Philosophy of Religion - mid year examination - sample examination questions

Part I - Definitions

If this part appears on the exam, you will be asked to give a short (100-125 words) explanation of four (out of a choice of six) of the following terms:

a) divine attributes b) analogy of attribution c) philosophical theist

d) omnipotence e) free will defence f) philosophy of religion

g) logical empiricist h) analogy i) omniscience j) privation theory

k) religion as projection l) living option m) Irenaean theodicy

n) fideist

Part II - Quotations

If this part appears on the exam, you will be asked to give a short (100-200 words) explanation of what three (out of a choice of four) quotations mean, of what their respective context is, and of their respective relevance to an issue in the philosophy of religion.

Part III - Essay questions

In this section, you will be asked to write on 1 or 2 questions out of a choice of 3 or 4.

1. What does Marx mean when he says that religion is an opium (or, as it has also been said, a 'spiritual gin'? What reasons lead him to this conclusion? What criticisms can be raised against Marx's view? Which side do you think is the most plausible? Why?

2. What are some of the many different paradoxes involved in the idea of omniscience? Briefly, how do Boethius and Nelson Pike respond to one of these paradoxes? Evaluate their arguments.

3. "The theological superlative is a potent source of error" (J.R. Lucas). Explain and discuss this statement, with reference to our study of the divine attributes.

4. Geach and Aquinas have something to say about the concept of omnipotence.

i) In what ways can the concept of omnipotence be understood? ii) State Geach's argument against the concept of omnipotence. iii) What is Geach's alternative? Why does Geach believe his alternative is preferable? iv) Do you accept Geach's argument? Explain.

5. What is the principal paradox that is alleged to arise from the idea of omniscience? State two of the responses to this paradox from the authors we have studied. Evaluate their arguments.

6. What is the problem of evil? What are three possible responses to it? Evaluate these responses.

7. According to Feuerbach what is `religion?' From the assigned reading, what does Feuerbach say is the source and character of our concept of God? From Feuerbach's theory, what do you think he would say that humanity must do? Why? State what you think to be three major criticisms of Feuerbach's theory. Give (at least) one reason for this criticism.

8. Some contemporary philosophers insist that God is in time and that God can change.

i) What do they mean by this? ii) Why are they led to this conclusion? iii) Why would anyone hold the opposite view (i.e., that God is not "in time" and that God is "immutable")?

9. Why is analogy used in the philosophy of religion? How is it used? What kinds of analogy are there? What problems can arise in the use of analogy?

10. What are the different positions one can take in response to the question "Can religion be discussed?"? Briefly state the arguments given in defense of each position.