Who said what?

  • Created by: VHolland
  • Created on: 16-03-16 20:08

RL - AJ Ayer

·       ‘the criterion we use to test the genuineness of apparent statements of fact is the criterion of verifiability’

·       If a statement is not verifiable then it is meaningless or a tautology

·       By meaningless, Ayer meant it was not ‘factually significant’

·       Ayer did not deny that people make other types of statement that are important to them, just that such unverifiable statements have no factual significance

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RL - Richard Swinburne

       Richard Swinburne argues that there are propositions which no-one knows how to verify but still are not meaningless. He gives the example of toys which come out of their cupboard at night and dance around. No observation could ever establish this as truth, but it’s not meaningless.

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RL - Richard Swinburne

       Richard Swinburne argues that there are propositions which no-one knows how to verify but still are not meaningless. He gives the example of toys which come out of their cupboard at night and dance around. No observation could ever establish this as truth, but it’s not meaningless.

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RL - Flew (Falsification)

·       This is the inverse of verification; Flew claimed that any positive claim we make also assumes that we deny its negation. If I say that school work is fun, I am also saying that school work is not, not fun.

·       Flew argued that language is only meaningful if we can conceive of some evidence which might count against it. It’s only meaningful to say that College work is fun because students might be able to show contradictory information.

·       The problem with ‘God talk’ is that it often implies that it could never by falsified: “I know that God loves me in a way which no-one may question or disprove”. If God is just a mystery, then we are not using language in a constructive, meaningful way.

·       In other words- a statement has meaning if you accept that it can be falsified, if you are open to evidence that disproves your statement then it has meaning and if you refuse to accept such counter evidence then your statement is meaningless

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RL - Flew (Falsification)

·       This is the inverse of verification; Flew claimed that any positive claim we make also assumes that we deny its negation. If I say that school work is fun, I am also saying that school work is not, not fun.

·       Flew argued that language is only meaningful if we can conceive of some evidence which might count against it. It’s only meaningful to say that College work is fun because students might be able to show contradictory information.

·       The problem with ‘God talk’ is that it often implies that it could never by falsified: “I know that God loves me in a way which no-one may question or disprove”. If God is just a mystery, then we are not using language in a constructive, meaningful way.

·       In other words- a statement has meaning if you accept that it can be falsified, if you are open to evidence that disproves your statement then it has meaning and if you refuse to accept such counter evidence then your statement is meaningless

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RL - Criticisms to AJ Ayer

       John Hick has criticised Ayer, suggesting that talk of God might be verifiable in principle. Convincing evidence is not apparent now, but it could be in the future; the whole idea of final judgement implies that God will be seen and known.

       Richard Swinburne argues that there are propositions which no-one knows how to verify but still are not meaningless. He gives the example of toys which come out of their cupboard at night and dance around. No observation could ever establish this as truth, but it’s not meaningless.

       The Verification Principle might contradict itself. The claim that a statement is only meaningful if it can be verified analytically or synthetically cannot itself be verified analytically or synthetically.

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RL - RM Hare

·       Hare used falsification to describe certain beliefs which he called ‘Blicks’. A blick is a belief or worldview that could never be falsified such as the example of the paranoid student. Blicks are not necessarily untrue (some are sane and some insane), but they are groundless

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RL - John Hick

·       Hick responds by arguing that there are reasons behind religious beliefs; experiences, scripture etc. he also objects that there is no way to distinguish between sane or insane blicks and the judgement that religion is insane is subjective

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RL - Mitchell

·       Objects to the notion that religious claims are groundless blicks

·       He argues that religious claims are grounded in some facts and that the faithful do allow that evidence may stand against what they believe. They recognise, for example, the problem of evil. However, they do not believe that can or should be verified in a simple manner.

·       Mitchell draws a parable of a man claiming to be the leader of a resistance movement – it seems that he supports the fight but sometimes seems to help the enemy. One could choose to trust him despite the contrary evidence. So with God: one could trust in God while recognising the contrary evidence: that he allows evil and suffering, or disbelieve

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RL - Objections to Mitchell

·       Misses the point of Flew’s argument. Flew’s point is that religious assertions are meaningless.  It is not that we do not know if they are true or false and have to decide which to believe. In order to be true or false in the first place they have to mean something.

·       The parable of the stranger might work if someone has had a dramatic, personal encounter with God which forms the basis of your faith but most people have not.

·        It is a weak defence of the problem of evil. The parable talks of a stranger who is a man not a God. This is not a meaningful analogy.

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RL - Aquinas

·       Concerned by the problem of explaining God in human language; God is supposedly perfect and infinite and so possible defies description

·       We cannot speak of God univocally or equivocally

·       Turned to analogy instead as a way of talking about God indirectly

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RL - Aquinas (Proportion)

·       Hick takes on and develops Aquinas’s views

·       Humans possess God’s qualities because we are created in his image. Yet, because God is perfect, we have his qualities in a lesser proportion

·       The example of faithfulness and dogs- dogs are faithful to humans, but not in the same way as humans are faithful to one another. Whilst this faithfulness is different, there must be a reasonable similarity or we would not recognise dogs as faithful. So, there is a dim and imperfect likeness in the dog as there is in the human, and the same with humans and God.

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RL - Aquinas (Attribution)

·       Aquinas thought we could gain understanding of God by considering his role as creator. If God created the world then we can expect it to reflect him in some way, so we are justified in drawing parallels between him and the world

·       The example of the bull and the urine- the health of the bull is present in the urine and can be observed but is only present fully in the bull itself. So what the urine tells us is indirect and incomplete.

