4 short philosophy reflections… | Social Science homework help

For each of the Reading Reflections you will focus upon one specific line of argument from the Keller book, making connections with a related reading (or readings), and using Discussion Questions to guide your thinking.

These should be about 2 double-spaced pages, with the exception of the Preliminary Reading Reflection, which is to be 1 double-spaced page.

Though they are very short, they should not therefore be seen as “easy. “ Rather, they will require textual analysis, critical thinking, and integration of concepts, all within a brief space. Being thoughtful, yet concise will be vital.



Preliminary Reading Reflection:

·         Keller, “Introduction” & “Chapter I: There Can’t Just Be One True Religion.”

·         Watch: Keller, “Religion in an Age of Skepticism” (The Veritas Forum); covers same material as Chapter 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiWeohEBdPo

(first 40 minutes, up to the Q+A, though feel free to watch the rest, if interested)


Discussion Questions I:



Readings Set One:

·         William T. Cavanaugh, “The Wars of Religion and Other Fairy Tales” (ABC: Religion & Ethics – 3 February 2012) http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2012/02/03/3422519.htm

·         Alvin Plantinga, “A Defense of Religious Exclusivism” (e-mailed document).  (A)


·         What is the history of philosophy of religion:  Plato, Aristotle, and antiquity?

·         How does religious language work?

·         Do we all have “faith,” when it comes to matters of spirituality, values, and meaning?

·         What do your beliefs look like?

·         What is the significance of religious pluralism?


·         Do you think most people actually do rank religions qualitatively?

·         Do all religions share some common “core?”

·         Is it fair to ask that people keep their faith “private,” as a matter of personal belief?



Readings Set Two:

·         Zagzebski & Miller [Z&m] – John Hick, “Religious Pluralism and Salvation” (444-445) – (Also uploaded to BlackBoard in PDF format)

·         [Z&M – The Dalai Lama, “ The Bodhgaya Interview” (455-458)]

·         [Z&M – Karl Rahner, “Christianity and the Non-Christian Religions (459-464)]


·         What does Plantinga mean by “exclusivism” when it comes to religious truth?

·         What does Hick mean by “pluralism” in matters of religion?

·         Do you think Plantinga provides an adequate response to Hick’s argument?


       Readings Set One:

·         Keller, “Chapter 2 – How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?”

·         Z&M – Plato, “God is Not the Author of Evil” (323-324)

·         Z&M – Lactantius, “On the Anger of God” (325-326)


·         Keller argues that just because we can’t find a good reason for God to allow suffering doesn’t mean that there isn’t one. –  What do you think about this response? Is it just a cop-out to say that God’s ways of acting are necessarily beyond our comprehension?

·         Keller argues that religion (particularly Christianity) provides resources for facing pain, with hope and courage – Have you ever experienced this sort of hope or courage? How and in what circumstances?

·         Keller asks, “On what basis…does the atheist judge  the natural world to be horribly wrong, unfair, and unjust?” – How would you respond to this question?

·         How does Plato argue that God cannot be the cause of evil?

·         What is Epicurus’ argument against a good God, based upon the existence of evils, as recorded by Lactantius? How does Lactantius respond to Epicurus?



Readings Set Two:

·         Z&M – Augustine, “That Which Is, Is Good” (327-328)

·         Z&M – Augustine, “On the Free Choice of the Will” (329-331)


·         What does Augustine mean when he says  that so long as anything exists, it is good and that if something was deprived of all goods, it would cease to exist altogether?

·         According to Augustine, what is the relationship between free will and wrong doing?

·         To what evidence does Augustine point ro show that free will, while it allows us to do wrong, is not for the purpose of doing wrong?


First Reading Reflection:

·         Write about 2 pages on one of the topics raised by Keller, in his “Introduction” (belief/doubt) or Chapter 1 (exclusivism) or Chapter 2 (suffering).

·         Bring in additional  information from at least one other reading

(Cavanaugh, Plantinga, Hick, Plato, Augustine, etc.) where relevant

·         Use the Discussion Questions, as a guide to direct your thinking.


Discussion Questions A:

Readings Set One (Choose two): — Tell me which 2 you’re choosing too!

·         Z&M – J.L. Mackie, “Evil & Omnipotence” (342-349)

·         Z&M – Alvin Plantinga, “The Free Will Defense” (350-368)

·         Z&M – William Rowe, “Friendly Atheism, Skeptical Theism, &…Evil” (380-388)

·         David Bentley Hart, “Tsunami & Theodicy” (Word document – e-mailed & uploaded)…(B)


·         What is the contradiction that Mackie sees between existence of a good and all-powerful God and the existence of evil?  (This is the logical problem of evil).

·         What are the fallacious solutions to the problem that Mackie discusses and what are his responses to these?

·         What is Plantinga’s criticism of Mackie? Do you think it succeeds?

·         What’s Rowe’s argument that kinds and quantity of evil in the world makes a good and all-power God unlikely? (This is the evidential problem of evil).



