Old Spec Philosophy of Religion AS predictions 2017

Here we go, at last I have caved to pressure after weeks of people asking for predictions for the old spec AS exams – I almost expected people to start knocking on my door and asking me to do this! Sorry about the wait! Yes, they are similar to a certain other blogger’s predictions – we often have similar guesses, because it usually possible to see where there have been gaps in previous years which makes prediction easier. As usual the disclaimer: These are by no means bound to come up and you only have yourself to blame if you only revise these and none of the topics come up!

 

1 a) Explain the relationship between concepts and phenomena in Plato’s thought

b) ‘Plato’s theory of Forms is unnecessary – the world makes more sense without it’ Discuss

 

2 a) Explain Hume’s criticisms of the cosmological argument

b) To what extent was Hume successful in his critique of the cosmological argument?

 

3 a) Explain how the Bible shows God as craftsman involved with his creation

b) ‘It is impossible for God to be omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent’ Discuss

 

4 a) Explain theistic views of evolution

b) To what extent is evolution compatible with theism?

 

1a has not come up as a question but it is on the spec – I will post more on that. Question 2 I have lots on Hume and cosmolgical argument on the site – see these old posts here and here. God as creator with this emphasis has not come up before. Science and Religion could well come up too.

A Level (A2) Predictions 2017 – OCR Philosophy and Ethics

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It’s that time of year again. Let’s see whether we can take a look at the previous questions and take an educated guess about what might come up. The truth is that this has become harder and harder to do. A few years ago there were a few topics that hadn’t come up. Now everything has pretty much come up in previous years. Still, I’ll have a go at predictions. Just remember the usual disclaimer: I am not psychic and I don’t know the future. These are *guesses*! Anything could come up! Please revise all areas, you just may want to have a little look in more depth at these topics. OK, that said here goes:

Philosophy:

Religious Experience: ‘Voices are not proof of God but evidence of psychological neurosis.’ Discuss (35) (Click link for essay)

Miracles: ‘Hume’s understanding of miracles is flawed’. Discuss. (35)  (Click link for essay)

Attributes of God: ‘God’s foreknowledge is incompatible with human free will.’ Discuss. (35)

Life after Death: ‘Resurrection is more coherent than reincarnation’. Discuss. (35)

Religious Language: To what extent does analysis of the uses and purpose of religious language overcome the criticisms of the logical positivists? (35)

Ethics

Free Will and Determinism: Critically evaluate theological determinism. (35)

Conscience: How convincing are Newman’s claims that conscience is the voice of God? (35)

Virtue Ethics: ‘Virtue Ethics is the best approach to environmental issues.’ Discuss (35)

Sexual Ethics: Assess the usefulness of religious ethics as an approach to the issues surrounding contraception. (35)

So why have I predicted these ones? Well, in philosophy, the only topics that have never come up as far as I can see are voices in religious experience, Hume’s definition of miracles (different from his criticisms of miracles, which has come up), and the uses and purpose of religious language. Then the other two from life after death and attributes have not come up for a while.

With ethics it was a case of choosing between quite a few options – as far as I can see, no-one apart from Butler has been specified in a question, so there could be a question on any of the other conscience scholars. Also never seen a specific question on predestination which seems odd? The two applied topics have never come up in that combination.

There you go – hope that helps with revision! Now to do ‘predictions’ for AS – a bit pointless really as it is the first year, so literally anything could come up! That hasn’t stopped other people from having a go at it though!

BTW – are you interested in a really useful revision guide for AS? Get mine here: https://rs.pushmepress.com/titles/as-religious-studies-revision-guide-for-ocr-a-level-religious-studies/trade-paperback-uk

 

 

MYSTICISM: Message To Poets, by Thomas Merton

For the poets

The Value of Sparrows

(NOTE: This message was read at a meeting of the “new” Latin-American poets – and a few young North Americans – Mexico City, February 1964.  This was not a highly organized and well-financed international congress, but a spontaneous and inspired meeting of young poets from all over the hemisphere, most of whom could barely afford to be there.  One, for instance, sold her piano to make the trip from Peru.)

We who are poets know that the reason for a poem is not discovered until the poem itself exists.  The reason for a living act is realized only in the act itself.  This meeting is a spontaneous explosion of hopes.  That is why it is a venture in prophetic poverty, supported and financed by no foundation, organized and publicized by no official group, but a living expression of the belief that there are now in our world new people, new poets who…

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“Scripture Is The Only Valid Form Of Revelation” Discuss (35 Marks)

“Scripture Is The Only Valid Form Of Revelation” Discuss (35 Marks)

A revelation is often referred to as “a divine disclosure, whereby God reveals Himself in some way to a person”. Christians claim that God reveals himself to us in many ways namely; through nature: the universe with its vastness and complexity gives testimony to God and His glory, He is also revealed through our conscience: all societies have a certain moral code built into them in which stealing, lying, murder, and such are universally condemned. Humanity’s sense of right and wrong testifies to God’s existence as it is a sign of His goodness, they also believe that the work of Jesus reveals God: Jesus Himself testified that He had come to earth to reveal the will of God the Father. All of these revelations have come from the Christian scripture.The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to humankind. The Scripture says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof for correction, for instruction in righteousness”(2 Timothy 3:16).The Bible is humankind’s source for the knowledge of God and His plan. In this essay I will outline different types of attitudes towards Christian scripture and evaluate the claim that “Scripture Is the Only form of Revelation”.