·       What the world tells us of God is also indirect and incomplete so, whilst being meaningful, it is limited

·       This gives us the order of reference- God’s qualities are foremost because he is the source of this quality, the world has these qualities only in a secondary respect

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RL - Criticisms of Analogy

·       Criticise proportionate analogy- since we may dispute whether humans really were created ‘in the image and likeness of God’, as is challenged by Darwin’s theory of evolution and rejected by atheist Richard Dawkins

·       We might wonder whether the evil in our world is also an analogy to God- this makes a perfectly good God impossible. A theodicy, however, would resolve this

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RL - Via Negativa

·       Argues that God cannot be described in positive terms but must instead be defined in terms of what he is not: so God is not multiple, not mortal, not temporal etc

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RL - Maimonides

·       11th Century AD Jewish theologian, influenced by the Islamic tradition

·       Argued that humans can know that God exists but not know anything about God, because he is not like humans.

·       Suggested that this way of talking about God is found in Jewish scriptures where God states ‘I am who I am’- beyond description

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RL - VN Strengths

·       Prevents anthropomorphic statements being made about God, as we are not left with a human view of him

·       Can be seen as more respectful, positive statements about God are improper as they do not fully convey the idea we require

·       Supports the view of many thinkers- that we should not talk of God in an improper way

·       Only the via negative truly conveys the transcendence of God

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RL - VN Weaknesses

·       Doesn’t so aptly apply to Christianity as it is possible to use human language to speak of God as he revealed himself in human form through Jesus

·       The result is a very limited understanding of God. The method doesn’t even work for everyday objects let alone something as complicated as God

·       Not a true reflection of how people wish to speak of God- they seek positive knowledge of him

·       Claims that no positive statement can be made but surely if we are saying that something isn’t something then we are also stating it is something else- the opposite? Still assumes some knowledge of God.

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RL - Symbolic Language

·       Tillich believed it was possible to speak of metaphysical concepts meaningfully and devised the theory that religious language, because it is symbolic in nature, has an overwhelming effect on humans

·       Argued that religious language is best understood as symbolic. This means that, like religious symbols, it communicates the most significant values and beliefs of human beings. Can communicate something which is otherwise difficult to express

·       The purpose of religious language is to evoke the nature of God rather than to make statements of fact, it is non-cognitive

·       He said it is meaningful because of the effect it has on humans

·       Tillich defined God as ‘the ground of being’, as such he is the basis of all that exists and also the meaning behind all that exists.

·       He argued that ‘the ground of being’ must be the ultimate concern of people and cannot be known in a personal way but through signs and symbols

·       Symbols are not signs. Both point to something beyond themselves, but only symbols ‘participate’ in what they point to- they are representative

·        Symbols born and die, they can change meaning but cannot be forcefully or consciously invented or removed

·       4 key features of symbols- they point to something beyond themselves, they participate in that to which they point, they open up levels of reality which otherwise are closed to us, they open up dimensions of the soul which correspond to those aspects of reality.

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RL - Symbols Criticism

·       Hick argued that the idea of a symbol ‘participating’ is unclear.

·       William Alston objected that symbolism means that there is no point trying to determine whether a statement is true or false. Since symbols are not literally true they can have no meaningful impact

·       People interpret symbols differently and symbols meanings change over time, they cannot be used to communicate any kind of truth therefore

·       Cannot be subjected to verification or falsification and so meaningless

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RL - Symbols JH Randall

·       Religious symbols serve 4 functions:

o   A motivational one, they fire up our passionate emotions

o   A social one, people have a common social understanding of symbols, they strengthen the social bonds

o   A communicative one, symbols express religious faith better than religious language can ever hope to

o   Religious symbols can clarify and disclose our experience of the divine in the same way as a poet or artist can reveal hidden depths, it would be like someone trying to explain the Mona Lisa- a difficult task

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RL - Myths


·       Myth combines all the elements of symbol and metaphor

·       Many people see myth as something not to be taken literally and therefore not true

·       In a religious view, a myth is not to be taken literally but is fundamentally true

·       Myths speak of what believers hold to be most true and meaningful, what they think is eternal; and original, what they hope will happen, and what they see as ultimately real, no matter how pleasant or terrible

·       The same ideas are communicated in myths from all over the world- universal beliefs and truths

·       The fact that a myth is a story makes it easy to communicate and re-tellable

·       If a myth is a made up story then surely it cannot communicate any truths about God- it is fictional. If a myth is an expression of values in story form then myths point to truths beyond themselves

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RL - Creation Myths

·       Creation myths provide foundation ideas for religious approaches. Most belief systems include creation myths to explain the origin of the universe and its components.

·       Creation myths are amongst mankind’s’ earliest attempts to explain some of the most profound questions about the nature and origin of the universe. These are questions that we are still attempting to answer through scientific theories such as the big bang

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RL - Bultman

·       Argued that myths using imagery that may be outdated are no longer relevant and that scripture needs to be demythologised to find the true meaning of the text

·       It is because people no longer understand that those accounts are myths rather than historical literal truths that has led to the decline of Christianity in the scientific age

·       A myth is any story in which God is seen to act like another human being. But the effect of this is to make people lose sight of the meaning of the story, and will allow us dismiss the whole thing as naïve and unbelievable.

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RL - Criticism of Bultman

·       Many of Bultmann's critics believe that he accepts the modern world-view at the expense of the Bible.

·       His demythology goes too far and strips essential meaning from scripture.

·       Modernity and scientific viewpoints are not fixed they are continually changing; this would require us to continually reinterpret the Bible.

·       The very fact of reinterpretation suggests that there is an unchanging body of facts to be understood.

·       Bultmann answered this by saying that he was merely sacrificing a pre-scientific view of the world and not the essential heart of the Christian message, which was for him that Jesus calls us to a new kind of life.

