sake without the need for any such proportioning

-Nevertheless, many Christian philosophers from Aquinas to Swinburne have argued that the goodness of God is nothing without the justice of God and the justice of God requires reward for the good and punishment for the wicked, it is not that God sets out to punish people but that he gives people a choice. If they want punishment they can choose it by acting wickedly

-Freedom, according to Swinburne, only makes sense if there are genuine consequences that follow as a result of our choices, a loving God would not punish people out of spite, punishment is a necessary feature of genuine freedom, as God offers people a choice of good and evil.

 -Those who choose evil are also choosing punishment because evil choices, like good choices, have genuine consequences

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Good God: God does reward and punish (4):

-What, though, is the nature of this punishment? Hell is the name for God’s punishment but we have already seen that there is no agreed Christian view of Hell

-For Aquinas, Hell is both a place and a state of being which is in separation from God, by their wicked actions evil people are choosing to place themselves in a state of separation from God

-God wants the good for everyone but some people choose to be separated from God’s goodness by their wicked actions and as a result God is not close to them after death, it is the justice of God, and thus an expression of God’s goodness, which provokes Gods punishment of the wicked

-Also recall the views of Keith Ward that there is nothing necessarily inconsistent with the belief that a good and loving God would intervene to save some people and not others just so long as God’s actions serve God’s ultimately good purposes

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Good God: God does not reward and punish (5):

-According to John Hick, we have got our thinking wrong when we assert an idea of God whose justice requires the issue of reward and punishment, creation is itself the full self-giving of God’s love and goodness

-Human beings are moral beings because we are created free, we were created free by God and this represents our goodness to God, but we were also created as humans not as God, and to use Hick’s term, we were created at an ‘epistemic distance’ from God with the knowledge suitable to creatures that are freely able to choose to develop into the likeness of God

-This makes us like God’s children in many different ways, as like children, we make mistakes; no father would eternally punish a child who makes mistakes, rather, a loving father would be quick to forgive and recognises that the child’s wrong action was part of the learning and growing process

-This after all is what Jesus taught about God in his parables, so for Hick, the answer is the existence of many para-eschatological states in which everyone has the chance to make their souls into the likeness of God and so there is no divine need for any ultimate punishment 

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Good God: God does not reward and punish (6):

-According to Maurice Wiles, there are enough bad consequences that follow from our wicked actions to make us aware of the burden of responsibility that freedom places upon us without the need for some further divine act of punishment either before or after death

-According to the radical, Don Cupitt, the notion of divine punishment is a hang-over from a monarchical view of God which no longer has moral support

-When God is viewed as the sum of our goals and values the realisation that we have failed to live up to our goals and values set alongside any earthly punishments is itself punishment enough you do not also need a punitive supernatural deity

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Life, Death and the Soul (1)


-There is one thing that all philosophers can agree on, and this is that our earthly life in our current physical form will end, and one popular definition of death is "the complete and permanenet cessation of all vital functions in a living creature, the end of life"

-However, while all will agree on the first part of the defintion, there is disagreement over philosophers by what exactly is meant by the "end of life", and many would argue that life does not in fact end but continues on through various means

-There are two main theories of human nature that have implications for meaningful survival outside of death:

1. Dualism: the theory that there exist both bodies and minds, distinct from one another yet linked together in some way

2. Materialism: is the theory that our minds are inseperable from our bodies

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Life, Death and the Soul (2)

Plato's Dualism (1):

-Writing in The Republic, Plato stated that the soul belonged to a level of reality that was higher than that of the body, and believed the soul to be a substance and immortal, and this view was dervied from a series of ideas, which he called Forms

-For everything in existence, Plato accepted that there was the perfect idea (form), e.g for every dog there is an ideal dog, and every individual things participates in these universal ideas, and the idea is prior to the individual instance of it, and is thus more real

-Ideas are not physical things, so they must belong in the spiritual realm of reality, which is more real than the material realm, and the soul is that which can grasp the realm of ideas, it is not matter which is gross/unthinking, the physical world is the world in which the body exists and through which we recieve sense-impressions

-The soul is immaterial and is capable of knowing eternal truths beyond the world, and the soul wants to travel into the realm of heavenly ideas and to understand them; the body wants to be involved with world matters to do with the senses

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Life, Death and the Soul (3)

Plato's Dualism (2):

-Knowledge is the recollection of the aquaintance that we had with the forms before our immortal souls became imprisoned in our bodies, and so the aim of the soul is to break free of the chains of matter and flee to the realm of ideas, where it will be able to spend eternity in contemplation of the true/beautiful/good

-The thinking being can survive without the physical body, as while it would not survive the death the soul would, and to Plato the soul is the real essens of a person, their personal identity which forms the "I"

-Allegory of the Cave: Prisoners in a cave since birth (people in the world) can only see the shadows of individuals walking past the cave (perceptions of those who believe empirical evidence), prisoners would play a "game" one whould guess correctly what it was a shadow of and be admired (Plato showing how someone can be considered "the master" if they have any empirical knowledge, actual being critical of them and saying they don't really know anything), one prisoners escapes and sees different reality realising previous ideas were wrong, and sees the sun as the source of life (Philosopher who seeks wisdom outside of just his senses), returns and tell the other but they refuse to believe him (shows people are scared/do not trust philosophers)

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Plato's Dualism (3):

-In relation to the allegory, Plato argued that before we were born we had knowledge of the Forms but we "forgot" and thus lost, this knowledge, however it is possible to grasp the forms again by asking the right questions, in other words through logic

-For Plato this was also an argument for the immortality of the soul and the distinction of the soul from the body

-Plato is teaching that humas need to become enlightened to free them from ignorance and darkness, but teachers cannot force this knowledge on people, the power and capicity of learning exists in the soul already

-Just as the eye was unablt to turn from darkness to light without the whole body, so too knowledge can be gained only by a person willingly seeking it, and eventually the search will lead to understanding of the Form of Good and people will turn from physical pleasures such as eating and drinking and concentrate on spiritual matters instead

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Life, Death and the Soul (5)

Plato's Dualism (4):

