DCT June 18th

Well it’s the last exam and in many ways I believe the trickiest. Development of Christian Thought, especially in year 2, covers a vast area including such topics as secularism, pluralism and its influence on society as well as theology, and feminism’s influence on theology. There is also a topic on Marx and Liberation Theology. These are all areas which most teachers will not have taught before 2 years ago, even if they have studied them before. I found the year 2 DCT to be a genuinely fascinating area to study with my students – our discussions covered so many interesting themes such as gender politics and feminism, Christianity and its relation to our culture and so on. But I have to admit it  is a challenge getting students ready to actually answer questions in these areas.

I will give some question examples which are really not predictions, but just topics that I will explore how to answer questions in.

‘Ruether’s approach to theology does not go far enough to be truly feminist’. Discuss

To what extent is Western culture Christian culture?

‘Universalism is incoherent.’ Discuss

‘Christ is more a teacher of wisdom than a political liberator’ Discuss

Over the next few days I hope to post some answers to these questions.

A Level Philosophy Exam 2018

So the exam is tomorrow. Remember there will be 4 questions and you answer 3. They will be marked out of 40, 16 marks for AO1 and 24 for AO2, which means you must be evaluative and have an answer which is driven by answering the question rather than reciting a list of views. The questions could be from year 1:

Plato and Aristotle

Mind, Body and Soul

Arguments for God from experience

Arguments for God from reason

Religious Experience

Problem of Evil

or from Year 2:

Religious Language – traditional approaches

Religious language – 20th Century approaches

Nature of God

As this is the first year of this exam I have nothing to go on for a prediction as no areas have come up yet. However, I think it would be odd if they didn’t have at least 2 questions from the second year, perhaps even three. In that case there is likely to be a question on God’s nature, and one on religious language. So here we go, here are my four guesses – no idea if anything like this will come up, but it’s always good to have a focus, and as I say, there should be something in at least a few of these areas.

“The conflicts between the divine attributes make belief in the classical view of God impossible” Discuss.

Critically assess non-cognitive approaches to religious language.

“Tillich’s view of Symbol is incoherent” Discuss.

To what extent can teleological arguments be defended from the challenge of chance?

Update: The questions were:

Boethius on eternity and free will

Hume on arguments from observation

The Cataphatic Way

Corporate Experiences


DCT AS OCR exam part 4

I have two more possible questions (see last post for the Augustine one):


“God cannot be known through reason alone.” Discuss.

For this you would be able to use people like Calvin and Aquinas, who viewed things differently but who would both agree with the statement. The question is about the validity of natural theology, and whether it is enough for knowledge of God.


Critically assess the extent to which Christian ethical principles can be based on the Bible alone.

This question involves looking at Protestant views based on ‘sola scriptura’ or the principle that the Bible alone can be an authority, or looking at the Catholic belief that Bible, tradition, and reason have to all be involved in moral decisions.

OK, good luck!

DCT exam 2018 part 3

The previous post included a possible question for the Augustine topic, and a link to my mind map on the pre and post-lapsarian will (pre and post Fall).

Some things to bear in mind when looking at how Original Sin corrupts humans and societies:

  • The will is key to it in Augustine. The will is seen as love, love of self and love of neighbour. Before the Fall these are in harmony.
  • These are respectively, cupiditas and caritas. They can work together in the friendship of Adam and Eve before the Fall. No lust or concupiscence has entered into that relationship and brought about strife and conflict.
  • The will orients itself in friendship as a cohesive force over soul and body – there is no division in the will in the garden of Eden.
  • After the Fall pride drives itself as a wedge between caritas and cupiditas such that there is now a division in the will. Human beings begin to experience a conflict between their own desires and what should be accorded to others.
  • Pride is both the sin of Adam and the sin of the fallen angels (chiefly Lucifer). Now true friendship is only possible by putting Christ first, then love for neighbour is generous, forgiving and removed from cupiditas.
  • So Christ is the remedy for the weakened will.

Next post: Knowledge of God’s Existence question.

OCR AS DCT Exam June 2018 Part 2

In this post I want to look at some elements of Augustine’s view of human nature, as we identified in part 1 that this topic is likely to come up in the DCT exam.

I did previously write an answer to the questionTo what extent has Augustine’s teaching on human nature caused more harm than good?’ Click on the link to have a read of it. It may not be exactly how you would answer a question in the exam, but it should provide food for thought on this topic.