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RL - Wittgenstein

·       In his philosophical investigation, Wittgenstein focused on the uses language can be put to. “don’t ask me for the meaning, ask for the use”

·       For religious language he thought the function might be more important than the meaning

·       Argued that language works through a series of ‘language games’- meaning only comes out of context, we have to know what ‘game’ our terms are participating in

·       Problems in philosophy may occur through misunderstanding that words can be used in different games

·       There are conventional and unconventional ways to speak of God

·       Language statements are not ‘true or false’ but bare meaning to the speaker/person expressing themselves

·       Each game has a ‘criteria of coherence’ which is only understood in relevance to that game. In each ‘form of life’ people communicate with each other, other people who are in that game

·       Religious language is meaningful when used in the context of the correct game, hence believers understand each other.

·       If one doesn’t understand it, it is deemed a ‘category mistake’, e.g. a scientist physically looking for a soul

·       Perhaps too relativistic, allowing that any claims are equally valid. Doesn’t allow challenge

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RE - Swinburne

·       5 different types of religious experience- which either fall into the ‘public’ or ‘private’ realm

·       Public:

o   You see God’s action in a public object or scene

o   A breach of natural law. Miracles often come under the category of public religious experiences

·       Private:

o   A personal experience that can mostly be described through normal language

o   A personal experience that cannot be described in normal language- ineffable

o   No specific experience, but more of a constant or regular feeling that God is ‘there’

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RE - Credulity and Testimony

Principle of credulity

·       ‘If (in the absence of special considerations) it seems to a subject that x is present, then probably x is present. And similarly I suggest that… if it seems to a subject that in the past he perceived something or did something then (in the absence of special considerations) probably he did.’

·       I.e. If it seems to a person that they experienced something then they probably did

·       Special considerations could be if they are a habitual liar, have an illness or psychological issues, material gain, interest or need to increase your faith, attention seeking etc

Principle of testimony

·       ‘(In the absence of special considerations) the experiences of others are (probably) as they report them.’

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RE - William James

·       James suggested that religious experiences were events which were ‘solitary’ and in which individuals experienced the divine or God.

·       The religious tradition to which the person belongs (if any) is relatively unimportant

·       James noted that religious experiences have great authority for the person who has them and can often have a marked effect in a person’s life

·       Referred mainly to mystical experiences

·       Religious experiences are said to be:

o   Passive- the experience is not in the control of the recipient

o   Ineffable- go beyond human powers of description

o   Noetic- refers to the fact that mystics or those who receive experiences receive knowledge of God that is not otherwise available

o   Transient- not permanent

·       A significant aspect of religious experience is the considerable variety of types (conversion, corporate experience, stigmata etc). There is also a wide variety in the people who receive such experiences (faiths, gender, background etc) but they all have the same core elements or effects.

·       James thought that at the heart of religion lay personal experiences which for the individual would be ‘absolutely authoritative’. They are personally persuasive rather than as evidence to prove God to others inductively.

·       James suggested that the only possible sign that religious experiences are from God is a ‘good disposition’ resulting from the experience.

·       This means that claims of God telling people to do bad things cannot be genuine- they do not coincide with our ideas of ‘good’ or God.

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RE - Criticisms of James

·       Subjective- not necessarily a religious experience, he doesn’t explicitly say they must come from God.

·       By saying it is only the result that counts he invalidates all experiences that do not cause some change- what if the person was already religious etc?

·       To say that such experiences occur across the religious spectrum is unrealistic- Muslims have no concept of the mystical

·       James claimed that religious experiences are the primary source of religious belief. However, many psychologists and sociologists claim that religious experiences only happen to people who belong to a religious tradition (although results of surveys would suggest this is false)

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RE - Types of RE


·       A term used for sores or bodily marks in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus in addition to feelings of suffering or pain

·       Sometimes they never go away

Corporate experiences

·       Where a group experience healings, incidents and personal transformation or greater awareness of God

·       The Toronto blessing is an example

·       Often includes ecstatic worship- falling, laughing, shaking and crying etc.


·       The knowledge of and experience of state of consciousness or levels of being or aspects of reality beyond normal human perception, including experience of or communication with God or a supreme being.


·       Like that of Paul, where an experience leads to greater belief or a change in belief

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RE - Other Arguments for RE

The historical argument

·       The experiences of key individuals have been so great and impressive that they must be true; Mohammed, St Paul etc. such individuals have had enormous influences after their experiences

The cumulative argument

·       So many people have had religious experiences in the past that they simply cannot all be lying. God must be the cause at least some of the time


·       Subjective and ambiguous

·       Implausible to say that God MUST be the cause of some experiences just because there are a lot- they all differ

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RE - Arguments Against RE

·       Religious experiences are hallucinations caused by drugs such as LSD

·       Manifestation of psychological needs

·       Evolutionary theorists such as Dawkins would say that there are biological explanations (epilepsy) or neurological ones such as the God spot

o   The God spot- some kind of biological advantage or reason behind belief in the beyond. An area in the brain that responds to religion and religious images or prayer

·       Experiences are often deceptive if we rely on sense experience

o   Devil bird- Dawkins researched this bird that lived in the area where someone had claimed to have heard Satan during a religious experience. it is a bird with an evil sounding voice

·       Religious experiences come from our desire to experience God and transcend our everyday suffering

·       Verificationism- cannot be verified and therefore meaningless

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RE - Freud

·       For Freud religion is just wishful thinking. The mind creates an illusion as part of its attempt to deal with the ‘outside’ world

·       Religion is a ‘universal obsession or neurosis’ religion is merely a ‘neurotic illness’. Religion is a way to cope with a chaotic and frightening world

·       Although religion can be used to improve a moral code, Freud sees religion as a means to suppress people

·       In his book ‘totem and taboo’, Freud sees the origins of religion as lying with primitive tribes. The tension between the alpha males and adolescents culminates in the overthrow of the father (manifestation of the Oedipus complex). The sons then feel guilty and this leads them to elevate his memory and to worship him- he becomes a totem

·       Religion results. A reversion to childish patterns of thought in response to feelings of helplessness and guilt. We feel in need of security and forgiveness- God

Problems with Freud

·       Based only on hypothesis

·       Just because God is a security blanket, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist

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RE - Durkheim

·       Stressed the importance of the communal nature of religion and religious experience, rather than the individual nature

·       ‘a religion is a unified system of beliefs and practises relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden- beliefs and practises which united in one single moral community called a church, all those who adhere to them.’