-Plato compared the soul to a charioteer in charge of two horses, with one being good and the other being badly behaved, representing Reason, Spirit and Desire

1. Reason: the most superior of all elements, it allows us to gain knowledge, distinguish right from wrong and to understand the Forms

2. Spirit: the second element allows us to love and inspires courage but if it is left unchecked, we can become reckless and conceited 

3. Desire: the most inferior element, it is necessary to encourage us to look after our bodies physical needs, but if left unchecked we can drift into hedonism and be no better than animals

-Plato gave the analogy to show how he though the three different strands worked together, he thought that a person should always allow reason and logic to take the lead rather than let the demands of emotion/appetite obscure wisdom

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Plato's Dualism (5):

-In his work "Phaedo", Plato puts into the mouth of Socrates his beliefs about immortality of the soul and the idea that even though he had been executed

-Socrates soul would live on after death and that it would continue to contemplate the Form of the Good

-Socrates argued that the soul contiues to live in a state where it has thoughts and intelligence and that after death, it is undisturbed by the distractions of its bodily demands and can therefore reach its highest state

-The soul is a life-giving essence and must therefore always have life, regardless of the death of the physical body

-"The body... takes away from us all power of thinking at all"

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Plato's Dualism (6):


1. Stephen Evans argues Plato offers a rational argument for the existence of another reality, which can be read off this world, even though not fully; this involves free choice

2. Bryan Magee argues that Plato's theoy of another world gives value and meaning to the present world

3. Antony Kenny gives a useful example that provides evidence to some extent of the different elements from the soul from a conflict between it: think of a young child throwing a tantrum, this shows the spirit and desire of the child not being directed by reason

4. Crimes people commit are clearly motivated by desire and spirit, and often lack a certain degree of reason show they perhaps are formed from disharmony in the soul

5. The implication of the above view is that vices such as the habit of stealing things is wrong because they destroy soul harmony, and prevent on from seeing the truth (Forms), and this is an argument in favour of doing the right thing because it is good, not for other motivations

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Plato's Dualism (7):


1. An indivisible entity might not be broken down any further but it can still diminish into nothingness, therefore, indivisibility is no necessary guarantee of survival as Plato and Aquinas thought

2.  Plato's account of the soul's immortality is dependent upon his theory of the Forms. But there is no proof that the Forms exist, if the Forms are rejected it becomes more difficult to assert the soul's independence of the body

3. The Bible's understanding of human immortality rejects the distinction between body and soul, in this sense the Biblical view of human beings is closer to that of Aristotle than it is to Plato

4. If what survives death includes nothing of our bodily experiences then that which survives our death would not include many of the things we consider ourselves to be.


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Aristotle's Soul Theory (1):

-Aristotle hoped to avoid the errors of Plato on one side and the materialists on the other. He wanted to find a middle path which retained the insights of both, for Plato, the soul exists independently of the body in which it is temporarily imprisoned, for the materialist there is no soul, for Aristotle, there is a soul but it is so closely united with the body that nothing can come between them

-Materialists, Aristotle believed, failed to do justice to the formal and final causes by which a soul animates and orders the life of a living thing, but equally Plato's abstract ‘soul’ belonging to the Forms failed to do justice to the evidence of sense experience

-All living things are embodied souls, body and soul together make the individual, when the body dies so too does the soul.

-Aristotle compared the unity of body and soul to the crest embossed on a wax seal, in that it is as impossible to separate the soul from the body as it is to detach the crest from the sealing-wax, for Aristotle, only that which contains God's own incorporeal reason survives, of the animals only humans possess such rational ability

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Aristotle's Soul Theory (2):

-For Aristotle, the soul is not immortal, it animates the body, it is its organising structure, it co-existent with the body but it remains constant throughout the ever-changing seasons of the body, the soul does not pre-exist the body nor does it post-date it and so can be explained entirely in natural terms

-When the body is dead so too is the soul which animated it, as both final and formal cause of the body you could say that the soul is something like the ‘function’ of the body, and what it does and what it potential might be, Aristotle expressed these views in his book De Anima, in which he argues that there are various kinds of animating souls depending upon the particular body or living things in the hierarchy of being

-Plants are able to get nourishment for themselves and ensure their own reproduction so have what he called a ‘nutritive’ soul, animals and humans can do this too so their soul include this nutritive element, but, animals (including humans) have what Aristotle called ‘perceptive’ souls meaning that they are able to experience the world and respond to basic stimuli, like responding to pleasure and pain

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Aristotle's Soul Theory (3):

-Of all the animals, however, humans are unique in that they have a rational soul and can recognise the difference between right and wrong, Aristotle makes a distinction between the outward appearance of something, such as my body, which he called the ‘accident’ and the inner structure or animating function of a thing which he called ‘substance

-My identity remains the same throughout my life because I have a common substance or soul which animates me throughout all the changes which, from birth, through teenage life, adulthood and old age, my body goes through, the accident of my appearance changes but I maintain my identity because I am the same substance, I have the same animating structure or formal cause throughout my life

-For Aristotle, the soul is the Efficient Cause of the body in that it brings about movement in the body; it is the Formal cause of the body in that it gives the body the organising structure that makes it the particular body it is, giving me my identity and the soul is the Final Cause of the body in that that it draws it forward to fulfil its rational function (to reason and to act virtuously), yet, the soul is not separate from the body, and when the body dies the soul which animated it dies too

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Aristotle's Soul Theory (4):


1. Aristotle's theory can be defended because it derived from reflection on his studies of the natural world, and this could be seen as a strength of Aristotle's Four Causes compared with Plato's Forms, which are not observable in the physical world

2. The Four Causes can be readily applied to things that exists within the world as way of explaing them

3. His views were substantially influential to Christianity, and Aquinas incorporated a number of his ideas into his work, including creating the Cosmological Arguments and the transcendent Prime Mover who Aristotle refers to is frequently used by Aquinas in his work, so although Plato's idea of the soul is more appealing to Christians who want something to go to the afterlife, Aristotle's view has it's place in Christian tradition

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Aristotle's Soul Theory (5):


1. Aristotle attempts to move between materialism and dualism but as a result can be criticised from both sides

2. Materialists claim that the notion of formal cause or an essential self is simply a way of talking and represents nothing other than functions of the material body

