Phl-267: philosophical approaches to god final essay, proposal, &

Final Paper, Essay Proposal, & Outline

·         The final essay should be about 6-7 pages in length

·         The focus of this essay will be to state, explain, develop, and defend a particular thesis based upon some theme in philosophy of religion related to the texts we’ve been reading.

·         The thesis needs to make some specific claim (or closely interrelated set of claims) about some topic or theme that we’ve touched on this term, (see list of possible topics below).

·         This claim needs to be stated clearly, explained carefully, fully developed in relation to the kinds of arguments and objections we’ve encountered in texts, by at least two different authors, and defended with philosophical arguments and reasons drawing upon texts we’ve read, ideas of your own, and your own experiences and beliefs.

·         Be sure to relate the theme of your essay to our lives. Why does this claim matter? What difference does it make if you’re right about the thesis?



            Possible theses can respond to the following topics…

·         Is it appropriate to claim that there is only one true religion?

(Please don’t pick this one, if your answer is “no…”). 


·         Do all religions share some common core, so that differences don’t really matter?


·         Does the existence of evil and suffering logically disprove a good all-powerful God?

(Please don’t choose this one if your answer is “yes…”)

·         Does the amount and kind of evil and suffering count against the existence of God? Is any evil truly pointless?

(Again, please don’t choose this one if your answer is “yes…”)


·         Does claiming we cannot know whether any evil is pointless also entail that we cannot know (apart from divine revelation) that God really intends our good?


·         Is it possible for God to make genuinely free creatures who are guaranteed  never to do wrong (Please don’t choose this one if your answer is “yes…” either).


·         Is evil and suffering in the world justified by bringing a greater good?

(Please don’t choose this one, if your answer is “no…”).

·         Does Christian belief in the incarnation, suffering, , death, and resurrection of Jesus make a difference for the problem of evil and suffering?


·         What is the nature of evil? Is it a “thing” in this world or is it merely the privation of good?


·         Do even secular values (moral, political, social, etc.) function ultimately in a kind of religious way? What are the limits of tolerance?


·         How can a loving God judge evil and how can God allow some people to choose an ultimate destiny that ends in their own destruction (i.e. Hell)?


·         If Darwinian explanations of the natural order of the world are true, does that exclude the existence of God or make God’s existence superfluous

(Please don’t choose this one if your answer is “yes…”).

·         If Darwinian explanations of the natural order of the world are true, what does that suggest about the nature of divine providence and God’s relation to the creation?

(Please try not to pick this one; thank you)



·         Does atheistic naturalism undermine the possibility of human rationality?


·         What is a miracle and can they occur? Could we ever be in a position to know? What sort of evidence might there be for a miracle?


·         What is the distinction and interrelation between faith and reason? Can religious faith be rational? (Please don’t choose this one if your answer is “no…”)


·         Should we only ever believe anything, when there is sufficient, objective, verifiable evidence? Is “strong rationalism” a plausible approach to belief, in general?

(Again, don’t select this one if your answer is “no…”)


·         Can religious belief be rationally justified on pragmatic grounds?


·         What sort of evidence should we expect for the kinds of claims made in religion – This one can get tricky! :/


·         Do cosmological arguments for the existence of God  (from motion, from the order of efficient causes, from contingency) provide good reasons for believing in God?


·         Are criticism of cosmological arguments for the existence of God effective in undermining them?


·         Do human desires for meaning, love, beauty, etc. provide evidence for the existence of a God who fulfills these desires? (Please try not to choose this one)!


·         Do explanations of God, as a projection of ourselves or as with fulfillment provide alternative explanations that undermine arguments for God’s existence?


·         Do teleological arguments for the existence of God, (from meaning, function, and purpose) provide good reasons for believing in God? (This is another one that could easily get too complex)!


·         Do design arguments for the existence of God provide good reason for believing in God?


·         How is morality related to God? Is God the source of moral norms and obligations?


·         Does our human moral sense provide evidence for the existence of God

 (Try to choose something other than this one, please).


·         Does our sense that there is something fundamentally wrong with the world point toward some sort of divine purpose and meaning for how the world ought to be?


·         Is there significant historical evidence for the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead?

(This one will involve an overwhelming amount of [outside sources], so try not to pick it)!


Proposal & Outline


Write a 3-5 sentence proposal, including an abstract of your essay, in which you state your thesis,  (what is the claim you will make in your essay), which texts you plan to use, and some indication of types of arguments you will deploy. Attach an outline that portrays the general structure of how you plan to organize your essay. Be as detailed, as possible.


Continued Readings and Discussion Questions, for Paper Brainstorming :

Readings Set One:

·         Keller, “Chapter 9 – The Knowledge of God.”

·         Z&M – Immanuel Kant, “The Moral Argument for the Existence of God.” (272-275)…

·         Z&M –Plato, “The Euthyphro Dilemma.” (279-282)


Discussion Questions:

·         Keller suggests our sense of right and wrong already makes us suspect God exists.

He argues, “We can’t know that nature is broken, in some way, unless there is super-natural standard of normalcy, apart from nature, from which we can judge right and wrong.”  — Do you agree that a shared sense of right and wrong is an indication of God’s existence?