·       Religion provides people with support as well as stability and social control

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RE - Marx

·       Religion, according to Marx, gives expression to a life which is actually empty, unfulfilled and devoid of dignity

·       Religious illusions and experiences have a hold on us because they provide a false semblance of meaning and fulfilment for a mode of life which without this illusion would be seen for the unredeemed meaninglessness that it is

·       For Marx, religious misery is both an expression of actual misery and an attempt to flee from it into a world of imagination

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M - Miracles

·       From the Latin ‘miraculum’ meaning ‘wonder’

·       Some agreement on the criteria for a miracle: should break a law of nature, have purpose or significance, be open to religious or spiritual interpretation

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M - Definitions

Stephen Evans

·       Miracles are not just magic tricks, ‘Obviously the miracles of a religion such as Christianity are not merely bizarre events or stunts. They have a function and a purpose, and usually that function is a revelatory one.’

David Hume

·       ‘Miracles maybe accurately defined as a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the deity or by the interposition of some invisible agent.’

John MacQuarrie

·       ‘A miracle has to be something which is attributable to God, as well as a miraculous event.’

RF Holland

·       Miracles may not have to break the laws of nature

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M - Aquinas

·       Argued that there are three types of miracle:

o   Events done by God that nature could never do; e.g. stopping the sun in the sky as in Joshua 10, or at Fatima in Portugal

o   Events done by God that nature could do but not necessarily in that order; e.g. bringing someone back to life or healing someone of blindness

o   Events done by God that nature can do, only God does not use the laws of nature; e.g. healing someone by forgiving their sins

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M - Hume

·       Hume rejects belief in miracles on the basis of our knowledge and experience

·       By definition, a miracle goes against human experience about how the world works. Therefore, on the basis of experience, the probability that a miracle has occurred is less than the probability that it hasn’t. Because it is rational to believe what is probably, we can never rationally think that a miracle has occurred.

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M - Testimony

·       In order to believe testimony rationally, it must be more probable that the testimony is true than not (from previous experience)

·       This is rare, to believe someone witnessed a miracles it must be more probable that the laws of nature were broken than not. Our experience tells us that the laws of nature are not violated and so it is more probable that the miracle didn’t happen.

·       Testimony is not good evidence:

o   There is no miracle attested to by people of good sense, education, integrity and reputation, where the miracle is witness by many such people.

o   Human nature enjoys surprise and wonder, which gives us a tendency to believe unusual things when not justified

o   Tales of miracles are common among ignorant peoples and diminish in civilisation; miracles are often given in explanation of every day events.

·       Only if a person stands no gain from the testimony and is of good character etc can it even begin to be deemed true

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M - Laws of Nature

·       A miracle is not a violation of something we believe to be a law of nature but something that IS a law of nature

·       It is not a miracle if we are simply wrong about the laws of nature

·       If an event can be explained by reformulating the laws of nature then it isn’t a miracle

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M - Experiencing Miracles

·       According to Hume you can either reject the claim that the event happened or look for a natural cause

·       Experience isn’t evidence for a miracle because we never experience non-natural causes- the event is always natural and has a natural cause. We do not have experience of God and so this as evidence of a non-natural cause is subjective

·       It is more likely that an event didn’t happen if there doesn’t appear to be a natural cause, it must be analogous with the rest of experience

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M - Criticisms of Hume

·       A response to Hume is to say that his definition of a miracle is wrong. A statement is only a law of nature if it is true, universal and contingent. The occurrence of a natural event that violates the law makes the law either not true or not universal, in which case it is not a law. Therefore there can be no violations of the laws of nature

·       An alternative definition is that a miracle is an event, caused by God that is outside or not in accordance with the laws of nature. The laws of nature can only apply to natural events; if an event is caused by God then it isn’t natural

·       The evidence against a miracle occurring from our experience of natural events is irrelevant because miracles are not natural. Hume, however, would argue that you need good evidence to ascertain that an event is not natural

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RE - Vardy

·       Hume talks of laws of nature as though they were 100% certain. However, as science advances it is showing that some of our understanding of natural laws has been incorrect

·       How could science advance if it didn’t base its predictions on new experiences? Hume seems to argue that only standard experiences should be acceptable, but if this was the case, how could science progress?

·       Miracles today have often been backed up by science. Over 70 miracles at Lourdes have been verified

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RE - Swinburne

·       ‘if God has reason to interact with us, he has reason occasionally to intervene and suspend those natural laws by which our life is controlled’

·       Probable that there could be exceptional and unrepeatable occurrence. The laws of nature do not have to be rewritten. If God is omnipotent, then he quite clearly could suspend the laws of nature (although not too often as this would interfere with scientific progress and free will)

·       Future predictions could always nullify a law. When an event violates a law of nature, the appearance may simply be that no one has thought of a law that explains the event

·       Principles of credulity and testimony also apply- we rely on the evidence of our senses and perception to give us information about the world normally, why not in the case of those claiming miracles?

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M - Maurice Wiles

·       Wiles discussed the notion of a world that is consistent with Christian theology and the laws of nature.