 Readings Set Two:

·         Keller, “Chapter 3 – Christianity is a Straightjacket”

·         Stanley Fish, “The Trouble with Tolerance” (Word document, e-mailed & uploaded)…(C)


·         Keller argues that the values of Western democracy are a kind of secular absolute truth that lies beyond the possibility of complete certainty and proof. Do you agree? Does that make these values similar to religious values and beliefs?

·         Fish’s essay is a review of Wendy Brown’s book Regulating Aversion, which examines the emergence of “tolerance” that Fish identifies, based on Brown’s book, and why does he think Brown’s solution is inadequate?


Second Reading Reflection:

·         Write about 2 pages on one of the topics raised by Keller in his Chapter 3 (truth/freedom) or Chapter 6 (science & faith).

·         Bring in additional information from at least one other reading

(Fish, Aquinas, Hume, Dennett, Haught, etc.), where relevant.

·         Use the Discussion Questions, as a guide to direct your thinking.


Discussion Questions B:

Readings Set One:

·         Keller, “Chapter 4 – The Church is Responsible for So Much Injustice”

·         Keller, “Chapter 5 – How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?”


·         Keller admits that non-religious people are often more moral than religious people, but suggests this might be, in part, because religion attracts people looking for help. Does this make sense? Or would you say that if Christianity (or another faith) really does transform lives, then the behavior of its adherents should surpass that of non-adherents?

·         In your experience, how have ideas of divine anger, punishment, and hell been portrayed?

·         What do you think of Keller’s argument that, if God genuinely loves his creation, then he must oppose anything that seeks to harm it?

·         Do you think that, if there is a God, it makes sense that he would be “big” enough to include not only mercy and love, but also judgment and wrath?

·         Keller defines hell as “one’s freely chosen identity apart from God, on a trajectory into infinity.” What do you think of that definition and the implications Keller draws from it?



Readings Set Two: (read Keller, Dennett, plus another from Z&M or Hanby – tell me which one)!


·         Keller , “Chapter 6 – Science Has Disproved Christianity”

·         Z&M – Daniel C. Dennett, “Atheism and Evolution” (614-623)

·         Z&M – John F. Haught, “Darwin, Design, and Divine Providence” (624-635)

·         Z&M – Alvin Plantinga, “How Naturalism Implies Skepticism” (636-647)

·         Z&M – Timothy O’Connor, “A House Divided…” (648-652)

·         Michael Hanby, “Reclaiming Creation in a Darwinian World” (from Theology Today 62 (2006): 476-483) (PDF document – emailed & uploaded)…(D)


·         Keller writes, “When evolution is turned into an all-encompassing theory explaining absolutely everything we believe, fell, and do, as the product of natural selection, then we are not in the area of science, but of philosophy.” What do you think about this assertion? How would you respond to it?

·         What is Dennett’s argument for the conclusion that the explanatory success of evolutionary biology undermines the believing in the existence of God?

·         How does Haught respond to Dennett’s argument (as well as arguments from proponents of “intelligent design” theories)?

·         What is Plantinga’s argument for thinking that, if atheistic naturalism is true, then we have no good reasons to reject through going skepticism? 

·         How does O’Connor respond to Plantinga? Is his response convincing?


Readings Set One: (Read at least Aquinas & Hume)

·         Z&M – Thomas Aquinas, “Miracles” (565-566)

·         Z&M – David Hume, “Of Miracles” (567-571)

·         Z&M – George I. Mavrodes, “David Hume and the Probability of Miracles” (583-593)


·         How does Thomas Aquinas define a “miracle?” What do you think of that definition?

·         What are Hume’s reasons for thinking, that even if a miracle did occur, we could never be in a good position to rationally believe it? How is eye-witness testimony unreliable?

·         What is Mavrodes’ response to Hume’s argument? Do you find his response effective?

·         Sometimes people reject sacred tests like the Bible, because of how they portray God. Keller responds, however, that this unreasonably “assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you” and why would we expect that? – Do you agree that we should expect a transcendent God to take stands and enforce rules that run counter to our sense of how things should be done? Why or why not?



Readings Set Two: Keller, “Chapter 7 – Intermission…”


·         What does Keller mean by “strong rationalism”  and why does he see it as problematic?

·         What does he mean by “critical rationality?” How do arguments for the existence of God and/or the truth of Christianity fit into critical rationality?

·         What sort of “explanatory power” does Keller think theism might have?

·         What do you think about the relationship between faith and reason?


Third Reading Reflection:

·         Write about 2 pages on one of the topics raised by Keller in his “Intermission” (faith and reason) or Ch. 8 (theistic arguments) or Chapter 9 (religion & morality)

·         Bring in additional reading from at least one other reading

(Aquinas, Pascal, James, Aristotle, Hume, Plato, Adams, etc.), where relevant.

·         Use the Discussion Questions, as a guide to direct your thinking.