3. Dualists would point out that Aristotle offers no hope for personal survival

4. Other options for belief in life after death are available outside the Greek tradition which does take seriously our material being but which offers more hope than Aristotle for personal survival, namely the Biblical view of resurrection

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John Hick's Views (1):

-Rejects the traditional belief in body-soul dualism by adopting a materialist position (humans consist of physical matter alone), and he contends that this does not weaken the possibility of life after death

-When we describe our soul, Hick believed that we were describing mental characteristics/ personality traits, and his view of personal identit is that a person is more than mental processes, a person includes both the physical and the mental and the Human is therefore a psycho-physical unity, and talking about the soul is describing what a person does or their "behavioural dispositions"-what they are likely to do

-The soul expresses value of humans, SOS (Save Our Souls!) we are not expecting a ghostly substance to be saved, but our whole character, also Traducianism, early Christian teaching that souls were passed down from parents rather than uniquely implanted by God (from 3rd century Tertullian)

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John Hick's Views (2):

-This idea seems more in keeping with modern science and fits in with Hick's idea that the soul does not refer to an extra something implanted by God

-What lives after death is a replica or a duplicate and the replica comes to life in heaven as an exact copy of the person who lived and died on earth

-God creates this replica to live on after death

-The important thing to remember about John Hick's "Replica theory" is the distinction he makes between logical possibility and factual possibility, he himself claims that his theory is not factually possible, but suggests that changes in the way matter functions could make it factually possible, 

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John Hick's Views (3):

-Hick sets up three scenarios through which he attempts to demonstrate that resurrection of the person is a logically possible hypothesis:

1. A man is at a conference in London and during the blinking of his eyes finds himself transported to a conference in New York, he has continuity of the body/memory/personality (same person) which is verified by friends of his from London who travel to New York to see him-instead of a sudden appearence there is a sudden death, and now the man in New York is an exact "replica", and now there is a living counterpart of a dead man in another country

2. A person dies and is "replicated" in another world which is populated with other dead persons who have been "replicated", it is God who brings this resurrection/replication about

3. Hick's replica theory: suggests that it is logically possible for there to exist a seperate world populated by resurrected persons ("replicas") who are brought back to life by God, he uses three examples to show that logically (not factually) this can happen, but being resurrected is quite different to merely being transported from say, London to New York

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John Hick's Views (4):

-Hick argued that the replica and the original person cannot exist at the same time, as the persons are individuals, for the replica to be you it has to be individual

-Hick argued that if the replica had the same "consciousness, memory, emotion and volition" as the original person, it is logical to identify the replica as the same individual as the original person

-However for some philosophers what matters is the physical continuity of the person through life, a person doesn't just consist of Hick's list but also the fact that they are linked to the same physical body throughout life, if the body's life ends then the unity with that person ends

-Hick insists to this there is continuity because the replica has all these traits and there can only ever be one replica of an individual, however if physical continuity of the body is important than replica theory is problematic

-Hick rejects that there can be multiple replicas as like any form of life after death, no has experienced it to know what it is like, but Hick does postulate to the suggestion of illnesses being passed on to the replica that a healing process may take place between replication

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John Hick's views (5):

-Religious belief carries a "cosmic optimism" that one day we will have the chance to improve ourselves, become more perfect and overcome problems we could not overcome on earth

-In Eastern traditions, this is understood in terms of the constants rebirths into the physical world, whereas in the western tradition it is understood in terms of eternal life in Heaven/Hell

-Hick argues that if in our life after death we have improved greatly, we would be able to see the suffering we faced more clearly and we might be able to understand what it was all for and what progress we have made as a result

-He accepts the idea of life after death is not proveable but argues that it is not an unreasonable belief and that if we do continue this journey of progress/development after death, this provides a coherent explanation for the problem of evil in the world

-He rejects the doctinre of hell because he sees this belief as incompatible with belief in a God of love and argues that this belief was developed as a form of social control, encouraging people not to disobey God or fear eternal punishment, the body and soul in his view is inseperable and if there is to be life after death for the soul, the body has to be resurrected

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John Hick's Views (6):


1. Stronger than Dualism due to Gilbert Ryle's criticism not applying here, Hick himself commented on this; "There is no mysterious "Ghost in the Machine""

2. Compatible with some extent to the Christian view, St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 taught that after death the body will be raised, but it will be transformed and will become a spiritual body, as unlike its earthly form as the seed is from the plant into which it grows, and this is one way to explain how an individual keeps the personal identity that they had in life but is able to achieve eternal life in a bodily form, Hick argues close to his Replica Theory

3. Unlike Plato or Aristotle, he does not posit ideas about a soul of any form, and therefore does not have to subsquently verify one

4. Hick's theory challenges the conflicting claims argument of different religions, as everyone goes to heaven, Buddhists as well as theists

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John Hick's Views (7):


1. Don Cupitt points out that Hick’s argument requires God to make the replication (resurrection/reincarnation) happen, and this means that Hick’s views on life after death ultimately rest on faith in a real God, yet this faith, Hick notes elsewhere is only justified true on the basis that it can be verified eschatological (after death)

2. Brian Davis notes that being told on his death bed not to worry because a replica of him will be made when he has died would not be of much comfort to him, knowing that a replica of him will be doing the things he once did is not the same, as doing those things yourself-“For the continued existence of the person,” Davis writes, “more is required than replication”

3. To some philosophers (D.Z Philips) there is too much suffering, evil a necessary thing willed by God with the aim of developing human souls, but this never justifies terrible acts

4. Vardy challenges Hick, as Hick argues if he thought of himself and other did too this makes him the same person, but is this enough? Vardy believes replica theory does not get over this break in continuity and therefore the replica is not the same person

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1. Hard Materialism: Do not accept that an individual's characteristics are anything more than physical ones, any ideas of consciousness is nothing more than brain activity, the mind cannot be seperated from the body and when the mind dies so does the brain