·       Rejects the possibility that God directly intervenes in the world and therefore rejects the existence of miracles

·       Believed we shouldn’t see God as playing an active role but instead hold the belief that he created the world as he wanted it in its entirety- ‘the world as a whole [is] a single act of God.’

·       Therefore God wouldn’t undermine the natural laws that he created by intervening in the world.

·       Also argued that an omnibenevolent God wouldn’t perform such trivial miracles and allow other things (e.g. The holocaust) to have happened- arbitrary

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M - Miracles in the Bible

·       Nature miracles- parting the red sea, calming the storm, walking on water

·       Healing miracles- the blind, the lame, leprosy etc. ideas that this is linked with sin- relieving them from their sin/offering salvation

·       Triumphs over death- raising the little girl in Mark, Lazarus, the resurrection

·       Christianity is founded on the miraculous- incarnation/resurrection

·       Catholic Church tradition rests on miracles- canonise saints accordingly.

·       Christian idea is that miracles are just God’s intervention in the world, not necessarily unnatural

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LAD - Monism and Dualism


·       The belief that the body and soul are one substance

·       Aristotle referred to the soul as the ‘anima’- one of the three faculties of humans (with intellect and the locomotive)

·       It allows us to fulfil our potential. The soul cannot exist without the body. The soul gives the ‘form’ of a human


·       Belief that the soul and body are two separate entities

·       2 famous dualists are Descartes and Plato

·       Plato has four arguments for the existence of a separate soul

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LAD - Descartes

·       A French dualist. Tried to prove the mind or soul exist separately from the body in the act of thought

·       The body is spatial but not conscious; the mind/soul is conscious but not spatial. Whilst the mind and body are different and separate they interact through the brain

·       The state of the body will affect the mind and vice versa

·       Allows for mental continuity between life and death

·       Believed that one of these natures can survive death as the same individual which existed in a physical form on earth

·       ‘The soul is of the nature entirely independent from the body and consequently is not bound to die with it. And since we cannot see any other causes that destroy the soul, we are naturally led to conclude that it is immortal.’

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LAD - Criticisms of Dualism

·       Leaves us with Ryle’s ‘Ghost in the machine’. The workings of the mind aren’t distinct from the actions of the body. He calls the idea that they are a ‘category error’- resulted in people speaking of the mind and body as different phenomena as if the soul was something identifiably extra within a person. Used the example of someone watching a cricket game and asking where the team spirit was.

·       Lack of evidence for a separate soul

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LAD - Materialism

·       The view that all is one. Human beings are made up of one substance and what it is to be human can be defined in material terms

·       Fits with modern neurological views- our minds or selves are aspects of our anatomy- our brains

·       Hard materialists such as Dawkins will refuse to accept that anything that cannot be empirically tested exists.

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LAD - Dawkins

·       The soul is a mythological concept invented to explain what we do not understand- consciousness

·       To invoke the soul is not an explanation but an evasion

·       We will be able to explain consciousness in the future without need of the soul

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LAD - Criticisms of Materialism

·       Frank Jackson claims that even the most exhaustive description of the physical facts surrounding conscious experience cannot hope to explain the irreducibly subjective character of conscious experience

·       Used the example of a girl who has lived a purely monochrome environment for her whole life. She has studied all the physical facts about colour (wave lengths etc) therefore can you say that all consciousness is is the brain understanding of experience or does the experience defy explanation? Experiences have an impact further to their physical components.

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LAD - Immortality of the Soul

·       The belief that the soul is a distinct and immortal entity

Arguments against

·       The view that the soul or mind exists independently of the body is a form of dualism- therefore Ryle’s criticism (ghost in the machine) applies. Ryle gives a materialist argument- our conscious life is simply the product of processes in our brains. He argues in favour of ‘philosophical behaviourism’- the view that supposed mental events (i.e. the thinking self) just refer to complex patterns of behaviour

·       The mind/self is a product of brain function; otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to study consciousness scientifically

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LAD - The Resurrection


·       We cannot make sense of ourselves without our body. So if the soul continues and is eternal, so too must the body be

Saint Paul

·       Argued in favour of the resurrection. Had 2 arguments; first, Jesus was resurrected and so Christians should hope to be too, secondly, if God is creator then resurrection is possible- a coherent idea

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LAD - Replica Theory

·       ‘Replica theory’- explains that we could have a replica of ourselves created by God. He says that the person is an indissoluble psychophysical unit. The resurrection of the body is something that God could logically cause to happen. When this happens God would make you entirely whole, as you were. There is no separation of body and soul. However, this theory is weak as it lacks empirical evidence and is linguistically meaningless

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LAD - Replica Theory


·       Compatible with ideas of an omnipotent God

·       Has precedence in scripture

·       Plausible if God is creator

·       Possibly plausible to monists or materialists


·       No way to verify it

·       At which point are we replicated?

·       Logical possibility doesn’t equate to factual possibility

·       Raises questions with no answer

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LAD - Arguments against Resurrection

·       Christian arguments which rely on the resurrection of Jesus aren’t persuasive to non-believers

·       Seems to be more psychological- the idea of the physical body being remade isn’t really plausible in the 21st century

·       Body can be a source of evil- are we better off without bodily resurrection, would God want evil?

·       Cannot be verified- even the original one of Jesus

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LAD - Reincarnation

·       Latin- to be made flesh

·       The view that the essential self (or soul) will survive death and be born again in another body

·       Traditional teaching of the major Indian religions

·       Hinduism teaches that the soul (atman) is immortal and seeks union with ultimate reality (Brahman) those who perceive the world for what is- an illusion (Maya)- may achieve release from the world (Moksha) and not long be subject to reincarnation

·       This assumes the law of karma- the view that we receive the consequences of morally significant actions

·       The chain of past and future lives makes this law fair

·       The distinction between the body and the soul makes reincarnation dualistic

·       Samsara is the cycle of existence

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LAD - Reincarnation


·       Natural justice

·       Ancient belief

·       Arguments in support of dualism

·       Gives purpose to life

·       People seem to have ‘yogi’ memories of past lives

·       If the soul is independent of the body it is logical that it could have pre-existed


·       How can animals be moral?