·         Kant rejects cosmological and design arguments for the existence of God, but he provides his own argument for the nature of morality. What is Kant’s argument for God, from the nature of moral good, as aimed at both morality and happiness? Is it a strong argument?

·         The dilemma that Plato presents has to do with the nature of piety or holiness: “Is the holy [holy], because the god’s approve it, or do they approve it, because it is holy?” How does this dilemma translate into a difficulty for the relationship between God and morality? Why is either option problematic for traditional versions of theism?


Readings Set Two: (Read at least Antony, plus one more)…Tell me which one you choose!

·         Z&M – Robert M. Adams, “Divine Commands.” (288-298).

·         Louise M. Antony, “Good Minus God. “ (The New York Times, December 18, 2011).

·         Z&M – Linda Zagzebeski, “The Virtues of God and the Foundations of Ethics.” (299-310).

·         Edward Feser, “Whose Nature? Which Law? (Word document: e-mail & BB). (Aa)

·         Ross Douthat, “What Has Jerusalem to Do with Athens? (The New York Times,  May 22, 2012)

Discussion Questions:

·         Adams provides a version of what is called “Divine Command Theory,” which grounds moral obligation in God’s commands. What is Adams’s argument for the conclusion that divine commands make the best sense of our notion of our moral obligation?

·         Antony argues that the existence of God is not required for morality and that what is good would still be good, whether or not God exists – How is Antony’s argument a version of Plato’s Euthyphro dilemma? Do you think her argument functions as an effective response to Adams?

·         Zagzebeski offers an alternative way of thinking about the relationship between God and morality, more within the tradition of natural law theory and virtue ethics – Do you think that Zagzebeski’s approach provides a good reason for thinking that God’s existence is necessary for morality? Do you think it escapes Antony’s criticisms?

·         Douthat argues that liberalism needs the metaphysical underpinnings for ethics that theism provides. What do you think of his argument? Does he resolve the Euthyphro dilemma?


Readings Set One:

·         Keller, “Chapter 10—The problem of Sin.”

·         Keller, “Chapter 11 – Religion and the Gospel.”

·         Watch: Jefferson Bethke, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus.”

(YouTube Video posted January 10, 2012):

·         Alastair Roberts, “The ‘Atheistic’ Character of Christianity and the Question of Christ.”

(Word/PDF document: e-mail & BB). (Bb)   

Discussion Questions:

·         Keller says, “It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is something fundamentally wrong with the world.” What do you think he means by this? Do you think it’s valid to define what is broken in the world as sin? Why or why not?

·         What do you think of the distinction that Keller makes between “religion” and the Christian gospel?

·         How does Bethke’s video intersect with the kinds of claims that Keller makes in Chapter 11? Do you think Bethke and Keller are saying basically the same thing?

·         Roberts presents a similar point to those made by Bethke and Keller, but coming at it from a different angle. How is Robert’s message similar to and distinct from that of the others?

Readings Set Two: (Focus on Keller, Chapter 13 & Wright)…

·         Keller, “Chapter 12 – The (True) Story of the Cross.”

·         Keller, “Chapter 13 – The Reality of Resurrection.”

·         N.T. Wright, “[Jesus’] Resurrection and Christian Origins,” (from Gregorianum 2002 83/4: 615-635):

(Also Word/PDF document: e-mail & BB).

·         Keller, “Chapter 14 – The Dance of God.”

Discussion Questions:

·         Sometimes God, as presented in Christianity, sounds like a vengeful, primitive deity, who demands appeasement. Shouldn’t he just accept people, without Jesus’ sacrifice?

·         Keller responds by an analogy, with human forgiveness, where one person, in order to forgive, must absorb the cost of another person’s wrongdoing – even if it hurts – What do you think about Keller comparing the pain of human forgiveness to God’s act of sacrificing his Son to redeem humanity? 

·         Keller goes on to argue for the historical truth of Jesus’ resurrection; an argument that is based upon Wright’s analysis of the biblical and historical data. What do you think about this sort of evidential argument? Is it a historical argument? Is it logically sound? What are the philosophical implications?

·         Keller concludes by arguing that “Christianity makes the most sense, out of our individual inference to the best explanation – “Do you think Keller has made a compelling case? Why or why not?


·         Do not take on this assignment if you’re an atheist and don’t agree to complete it if you’re not Christian, or, at least very familiar with Christian philosophical and theological viewpoints; thank you. I’d like these papers to be written from as Christian a perspective, as possible, yet far from a fanatical point!  Please take a look at my other assignment on here: for further course readings and discussion questions to brainstorm and/or apply for this one…


·          I need to have the paper proposal and outline done, by 10:00 PM, on Saturday July 27th/ Sunday July 28th, 2013, my time (Eastern Standard Time [EST] – New York). The 6-7 page paper, on the other hand should be delivered to me, no later than 12:00 noon, on Friday, August 2nd/Saturday, August 3rd, my time again. Of course, the sooner I have everything, the better, but don’t rush to the point that coherency is sacrificed, for the sake of time; thank you.


·         There is to be absolutely no plagiarism or outside sources used for any component of this assignment. MLA in-text and post-text citations are required!  Everything is to be written thoroughly: thoughtfully, coherently, and cohesively too, in academic style, as well!!!!







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