In philosophy, there are two different ways in which people understand the idea of revelation from God; propositional revelation and non-propositional revelation. Propositional revelation is often understood as God revealing truths about His nature to people.The revelations are made up of non-debatable statements of facts and the information given reveals inerrant knowledge which is without need of interpretation. An example of a propositional revelation is the ten commandments, given to Moses.

Many people criticise this view as it suggests that the receiver of the revelation is passive. However, psychologically, the human mind does not passively receive information, it actively receives it, for example when you learn something, you remember it. Additionally, when trying to learn, we can make memory errors, this means propositional revelations of God may not have been recorded accurately as humans are not infallible. To add, many people claim that the zealous after effects of a revelation can act as proof of the genuineness of the revelation however, this is not the case. There is no direct way to prove that a propositional revelation has happened. Furthermore, different religions, claim to have received propositional revelations, yet sometimes truth claims from different religions conflict. This could mean that all revelations are limited by the ability of receivers to interpret the revelation into their own religion, making it an interpretation, not a statement of fact.

Various Christians take a propositional view when approaching the Bible. As they believe it is the absolute word of God. These people are traditionally known as fundamentalists as they oppose liberal approaches who interpret the Bible, often doubting miracles and the creation story. They also believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and that it is therefore infallible. To them, the Bible is an authoritative book that reveals God’s will to His people through historically accurate documents. Fundamentalism is limited in that it does not aid you in interpreting the Bible which can be deemed uninspirational. Their view is also subjective and only accepts one way of interpreting the Bible without knowing of it is the correct way.

Moreover, many fundamentalists use the term “verbal inspiration” to describe how God gave His word to the people. “Verbal Inspiration” refers to the divine origins of every word in the Bible. It claims that God dictates the books of the Bible through divine inspiration, this means that every word of the Bible should be respected in the Bible as you will therefore be following God’s absolute words. This means you can consult the Bible for guidance about moral dilemmas and problems in life, and your answers will be found in the Bible. This view is highly criticised as of the Bible is followed this way, believers must accept harsh punishments like the death penalty for many offences. This is seen by many as barbaric and cruel as this would mean women who commit adultery and who are not virgins before they get married should be stoned to death. Similarly, the idea of how creation happened is highly disputed among all Christians as many liberals do believe in the theory of evolution. To add, of the Bible is divinely inspired then disobeying the Bible in any way is a rejection of God’s commands so a fundamentalist should agree to the stoning of women even though it would be shunned in our society today.

The other way in which people understand revelation from God is through the non-propositional approach. This refers to the idea that religious believers recognise God’s revelation through his action in human history and through experience. The role of the receiver is therefore crucial in this instance as God’s revelation will be a subjective experience. This approach means that humans are free to respond to God’s revelation or not to since the receiving of the revelation is active. An example of a non-propositional revelation is noted by the author Arthur Cohen through his character of Sherlock Holmes, he argues for the existence of a God from the beauty in the world. William Paley also stated that the structure of the eye is so meticulously designed that is must have had a creator. Other examples of non-propositional revelations are the gospels as the are an account of what was revealed through Jesus’ life as His apostles understood it. From reading the Gospels we can form an image of what Jesus’ was like and decipher what this means for us today.

Many people criticise this view as the claim that non-propositional revelations do not reveal direct knowledge of God, nor can they be considered as infallible. This means there is no way of resolving theological debates apart from appealing to one’s own experience. Additionally, the content of a non-propositional revelation is a matter of interpretation. It is equally possible to be amazed by the beauty and nature of the world without experiencing a non-propositional revelation. Dawkins also argues that we have evolved through our genes and are now able to understand a little of our place in the universe and in the process of evolution. Through the development of the prefrontal cortex we can admire art and socially interact. Non- propositional revelations simply attribute a level of consciousness that we have developed from the process of evolution to God. To add, another criticism is that a believer in this approach cannot claim absolute certainty about their belief systems the way a propositional believer can as they have no factual evidence to support them.

Furthermore, people who apply the non-propositional approach to the Bible, will also believe that the Bible is a record of human experiences of God. The inspiration of God makes the author write down their experiences and understanding of God’s action in the world. The author of the Bible is not divinely dictated to but uses their own skills and understanding to record their revelation of God. They tend to coin the term “divine inspiration” to describe how the Bible came about. This refers to the belief that God inspires the writers of the books of the Bible. This view is criticised as there is a discrepancy over what the specific instructions from God are, as of the book is divinely inspired, then the revelation of God is within the text but identifying the exact nature of the revelation would be problematic. Additionally, the instructions in the Bible are difficult for some to come to terms with for example, no divorce for women and men in abusive relationships. To add, some passages in the Bible conflict with modern attitudes. This is evident in St Paul’s patriarchal view of women’s roles in Churches as they are somewhat oppressive and anti-feminist. Many people would argue that scripture is culturally relative and time bound and so is not relevant today.