·       Where do all the new people come from in the world?

·       Naturalistic fallacy (GE Moore)- just because there ought to be justice in the world it doesn’t mean there is

·       People who have memories of past lives could be crazy- no proof

·       Although the beliefs are ancient it doesn’t make them true

·       Stephen Davies argues that contact between families may allow children to account for a remembered ‘past life’ which they haven’t really experienced. Some cases could be deliberate fraud.

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LAD - Heaven and Hell

·       For Catholics and orthodox Christians, Heaven is a place where we are at one with God and we see God clearly (the beatific vision). ‘For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then we will see face to face’ (Corinthians)

·       ‘heaven is a state of fulfilment’

·       Heaven is something that we choose to achieve through our actions, all people who know god’s will and desire to follow him will be rewarded

·       You in some sense earn salvation through ‘good works’- going to mass, receiving sacraments etc

·       Protestants believe that we are saved ‘sola fide’- by faith alone. You can never earn it but are given grace through faith

·       Other protestants believe in divine elections; the idea that some people are destined for a relationship with god and behave as if they are saved and those who do not. Those who are saved are ‘members of the elect’

·       Calvinists also believe in predestination, the idea that people’s fate is determined – in the book of revelation there is a reference to the 144,000

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LAD - Eternal Hell

Arguments for eternal hell

·       Words and pictures in the New Testament imply finality

·       The doctrine of hell has been believed for a long time by eminent theologians

·       Offers of pardon are restricted to the present world

·       The judgement occurs at the close of the redemptive era and hence is final- after which people will eternally suffer or receive salvation

·       The conscience expects and demands retribution in another life

Arguments against eternal hell

·       Words and pictures in the NT imply death and destruction i.e. total annihilation rather than continued suffering

·       ‘eternal punishment’ can refer to results that are eternal, not an eternal process

·       Vindictive justice is incompatible with a loving and compassionate god

·       The punishment doesn’t fit the crime- i.e. non-eternal sin and disbelief vs. eternal damnation, seems unjust

·       Hell contradicts the Christian assertion of the final victory of god over evil

·       Irenaeus denies the existence of hell

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AOG - Revelation

·       To reveal (remove the veil)

·       God is revealed to us in scripture, the teaching of the magisterium, through creation, through incarnation and religious experience

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AOG - Propositional Revelation

·       The belief that God directly reveals truth to humans

·       Some examples:

o   God speaking to Adam and eve

o   God’s call to Abraham

o   The giving of the law to Moses

o   The conversion of St Paul

·       The bible is ‘the final authority in matters of faith and practise’

·       Conservative (Protestant) view

o   Literalists believe that the bible is the direct word of god and is completely true containing no theological, historical or cultural error

o   They hold that the truths must be acted upon, must live by the bible to truly accept them

o   The bible contains univocal language

o   The bible is dictated as each word was deliberately inspired by God through the holy spirit’s guidance of the writers

·       Due to its age, scripture assumes some of the values of 2000 years ago. Biblical literalists have to decide whether to reinterpret certain statements in the light of scientific discovery/technology/moral progress. This has led to radical differences in practise

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AOG - Francis Schaeffer

·       Suggests that our acceptance or rejection of propositional beliefs depends on our understanding of whether there is a ‘personal beginning’ to the universe

·       IF we accept that a personal being was responsible for creation then we accept that he should want and be able to communicate truth to us

·       God (uncaused, unlimited, personal) has created us (limited, created, personal) to be ‘language communicating beings’ and as we are made in the image of but also inferior to God and we can communicate truth between ourselves then God must also be able to communicate truth to us

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AOG - Propositional Revelation

Strengths of propositional revelation

·       People never have to rely on their own interpretation and judgement and so there can be no danger that the bible might be misunderstood

o   Counter point – contradictions within the bible mean that it may require some interpretation or choice

·       Moral decision making procedure limited- fewer problems

·       It is clear and to some extent consistent

·       Provides some security

·       It takes seriously the bible as a historical text


·       It is fragile. Only one demonstrable inconsistency or error in either the Old or New Testament could shake the position

·       Encourages sloppy interpretation – a lack of intellectual enquiry and fitting the bible to pre-existing beliefs on most issues

·       There is a tendency towards anthropomorphism

·       Some writers such as James Barr argued that this fundamentalist approach often distorts the original intention and meaning of the biblical writer

·       The bible contradicts itself- suggesting it is the interpretation of it which is important.

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AOG - Catholic View

A traditional (catholic) view

·       A Christian faith is not a ‘religion of the book’ – catechism

·       A traditionalist would argue that the Holy Spirit, God’s gift to the Church, inspired both the people who wrote the canonical books and those who assembled it

·       Therefore a traditionalist view of scripture is that it is inspired by God but written by humans. Its words are not always self evident in their meaning and the church has the authority to define and interpret its words

·       They see some language as symbolic and analogical, accepts some interpretation but only within the confines of tradition which has been handed down by the apostles

·       For Aquinas, a revelation can be seen as propositional if it fits in with what we already know to be true about God’s nature, if it is in tandem with the magisterium.

