Year 11 Mock RE Revision
Philosophy and Ethics: Belief in God
Reasons revelation is important for CatholicsWhat is Revelation?Comes from a Greek term meaning to ‘unveil’. Used in religion to describe God’s unveiling of himself to humanity. Catholics believe God has gradually unveiled aspects of his being through natural and special revelation.Natural RevelationBelievers see all sorts of clues around them in the world suggesting God exists, such as nature, love and our conciseness. These are all things which cannot be studied – they are more personal, moral, emotional and spiritual. Believers think that life is more than atoms, electrical forces and chemicals – it is spiritual, evoking a sense of awe.Special RevelationNatural revelation only gives a vague awareness of God. Christians believe that God has revealed more of his nature through the Bible.Christians believe that the Bible proves the existence of God because:It is inspired by the Holy Spirit, which means it comes from God.The Church teaches that God speaks through the Bible, showing his character and commands.The Bible contains laws on how to behave (eg– 10 commandments) so it has authority by showing them how God wants them to live.The Bible can bring people into a closer relationship with God by learning what God wants and how he cares for them.“To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who…he acted in them and by them…they wrote whatever he wanted written and no more”-Catechism of the Catholic Church
The significance of Jesus Christ as the culmination of revelationCatholics believe that God’s revelation ended with God becoming man - Jesus.“It pleased God…to reveal himself…through Christ…” – Catechism of the Catholic Church.The Catholic Church teaches that there can be no further revelation of God after Jesus as his messaged reached his highest point in him:“No new public revelation is to be expected.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church.This means that although there were religions formed after the time of Jesus, such as Islam and Sikhism, Catholics cannot agree with all they teach because God’s final truth came in Jesus.What the revelation of Christ shows Catholics about God’s natureFor Catholics, Jesus shows them what God is like. Through Jesus Catholics understand God to be:One who is loveOne who forgivesOne who meets people where they areOne who will sacrifice through self-giving love (Jesus dying on the cross for the sins of the world)The significance of Jesus is summed up in the opening letter to the Hebrews (you MUST be familiar with this for your exam)“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” – Hebrews 1:1-4However, Catholics know there is much they do not understand which will only become clear in Heaven:“Yet if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church.
CATHOLICSThey might know enough about the person having the vision to know that they must be telling the truth, and if they are, then the vision can only come from God.The changes to the behaviour of the person having the vision (egJoan of Arc) make them think that the vision must have come from God.The details of the vision (for example St Bernadette) make them think it must have come from God.The message in the vision makes them think it must have come from God.They show that God cares for and intervenes in the worldThey authenticate some aspect of the Christian messageWhat visions show about the nature of GodGod is still at work in the worldGod is love because he is concerned about his worldGod is still communicating his revelation to humansGod can change people’s lives for the good through visionsExamples of visionsAbraham hearing God’s voiceThe TransfigurationSaul’s conversion to PaulJoan of Arc
ATHEISTS AND HUMANISTSDon’t believe in God, so visions cannot be communicating anything real.Visions can be explained by scientific enquiry of the people having the vision and the details of what they have seen.People suffering from mental illness or stress or taking certain types of medication experience hallucinations very similar to the visions and claim that the identification of the people in the vision, such as the Virgin Mary is based on images which the visionary has already seen associated with the saint.Visions only exist in the mind of the person experiencing them and so provenothing.Catholic responsesThe Church has investigated reported visions on a case-by-case basis. They make sure that:The visionary was not suffering from mental or physical illness at the time.The visionary was not on medication or drugs.The visionary had a good moral nature.The meaning of the vision agrees with the teaching of the Bible and the Church.The vision has had a good effect on the visionary.So, if the Church approves a vision, it must have been genuine. Visions remind Catholics that God and heaven are mysterious. They are spiritual and transcendent and cannot be reduced to the material.
