Introduction: Review AS work on Judeo-Christian view of God
God as eternal and omniscient; philosophical problems arising from these concepts
The views of Boethius in his discussion of eternity and God’s foreknowledge
God as omnipotent: philosophical problems arising from this concept
God as omnibenevolent: philosophical problems arising from this concepts
The question as to whether or not a good God should reward and punish
Suggested teaching and homework activities:
Review AS work on Judeo-Christian view of God. Students to briefly research and present an attribute of God.
Discussion: What problems are raised by the omniscience of God? Can these be solved? – Students to write a brief description of these problems. How could God’s omniscience affect the problem of evil and the issue of human free will?
Recap the problem of free will and omniscience. Outline Boethius’ attempt to solve the problem: God knows but does not foreknow as God is timeless. – Briefly consider strengths and weaknesses of this viewpoint. – Research and present activity on free will and omniscience. Students to research an aspect of the topic in pairs.
Invite students to define omnipotence; challenge each definition, e.g. Can God make square circles? Can God tell a lie? etc. – Students to write a Socratic dialogue on the idea of omnipotence which shows the difficulty of defining the concept.
Give examples from the Old Testament of some of God’s actions. Are these the actions of a good God? How might they be justified? – Students to write a letter to a newspaper to respond to an atheist who has argued that there cannot be a good God.
Review Kant’s concept of the Summum Bonum. Must God reward virtue? Must he punish wickedness? – Consider whether this makes morality selfish. Is it logical to link morality to God? What are the difficulties of the concepts of heaven and hell? Students to write up discussion. – Exam practice.
Reason and Religious Belief (Peterson et al) – Questions about God (Clarke)
Video clip: ‘Bruce Almighty’ where Bruce attempts to surprise God by holding out a certain number of fingers behind his back. – The Puzzle of God (Peter Vardy)
The consolation of Philosophy (Boethius) is readily available on the internet. Book 5 is the relevant section. – A Concise Encyclopaedia of the Philosophy of Religion (Thiselton) – The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss)
The Puzzle of God (Peter Vardy) – ‘Evil and Omnipotence’ JL Mackie featured in Philosophy: the basic readings (Warburton) – The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss) – A Concise Encyclopaedia of the Philosophy of Religion (Thiselton)
Foundations for the Study of Religion (Ahluwalia)
Points to note:
Can be phrased as ‘If God knows that I will eat cornflakes for breakfast tomorrow, am I free to have toast instead?’ – Various positions on this problem can be explored. Calvin preserves omniscience but concedes free will; process theologians concede omniscience and retain free will. Like Boethius, Augustine and Swinburne attempt to reconcile the two. Molina’s position of God’s middle knowledge might also be explored. – This links in with the ethics topic of free will and determinism; it may be useful if students have already covered this topic.
Poster opportunity: ‘Things God cannot do’; an enjoyable and accessible activity.
God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc may all provide interesting discussions.
The Euthyphro Dilemma covers whether it is logical to link God and morality.
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