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AOG - Catholic View


·       An acceptance that the bible requires understanding and interpretation

·       There is room for discussion as to the meaning of certain passages, their context and application

·       The inspiration of the bible doesn’t depend on its word for word historical accuracy but the assent of the church. It is thus compatible with scientific theory


·       Choosing to add or disregard instructions, to regard some things as absolute and others less so has led to conflict with other Christians and diminished the universal nature of the bible

·       When the church takes it upon itself to interpret the scriptures they can ignore obvious meaning and impose more spiritual ones

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AOG - Liberal View

·       The bible is a purely human book (not one with divine authority), a unique record of the evolving religious consciousness of the Jewish people

·       Roots in 18th century enlightenment rationalism – use reason to discover the truth (as opposed to blind faith in authority) and reject the miraculous

·       The bible records the experiences of people seriously seeking after God in their own lives, situations and cultures

·       These experiences are not authoritative in themselves and neither are they inerrant. They believe the bible does have meaning but must be interpreted and cannot contain facts.

·       It is the duty of individuals to weigh what is found in the bible and apply it, if appropriate, to their own lives as they seek in their path after God

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AOG - Liberal View


·       Errors or inconsistencies of theology, fact and history present no major problem for the believer, as they recognise that the words may reflect human error or inconsistency

·       It is possible to disagree over interpretations of, and even the value of certain passages of the bible, without resorting to splitting churches or calling one’s opponents blasphemous

·       Liberal views allow people to maintain their religious faith without having to believe stories which, intellectually, they find impossible

·       Liberal views are more readily accommodated into the modern scientific understanding of the world

·       Allows revelation to be universal


·       The bible can cease to become an effective instrument for teaching as it is the believer that decides the value of individual passages

·       People may discard bits of the bible that they don’t like, for the wrong reasons

·       People ‘sit in judgement’ on the words of the bible rather than truly allowing their lives to be held up against the ‘scrutiny’ of the bible’s teaching

·       Liberal interpretation has destroyed the whole point of the bible and its authority. If concepts such as the virgin birth, miracles and even the resurrection are taken to be other than historically accurate, the whole essence of Christianity is removed

o   Bultman would disagree- we should demythologise the bible

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AOG - Nature of God

·       Revealed theology – sacred texts and experiences of individuals (propositional revelation) within them

·       Natural theology – observation and analysis of the world around us and the use of human reason

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AOG - God as Eternal

Eternity as timelessness

·       Platonic view – eternity is timeless and immutable

·       Problems- if God is eternal and timeless, how did he create the world in time and how does he interact with it? Deistic- impersonal.

Eternity as infinitely extending time

·       Eternity has a sense of temporal sequence but without limits of beginning and end

·       God is both backwardly eternal and forwardly eternal

·       Problems- limit God, compromising his omniscience. The universe is also thought to have a beginning and an end, a finite element, that is inconsistent with this view of eternity

The total Simul view (Boethius)

·       Eternity denotes the ‘complete possession all at once of illimitable life’

·       God’s infinite timeless awareness comprehends all at once what humans perceive as past, present and future

·       Problems- not really the God of the Bible, how can he interact?

God as eternal

·       2 types of eternity for God:

o   ‘God is eternal’ means that God is non-temporal or timeless. Block universe view. (Boethius)

o   ‘God is eternal’ means that God has no beginning and no end; God has always existed and will continue to exist forever. Unfolding universe view

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AOG - God's Omniscience

The problem of divine foreknowledge

·       ‘There seems to be a considerable contradiction and inconsistency between God’s foreknowledge and the existence of any free will.’ – Boethius

·       How do we define this knowledge?

·       Conflicts with our experience of freedom

·       How can we then be held responsible for our actions?

·       Conflicts with scripture which says we will be held accountable for our actions and saved or damned accordingly

·       The problem of divine foreknowledge and free will:

o   God sees everything in advance and cannot be deceived

o   Therefore whatever his Providence foresees will happen, must happen, including all the acts of men, as well as their plans and wishes

o   Therefore everything is known beforehand by the infallible providence of God

o   Therefore it looks like what a rational creature would do, plan and desire is determined before the rational creature determines it

o   But freedom means that the decision of the rational creature is not predetermined before the rational creature determines it (i.e. freedom is the ability of the rational creature to determine its own course of action by its own means)

o   Therefore it looks like the rational creatures have no free will

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AOG - God's Omniscience

Types of omniscience

·       Omniscience- refers to God’s unlimited knowledge, including all history; past, present and future. God is outside of time and has knowledge of the whole of time from beginning to end

·       Limited omniscience- God’s knowledge is limited to what it is logically possible to know or God chooses to limit what he knows to allow human free will (Swinburne)

·       Middle knowledge- consists of knowledge of what would happen if certain choices were made or if certain things happened differently

Are omniscience and free will incompatible?

·       Either we have no actual free will, or it is only free will as it appears to us (Calvin- free will is an illusion)

·       God isn’t omniscient (process theologians)

·       God does timelessly know what happens in the future but this knowledge isn’t causal. God sees our future free actions, but what he sees is a result of our freedom – he doesn’t cause us to act in a particular manner. Therefore, God knows all human actions, past, present and future, without taking away human freedom (Boethius)

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AOG - Boethius, Aquinas and Augustine


·       God is timeless; he is eternal in that he is non-temporal

·       As god is outside of space and time his knowledge isn’t temporal and therefore cannot be causal. He sees all things simultaneously as he is not in time- block universe view

·       God sees our future free actions but these are a result of our freedom- he doesn’t cause us to act in any particular manner


·       Aquinas used some of the same metaphors as Boethius

·       One is the circle analogy, in which the way a timeless God is present to each and every moment of time is compared to the way in which the centre of a circle is present to each and every point on its circumference


·       Uses the example of a road

·       ‘he who goes along the road does not see those who come after him; whereas he who sees the whole road from a height sees at once all those travelling on it’