CATHOLICS –What miracles show about the nature of GodGod is active in the world he has made, as shown in the feeding of the 5000 and the stilling of the storm miracles performed by JesusGod cares for the people in this world and uses miracles to help strengthen people’s faith, as seen when the father of an epileptic boy said to Jesus ‘Lord I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief’ and Jesus answered by healing his son.God’s nature is love so he sends miracles out of love as Jesus did in the raising of Lazarus because when the people saw the miracle they said ‘See how he (Jesus) loved him (Lazarus).’Miracles show that God must have performed the miracle and to perform it God must exist (a miracle is something that seems to break the laws of science and make you think only God could have done it.Why miracles can lead to a belief in GodIf a miracle has really happened, it means that God has acted on the earth and that people witnessing it have had direct contact with God, so he must exist.If a miracle has happened, God must have performed the miracle and to perform it, he must exist.If an atheist or agnostic witnesses a miracle, their first reaction will be to look for a natural explanation. However, if they cannot find one, they will be led to believe in God.Examples of miraclesJohn 4: 43-54 Jesus healing of Roman Official’s son– this miracle shows Jesus has the power to heal from a distance, miracles lead people to believe, Jesus performed miracles as a sign of his true nature.Mary appearing to Bernadette in Lourdes, dig at spring, healing water – people being healed , Jack Trainor, DanilaCastelli
ATHEISTS AND HUMANISTSMiracles are meant to break the laws of nature, but the laws of nature are based on our whole experience of life, so the evidence for a miracle would have to be stronger than our whole experience of life, but it never is.Evidence of miracles is based on the evidence of witnesses, but witnesses can be mistaken about things or even tell liesMiracles from the past must be suspect because people in the past did not know enough about science to be able to investigate natural explanations for the events they thought had no explanation other than God.Many miracles from the past can now be explained, for example the crossing of the Red Sea can be explained by tectonic activity in the Great Rift Valley where it occurred.If God really performed miracles, he would surely use them to help remove hunger and poverty, rather than just helping the odd sick person?All religions claim to have miracles, especially Hinduism and Buddhism, so miracles cannot prove anything about any one religion.Catholic responseWe can rely on the truth of Biblical miracles because they are in the Bible, which is authenticated by God.We can believe miracles authenticated by the Church such as those used in the process of canonisation because they have been examined scientifically and proven to be true.If God used miracles to end hunger and stop war, life would be totally different; God uses miracles as signs of his presence in the world and to strengthen people’s faith.Some Catholics are not sure about the stories and claims of miracles. They have a very ordinary and simple faith in a God who is quietly present with people and guides them through life. They believe in Biblical miracles, especially the resurrection of Jesus, but are wary of ideas that God constantly suspends the laws of nature to perform miracles.
Ways religious experience might lead people to belief in GodReligiousExperience as proof of God’s existenceFor people to have a numinous experience something must be causing this – the only explanation is God.If miracles happen then laws of science have been broken and only God can do this.If a person changes their life through conversion then the experience must be so strong that only God could have done this.If a person’s prayers are answered then God must have been the one to answer it.Atheist and Humanist attitudes to Religious ExperiencesA numinous experience is just caused by a person’s surroundings or their own mental state.All miracles can be explained or will be able to be explained in the future by science,A conversion experience is just in the person’s head and cannot be proven.There are more unanswered prayers than answered ones.All followers of religions prove to have religious experiences – only one religion can have the wholes truth so religious experiences cannot prove the existence of God.People could be lying to get people to follow their faith.Catholic ResponseThe Catholic Church teaches that there is an innate spiritual sense in each of us, and even if you do not believe in God then you will be aware of the mystery of life. The Church teaches that when non-believers are seeking peace, justice and meaning they are actually seeking God without realising it:“The desire for God is written in the human heart”-Catechism of the Catholic ChurchBased on is view everyone has had a religious experience but has just interpreted it differently. Religious experiences do not explain the truth of their religion but it does prove the existence of God.
Design Argument and proof of God’s existenceHow the appearance of design may lead to, or support, belief in God.Anything that has been designed needs a designerThere is plenty of evidence that the world has been designed (laws of science, evolution, human eye)If the world has been designed there must be a designerThe only possible designer of something as complex as the world would be God.Therefore, the appearance of design in the world proves that God exists.This arguments shows how the appearance of design In the world can lead to people who are not sure about God to believe that he exists; and how it will give extra reasons for believing in God to those who already believe.Paley’s Watch Analogy:If you were walking in an uninhabited place and came across a watch you could not say it had been put there by chance. Its complexity means it must have had a designer. The universe is far more complex than a watch, therefore if a watch needs a designer, so must the universe. This could only be God, therefore God must exist.Why the design argument is important for Catholics:God’s existence is demonstrated in Creation itself:“the existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works by the light of human reason.” Catechism.“Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. St Paul in Romans 1:20.God wants humans to use their reason to understand the world:“since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” Romans 1:19.The universe works on logical principles designed by God which have enabled humans to make the discoveries science has made.God is the Creator of the universe and keeps it in existence.Atheist and Humanist rejection of design:They think the design argument does not prove God exists because:It ignores evidence of lack of design,eg, volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, natural disasters…Evidence of design can be explained by science.Eg, the creation of the world.The argument only proves there is a designer, not that it is necessarily God. The designer could be many gods or an evil creator.