2. Soft Materialism: Do not accept all characteristics are physical ones, conscsiousness is more than just a brain process, the mind and body are related and do not act indepedently of each other, but the body often displays inner emotions, there is nothing that we can do independent of our bodies so therefore our identity must involve our bodies, since without them we cannot be fully identified, like with Hard Materialism when the body dies so does the mind

-Materialists consider there is no scientific evidence for a soul, and that such an area would prove impossible to scientific study so humans will never know if it exists or not, the body is matter alone so there cannot be a soul, and because of this when the body dies and subsuquently the destruction of the brain/nervous system takes place, they argue life ends in death as without a physical form of sorts life cannot be supported

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Richard Dawkin's View (1):

-Dawkins is a materialist who believed that human beings are bytes of digital information, there is no soul or consciousness as we are the sum total of our genes, he concentrates largely on the idea that humans are merely carries of information/DNA

-For Dawkins the only conceivable theory is that of evolution, we are we are because of our genetic makeup, not the efforts of our soul to guide us towards the realm of ideas each change due to evolution, there is no soul which continues, there is only the survival of DNA, the function of life, Dawkins strongly rejects the notion of the soul in the religious/Platonic sense but does suggest that there may be a place for talking about a soul in a metaphoric/symbolic way

-Soul 1: traditional view of a principle of life, a real seperate thing that is spiritual and contains personality, Dawkins rejects this

-Soul 2: as defined by the OED, refers to "intellectual or spiritual power. High development of the mental faculties. Deep feeling and sensitivity." Dawkins argues that this is a meaningful way of describing ourselves provided we are clear this does not refer to a seperate thing (Dawkins is a soft materialist)

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Richard Dawkins' View (2):

-He argues that the consolation religion provides can only truly be consolidated if religion was true and we were able to survive death, Dawkins contends that death should be feared and that it is merely the "extinguishing" of our consciousness and will be no different to the time before we were born, "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world"

-In his book The Selfish Gene (1976) he proposes that humans are nothing more than "survival machines", they are vehicles of genes which are only interested in replicating themselves in order to survive into the next generation, he deems that humans do not have immortal souls and instead are simply a mixture of chemicals-"life is just bytes and bytes and bytes"

-Human self-awareness is not due to the soul but has developed because self-awareness has evolutionary advantages, and he argues (like Betrand Russell did) belief in ideas such as immortality of the soul has no sound basis as they are based on wish-fulfilment for those who lack courage or fear death, materialists believe that consciousness is no more than electro-chemical events within the brain and person is capable of surviving brain death, therefore physical death is the end

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Richard Dawkin's View (3):


1. No evidence for a soul and this clearly supports his theory

2. Argument for atheism to some extent, however does promote idea of not having to worry about afterlife because there is no God

3. Ryle's support Dawkins criticisms of Soul 1 with as the "dogma of the Ghost in the Machine"

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Richard Dawkin's View (4):


1. Alister McGrath noted that the basis of his criticism of religion is unsound because it only criticises the extreme, that he encourages the development of such extremes by suggesting that that there is no middle ground between militant atheism and creationist fundamentalism, in that he does not take this middle ground seriously he is guilty of atheistic fundamentalism

2. Dawkins only has authority when he speaks from his expertise as a scientist, scientists deal with things in the natural world, life after death if it is a reality at all is a reality of the supernatural world so Dawkins has no more expertise than anyone else and speaks not as a scientist in his denial of life after death but as just another individual

3. Dawkins' theory about evolution and the selfish gene, however, does not explain things like emotions, according to his theory, emotions would be a mistake since they are usually inefficient, and often only get in the way of genetic progress

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Gilbert Ryle's View (1):

-A particularly influential form of behaviourism is "logical behaviourism", which is based on use of language, and this was presented by Gilbert Ryle in the Concept of the Mind (1949)

-He suggests that to speak of minds and bodies as though they were equivalent things is a "category mistake", to explain what he means by this uses the example of a individual seeing a university and seeinf all the different buildings and asking "But where is the university?"-the term "university" is used to describe all these things together, it is a term from another category, not the same category as the individual components

-In the same way Ryle argued that that you should not expect to find a "mind" over and above all the various parts of the body and its actions, for "mind" is a term from another category, a way of describing bodies and the way in which they operate

-This he claims is the fundamental flaw in the traditional dualistic approach to the mind and body (which he attributes to Descartes and terms the "ghost in the machine"): "Thus a purchaser may say that he bought a left-hand glove, and a right-hand glove, but not that he bought a lef-hand glove, a right-hand glove and a pair of gloves...Now the dogma of the Ghost in the Machine does just this"

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Gilbert Ryle's View (2)

-Ryle primarily concerned with language: book is about speaking about mind, and when we speak about the mind of another person we are not caliming to have any privelaged information about their inner mental operations: all we are actually describing are activities performed by their body

-If Ryle is correct and there is no inner-self to be found, then what does a personality consist of?-his answer is in terms of "dispositions", and these are qualities that make individuals what they are, the propensity to behave in a particular way in a particular situation, the sort of beliefs and knowledge that habitually inform my actions and words

-Therefore for Ryle the ascription of mental predicates (clever etc) does not require the existence of a seperate invisible thing called a mind, and the description "clever" indeed refers to the way in which something can be done, but it cannot be defined in terms of an action (clever means different things to different people) and the mental description refers more to the way in which the individual person habitually relates to the world

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Descartes Mind-Body Dualism (1):

-Rene Descartes starting point in the quest for knowledge: "I think therefore I am" implied a radical distinction between the world of matter, known to the senses, and the world of thought, known directly, there are two different realms; distinct but interacting

-Descartes recognized that the mind is able to control the mechanical working of the body, and therefore needed to find some point of interaction between mind/body, because in all other respects he considered the body to be controlled by mechanical forces

-Descartes suggested that it was done through the "pineal glad", a part of the brain sitting conveniently between the right and left hemispheres, for which he could find no other function

-Essential thing for Descartes is that mental reality is not empirical and therefore not in the world of space, the mind is not located in the body (it is not the same thing as the brain)

-He arrived at Absolute Dualism between the physical world and himself as a thinking thing, simply because his own act of thinking was the one he could not doubt

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Descartes Mind-Body Dualism (2):

