B601 Philosophy Revision Guide

Belief in Deity
Nature of God
Beliefs about the nature of
Body and soul
Concept of the soul
Relationship between
the body & the soul
Belief in God
The End of Life
Reasons given in support of
belief in God
Concept of miracles
including different beliefs
within Christianity
- God intervening in the world
o Miracles
o Jesus
o The Holy Spirit
Life after death
God as a judge
Relationship between God the
judge, life on earth and the
Funeral rites
GCSE Philosophy & Applied Ethics
Miss Rosbrook 2012/13
Concept of the afterlife
Beliefs about:
Suffering of Christ
Funeral rites
Ways funeral rites
reflect belief and aim to
support the bereaved
Nature of God (what God is believed to be like by Christians)
Christians are monotheists – they believe in one God. God can be defined as a supernatural or
supreme being and for Christians, He is made up of three parts or ‘persons’ – The Trinity. This means
that there are three different parts that make up God:
God the Father: The transcendent
God the Son: Jesus – immanent and
personal. Came to earth and lived a
human life.
God the Holy Spirit: Immanent but
impersonal, the way God inspires
and guides Christians every day.
People find it difficult to explain what God is like because He is beyond human understanding. God is a
concept (an idea, a theory, a thought) that we understand as being a spirit and has no form or shape.
When people talk about God they tend to use pictures, symbols or symbolic language to describe God.
The writers of the Bible often used picture images: God is a shepherd, a warrior, a judge, a father, a king.
PROBLEM! Using these kind of human images limits God and God is not a human or an animal. To say
that he is makes him less than God. This way of explaining God is called anthropomorphism –
attitubuting human characteristics to a non-human.
God’s ‘nature’ means his characteristics, his attributes or qualities.
Key characteristics of God
• Eternal: Without a beginning or an end,
outside time and space.
• Omnipotent: All-powerful.
• Omniscient: All-knowing.
• Omnibenevolent: All-good and all-loving.
• Omnipresent: Everywhere at the same time.
• Transcendent: Above all.
• Immanent: Within all.
• Perfect
• A judge
• Personal: a friend who is concerned about
people’s needs and feelings.
• Impersonal: mysterious and holy, a force for
Nature of God: Key quotes
“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made
complete in us.” (John 4:12)
“You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)
Reasons given in support of belief (and their flaws!)
There are several different arguments that attempt to prove the existence of God which people have
developed over 1000 of years. Some are more convincing than others.
1. Ontological Argument:
First put forward by St Anslem of Canterbury.
Argument: God is ‘That than which nothing greater can be conceived’. We cannot
think of anything greater than God therefore he exists.
Flaw: If God is transcendent and beyond human imagination, the ontological argument is
effectively telling us we can know the nature of an unknowable God.
2. Cosmological Argument:
Devised by St Thomas Aquinas.
Argument: The universe must have come from somewhere – Christians believe that it
came from God. God is the ‘first cause’.
Supported by: The Big Bang Theory. The universe had a beginning. It was not
something that happened in the universe – it created the universe. Cosmic background
radiation proves the Big Bang Theory and we know the universe is still expanding.
Flaw: We cannot answer the question ‘what caused the Big Bang?’ –
Atheists/agnostics/scientists etc would say it was merely chance. Theists would say it
was God.
3. The Teleological Argument:
First put forward by Isaac Newton, explained by William Paley using the example of a
Argument: The order and complexity of the natural world shows that it has been
designed and so must have been created or designed by someone – that someone
being God.
Flaw: Natural Selection / Theory of evolution (Charles Darwin) – all life developed
through natural selection – species mutate and adapt to their environment – strongest
survive, weakest die out (‘survival of the fittest’) However - Darwin is only explaining
how life changed and adapted once it was here, not how it originated.
4. The Experience Argument:
Argument: People can experience God which proves he exists. This may, for example, by
through miracles, answered prayers, conversion experiences or the numinous (a
mysterious power that suggests the presence of a spirit or God – put forward by Rudolf
Flaws: Little evidence to prove someone has had a religious experience.
We sometimes feel awe and wonder during emotional moments in life or when we feel
the presence of something greater than ourselves. A piece of music might move us to tears
or we may marvel at a view. This emotional response does not necessarily prove the
existence of God.
5. The Moral Argument:
Argument: People have a basic understanding of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’
and this knowledge must have come from God.
Supported by: Cardinal John Henry Newman - Reason we have a conscience is because
God has given it to us. Its presence proves the existence of God – “... The voice of conscience
implies that there is one whom we are responsible.”
Other views about belief in God
Things to consider:
If there is a God, why are there so many evils?
Why did God make humans imperfect and incomplete?
No need of God for people to be moral and to make good moral decisions.
Faith is blind and not rational. God was once the explanation for things we did not
understand but now it is God who needs explaining.
The concept of miracles
Christianity is founded on miracles which are the beliefs that God became human (the incarnation) and
that he has power over death, shown in the resurrection of Jesus.
A miracle is:
Something out of the ordinary that catches the attention.
Intended by God as a sign of his love and/or power.
A marvellous event which cannot have been brought about by humans or by nature
and so is said to be performed by God.
