OCR Guidelines

Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581

Religious Language

OCR Specification

Suggested teaching time15 hoursTopicReligious Language
Topic outlineSuggested teaching and homework activitiesSuggested resourcesPoints to note
Religious language – uses and purposes
  • Stimulus: paired discussion of set of statements. Which of them are religious? Which are different? How are they being used?
  • Introduce topic of religious language. Explain key terms such as cognitive, non-cognitive, realist and anti-realist.
  • Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole)
  • A variety of statements are essential, from the more mundane to the outlandish and unverifiable (eg “My guiding spirit is sitting in your cupboard”).
The Verification Principle: the views of the Vienna Circle
  • Explain the agenda of the Vienna Circle and the Verification Principle. What does this do to the statements discussed previously? Students suggest weaknesses of this principle (eg that it is itself meaningless as it cannot be verified).
  • Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole)
  • Questions about God (Clarke)
  • Key to this discussion is that religious and ethical statements are neither true nor false; they are meaningless. There is no point discussing them philosophically.
The views of AJ Ayer
  • Introduce the weak Verification Principle of AJ Ayer. How does this improve the Verification Principle? Can religious beliefs in principle be verified?
  • Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole)
  • Ayer’s notion of verifiable in principle makes scientific and historical statements meaningful but continues to exclude religion and ethics.
Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581
Suggested teaching time15 hoursTopicReligious Language
Topic outlineSuggested teaching and homework activitiesSuggested resourcesPoints to note
The Falsification Principle; the views of Antony Flew
  • Read the story of the Garden. How is it like religious belief? Explain the Falsification Principle. Consider its strengths and weaknesses.
  • Group activity on religious language stories. Each group is given a story and asked to summarise it and explain its meaning. They are to produce a handout for the rest of the group.
  • Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole)
  • Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
  • Possible stories include Hick’s road (verification is possible eschatologically), Hare’s bliks (religious beliefs are basic), Mitchell’s stranger (statements have a context of relationship) Swinburne’s Toys in Cupboard (statements have meaning if they can be understood).
  • Flew applies Karl Popper’s idea that science works by hypotheses which the scientists tests by attempting to falsify. This is the problem with religious statements; they cannot be falsified.
Different views on the meaningfulness of religious language
  • Review work done so far on how we can decide if something is meaningful.
  • Give overview of approaches to whether religious language is meaningful.
  • Consolidation exercise: students to produce a poster outlining topic so far.
The views of Ludwig Wittgenstein on religious language
  • Stimulus: each student is given the task of inventing a word which they attempt to slip into conversation. Game ends when others have recognised the meaning of the word and started to use it.
  • Link to ideas of Wittgenstein that words have meaning according to how they are used within certain groups. Discuss whether he is right. If so, what are the consequences?
  • Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole)
  • Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
  • Questions about God (Clarke)
Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581
Suggested teaching time15 hoursTopicReligious Language
Topic outlineSuggested teaching and homework activitiesSuggested resourcesPoints to note
The via negativa (Apophatic Way)
  • Is religious language equivocal? Do words have a completely different meaning when applied to God? Introduce the via negativa as a way to still talk meaningfully of God.
  • Game: in pairs students attempt to describe an object in the room by saying what it is not. What is learned from this?
  • Discuss strengths and weaknesses of the via negativa.
  • The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy & Julie Arliss)
The use of analogy to express human understanding of God
  • Introduction to analogy explaining key idea.
  • Students to work in pairs making notes on the topic and coming up with strengths and weaknesses.
  • Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole)
  • Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
  • Reason and Religious Belief (Peterson et al)
  • The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy & Julie Arliss)
  • A Concise Encyclopaedia of the Philosophy of Religion (Thiselton)
The use of symbol; to express human understanding of God;

The views of Paul Tillich

  • Students annotate handout or resource on Tillich’s view that religious language is symbolic.
  • Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole)
  • Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
  • Reason and Religious Belief (Peterson et al)
  • Questions about God (Clarke)
  • Tillich can sometimes confuse students. It may be worth preparing a handout on his views.
Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581
Suggested teaching time15 hoursTopicReligious Language
Topic outlineSuggested teaching and homework activitiesSuggested resourcesPoints to note
The use of myth to express human understanding of God
  • Review work done on creation story at AS. What truths are conveyed by this story?
  • Discuss how other aspects of the Bible may be understood as myth. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach?
  • AS notes
  • Bultmann’s definition that a myth uses imagery to express the other worldly in the terms of this world may be a helpful way of understanding these stories.
Consolidation
  • Produce a set of revision notes on this topic or a couple of model answers to past questions.
  • Past papers
Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581
Suggested teaching time12 hoursTopicReligious Experience
Topic outlineSuggested teaching and homework activitiesSuggested resourcesPoints to note
Introduction