-Notice how clearly radical change came about with Descartes

1. The "Forms" of Plato were out there in the world, although they were capable of being understood by the rational mind, the Greek term used for "Form" was "idea"

2. The distinctive thing about human reason was that it was able to appreciate the "idea" rather than just responding to the particular thing that confronted it

3. By contrast, Descartes' "ideas" were in the mind, not out there in the world waiting to be grasped, and he viewed them as contents of the mind

-Descartes therefore introduced a radical dualism of mind and body, with all feelings, sensations and thoughts on one side (things known only to the people experiencing them) and the physical (publicly observable) body on the other

-This was not the mind/body dualism of the Greeks, nor of Christian belief, but this radical "Cartesian Dualism" soon came to cominate philosophical debate

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Descartes Mind-Body Dualism (3):


1. Body can affect the state of one's consciousness (body lack food/oxygen the mind will become muddled) and vice versa (emotions such as love may cause a physical change), and in this sense Descartes is clear in that mind and body must interact with one another in some way in order to make sense of our everyday experiences

2. Geulinx, a Dutch follower of Descartes, expanded upon his dualism with the theory of pre-established harmony, in that both mind and the body are independent and run together in harmony, based on the idea of "monads": simple entities without extension and therefore mental

3. H.H Price supports and built on Descartes Dualism, arguing that mental processes and bodily processes are very different, and that we have a special access to our mental processes which we do not have with our bodily processes, while the body is always present in a particular time, the body may be deformed but the mind may be excellent, and the two are clearly distinct entities

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Descartes Mind-Body Dualism (4):


1. Radically different nature of mind and body makes it difficult for Descartes to establish a point of contact, his radical dualism is unable to account for the normal interactions between the physical and mental aspects of our experience

2. Can be argued Descartes himself did not take his theory seriously enough because he tried to interject it into one tiny physical point (the pineal gland) which was boht part of the physical and mental realms, we know that minds and bodies interact (though leads to action etc) yet radical dualism allows for no mechanism by which this can happen

3. Causal closure of the physical universe: the material world is causally closed i.e. immaterial minds cannot affect the material world, physical energy cannot simply appear out of thin air (which is implied by substance dualists when a 'mental state causes a physical state')

4. Gilbert Ryle specifically targeted Descartes Dualism as the "official view", argued he was making a category mistake by assuming there was something seperate to the body doing the thinking, used example of university to illustrate incoherency and the "Ghost in the Machine"

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Spinoza's Double-aspect theory:

-Benedict Spinoza established the  vaugely materialist "double-aspect theory" and is sometimes referred to as the "identity hypothesis", according to this theory ideas and brain activity are simply two aspects of the same thing (thinking is the inner aspect of which brain activity is the outer aspect)

-Spinoza argued that everything is both conscious and extended; all reality has both a mental and a physical aspect, the mind and body cannot be seperated and therefore there can be no life beyond physical existence, conscious and extended are not two finite substances like in Descartes' theory but attributes of one infinite substance (God)

-Spinoza also held that free will was an illusion, caused by the fact that we simply do not know all the real causes of our decisions

-Strength: Ultimately builds up to supporting the idea that God is the infinite substance of everything, and Christian tradition as well as the work of William Paley support this idea

-Weakness: Richard Rorty argues this leads to private sensations detaching emotions from individuals, and this then leads to questions on how it relates to their physical bodies

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Ressurection (1):

-Resurrection: the belief in an afterlife that involves the embodied existence of individuals, this belief is central to Christian beliefs and based on the belief that Jesus rose from the dead and it reveals some important points:

 1. Jesus not only dies for people, he also rises from the dead

2. Jesus is somehow changed and different – his followers do not recognise him at first and his body is changed

3. Jesus is not described as a ghost or vision; he is risen from the dead physically, but his body is transformed and different

-It is interpreted by Christians as a sign that death is not the end of human existence and that God does not abandon people, even when they are dying - “God will bring with him those who have died” 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-14

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Resurrection (2):

-Peter Geach suggests that resurrection is the only meaningful way in which one can speak of life after death and he states this based on the grounds that a person could not be meaningfully identified with a spiritual existence after death, according to traditional Christian belief, the resurrection of body occurs at the end of time when Jesus returns:

1.The Bible indicates that the dead in Christ will rise first followed by those who are still alive at the time of his coming (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

2. Many Christians would argue that although the body dies, the soul is immediately united with God and they point to Biblical materials such as the story of the thief on the cross with Jesus when he promised that he would be with him in paradise that day

3. Catholic Christians believe that most souls go to purgatory where they experience punishment or purification in order to prepare them for the beatific vision, these souls are then ready to be united with a resurrection body

4. The timeless beatific vision is the final end of humans and it is the state which St. Paul described as when we ‘see him face to face’

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Resurrection (3):


1. Scriptual support heavily within the Christian tradition, Jewish leaders at Jesus' time believed in judgement day, Islam also believes that Allah will erect the scales of justice near Mecca and resurrect all who ever lived to face their final judgement (22 The Pilgrimage 1-2, The Criterion, 25), hence why they are burder in their ihram (simple white clothes) and before this day the souls of dead Muslism wait in barzakh until Allah reunites them with their bodies for judgement

2. Tom Wright has argued for the historical trustworthiness of the Christian tradition about the resurrection of Jesus, he points out that empty tomb makes it clear that the appearences were not mere hallucinations and the appearences make it clear that the reason for the tomb being, and it is also not possible to explain the transformation of the disciples if Jesus had not actually risen from the dead, Wright concludes that the resurrection of Jesus is a real historical event and so the same will now happen to the rest of humanity

3. John Hick's Replica theory incorporates resurrection as a potential method that replication happens as well as justifying it to some extent in his theory

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Resurrection (4):


1. The idea of resurrected bodies created difficulties since bodies take up room so death must therefore take place in some kind of space – where is it?, implies heaven is physical

 2. Would we still have human needs such as clothing and food?

3. In resurrected bodies, would people still have disabilities or imperfections?

4. Rudolph Bultmann argues the Bible should not be taken literally and should be demythologised, resurrection of Jesus is more about the various forms of renewal in this life (Jesus living raised life allowed him to face realities of life/death without fear) than it is about our divine destiny beyond death