In this answer I reject the idea that Augustine has been responsible for the guilt and sexual hang-ups of people in the West. I also consider other accusations against Augustine such as his ideas on women being responsible (his ideas being responsible!) for gender inequality and patriarchal structures, or that these patriarchal structures have caused Western Imperialism and conflict. These are obviously fairly heavy charges to lay at the feet of one man! Augustine was influential on Christian thought however, so it is possible that he contributed to these things, but only if you consider that these things are attributable to Christianity rather than, say, industrial capitalist societies.

Let’s consider a different question:

Critically examine Augustine’s view that human nature and societies are corrupted by Original Sin.

Have a look at this mind map then try and write a timed essay as revision on this topic.




OCR AS DCT Exam June 2018 part 1

I hope today’s Ethics exam went well for all of you. My year 12 students were quite happy with the questions – they fell into the same pattern of being on the three subjects that hadn’t come up last year again, so that was good. Plus 2 of them were fairly general questions – critically examine Utilitarian theories, and evaluate responses to voluntary euthanasia (or something along those lines), while the third was about the concept of agape in situation ethics.

If you look at my post here I actually write a paragraph evaluating the concept of agape in my prediction for today’s exam! Am I some kind of wizard or what!

My next task is to see what I can do on the development of Christian thought topic.

So last year there were questions on universalism in Death and the Afterlife, Jesus’ teaching in The Person of Jesus, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s teaching on civil disobedience in Christian Moral Action.

Therefore it is likely that we will see questions on Augustine, Knowledge of God’s Existence and Christian Moral Principles.

In my next post I will outline in more detail some areas to look at and try and do some more exemplar work for this. I’ll also look at the examiner’s report from last year and give some advice.

The Challenge of Secularism

One of the key areas in the A2 Development of Christian Thought is the question of Christianity’s contribution to society’s culture and values. Not only to what extent it has contributed but also to what extent it should contribute. These are two different questions. Many secularists would agree that it has contributed significantly to society’s culture and values in the past but disagree that it should continue to do so in the future.

Christopher Dawson whose theories I examine below said “a culture which has lost its spiritual roots is a dying culture, however prosperous it may appear externally” – he called this the ‘central conviction’ of all his work, and he argues most forcefully for it in The Crisis of Western Education. Joseph Ratzinger also points to the religious connotations of the word ‘culture’, which has its roots in the word ‘cultus’ meaning cultivation or worship. He argues that the West is undergoing an attempt to divorce culture from cultus which leads to dangerous forms of rationality which devalue the human person.

To what extent is Christianity a significant contributor to society’s culture and values? To what extent should it be?

“The great world cultures, like China and India and Islam, are classical examples of a moral order. Each of them possesses or possessed a sacred law and system of values on which its social life was founded.

The Western world today no longer possesses this principle of moral order. It has become so deeply secularised that it no longer recognises any common system of spiritual values, while its philosophers have tended to isolate the moral concept from its cultural context and have attempted to create an abstract subjective system of pure ethics. If this were all, we should be forced to conclude that modern Western society does not possess a civilisation, but only a technological order resting on a moral vacuum.

But Western society inherits the tradition of one of the greatest of the civilisations in the world, and in so far as one recognises this bond we are still civilised and it is still possible to restore moral order by a return to the spiritual principles on which our Christian civilisation was based. “

Christopher Dawson, The Crisis of Western Education

Earlier in this work, Dawson defines civilisation as a super culture – and argues that it is inherent within such super cultures to have their organising principles in sacred laws and values.

Here he argues that if we follow secularising forces where they inevitably lead, we will not have a civilisation at all, as we will lack an organising system of values, and we will have or already do have, a technological order resting on a moral vacuum.

Such an order will rapidly either destroy itself or die out. Such an order is unsustainable. ‘Instrumental reason’ as Charles Taylor calls it, is the method of dominant reasoning in such a secular age, and such reasoning can be easily hijacked by the merely powerful in pursuit of their own ends.

Interestingly, Dawkins himself, scourge of believers, seems almost sympathetic to such a viewpoint in many of his writings. He talks of the comfort he feels on entering an old church and he seems to be aware of the magnitude of what was lost. However, he wants to keep such musings at a purely aesthetic level, for his world view cannot allow Christian culture to have any intellectual punch. For him, it is a lot of stories you tell to children to comfort them when they are scared or sad. He invests in the simplistic view that religion is something to be outgrown, left behind like the childhood toys of the human race, and here he follows to a degree, Freud and Marx.