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AOG - Objections to Boethius

·       Most objections to the Boethian idea of God as eternal focus on the idea of timelessness itself, arguing either that it doesn’t make sense or that it is incompatible with other properties of God that are more compelling, such as personhood

·       Can an eternal God be loving? Love involves a relationship, an ability to respond to each other. How can a God who is timeless and eternal respond to his people? In what sense can he be loving?

o   Counter point: God is loving because he changelessly sustains creation for our benefit, he is always acting for us (Wiles) and changelessly wills good for people (Aquinas). God is love rather than performs individual acts of loving in the sense that a human does

o   God is timelessly without creation, and he is temporal since the moment of creation – William Lane Craig

o   Prayer is there for our benefit not so that god will act upon it (CS Lewis)

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AOG - Anthony Kenny

·       Claims that the notion of all time being simultaneously present to God is incoherent. He says this would mean all of time happening in the same moment

·       An example of reductio ad absurdum- uses the idea of the creation and the fall of Rome happening in the same instance

o   Counter point: whilst this may seem incoherent in the temporal world, for God this could logically happen. It doesn’t mean all events happen simultaneously on earth

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AOG - Paul Helm

·       Argues that we should change our definition of what eternity means

·       Rather than meaning that eternity involves events being simultaneously present to God, we should mean instead that the eternal God is timeless and acts eternally

·       Helm considers God to be timeless in the sense that he is time free

·       Provides an answer to the reductio ad absurdum criticism as it denies that any of us are doing anything that God is doing at the same time

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AOG - Omniscience and Problem of Evil

·       If God is omniscient and knows that evil is going to happen then why does he not stop it (if he is omnipotent)

·       Use the theodicies primarily to respond

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AOG - God as Wholly Simple

·       Vardy describes space and time as being ‘the bedrock of the universe’, humans cannot imagine a universe without them

·       Early Christian thinkers concluded that if God created time and space he couldn’t be within time and space. God has to be different from anything within the universe he made

o   Prime mover type arguments – God cannot be in the chain of causation if he is the uncaused causer

·       God as wholly simple means consisting of or being identical to properties – pure love, pure goodness etc

·       The wholly simple God can also be called the God of the philosophers

·       Aquinas is the philosopher most associated with the idea of a wholly simple God. he was building on an earlier understanding from Jewish and Christian scholars (the 4th Lateran Council, the 1st Vatican council stated that God is an absolutely simple substance or nature) but was able to articulate his ideas more clearly

·       Today Aquinas’ approach to the nature of God is embraced by almost all Catholic theologians but not by most Protestants – they reject such ‘scholastic theology’, believing that God can best be understood through scripture.

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AOG - Criticisms of Wholly Simple God

·       Makes god appear detached – outside of creation

·       How can god have become human in Jesus if he is outside of the world

·       Can he answer prayers if he is removed? If so does that make him changeable – able to respond according to emotions?

·       St Paul warned against the God of the philosophers

Platinga’s criticism

·       Calls the doctrine of God as simple ‘a dark saying indeed’

·       Platinga’s criticism is based on his interpretation of Aquinas from which he concludes that if God is identical with properties of God such as goodness etc, then God is a property and a property is not a person

·       Platinga concludes that divine simplicity does not do justice to the personal nature of the Christian God

·       God possesses some essential and some contingent properties; God cannot be pure knowledge, pure goodness and pure love simultaneously and so the idea of God as simple (consisting of these properties or being identical to these) is inconsistent. He is all of these things, however.

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AOG - Reward and Punish

Nature of God

·       God’s omniscience – do we have freedom to act? If we do not then can we be rewarded or punished? Use Boethius, Kenny, Helm, Calvin, Swinburne (God’s omniscience section)

·       God as wholly simple – is it possible for him to interact in creation to reward or punish?

·       If God intervenes in the world (to reward or punish) does this mean he can be moved by our actions? This would make him changeable

·       Could a truly good God punish? – Theodicies justify his punishment of us (for the fall- Augustine, and as a test – Irenaeus)

Euthyphro Dilemma

·       Are things good because God says they’re good or does God say they’re good because they are good?

·       If God rewards or punishes then he judges what is ‘good’ or not. Poses a question of where this ‘goodness’ comes from

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AOG - Reward and Punish


·       Luther – it is predetermined whether or not you receive salvation. Is this just punishment or reward?

·       Protestants – if salvation is a gift, how can it be a reward?

Problem of Evil

·       Augustine – God is justified in punishing us for the fall

·       Irenaeus – all people eventually receive salvation, accords with our ideas of a good God, doesn’t eternally punish

After life

·       If there is a hell, what are the implications for this on God’s benevolence?

·       Who deserves eternal damnation?

Christian Principles

·       We like the idea of bad being punished

·       Judgement day is a fundamental concept of Christianity – parable of the sheep and the goats

Free Will

·       Calvin – we don’t have free will. Does this mean any reward or punishment is unjust?

·       If we act to be rewarded then morality is self-interested

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AOG - Reward and Punish


·       Luther – it is predetermined whether or not you receive salvation. Is this just punishment or reward?

·       Protestants – if salvation is a gift, how can it be a reward?

Problem of Evil

·       Augustine – God is justified in punishing us for the fall

·       Irenaeus – all people eventually receive salvation, accords with our ideas of a good God, doesn’t eternally punish

After life

·       If there is a hell, what are the implications for this on God’s benevolence?

·       Who deserves eternal damnation?

Christian Principles

·       We like the idea of bad being punished

·       Judgement day is a fundamental concept of Christianity – parable of the sheep and the goats

Free Will

·       Calvin – we don’t have free will. Does this mean any reward or punishment is unjust?

·       If we act to be rewarded then morality is self-interested

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