|Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581|
Suggested teaching time: 12 hours
- Introduction/Different definitions of miracle
- The concept of miracle and criticisms made by Hume
- The biblical concept of miracle and issues this raises about God’s activity in the world
- The concept of miracle and criticism made by Wiles
- The implications of the concept of miracle for the problem of evil
- Whether modern people can be expected to believe in miracles
Suggested teaching and homework activities:
- Stimulus: various case studies of miracles as reported in books, newspapers, the internet. Discuss which stories, if true, could be classed as miracles. Students attempt to suggest definitions. – Present the classic definitions of miracles as violation or as having significance. Which is better?
- Review some of the cases presented previously – what arguments are there to suggest that the events shouldn’t be believed? – Explore Hume’s arguments against miracles. Write a couple of paragraphs explaining his views. Is he being fair?
- Read Joshua 10 where God miraculously intervenes to help Israel defeat the Amorites. What issues are raised? – Students write structured notes on how the Bible presents miracles, and the theological significance of them for Christians.
- Follow on from previous activity. Present Wiles’ criticism of miracles. – Is this a more devastating criticism than that of Hume? What responses can be made?
- What links are there between miracles and the problem of evil?
- Students make notes on one or two religious thinkers who defend miracles. Comment on whether they think the arguments are valid. – Prepare for debate. – Class debate: “It is foolish to believe in miracles in this scientific age.”
- Bank of case studies possibly presented as a PowerPoint. – Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
- Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate) – Beginner’s Guide to Ideas (Raeper & Smith) – Enquiry concerning human understanding (David Hume) – The text is also reproduced in Philosophy: Basic Readings (Warburton) and in The Question of God (Palmer)
- Foundations for the Study of Religion (Libby Ahluwalia)
- Philosophy of Religion (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
- Questions About God (Clarke) – Philosophy of Religion (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate) – ‘The Question of God’ (Palmer)
- Use of RF Holland’s story of the boy on the train track may prove helpful as an example of a “miracle” where no natural law is broken but an event is seen as a miracle. – Gareth Moore’s definition of miracle (an event which no one did) or others may be considered.
- Consider the response to Hume’s position on natural laws by looking at the ideas of Hick, Davies and/or Swinburne.
- Any biblical miracle(s) may be explored. – Students should consider to what extent believers are required to believe in literal miracles.
- Swinburne, Pollkinhorne, Pannenburg or CS Lewis may be explored.
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