Different forms of religious experience

  • Brainstorm different forms of religious experience. Discuss what makes an experience religious.
  • Look at some examples of experiences. What problems might these examples raise?
  • Some good examples in “Religious Experience Today” (David Hay)
  • Reason and Religious Belief (Peterson et al)
  • Issues such as verification, the logical privacy of the experience, interpretation, religious pluralism, neurology etc may be recurring themes during discussion on this topic.
The Aims and Main conclusions drawn by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience.
  • Introduction giving brief overview of the work of William James. Students to work on research project following structure provided. Focus on his empiricism and psychology, characteristics of mystical experiences, neurology etc.
  • A more able group with more time could be given extracts in pairs of key chapters as a jigsaw exercise. Feed back to whole group to give overall picture.
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Ideas (Raeper & Smith)
  • The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy & Julie Arliss)
  • The Varieties                    of Religious Experience (William James)
  • James’ argument for the existence of God could also be covered here and not later on as in this scheme of work.
Different forms of religious experience: visions and voices
  • Examine some case study where visions or voices are involved, eg Bernadette at Lourdes, Augustine’s experience or some modern equivalents. Students to write a newspaper article reporting the event. The article can contain expert comments from James, Freud and others.
  • One or more case studies from William James or David Hay’s books
  • The example of Augustine is given in chapter 8 of James
  • Use of publishing software might make this more stimulating for students and a copy could be printed for classroom display.
Different forms of religious experience: Numinous experiences
  • Explain Otto’s idea of numinous experience. Evaluate his notion that this is at the heart of all religious experience.
  • Reason and Religious Belief (Peterson et al)
  • Philosophy of Religion (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
  • Examples of experiences will help to reinforce the point. In terms of evaluation, Buber’s I-Thou relationship provides an interesting contrast.
Different forms of religious experience: conversion experiences
  • Stimulus: look at an account of a religious conversion, eg John Wesley, Nicky Cruz. What has happened? What could have caused it?
  • Students use resources available to produce a mind map of the topic addressing what conversion is, when it occurs, different types of conversion and whether it is genuine.
  • Video extract of the Cross and the Switchblade
  • Philosophy of Religion (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
  • Questions about God (Patrick Clarke)
  • Students who have a religious faith may volunteer information about their own conversion. This is a very useful resource if handled sensitively.
  • Celebrity stories may also be a good resource if they are reasonably current.
Different forms of religious experience: corporate religious experiences
  • Review personal and private nature of most religious experiences. Would an experience carry more authority if shared?
  • Case study of a corporate religious experience: Toronto or Fatima. Research project leading to two or three paragraphs evaluating the credibility of these experiences.
  • Various Christian websites can be easily found both to support and criticise the phenomena.
  • Philosophy of Religion (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
Argument from religious experience from William James
  • Stimulus: car sticker or similar claim. What is proved or suggested? Can this be an argument for the existence of God?
  • Outline the argument of William James and suggest strengths and weaknesses. Use carded arguments to assist in the preparation of a model answer.
  • OHT slide or  image of the car sticker “God is alive, he spoke to me this morning”
  • A Beginner’s Guide to Ideas (Raeper & Smith)
  • The Varieties                    of Religious Experience (William James)
  • Questions about God (Clarke)
  • The model answer is a good opportunity to reinforce essay structure and exam technique.
  • Argument cards could consider ideas such as Ockham’s Razor, Swinburne’s principles of credulity and testimony, Freud’s psychological explanation, Marx’s explanation, privacy, verification/falsification, similarity of experiences.
Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581
Suggested teaching time12 hoursTopicReligious Experience
Topic outlineSuggested teaching and homework activitiesSuggested resourcesPoints to note
The concept of revelation through sacred writings
  • Link: religious experiences are said to reveal God. How else might God be revealed? How might God be revealed through sacred writing?
  • Introduce key terms such as natural theology, revealed theology, fideism, propositional and non-propositional revelation, fundamentalist, liberal.
  • Questions about God (Clarke)
  • Beginner’s Guide to Ideas (Raeper & Smith)
  • It is not essential to focus on the Bible. Any sacred text may be chosen for study.
  • Research project exploring how Christians have viewed God’s revelation through the Bible over time. Students to write clear definitions and draw a timeline showing key views.
  • Summarise own views on the coherence of the idea of revelation through sacred writings.
  • Questions about God (Clarke)
  • Beginner’s Guide to Ideas (Raeper & Smith)
Exam practice
  • Students attempt past question.
  • Past exam papers
Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581
Suggested teaching time12 hoursTopicMiracles
Topic outlineSuggested teaching and homework activitiesSuggested resourcesPoints to note
Introduction