5. Peter Van Inwagen argues through the Analogy of St. Augustine's Manuscript (burned back in 457 by Arians, monks find it in 458 and God miraculosly recreated it), however he argues it is not the same manuscript because the impression of the rearranged atoms to create it is God and not the maunscript's intially existence, and the same applies for humanity

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Reincarnation (1):

Key terms:

-Atman: the eternal self, the equivalent of a soul

-Samsara: the eternal cycle of birth, death and reincarnation

-Karma: the consequences of one's actions, both good and bad

-Brahman (Hinduism): the ultimate reality; the one God revealed through many avatars such as Vishnu/Shiva

-Moshka: union with Brahman, the ultimate reality and final escape from samsara

-Jivanmukta: holy man who believes they are at such a state of enlightenment, that they have seen their past lives

-Reincarnation is a dualist theory of life after death, which depends upon an eternal self that suceeds a mortal, physical body, the word reincarnation means to take on flesh again

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Reincarnation (2):

-Those who believe in reincarnation believe that the atman leavs the body at the point of death and attaches itself to another body, this is known as transmigration of the soul, or metempsyhchosis, therefore each of has a soul that existed for a considerable length of time

-The theory also states that because of the trauam of death/birth, the memories of each life are not easy to find, as they are buried deep in the unconscious mind, and it is a major step on the journey to moshka when one discovers one's past lives through meditation/yoga

-The basic concept of the theory is that your actions/thought/speech in any one existence (your karma) have a direct influence in what happenes to you in your next existence, if you live well you gain an improved reincarnation, if you live badly you can expect to suffer the consequences of this in your next life

-One interesting aspect is it's relation to theodicy and the problem of evil, as many religions claim that God creates unique souls for each body, and if this is the case God may be viewed as cruel as there is clear inequality across the human population, if God creates souls for each body he creates some souls for wealth/pleasure and other for poverty/misery, this paradox has been explained by the theodicy of Irenaeus, but nevertheless presents a problem for God

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Reincarnation (3):


1. Provides a good explanation for the presence of inequality across the human population: all suffering is a consequence of our own misdeeds, just as success is a consequence of good conduct

2. Resolves the issue of the creation of unique and individual souls that only experience misery

3. Exaplains infant geniuses and natural instincts (although this can be further explained by genetics)

4. Dr. Ian Stevenson collected over 3000 cases of children verifying their reincarnation not under hypnosis using statements from the children, and then matches the person from the child's memory, going so far as to match birthmarks and birth defects, and his methods are highly objective and strictly scientific, scholars and sceptics today claiming he provides the best evidence for reincarnation yet

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Reincarnation (4):


1. The steady growth in the world's population present a problem; are new souls created somewhere to enter the process of samsara? This criticism can be counter-argued: souls move from the animal/plant world and souls move out of human existence because of misdeeds

2. The theory is entirely metaphysical and cannot be verified

3. Cases that are reported could be fraud or Cryptomnesis (remember a fact but actually heard it from another source e.g parents, media)

4.Swinburne rejects reincarnation because there is no continuity between the brain of a new baby and the old person who died, there is no way of saying that the soul is distinctively the soul of a particular person

5. Davis rejects it as he questions connection is between the person suffering/t heir past life, if the person suffering now has no memories of a past life and link is only the immaterial soul, how is it just the person suffers from sins committed by a different person in a previous life?

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Rebirth (1):

-Buddhists do not believe in reincarnation, this depends upon the belief in an unchanging self (atman), which they disagree with, central to Buddhist idea about life is the principle that everything in the world is in a constant state of change and that as a result there is no permanent self

-Buddhism rejects the idea of a seperate soul that can be thought of as eternal/immutable, therefore it finds itself in opposition not only to Christian teaching, but also to the teaching of Hinduism, however Buddhists do believe there is a self, a consciousness which depends for its existence upon the flow of time; meaning that there is a self which is produced by a reaction to events/experiences in the past/present/future, and this self will eventually stop "re-becoming" when it attains to nirvana

-An important part of Buddha's teaching is that life involves suffering, and this suffering is caused by carving/desire, the Buddha's teaching (the dharma) is largely to do with overcoming craving, and it is believed by Buddhists that the last moments of a person's life will determin what happens to the self

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Rebirth (2):

-The self then is rather like a life-force or a desire to keep on living that is created by our conscious selves as they go on living/experiencing the world around them, when we are confronted with the idea that one day we will not exist, this creates a desire to go on living and existing (if there is something we have yet to achieve yet, unresolved business)

-Buddhism sees life as a stream of consciousness that eventually ceases upon the attainment of nirvana, the consciousness ceases when a person dies the psycho-physical unity of the mind and body is dissolved, it is propelled on to another human/life-force by the desire to live, this desire can be fuelled by many different emotions (love, anger) all of which will have some kind of effect on the next existence the self attaches itself to an embryo and has no memories

-Buddhism tries to each one to let go of the self and live a life that is free form craving/desire, and only when a person is free from desire that they can escape the cycle of birth/death/rebecoming, it is for this reason that the last few moments are as free from cravings as possible, which may mean leaving a dying man alone for a few moments

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Rebirth (3):


1. The emphasis within Buddhism of living a life free from focus upon the self to attain nirvana does enable people to live lives that are fulfilling and free from materialism that seems to dominate our existences

2. The doctrine of rebecoming forces the believer to consider the consequences of their actions and the notion that this might have negative implications for their next life

3. This theory offers an explanation for the desire to exist that is unquestionably present in all of us

4. Elements of Buddhism that give rise to the doctrine of rebirth are all observed empirically; such as dukkha and anicca

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Rebirth (4):

1. Remains difficult to prove any theory that depends upon a meta-physical element of any kind

2. Despite significant anecdotal evidence of memories of past lives, this does not prove the  survival of any psychical element of self (John Hick has suggested that a "physical husk" of a person, consisting of basic memories etc might survive their death and which can be accessed by living persons

3. Rebirth provides no real incentive to conduct an ethical life, as the self that lives on has absolutely no conscious connection to the person whatsoever, unlike the belief in atman, the permanent and eternal self