CosmologicalArgument and proof of God’s existenceCause and effect seem to be a basic feature of the world, whatever we do has an effect.Anything that is caused to exist must be caused to exist by something else. To cause your own existence, you would have to exist before you exist, which is nonsense.You cannot keep going back with causes because in any causal chain you have to have a beginning. If the universe has nofirst cause, then there would be no universe, but as there is a universe, there must be a first cause.The only possible first cause of the universe is God, therefore God must exist.Whythecosmological argumentis important for Catholics:God is the origin of everything: he is the unmoved mover, the first cause, the non-contingent being.God is not another thing within the universe. He is both within and beyond it. God is the source of all being and so has no beginning and no end.God is infinite and eternal. The laws of cause and effect stop with this material universe.God is a mystery, more a question than an answer. Human beings can only grasp so much about God’s being and nature:God is infinitely greater than all his works: ‘You have set your glory above the heavens’. Indeed God’s greatness is unsearchable. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 300)Atheistand Humanist rejection ofthe cosmological argumentThey think thecosmologicalargumentdoes not prove God exists because:If everything needs a cause then God must also need a cause. Why should the process have to stop at God.It is possible that matteritself is eternal and so was never created. That would mean that there would be no need for a first cause because the process of causes could go back forever.Just because everything in the universe needs an explanation does not mean the universe itself needs an explanation. The universe could just have been there forever.Even if there was a first cause, unmoved mover, it would not have to be the Christian God, it could be the God of any religion.There is no need for a first cause or unmoved mover to be good. It could be evil, a mixture of good and evil, and so on.Catholic responsesTo say the Big Bang and the entire universe ‘just happened’ is more unbelievable than to say it was designed and created by God.Theuniverse is too vast and complex, and works according to too many laws to have just appeared by chance. There must be a reason for the universe being there.
When talking about evil and suffering it is also important to consider how much suffering is caused by humans and how much is caused by nature.
Suffering caused by the laws of nature, which are out of our control. E.g. Earthquakes
Suffering caused by humans. E.g. Their cruelty, selfishness or carelessness.
Mackie’s Inconsistent Triad(J L Mackie 1917-1981
God isomnipotentGod is Evil existsOmni-benevolentEvil exists
He was an outspoken atheist and his ‘Inconsistent Triad’ was designed show the position of the main monotheistic religions wasimpossible.
The argument goes like this…
Catholic responses to the problem of evil and sufferingThe Freewill defenceWhen God made humans he did not want us to be like puppets on strings, only doing what he wanted. So instead he made humans to have a choice; to choose how we want to behave. Basically he wanted us to have the FREEDOM to be Good or Bad. Unfortunately humans often choose to behave badly, and this, Christians say, is why there is so much pain in the world. Therefore pain is our fault for misusing our FREE WILL.Other Responses (1)Evil and suffering in this life are not a problem because those people who suffer in life will be rewarded by eternal paradise after their death. Most Catholics claim that this life is a preparation for paradise. If people are to improve their souls then they need to face evil in order to be good, kind and loving. God cannot remove evil and suffering if he is going to give us the chance to be good people. But, in the end, God will show hisomni-benevolence and omnipotence by rewarding those who have suffered in Heaven.Other Responses (2)Catholics believe that God wants us to help those who suffer. The New Testament teaches Catholics that Jesus regarded evil and suffering as something to be fought against as Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry and challenged those who were evil. Catholics feel that they should follow Jesus’ example and fight against evil and suffering by:Praying for those who suffer, as prayer is a powerful way of dealing with a problem, for Catholics.Helping those who suffer – many Catholics become doctors, nurses and social workers, for example, so they can reduce the amount of suffering in the world. Catholics also join charities like the SVP and CAFOD to ease the suffering of others.Other Responses (3)Many Catholics believe that there is no point in us worrying about the problem as humans cannot understand God’s reasons for doing things. God must have a reason for allowing evil and suffering, but humans cannot know what it is because they are not God.However, Catholics know from the life of Jesus that even God’s son suffered, and that Jesus commanded his followers to respond to suffering by helping those who suffer. They believe that helping those who suffer and trusting in God’s plan is the answer to the problem.