Different definitions of miracle

  • Stimulus: various case studies of miracles as reported in books, newspapers, on the internet. Discuss which stories if true could be classed as miracles. Students to attempt to suggest definitions.
  • Present the classic definitions of miracles as violation or as having significance. Which is better?
  • Bank of case studies
  • Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate).
  • 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 event is seen as a miracle.
  • Gareth Moore’s definition of miracle (an event which no one did) or others may be considered.
The concept of miracle and criticisms made by Hume
  • Review some of the cases presented previously, and 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?
  • 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)
  • Consider the response to Hume’s position on natural laws by looking at the ideas of Hick, Davies and/or Swinburne.
The biblical concept of miracle and issues this raises about God’s activity in the world
  • 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.
  • Foundations for the Study of Religion (Libby Ahluwalia)
  • Any biblical miracle(s) may be explored.
  • Students should consider to what extent believers are required to believe in literal miracles.
Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581
Suggested teaching                  time12 hoursTopicMiracles
Topic outlineSuggested teaching and homework activitiesSuggested resourcesPoints to note
The concept of miracle and criticism made by Wiles
  • 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?
  • Philosophy of Religion (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
The implications of the concept of miracle for the problem of evil
  • What links are there between miracles and the problem of evil?
Whether modern people can be expected to believe in miracles
  • Students make notes on one or two religious thinkers who defend miracles. Comment on whether they think the arguments are valid.
  • Prepare for debate.
  • Questions About God (Clarke)
  • Philosophy of Religion (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
  • ‘The Question of God’ (Palmer)
  • Swinburne, Polkinghorne, Pannenburg or CS Lewis may be explored.
  • Class debate: “It is foolish to believe in miracles in this scientific age.”
Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581
Suggested teaching time10 hoursTopicAttributes and Nature of God
Topic outlineSuggested teaching and homework activitiesSuggested resourcesPoints to note
Introduction: Review AS work on Judeo-Christian view of God
  • Review AS work on Judeo-Christian view of God. Students to briefly research and present an attribute of God.
  • Reason and Religious Belief (Peterson et al)
  • Questions about God (Clarke)
God as eternal and omniscient; philosophical problems arising from these concepts
  • 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?
  • Video clip from 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 views of Boethius in his discussion of eternity and God’s foreknowledge.
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • Can be phrased as “If God knows that I will eat cornflakes for breakfast tomorrow, am I free to have toast instead?”
  • Research and present activity on free will and omniscience. Students to research an aspect of the topic in pairs.
  • The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy & Julie Arliss)
  • Various positions on this problem can be explored. Calvin preserves omniscience but concedes free will; process theologians concede omniscience and retain freewill. 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 done this topic.
God as omnipotent: philosophical problems arising from this concept
  • Invite students to define omnipotence, and challenge each definition (eg Can God make square circles? Can God tell a lie?)
  • Students to write a Socratic dialogue on the idea of omnipotence which shows the difficulty of defining the concept.
  • 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 & Julie                    Arliss)
  • A concise encyclopaedia of the Philosophy of Religion (Thiselton)
  • Poster opportunity: “Things God cannot do” – may be an enjoyable and accessible activity.
God as omnibenevolent: philosophical problems arising from this 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?
  • Write a letter to a newspaper to respond to an atheist who has argued that there cannot be a good God.
  • Foundations for the Study of Religion (Libby Ahluwalia)
  • God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah etc may all provide interesting discussions.
The question as to whether or not a good God should reward and punish
  • 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 write up discussion.
  • AS notes
  • The Euthyphro Dilemma covers whether it is logical to link God and morality.
  • Exam practice.
Religious Studies H572: Philosophy of Religion G581
Suggested teaching time15 hoursTopicLife and Death; The Soul
Topic outlineSuggested teaching and homework activitiesSuggested resourcesPoints to note
Introduction: Who am I?
  • Introduce topic via a series of puzzles. Where would I be if I had a brain transplant, soul transplant, etc?
  • Outline possible positions on personal identity: We are our bodies, our brains, a soul, our memories, etc.
  • Philosophy Gym (Stephen Law) has several chapters on personal identity, as does the chapter “Where am I?” in the same author’s Philosophy Files.
Distinctions between body and soul as expressed in the thinking of Plato
  • Explain Plato’s dualistic view of human beings. Link in with Plato’s other ideas from AS.
  • Students list contrasts between body and soul. Working in pairs, they are to write a dialogue between someone who agrees with Plato’s ideas and someone who is sceptical. This should include strengths and weaknesses.
  • Foundations for the Study of Religion (Libby Ahluwalia)
  • Beginner’s Guide to Ideas (Raeper & Smith)
The thinking of Aristotle
  • Issue resources on Aristotle; students to compare and contrast with Plato following structured outline.
  • Key questions include what he means by “soul”, whether the soul is separate, and what happens after death.
  • Foundations for the Study of Religion (Libby Ahluwalia).
  • Beginner’s Guide to Ideas (Raeper & Smith)
  • Aristotle is a popular thinker. Property dualists, materialists and functionalists all claim a link to his thinking.
The thinking of Richard Dawkins
  • Introduce Dawkins’ view that the soul is a mythological concept to explain consciousness.
  • Research activity: web-based research project to explore the thinking of Richard Dawkins.
Other concepts of the body/soul distinction