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Questions surronding the nature of disembodied existence (1):

-There does seem to be a number of difference between the body and the idea we have of the mind or soul, one is extended in space and time the other is not, the body can be deformed but the mind remains unchanged, no scientist has yet explained satisfactorily how it is that the brain can produce mind

-Perhaps the two are independent entities and the mind/soul can exist independent of the body as Plato, Descartes and Price suggest, against Descartes Freud has suggested that the mind is divisible and Descartes does not give an adequate account of how the mind and the body are joined, the idea of disembodied existence is incoherent because it fails to take account of mental degeneration such as boredom and madness, and it is not always the case the a damaged body leaves the mind unchanged, memory is a mental phenomena but some memories are painful

-It creates problems of identity, how do we identify each other or ourselves without a body?, this question of personal identity after death is perhaps the most significant question of philosophical problem with the idea of some form of disembodied existence after death

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Questions surronding the nature of disembodied existence (2):

-Another problem arises when we consider how a disembodied existence can relate to its previous embodied self and to those in this life which it had known in a body, how for example, would you recognises even your own parents without anyone having a body?

-Bernard Williams argues that our personal identity depends on bodily continuity, our identity is largely determined by our bodily interactions with the world our bodies are essential features for determining who we are, when the body dies and has ceased to be we no longer have an individual identity, who we are owes so much to our having a body that it seems impossible to maintain that a human person can continue to exist without a body

-The continuity, identity and relationships of a person require that that person has a body, it is thus difficult to imagine what a person after death would be like without a body, how could such an entity be the person it once was?

-Williams also argues that any form of eternal survival would soon lose its attractiveness, when we have all the time in the world to do anything we want to we would soon get bored, we would eventually achieve our targets and then what?

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Argument for the existence of an afterlife:

-Near Death Experiences are common amongst resuscitated patients – may mean we are more than just physical beings (Raymond Moody studied NDE and found a set pattern, including elements like sense of bliss, dead relatives and friends waiting at the end of the tunnel and being told it was not their "time to die" before returning to their physical bodies)

-Paranormal experiences such as ESP, mediums and psychics

-Hicks’ replica theory : seeks to establish that Life after Death is a logical possibility regardless of whether humans have souls or not

-Some people are able to recall details of past lives (Reincarnation, Dr. Ian Stevenson)

-Moral perfection requires an afterlife (summum bonum) – Kant

-Evidence for ghostly activity shows that a person’s spirit lives on after physical death (Dr. Deepak Chopra pointed out that bodies are made of energy, and considered ghosts to be and invidual's consciousness manifesting itself through remaining energy)

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Arguments against a belief in life after death:

-Anthony Flew in his essay ‘Can a Man Witness His Own Funeral?’ argues that people are mortal and that the minds of humans are united to a physical body and the body is mortal, he explains ‘people are what you meet’ i.e. we talk of physical people, not the disembodied soul, talk of life after death is ‘self-contradictory’ – it makes no sense

-Bertrand Russell sees belief in the afterlife as wishful thinking – “all that constitutes a person is a series of experiences connected by memory and by certain similarities of the sort we call habit.”

-Hume argues that due to the fragility of the mind, it is more likely to be destroyed by death rather than survive it

-There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that people do survive death

-Mental processes do not survive death – they cease activity

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Concept of Heaven and Hell (1):

-In Christian tradition believe in a state of existence with God after death called heaven (see God face-to-face, Beautific vision) and a state of punishment called hell, belief came from first followers of Jesus who witnessed Jesus' death/resurrection and also St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12

-Heaven also described as a state of fulfilment (place in which all human longings/wishes are to be in a right relationship with god) and is seen as the ultimate goal of human existence, Roman Catholics/Orthodox Christians believe it is achieved through goof actions in life

-Hell is traditionally characterised by two features; state of seperation from God/place of punishment by God, conventional imagery originate from Dante's work and John Milton's Paradise Lost, Hell is a state of suffering for wicked people who have lost their chance for the beautific vision with God, and in most Christian teaching hell is interpreted as an aspect of God's justice, people who do wrong deserve to be punished and it is through their wrong actions that people bring punishment on themselves

-Images of Hell whoever do not convey idea of a loving God, and many theologians (such as John Hick) consider the entire concept to be highly unjust

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Concept of Heaven and Hell (2):

-Issue with hell is if it is a place of physical torment, where is it? Other writers prefer to focus on hell as a state of seperation/loneliness from both God and other people that is caused by a person becoming aware of other's "judgement" upon them

-Aquinas argues hell was for mortal sin, which is the most serious type of sin within the Catholic tradition (e.g murder), Aquinas maintains seperation there reflects seperation from community on earth

-Purgatory: Traditional Christian belief in a place where all people who die in a relationship with God, but who are not yet perfect, are purified after death-still an image of suffering but with intent of purifying people for wrongdoings in their life, beliefs derives from Bible (2 Maccabees 12:46) and also prominent part of medieval teaching at the Council of Trent and Florence

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Heaven, Hell and the problem of evil (1):

-Many Christian theodicies (Augustine/Irenaeus) place great emphasis on the role of free will as an explanation for the existence of evil, challenge to this is why do wrongdoers thrive and good people suffer in the world?

