Philosophy of Religion

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The Goodness of God

Judeo-Christian Personal God

  • Plato argued for the Form of Good at the top of his hierarchy
  • For Plato God was a sterile ideal
  • Within the Judeo-Christian tradition God is more than a concept – He is personal
  • According to this tradition, God is good in whom there is no evil
  • Humanity has a responsibility to live up to this goodness
  • Central to the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament) is the concept of God making a covenant:
I will be your God and you will be my people
  • For Christians God renews the covenant in the person of Jesus

Ten Commandments

  • Ten Commandments = Decalogue (i.e. the Ten Words)
  • Given on Mount Sinai in a Theophany
  • Found in Exodus 20 and Deut 5
  • The Law is a sign of God’s covenant – an agreement
  • The Ten Commandments gives directions for both religious and social responsibilities
  • God’s people don’t have to guess what God’s will is – it is written down for them
  • God is a benevolent dictator – treating his people as children
  • God is also described as ‘a jealous God’


  • Abraham is given as the model for faith
  • Although he was old and childless, God promised Abraham that he would be the Father of a great nation (the Israelites)
  • Through faith Abraham left his own country with the promise that God would give him a new country
  • Through faith Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son Isaac
  • Job is another example of faith
  • Job continued to praise God and be faithful to him even when he had lost everything
  • The goodness of God demands that people respond with faith

Righteous Indignation

  • God is angered whenever he sees injustice
  • The prophets of the OT often had to remind the people whenever they neglected the poor, widows or orphans
  • The Judeo-Christian God is not Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover – he is angered whenever people fail to recognise his goodness


Lookup the following passages in the Bible. Briefly write down the human qualities and emotions that God displays in them:

Theology vs. Philosophy

  • It is sometimes difficult to reconcile the differences between the God of the Philosophers and the God of Faith
  • Some argue that a personal God is subject to change, perfection has to be immutable – the two are mutually exclusive
  • The deists of the 17th, 18th and 19th century, rejecting Christianity, tried to offer a more rational view of God e.g. Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Gottfried Leibniz, Thomas Hobbs, David Hume, Thomas Paine, Thomas Franklin …et al
  • The French Philosopher Blaise Pascal found it impossible to reconcile the two
  • In contrast to many of his philosophical contemporaries Pascal believed in the…
      GOD of Abraham, GOD of Isaac, GOD of Jacob
      not of the philosophers and of the learned.
      Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.

Christianity and the Goodness of God

  • For Christianity the goodness of God and his interaction with the world can be seen the person of Jesus Christ
  • Central to Christianity’s teaching is the incarnation
  • The incarnation poses its own particular problems – i.e. how could the transcendent eternal God become present in space and time?
  • According to Christianity God’s goodness can be seen in Jesus’ words and actions – i.e. his teaching and miracles
  • Unlike Plato’s ultimate Form of the Good which is above this corruptible world, Christians believe that the word has indeed become flesh and lived among us (John 1:14)
  • At the heart of Christianity lies a paradox
  • The best way of understanding it is as mystery

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