Something that usually shows control over the laws of nature such as dead person being
brought back to life.
Many people are said to have recovered from illnesses after visiting Lourdes in France where, in 1858,
Bernadette Soubirous had 18 visions of the Virgin Mary. Many Christians go on pilgrimages to places
such as Lourdes in the hope of physical and/or spiritual healing.
God intervening in the world through miracles, Jesus and the
Holy Spirit
God coming to earth as Jesus, both fully human and divine, is one of the greatest miracles, as is
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead after the crucifixion.
According to Aquinas, miracles are:
Those things that God does that nature cannot do (e.g. God stopping the sun in the sky.)
Those acts that God does that nature could do but not in the same order (e.g. someone
recovering from a terminal illness)
Those things done by God that nature could do, but that God does without using the forces
of nature (e.g. someone who quickly recovers from an illness after prayer)
Jesus performed many miracles of different types – they are mentioned throughout the New Testament:
- Healing miracles (e.g. healing of the paralytic in Matthew 9:1-8)
- Nature miracles (e.g. calming of the storm in Mark 4:35-41)
- Exorcisms (e.g. the healing of Legion in Mark 5:1-15)
- Raising people from the dead (e.g. Lazarus in John 11:1-44)
Many miracles are seen as the work of the Holy Spirit. The first miracle of the Holy Spirit was Pentecost
when the disciples were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues (Acts 2:111)
Some Christians have argued that it does not matter whether the miracles of the New Testament really
happened or not. What is important is the spiritual message about God’s love for humanity behind
these miracles.
Belief in Deity: Practice Questions
OCR Specimen:
June 2010:
Body and soul
The soul is described as the non-physical, immortal part of a person that lives on after death.
1. Philosophical views:
Soul is the ‘essence’ (core) of a person – it makes us who we are as individuals.
The soul is separate from the body. It is eternal and lives on after the body dies.
The soul is made up of three parts: The logos –(the mind), the thymos – (our emotions)
and the pathos – (our physical needs)
The soul is not separate from the body. When the body dies, so does the soul therefore
the soul is not eternal.
For Aristotle, human beings have bodies for rational activity, the ability to act in a
reasoned way. He said that our capacity for rational activity was our essence, what makes
us who we are, our soul.
Aristotle used the analogy of a knife to help explain the human essence:
2. Christian views:
Christianity teaches that when Eve picked the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in
the Garden of Eden, she introduced original sin into the world. Original sin is the way in which humans
are born with a lack of holiness about them. It is cleansed when someone is baptised.
When Jesus died and was resurrected three days later he atoned (fixed the relationship between God and
humanity) for the ‘original sin’ or Adam and Eve and overcame the power of death. This is why Jesus also
known as the saviour or redeemer.
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, humans were forgiven their sins and their souls achieved immortality – they
could survive death and reach heaven.
For Christians, it is the soul which separates humans from animals. Most Christians do not believe
animals have souls as it was only to Adam that God gave the breath of life.
Life after death
Christians believe that because of Jesus’ crucifixion they are freed from the punishment of original sin
and now have the chance to go to heaven depending on the way in which they live their lives.
Main facts:
One day Jesus will return during an event known as the ‘second coming’ or ‘Parousia’. At
this time God will judge everyone.
Those who have ignored the teachings of Jesus & the Bible will be sent to hell where they
will receive eternal punishment.
Those who have accepted Jesus as their saviour and followed his teachings will go to heaven
and receive eternal life.
Some Christians believe this judgement will take place as soon as a person dies. Others
believe there will be a Day of Judgement in the future.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that there is also another place called purgatory. People
who have been good Christians but have still committed some sins go to purgatory where
they are fully cleansed until they are in a state ready for heaven. Purgatory is not a place of
judgement and people go from purgatory to heaven by never from purgatory to hell.
- Christians do not believe in reincarnation. Christianity teaches that people have ‘one soul and one life
to save it in.’
- Non-religious people may also believe in some form of afterlife – ghosts / near-death experiences
may be useful evidence of this however you should also discuss the problems with this kind of ‘evidence’
in any Part E response.
Beliefs about Heaven
Christian believe is that death is not something which people should be frightened of but that they should
look forward to a life in heaven when there will be no more suffering and where they will live happily
with God for ever.
Main facts:
Christians believe heaven is being in the eternal presence of God. Some Christians believe
that they will get to haven in their physical bodies – ‘I believe ... in the resurrection of the body’.
(The Apostles Creed)
The Bible describes heaven using many images including those of blinding light, singing and
beauty. Revelation 4 speaks of ‘a rainbow, resembling an emerald’ encircling the throne of God.
From this throne come ‘flashes of lightning, rumblings and pearls of thunder’.
It is believed to be a place where suffering and evil no longer exist – “There will be no more
death or mourning or crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:4)
A belief in heaven encourages Christians to serve God and be obedient to him. It may also be
of comfort in times of suffering.
Some Christians believe that that heaven is a state of mind and is not a physical thing that can
be described.
Other Christians believe that when people arrive in heaven they will see the ‘Beatific Vision’ –
a direct view of God which gives people total happiness.