-For some, justification of the situation comes from the belief that ultimately God holds everyone accountable and judges them according to their actions so evil epeople will be punished, on key aspect of this is that god accepts people as they really are (e.g live a good life go to heaven, choose to lead bad life in disharmony with others, punished with hell)

-God does not want people to got to hell, but people through their actions choose hell as thier fate: "God does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance" (Council of Trent 1547), God will try to forgive you if you repenet, but you end up in hell if you continue evil ways and never repent what you have done

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Heaven, hell and the problem of evil (2):

-If God does not judge people, two challenges arise to theodicies:

1. The value of free will is undermined, as free will would become a licence to do what you like without the constraint of judgement

-However, undermined by humanists/atheists who do good without ideology, Swinburne argues if God did not let humans have the option to develop into bad people it would be real free will

2. If God has the power to judge people and the knowledge of what people have done, then his goodness/justice can be challenged if he fails to carry it out-Divine Judgement is only meaningful if it is carried out

-Although some modern theologians have argued that God's mercy demands that all people are purified and forgiven by God, Swinburne notes universal salvation was unheard of before modern times, and also many theodicies rely on the concept of God judging people as the basis of moral responsibility

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Predistination/Divine Election:

-Some Christians believe in Divine Election, and this has led people to believe in Predestination, John Calvin created the Doctrine of Divine Election which meant some people were destined for a relationship with God whereas others were not

-Whether or not an individual goes to hell is a matter of human choice, but Calvin chiefly argues that God's elect is a matter for the omnipotent and omniscient God to decide, and is therefore a mystery to humans

-Calvin's doctrine became associated with Predestination (in that some people are destined for eternal life and others are not and this is part of the mystery of human existence

-Among some protestant groups who are offshoots of Calvinism (e.g Theodore de Beze) the doctrine of Predestination became an important article of belief separating Catholics and Lutherans from other Protestants

-Some support for the belief can be found in the Bible in the Book of Revelations, which refers to the 144,000 servants of God (Revelation 7:12) who are to be saved

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Afterlife and the problem of evil (1):

-Irenaen Theodicy (1): he did not attempt to show that evil and suffering  do not exist; he admitted that God appears to have allowed them to continue, God allows evil and suffering to have a place in the world and he allows a mixture of good and evil so that human beings can grow and develop into a free relationship with God, 

 -There had to be evil in the world for us to appreciate good, good is qualitative so we need there to be other ‘less goods’ to compare it to, we have to have evil in the world in order for us to develop and grow and we must learn from mistakes by persevering and having patience

-Evil and suffering in the world are not just mistakes, they are part of the design of God’s original intention (even if God had planned it slightly differently!)

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Afterlife and the problem of evil (2):

-Irenaen Theodicy (2)When God made humans in his ‘own image and likeness,’ this had to include giving them free will, whether the choices made were selfish/God-like, obedient or not, God made us in his own image but we have to grow into his likeness by using our freedom to do good and reach our potential

-This can only be achieved if we overcome difficulties, cope with our imperfections and resist the temptation to do wrong, the earth is a ‘soul-making place’ in which we must develop

-If God stepped in every time we made a wrong choice and put it right then this would remove our choices and prevent us from learning, humans are not made from the start in the likeness of God because this can only happen after death when we have fully developed

-Evil and suffering necessary, they are part of God’s plan for us, suffering should be endured because even if we cannot see the reason for it, we should understand that it is necessary to bring us closer to God to enable God to complete his purposes.

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Afterlife and the problem of evil (3):

-Augustine's Theodicy: Based on two premises:

 1. Evil did not come from God, since God’s creation was faultless  and perfect (no deliberate imperfections - “God saw all that he had made, and it was good”)

2. Evil has come from elsewhere and God is justified in allowing it to stay

-Evil came from the world, not God, Augustine described evil as “privatio boni” – a privation of good, hierarchy found in the created world (angels at top), evil came into the world through the fall of the angels, they were perfect but some received less grace (help given by God to become holy) due to the variety of things

-They fell because they misused free will, Adam then repeated this and so evil has followed up here, leading to Augustine's statement Free will is the cause of our doing evil...”

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Afterlife and the problem of evil (4):

-Philosophically, Kant’s notion of the summum bonum expresses the common sense notion that if goodness is commanded, it ought to be achievable and good actions should be rewarded however, this does not always happen in this life, both the Augustinian and Irenaean theodicies require a belief in the afterlife. they both rely on the notion of free will and this in turn seems to require the idea of rewards and punishments if there is to be justice in the world

-Augustine: Death is a consequence of sin – had the first human beings not sinned, there would be no death, all human beings deserve suffering due to original sin, but God redeems the believer through Christ’s work, in his book ‘The City of God,’ Augustine theology of the resurrection includes the idea of the damned being embodied/burning forever in literal flames

-Augustine’s idea has two main weaknesses: 1.Many modern thinkers find the idea of hell immoral (Hick) so it is questionable whether God is morally justified in allowing an infinite punishment for a finite amount of sin, 2. Augustine’s view on heaven and hell are further damaged by his belief that God predestines some to be saved, this seems to be unjust and contradicts his view that humans have genuine free will

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Afterlife and the problem of evil (5):

-IrenaeusHe regards the initial state of creation of God as being in a state of immaturity like that of an innocent child, our life on earth enables growth through our experience of suffering, this leads humans to reach ultimate happiness, where they are able to see and know God


-Hick: has developed the idea of ‘soul-making’ and argued for the idea of universalism, he argues that the idea of hell is not to be understood literally and that a benevolent God could not eternally punish people.

-Swinburne: argues that death is an essential part of a reasonable theodicy and it is only if our choices are limited by time that they acquire significance, he contended that if there will be always be another chance, what we do does not matter because this unlimited freedom has to include the possibility of damning ourselves to hell by our own actions

-D.Z. Philips: rejected soul making theodicies as they involve an instrumental use of evil by God, argued it cannot be morally right for a good God to permit evil, often on a massive scale, in order to bring about future good, he also argued that eternal life in heaven may be compensation but it does not correct the immorality, he did not believe in personal life after death

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Afterlife and the problem of evil (6):

-Much of what makes our quality of life lies outside our control such as inherited traits, social setting and status, all of which can lead to inequalities and potential injustices, this may impact on our ability to lead a ‘good’ life.

-Reincarnation may solve this issue as it suggests that our situation is not random but the direct result of the law of karma, our actions in previous lives have led directly to the situation we are now in, however there are difficulties with this solution

-Reincarnation could be seen not as a solution to the problem of evil but a postponement of it, if we follow the causal chain and explain our present life in terms of the previous one and so on, the question arises as to how we explain our situation in our first life

-The suggestion that we suffer directly for our individual past actions is plausible according to a basic theory of reincarnation, however, in Vedantic Hinduism and Buddhism, it is taught that the idea of ‘self; is an illusion, if there is no ‘self,’ then it seems wrong that individuals should be rewarded or punished

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Ricardo Huxley

Thank you so much, this a great resource :)

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