The Nature and Character of God

2018-2019

Course Objective

The student:
- knows the main arguments for and against God's having various
non-traditional attributes, such as repentance and joy, that are
rejected by many philosophers who embrace perfectly being theology;
- understands the evidential basis these alleged attributes have in
various Holy Scriptures and in a priori reasoning;
- is able to apply conceptual analysis to each of these properties and
character traits;
- is able to relate anthropomorphic attributes of God to classical
perfect being theology;
- is able to formulate and explain what difference a revised conception
of God's character will make to various religious practices.

Course Content

Systematic theology and philosophy of religion have spent a good deal of
time and energy on the attributes of God that we find in classical
perfect-being theology: omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence,
omnibenevolence, necessity, immutability, eternality, aseitas, and so
on. However, the various holy Scriptures and traditions of the three
Abrahamic religions ascribe further properties to God and often deem
these characteristic for God’s character and relationship with humans.
Among them are God’s joy, sorrow, repentance, jealousy, anger, patience,
and maybe even humor. Can we make sense of these character traits of God
upon more systematic reflection? How do they relate to each other? Are
they mere anthropomorphisms or do they truly say something about God?
How do they relate to the attributes of classical perfect-being
theology? And what does paying attention to these properties mean for
systematic theology, interreligious dialogue, and apologetics?

Teaching Methods

Lectures and working sessions.

Method of Assessment

• Final paper of approximately 2,500 words in which students discuss one
attribute of God and interact with a portion the relevant readings (50%)
• A final, written exam (50%)

Entry Requirements

BA in any discipline + knowing the basics of epistemology, metaphysics,
and philosophy of religion (for that, be in touch with the MA track
coordinator: dr. Rik Peels, h.d.peels@vu.nl).

Literature

Goldie, Peter. (2002). The Emotions (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Morreall, John. (1983). Taking Laughter Seriously (Albany, N.Y.: State
University of New York Press).
Peels, Rik. (2015). ‘Does God Have a Sense of Humor?’, Faith and
Philosophy 32.3, 271-292.
Peels, Rik. (2016). ‘Can God Repent?’, in Jonathan L. Kvanvig (ed.),
Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion VII (Oxford: Oxford University
Press), 190-212.
Pinnock, Clark, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, and David
Basinger. (1994). The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the
Traditional Understanding of God (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity
Press).
Scrutton, Anastasia. (2011). Thinking Through Feeling: God, Emotion, and
Passibility (New York: Continuum).
Wolterstorff, Nicholas. (1975). “God Everlasting”, in Clifton J.
Orlebeke and Lewis B. Smedes (eds.), God and the Good (Grand Rapids, MI:
Eerdmans), 181-203.
Wreen, Michael J. (1989). ‘Jealousy’, Noûs 23.5, 635-652.
Zagzebski, Linda. (2008). “Omnisubjectivity”, Jonathan L. Kvanvig (ed.),
Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, Vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford
University Press), 231-47.

Target Audience

MA students in the 1-year Master Exploring a Discipline, in particular
the MA Track Philosophy & Religion
MA students in the 3-year Master "Predikant"

Recommended background knowledge

If you have time, please read the following (not necessary, but
recommended):
Moreland, J.P. and William Lane Craig. (2003). Philosophical Foundations
for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press).
Swinburne, Richard. (1993). The Coherence of Theism, revised ed.
(Oxford: Clarendon Press).

General Information

Course Code W_FRNCG
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Religion and Theology
Course Coordinator dr. H.D. Peels
Examiner dr. H.D. Peels
Teaching Staff dr. H.D. Peels

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar, Lecture
Target audiences

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