Others would argue that scripture is the only valid form of revelation as they hold so much authority. This is due to the fact that after the early Church, leaders could not directly refer to the first apostles for guidance and so developed a new authority. This was based on the rule of faith and the Bible. The rule of faith encompassed traditions, teachings of leaders and beliefs of Christians that had been passed down from the time of the apostles. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is also a form of literary authority as it is written by apostolic teachings and by previous popes who hold papal succession. This stems from the belief that Jesus gave the apostles authority as they were witnesses of His work. Bishops and popes are therefore successors of the apostles and hold the same authority, this means their writings are infallible. The Bible is also seen by many people as the law and should be followed, this has been stated by Maurice Willes. This however poses many problems as laws are seen to be constructs of social order for the time they are created in. This could mean that because the Bible was written over 2000 years ago, its laws and instructions are outdated and need to be in accordance with todays society in order to maintain relevance for the people. It would be plausible to suggest however that Christians would claim the Bible is transcendent as it is divine.

In conclusion, I believe Scripture is the only valid from of revelation as many other forms of revelation stem from it. This is evident in the revelation of God through Jesus as his works are described to us in the Bible.Our sense of morality and conscience can also be taken from the Bible for example, in the beatitudes, revealing God’s expectations of us. Additionally, through reading the Genesis and the creation story we are given an answer to the beauty of the world and therefore can attribute nature’s cause, to God.

Schmemann on Death and the Afterlife

Now we understand why God desires that death, why the Father gives His Only-Begotten Son to it. He desires the salvation of man, i.e., that the destruction of death shall not be an act of His power (“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He shall presently give Me more than twelve legions of angels?” Matthew 26:53), not a violence, be it even a saving one, but an act of that love, freedom and free dedication to God for which He created man. For any other salvation would have been in opposition to the nature of man, and, therefore, not a real salvation. Hence the necessity of the Incarnation and the necessity of that Divine death. In Christ, man restores obedience and love. In Him, man overcomes sin and evil. It was essential that death be not only destroyed by God, but overcome and trampled down in human nature itself, by man and through man. “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” (I Corinthians 15:21)

 

The New A Level RS Specification: Essay Writing

New A Level students, an excellent blog post with practical advice on how to write essays

Religious Education Matters

My Lower Sixth pupils have got off to a flying start with their first foray into the new A Level specification from OCR.

I am teaching the Philosophy side of the course this year and we are just wrapping up their first topic: Ancient Greek Influences.

Crucial to helping them make the big step from GCSE to A level has been helping them come to terms with what is required when writing an essay. It is our whole school policy to not enter any pupil for AS levels and, as such, we are fully linear. Looking ahead to Summer 2018 it is imperative that my pupils get as much practice writing essays as they can.

In the Summer holiday I attended an OCR course in London designed to introduce the new course to teachers and Hugh Campbell gave some important information about exam technique. The crucial focus for pupils should…

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Virtue Ethics and Brexit

Update 17/03/17: I wrote this post last year before the EU referendum in response to a post in which someone tried to frame the choice as egoism on one side (Brexit) and selflessness on the Remain side. I thought this rather shallow.

 

At his site Peter Baron has interestingly looked at the politics of Brexit through the lens of moral egoism.

I thought it would be interesting to take a virtue ethics view of the EU question. Virtue ethics makes eudaimonia, roughly translated as flourishing, a key element of moral decision-making. Equally it emphasises character over duty or consequences. It is not surprising that most of the arguments for Remain or Leave are framed in terms of utility or consequence; basically what are the economic losses or gains if we stay or go, because utilitarianism is the default public discourse mode of moral decision making. And this is so probably because of the materialism and relativism of secular modernity.

It is my view that virtue ethics can do much to augment and invigorate such deracinated modes of moral reasoning. And taking a virtue ethics approach to the EU referendum seems refreshing. Where are the great narratives on both sides? Rabbi Sacks argues here that they are missing from this debate:

“The debate has been great and vigorous but what is it turning on? How much money will this cost us; will it make it easier or harder to control immigration.

“These matters … are important but in the long run the fact is that we have historical narratives that should have been spoken about and haven’t.

“One is the historical narrative of England, that extraordinary history that runs all the way through from Shakespeare to Elgar to Blake. The second is the other narrative, of Europe in the 20th Century, two world wars, tens of millions of deaths and the original vision … the people who really passionately believed and believe in Europe were people who came through the Second World War and vowed let us create a Europe where this can never happen again.

“There are two very powerful historical narratives, one for leaving, one for staying, but nobody has tried to do that and it tells you that it is very difficult to speak in these memory terms and narrative terms at all.”

If we try to speak in these narrative terms we will be attempting a telos-orientated interpretation of events. We will be rejecting Utilitarian modes of thought, but more than that, we will be rejecting the simplistic liberal reactions to Brexit that frame it in terms of egoism on the Leave side and superior moral insight on the Remain side. Here is the smug arrogance of the liberal elites at its worst.