Discussion Questions C:

Readings Set One:

·         Z&M – Justin Martyr, “How Justin Found Philosophy” (481-486)

·         Z&M – Thomas Aquinas, “Faith & Reason”

·         Z&M – Blaise Pascal, “The Wager”


·         How does Justin describe his conversion? In what way is Christianity a “philosophy?”

·         How does Aquinas distinguish between faith, reason, and what, according to him, is the relationship between the two? Can they ever conflict? How does reason support faith?

·         Why does Pascal think it’s worthwhile “betting” on the existence of God, even if there is no absolutely conclusive evidence for God’s existence?


Readings Set Two:

·         Z&M – Thomas V. Morris, “Pascalian Wagering”

·         Z&M – W.K. Clifford, “The Ethics of Belief”

·         Z&M – William James, “The Will to Believe”


·         What are the main criticisms of “Pascal’s Wager” and how does Morris reply to them?

·         Clifford famously argues that “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” What do you think of Clifford’s claim? Is it true? What does he mean by “evidence?”

·         How does James respond to Clifford? Why does he think it is worth risking faith?


Readings Set One: (Choose one version of the cosmological argument from Z&M or McCabe, plus Hume’s critique – Tell me which version you choose too)!


·         Keller, “Chapter 8 – The Clues of God”

·         Z&M – Aristotle, “The Eternality of Motion and the Unmoved Mover” (62-65)

·         Z&M – Al-Ghazli, “The Kalǡm Cosmological Argument” (66-67)

·         Z&M – Thomas Aquinas, “The First Three Ways” (71-72)

·         Z&M – Samuel Clarke, “The Argument From Dependent Beings” (73-75)

·         Herbert McCabe, “God and Creation” (from Philosophy of Religion, ed. by Davies, Oxford Press 2000: 196-201) (Word/PDF documents – emailed & uploaded)…(E) 

·         Z&M – David Hume, “Critique of the Cosmological Argument” (76-78)


·         Among other arguments, Keller suggests that, in general, innate desires correspond to some sort of real objects that can fulfill them (hunger àfood; arousal à sex). He goes on to argue that the human longing for meaning, love, and beauty are strong indicators that God exists  —

Do you agree that universal human desires point to God, or is there another explanation?

·         Aristotle, Al-Ghazali, Aquinas, and Clarke provide different versions of the same basic argument. What are their similarities and differences? Which do you think is the strongest? What are Hume’s main criticisms of these sorts of cosmological arguments? Do you think these objections are successful?



Readings Set Two:

·         Z&M – Cicero, “The Design Argument” (25-26)

·         Z&M – Thomas Aquinas, “The Fifth Way” (27)


·         Cicero, (quoting the Stoic philosopher Quintus Lucilius Balbus) and Aquinas both provide very brief arguments for God from the appearance of design and purpose. What do you think of their arguments?


Readings Set One:

·         Z&M – William Paley, “The Watch and the Watchmaker” (28-30)

·         Z&M – David Hume, “Critique of the Design Argument” (31-38)

·         Z&M – Robin Collins, “ The Teleological Argument” (39-50)


·         Paley provides a more detailed sort of design argument for the existence of God. Do you think it is an important improvement over those of Cicero and Aquinas?

·         What are Hume’s main lines of critique against design arguments for the existence of God?

·         Do you think that Collin’s argument avoids Hume’s criticisms? Do you find it persuasive?



Readings Set Two:

·         Z&M – Rudolf Otto, “The Numinous” (119-122)

·         Z&M – Ludwig Feuerbach, “The Essence of Religion in General” (183-186)

·         Z&M — Sᴓren Kierkegaard, “Truth is Subjectivity” (153-156)


·         How might Otto’s discussion of the “numinous” intersect with what Keller says about beauty?

·         Feuerbach and Freud both see belief in God as a projection of fulfillment of human beliefs, needs, and desires. How might their views serve as a response to what Keller says about innate desires, corresponding to real objects?

·         What does Kierkegaard mean when he says in order for faith to be faith it must hold onto belief with passion, even though the content of faith is objectively uncertain?

·         What do you think of Kierkegaard’s argument?


Make sure you answer all the discussion questions, to the best of your ability and thoroughly, especially those that are underlined. Please use MLA citations, when and where necessary, with a works cited page, following each paper.  I’ll be attaching supplementary readings for these reflections A.S.A.P! The key sources for these documents however are:


[1] Linda Zagzabeski and Timothy D. Miller, eds. [Z&M] — Readings in Philosophy of Religion: Ancient to Contemporary

                Edition: 2009

                Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell

                ISBN: 978-1-4051-8091-7


[2] Timothy Keller — The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

                Edition: 2009 Reprint Edition

                Publisher: Riverhead Trade      

                ISBN: 978-1-59448-349-3



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!  These reports must all be completed by 5:00 PM, of Saturday/Sunday, July 28th – July 29th, 2013, my time (Eastern Standard Time – New York). The sooner they’re completed, the better, but don’t rush through them so that thoroughness and accuracy are sacrificed. Absolutely no plagiarism or outside sources are to be used here!!!!


P.S. All supplementary readings for this assignment have now been attached! 

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