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Philosophy of Religion




Admission Requirements

Similarly-tagged 200- and 300-level courses.


This course takes an historical approach to the philosophy of religion. Although we will spend most of our time dealing with thinkers and issues associated with the Christian tradition, we will also give some attention to both the Greek foundations of certain arguments, and similar claims from other monotheistic religious traditions. It will also be worthwhile to consider more recent updates to traditional arguments (e.g. those found in Alvin Plantinga) as we go through them.

The primary focus will be the ever-shifting relationship between faith and reason throughout the history of philosophy, but this will lead us to consideration of classic questions about divine command ethics, the existence of God, the problem of evil, and the nature of belief. In addition to these issues, we will also make a point of touching on concerns about the benefits and drawbacks of being religious, and the place of religion in the modern world.

Course Objectives

This course depends heavily on group discussion of significant primary texts in the history of philosophy. Each class will begin with the instructor introducing the topics and readings for that day and offering an interpretation of the works being discussed. Students should join in the discussion at any time, asking questions, making suggestions, or making comparisons with other texts we have read. For each meeting, each student should mark out a short passage (one or two sentences) from the day’s reading that especially stood out.

Upon completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • display awareness of standard issues in the philosophy of religion and knowledge of their origins and historical contexts;

  • critically interpret and evaluate philosophical texts, positions, and arguments;

  • and reflect on the relevance and viability of religion in a modern, hyper-rational, and scientific world.

Mode of Instruction

Each teaching week of the course (Weeks 1 – 7) will consist of two 2-hour interactive discussions on the weekly topic, with reading completed prior to the meeting.

A Blackboard site will support the course and provide for virtual interaction with the course material. Do check our course site regularly for up-to-date reading assignments, multi-media material, and announcements. For further details of how the course will proceed, see sections below on “Assessment” and “Weekly overview”.


Assessment: In-class participation
Percentage: 18%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1-7

Assessment: Four web-postings (300 words)
Percentage: 24%
Deadline: Weeks 2-5 (due by midnight before 1st class meeting of the week via BlackBoard)

Assessment: In-class exam (short answer/essay)
Percentage: 18%
Deadline: Week 6, Day 2

Assessment: Final paper (1500-2000 words)
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Week 8 (due on Blackboard)


Required Texts:

  • Augustine, On Free Choice of the Will, Trans. Thomas Williams (Hackett, 1993).

  • Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments; Johannes Climacus, Trans. Hong and Hong (Princeton University Press, 1985).

Other readings posted on Blackboard

Weekly Overview

Week 1 Introductions and Greek influences
Week 2 Selections from the New Testament and early church fathers
Week 3 Selections from Augustine’s On Free Choice of the Will
Week 4 Selections from Anselm’s Proslogion and Aquinas’ Summa Theologica
Week 5 Selections from Pascal’s Pensées and Leibniz’s On the Ultimate Origination of the Universe
Week 6 Review, Exam, and Grading Conferences
Week 7 Kierkegaard’s Philosophical Fragments
Week 8: Reading Week—Papers Due

Preparation for first session

Have the required texts when you show up for the first day of class.