Beliefs about Purgatory
Main facts:
A Catholic belief although there is nothing in the Bible about it.
Catholics believe that if you die in a good spiritual state, in friendship with God, you will go to
heaven. However, many people are not pure enough to come into God’s presence
immediately because although they may have lived good lives, they are still not free from all
sin e.g. may have been envious some point in their life – very difficult to be ‘forgiven’ for envy.
They undergo purification to achieve the holiness necessary to enter into heaven.
Purgatory is different from hell because the people in purgatory know that they will go to
heaven when they have been purified – this is why Catholics pray for the dead – to give
support and shorten the time the souls of their relatives stay in purgatory.
Beliefs about Hell
Main facts:
Original Christian teaching concentrated on hell as being a place of everlasting fires and
indescribable, eternal torture.
The Church often used the fear of hell as a way of getting people to follow their religion.
Pictures were often painted on the chancel arches of churches to remind the congregation of
what could happen to them.
Many Christians no longer believe that Hell is a physical place. Instead they say hell is a state
of mind. The description of hell is symbolic, and a way of explaining the existence to God to
Because God is loving and forgiving, it is a way of expressing an eternal existence without
God’s presence or blessing. Hell is the thought of being abandoned by God.
Salvation, redemption and the suffering of Christ, and judgement
The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is central to all Christian beliefs about salvation, redemption and
Christians believe that through Jesus’ suffering humanity received redemption for original sin. This
redemption allowed humans the possibility of reaching heaven. In order to reach heaven Christianity
teaches that after death God will judge people for the way in which they have lived their lives.
Christians believe it is important to show care for others and to show devotion to Jesus.
Key words:
Redemption – Jesus saved people from punishment for the sins of humanity and redeemed them
Salvation – Jesus saved people from the consequence of sin
Main facts:
Two kinds of judgement in Christian teaching:
1) ‘General’ (Last) Judgement – God will pass his final sentence on the whole of humanity
as well as on the soul and body of each individual – The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats
is Biblical evidence of this.
2) ‘Particular’ Judgement – Judgement given to every soul when a person dies. The Parable
of the Rich Man and Lazarus is Biblical evidence of this.
Humans were forgiven their sins because Jesus’ death, which he chose willingly, cleansed
humanity which meant that people’s immortal souls were now able to survive death and
reach heaven. In this way people achieved redemption.
Christians believe they will be judged on the concern they show for others. Jesus’ teaching in
The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats shows that people who care for others will receive
eternal life. Those who simply ignore the suffering of others will be punished in hell.
Christians believe they will receive salvation and redemption through devotion to Jesus.
Roman Catholics and some Anglicans believe that people can help themselves lead better
lives by confessing their sins (sacrament of reconciliation) to a priest who will forgive
Salvation, redemption and the suffering of Christ, and judgement:
Key quotes
‘So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people’ [Hebrews 9:28]
‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ [Matthew 27:46]
Funeral Rites
‘Rites’ are customary acts. Funeral services are an opportunity for the relatives and friends of the dead
person to show their respect and say a final goodbye to them. Christian funeral services are based on
the teachings of the Bible and contain words and symbols which are chosen to comfort the relatives and
express Christian beliefs in life after death.
Although black is a traditional mourning colour, Christians do not see funerals as sad events as they
celebrate the new life with God which the dead person is now entering.
Main facts:
When a Christian is dying a Christian minister will try and visit them to help them prepare
for their death. The person may wish to confess their sins to the minister and, for Roman
Catholics, they may wish to receive a sacrament which is known as the Anointing of the
The anointing of the sick renews confidence and faith in God and prevents feelings of
despair and anguish at the thought of death. It prevents the person from losing hope in
God's salvation and is seen as preparation for passing over to eternal life.
A funeral marks the close of a human life on earth but for Christians it also serves as a
reminder of the hope of an afterlife with God.
Christian funeral services usually take place in church and the body is either then buried or
cremated. At committal the words ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ are often recited to remind
mourners that the physical body is irrelevant and it is the soul that goes on to achieve
eternal life.
The opening of a funeral service is usually the reading of a passage from John: ‘I am
resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall live, even though he dies; and whoever
lives and believes in me will never die.’ (John 11:25b-26a)
A eulogy (Greek for ‘good words’) is often read as a celebration of the person’s life.
At a ceremony some Christians may have Requiem Mass, a eucharist service where special
prayers are said for the soul of the dead person.
Churches are often decorated with white flowers to represent the new life with God
which the person is now entering.
Candles are lit as a reminder that Christians are saved because Jesus was the ‘Light of the
World’. Also, the smoke rising is said to represent the soul or prayers for the soul rising
to heaven.
A gravestone is placed at the site later. An epitaph contains details of the person’s life and
often a prayer or quotation from the Bible.
Secular funerals:
Usually held at a crematorium as opposed to a church and may consist of particular pieces
of poetry or music which were chosen by the person who has died.
One or more people will speak about the person and the ceremony is seen as a celebration.
A funeral or memorial service shows respects to the person who has died but it is not
believed to help the dead person in any way.
The End of Life: Practice Questions
OCR Specimen:
June 2010: