RE Foundations exam papers Questions 2009-2014

Specimen paper June 2009

EITHER

1 (a) (i) What are the main ideas of the design and cosmological arguments for the existence of God? (21)

(ii) Choose one of these arguments and comment on its weaknesses.(9)


OR

(b) (i) Examine the main strengths and weaknesses of the design argument for the existence of God.(21)

(ii) Consider the view that the weaknesses are more convincing than the strengths. (9)


EITHER

2 (a) (i) In what ways may suffering create philosophical problems for religious believers? Outline two solutions to these problems.(21)

(ii) To what extent are these solutions successful?(9)


OR

(b) (i) Examine one philosopher’s understanding of the term ‘miracle’. Examine the arguments used to discredit miracles.(21)

(ii) To what extent are these arguments successful?(9)


Exam paper Foundations June 2009

EITHER

1 (a) (i) Examine the key ideas and strengths of the design argument for the existence of God. (21)

(ii) Comment on the view that the strengths and weaknesses are equally balanced. (9)

(Total for Question 1(a) = 30 marks)


OR

(b) (i) What are the distinctive ideas of the cosmological argument for the existence of God? (21)

(ii) To what extent is this a strong argument for the existence of God? (9)

(Total for Question 1(b) = 30 marks)


EITHER

2 (a) (i) What are the key features of the problem of suffering? Examine the essential ideas of two solutions. (21)

(ii) ‘The problem of suffering is a mystery and cannot be solved.’ Comment on this claim. (9)

(Total for Question 2(a) = 30 marks)


OR

(b) (i) Outline the key concepts of miracles and examine the main reasons to believe in miracles.     (21)

(ii) Comment on the philosophical problems associated with miracles with reference to Hume. (9)


Jan 2010

EITHER

1(a) (i) Examine the strengths and weaknesses of the design argument for the existence of God.     (21)

(ii) Comment on the view that this argument is inconclusive as a proof of the existence of God. (9)


OR

(b) (i) Give an account of the key features of the cosmological argument for the existence of God. (21)

(ii) To what extent is this a weak argument? (9)


EITHER

2(a) (i) What may the problem of suffering signify to a religious believer. Examine one solution to this problem. (21)

(ii) Comment on the view that an alternative a solution to that examined in part (i) offers a better response. (9)


OR

(b) (i) Examine key concepts of miracles and philosophical reasons to believe in them.     (21)

(ii) To what extent do criticisms undermine belief in miracles? (9)


June 2010

EITHER

1(a) (i) Give an account of the fundamental ideas of the design argument for the existence of God. (21)

(ii) Comment on the view that the strengths of these ideas make this a convincing argument.     (9)


OR

(b) (i) What are the significant features of the cosmological argument for the existence of God?     (21)

(ii) How far if at all do the strengths outweigh the weaknesses?    (9)


EITHER

2(a) (i) Identify key ideas associated with the problem of suffering. Examine two solutions to the problem.     (21)

(ii) Comment on the view that these are only partially successful solutions. (9)


OR

(b) (i) Outline two definitions of the term miracle. Examine key reasons for believing in miracles. (21)

(ii) Comment on the view that these reasons for believing are more persuasive than potential criticisms. (9)

 

Jan 2011

EITHER

1(a) (i) Examine the weaknesses of the design argument.    [21]

(ii) Why do some philosophers persist in believing in the strengths of the design argument? [9]


OR

(b) (i) Examine three of the following in relation to the cosmological argument for the existence of God.    [21]

  • Unmoved mover
  • Uncaused cause
  • Necessary being
  • Kalaam argument

     

(ii) Comment on the view that the cosmological argument is open to debate and there are no firm conclusions about its success or failure .[9]


EITHER

2 (a) (i) ‘Either God cannot abolish evil, or he will not; if he cannot then he is not all powerful; if he will not then he is not all good.’

Examine this claim. Give an account of one solution to the problem of evil. [21]

(ii) Comment on the strengths and weaknesses of a different solution to that presented in part (i). [9]


OR

(b) (i) Examine the key concepts of miracles and reasons to believe in miracles. [21]

(ii) Comment on the view that, because of weaknesses associated with miracles, there is no justification for believing in them. [9]

May 2011

EITHER

1(a) (i) Examine the ways in which the design argument provides evidence for the existence of God. [21]

(ii) Comment on the view that the weaknesses of the design argument show that the universe can be explained without reference to God. [9]


OR

(b) (i) Examine the view that the cosmological argument provides an explanation for the world and is a trustworthy basis for the belief in the existence of God. [21]

(ii) Comment on the view that the cosmological argument fails as a proof for the existence of God. [9]


EITHER

2 (a) (i) Examine and show the strengths of two solutions to the problem of suffering. [21]

(ii) Comment on the view that these proposed solutions are failures. [9]


OR

(b) (i) Examine the main features of definitions of miracles and two philosophical reasons for believing in miracles. [21]

(ii) Comment on problems raised by these definitions of miracles that may lead to a rejection of belief in miracles. [9]

 

January 17th 2012

Either

1    a)i)    Examine three of the following in relation to the design argument for the existence of God:

  • Analogy
  • Anthropic principle
  • Design qua purpose
  • Empirical evidence
  • Regularities of succession    [21]

    ii)    Comment on the view that the design argument leads to a valid conclusion. [9]


Or

b)i)    ‘Nothing takes place without sufficient reason.’

    Examine this claim with reference to the cosmological argument. [21]

ii)    Comment on the view that the weaknesses of the cosmological argument imply that it fails as a proof for the existence of God. [9]



Either

2 (a)i)    Examine the view that it is contradictory to claim that there is a God and that there is suffering. What are the strengths of one solution to the problem of suffering? [21]

(ii)    Consider the weaknesses of this solution and comment on the view that there is a better solution. [9]



Or

(b)i)    Examine the strengths and weaknesses of belief in miracles. [21]

ii)    Comment on the view that these strengths and weaknesses depend on which definition of miracles one is using. [9]

May 16th 2012

Either

1 a)i) ‘The design argument explains the purpose found in the natural world.’

Examine this description of the design argument. [21]

ii)    Comment on the view that this argument is successful as a proof of the existence of God. [9]


Or

b)i)    Examine the evidence used to support the cosmological argument.    [21]

ii)    ‘Challenges to this argument show that it is a failure’ Comment on this claim.    [9]


Either

2 (a)i)    In what ways may suffering be seen as a problem for religious believers? Give an account of TWO solutions to this problem. [21]

(ii)    To what extent is one of these solutions more convincing than the others. [9]



b)i)    Examine the key problems of believing in miracles. [21]

ii)    Comment on the claim that it is justifiable to believe in miracles. [9]

May 13th 2013

Either

1a)i)    Examine the key strengths of the design argument for the existence of God. [21]

ii)    Comment on the claim that this argument totally fails to prove the existence of God. [9]



Or

b)i)    Examine the fundamental concepts of the cosmological argument for the existence of God. [21]

ii)    Comment on the view that this is a compelling argument for the existence of God. [9]



Either

2a)i)    Examine the problem of suffering and the key characteristics of one or more solutions.    [21]

ii)    Comment on the claim that there is a successful solution to the problem of suffering. [9]



Or

b)i)    Examine the strengths and weaknesses of belief in miracles. [21]

ii)    Comment on the view that it is probably a mistake to believe in miracles. [9]



May 13th 2014

Either

1a)i)    Examine three key ideas of the design argument for the exis of God. [21]

ii)    Comment on the claim that these three ideas are all equally weak. [9]



Or

b)i)    Examine both views that:

  • The existence of the world needs an explanation and
  • This explanation may be called ‘God’.    [21]

ii)    Comment on the challenges raised by these views. [9]

 

Either

2a)i)    ‘Suffering exists and this counts as evidence against God.’

    Examine this point of view and one solution to the problem of suffering. [21]

ii)    Comment on another solution to the problem of suffering in which suffering may not be seen as evidence against God. [9]


Or

b)i)    Examine the key concepts of miracles.     [21]

ii)    Comment on the view that a miracle does not violate the laws of nature. [9]

January 2010 Exam Question with Answer

2(a) (i) What may the problem of suffering signify to a religious believer. Examine one solution to this problem. [21]

The problem of evil and suffering is a major stumbling block to any person of faith but particularly to a member of the Abrahamic faiths. Since a key belief is that God has three main characteristics: omnipotence, omniscience and omnibenevolence it would seem illogical that this kind of God and evil could both exist. Indeed even Aquinas regarded it as completely logical that ‘there is evil in the world; therefore God does not exist,’ even though he didn’t believe this conclusion he could see how others could. Or as David Hume suggested: ‘either God is not omnipotent or he is not omnibenevolent or evil does not exist’; evil does exist therefore God cannot, in his opinion. To put it simply the problem is this: how if God is good can he possibly allow suffering to occur?

One of the solutions put forward to attempt to explain how God and evil can both exist was put forward by St Augustine. In his theodicy he argued that the world must have been created perfectly since after each day of creation ‘God saw that it was good.’ In his view therefore evil must have come about through that first act of disobedience of Adam and Eve and as a result all suffering stems from that ‘original sin.’ In addition he suggested that evil wasn’t so much a thing as an absence of something, in this case, of good.

He went on to say that man had been created ‘in the likeness’ of God [Gen 1:27] but that like God he had been created with autonomy i.e. the freedom to make choices; his desire to choose wrong and continue to choose wrong is what has lead to all evil whether it be moral or natural. Fortunately for mankind God foresaw this possibility and gave man a second chance by sending his son Jesus to redeem us from our sins therefore all who accept Jesus’ sacrifice, and gift, can gain access to heaven, while those who reject this final offer will go to hell.

While there are strengths to this solution for example the idea that we are responsible for our own destinies or that suffering is a direct consequence of someone’s sin, even if not our own, and it does seem to make the presence of evil not an original part of God’s creation, overall it does not answer some of the most basic questions. Such as: evil clearly occurs and is not simply a matter of something good not happening, so where did this come from if not from God? Also we know that natural evil has been occurring since the creation of the earth and to blame it on Adam and Eve’s sin is unscientific. Also although the idea of Jesus’ sacrifice is generous of God what about all those who died before or without knowing of this gift of salvation? Plus what kind of God not only punishes those who committed that first sin but every generation thereafter or creates a place like hell for the irredeemable to go to?

So if this isn’t a good solution is there a better one?

(ii) Comment on the view that an alternative solution to that examined in part (i) offers a better response. [9]

Another famous attempt at a solution is that proffered by Irenaeus. Living in the second century AD his theodicy seems rather more modern. He suggests that although God created man in his ‘own image after [his] likeness’ [Gen 1:26] what this meant was that man had the potential to grow into God’s likeness but that he had to have true autonomy and make the right choices in order to grow and develop into his potential like a musician has to practice to become great. Irenaeus regarded earth and life on it as a ‘vale of soul making’ wherein like a good sword is refined in the heat of the fire, so humans must become great and noble through hardship, suffering and practice. Because of this Irenaeus’s solution is a developmental or evolutionary one since it allows for both the natural and moral evil to be forces for good in the end; encouraging moral fortitude, charity and altruistic characteristics. And ultimately, in his view, the reward is that everyone will go to heaven even those who may not at first seem worthy of the gift, they may have to refine their souls in purgatory but in the end all will be rewarded. After al he said ‘how if we had no knowledge to the contrary could we have instruction in that which is good?

One of the most understandable aspects of Irenaeus’s idea is that of the ‘epistemic distance’ that God is honour bound to keep. This is the fact that God cannot intervene in mankind’s history in order to prevent even the worst atrocities because he has given man true free will. This then makes us all responsible for doing the right thing and makes us more accountable for evil doings by everyone. No longer can we stand by and let others do or say something, we must all accept our collective responsibilities. As Swinburne put it ‘a situation of temptation with infinite chance sis no situation of temptation at all.’ Things have to be allowed to go wrong.

However although this theodicy has many merits such as the value of free-will and an understanding that evil does indeed have a purpose which can even lead to good, one can wonder if the ends really do justify the means? And can the suffering of so many e.g. in the holocaust, really be a lesson to learn from? Plus there are many who seem not to suffer at all despite long lives of crime. How can a good God allow these miscarriages of justice to occur? Even the idea that evil can lead to good is misguided because as many are embittered and dehumanised by their suffering as are refined and learn by it.

Ultimately it is obvious that neither of these solutions really stands up to close scrutiny; both have strengths and both have their weaknesses but neither is of any comfort to someone who is actually suffering. In addition the faith of a believer is unlikely to be shaken even in the direst of circumstances like Job in the Bible who lost everything except his belief that God loved him. In such cases the problem is no longer a problem, but for the atheist the problem has not been surmounted. It has not been and cannot be, explained to his satisfaction – but then, this is the nature of faith.

To give Swinburne the last word ‘… a generous god will seek to give us great responsibility… to make our lives valuable… the problem is that he cannot… without allowing much evil on the way.