Critical discussion, their strengths and weaknesses

  • Working in small groups students to research and present a different concept of the body and soul distinction such as Descartes’ dualism, behaviourism, identity theories and functionalism.
  • Students work with carded arguments for and against belief in a soul. Write argument in own words and suggest a possible response.
  • Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole)
  • Reason and Religious Belief (Peterson et al)
  • Behaviourism, identity theories and functionalism are all types of materialism. Identity theory teaches that the mind is just the brain. Behaviourism and functionalism argue that the mind is what the brain does. (Philosophy, the Basics by Warburton may be helpful for teachers new to this area of philosophy).
Distinctions between body and soul in the thinking of John Hick
  • Introduce John Hick’s replica theory which seeks to establish that life after death is possible even if we do not have souls. Students to comment on whether it is logically possible and whether it would be the same person.
  • Students in pairs to examine extracts of John Hick’s writing. Does he believe in souls? What elements of Plato and Dawkins would he agree with?
  • Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole)
  • Philosophy of Religion for A Level (Jordan, Lockyer & Tate)
  • Death and Eternal Life (John Hick)
  • Hick’s view is complex. A key part of our identity is the physical as evidenced by brain science etc. However Hick                    finds paranormal phenomena interesting and suggests that we may be more than physical. The replica theory seeks to show that even if we are entirely physical, life after death is not impossible.
Different views of life after death: resurrection, the concepts of heaven and hell
  • Brainstorm knowledge of religious view of the afterlife. In terms of Christianity, what does the Bible actually say? What do different churches teach? How much have artists and writers influenced our consciousness?
  • Research project to address the above issues. Structured guidance issued.
  • Students to feed back to class.
  • OHT slides or images of paintings that depict heaven and hell.
  • www.biblegateway.com
  • Philosophy of Religion (John Hick)
  • The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy & Julie Arliss)
  • There is no requirement to study Christianity. Other theistic faiths may be studied. If students wish to research their own faith position, this may provide interesting material.
Different views of life after death; reincarnation
  • Stimulus: present a case study of someone who remembers a past life. Is this really possible?
  • Present the idea of reincarnation as understood in Hinduism. To what extent does this resemble the ideas of Plato?
  • Assess strengths and weaknesses. Is this a more coherent view of life after death? What problems might there be?
  • Philosophy of Religion (John Hick) contains a useful chapter on this topic.
  • Websites on past lives.
  • The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss)
  • Check out past lives websites in advance, as material rapidly changes and there is some odd and unhelpful material on this topic.
Questions surrounding the nature of disembodied existence
  • Students to generate arguments for and against life after death using resources available.
  • Research some of these issues, particularly near-death experiences.
  • Prepare a speech for the class debate on life after death.
  • Hold debate; students to write up key ideas.
  • Philosophy of Religion (Peter Cole)
  • Reason and Religious Belief (Peterson et al)
  • www.iands.org
  • The Thinker’s Guide to God (Peter Vardy and Julie Arliss) has some excellent case studies on NDEs
The relationship between the afterlife and the problem of evil
  • Briefly revise the theodicies. How do they use life after death to compensate for the evils of this world?
  • Discuss whether there has to be life after death in order to compensate for the evils in this world. Does resurrection or reincarnation provide a better response to evil?
  • Student AS notes
Consolidation/Exam practice
  • Students in groups to compile mind maps or flow diagrams to answer a past question.
  • Students then share these answers with others.


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