Academic Programs 

Wrestling With the Big Questions:  Philosophical Theology   (TH-656)
Fall 2003

This course concentrates on all those really difficult questions that quite often children ask most effectively.  What is God like?  How do we know God exists?  Why does God allow evil and suffering in the world?  What is faith?  What happens after we die?  What does it mean when we say ‘the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God”? And what is the difference between such assertions of faith and the claim that ‘in my hand is a tomato’? As students explore these questions, they learn the basics of logical thinking.  At the end of the course students have a sense of the main assertions in philosophical theology and are able to articulate their positions on these questions with clarity.

Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Tuesdays, 4:30-6:50 p.m.

Ian Markham
Professor of Theology and Ethics and Dean of Hartford Seminary 

Contact Information:

(860) 509-9500

Course Syllabus
Class web site


Topics to be covered:

  • The nature of religious language (Logical positivism, Wittgensteinian Fideism, Foundationalism and non-Foundationalism, Realism and Non-Realism)
  • The concept of God (Classical, Process, Pantheism, and Goddess theology)
  • Relationship between faith and reason 
  • Arguments for the Existence of God 
  • The Problem of Evil and Theodicy 
  • Providence and Miracles 
  • Life after Death

Rationale for and goals of the course: 

This course provides the student with an opportunity to think clearly about the fundamentals of belief; it is a gentle introduction to logical thinking; and it explores the primary topics in philosophy of religion.

Learning Outcomes of the course:

At the end of the course, the student will:

  1. Have explored certain questions using a philosophical approach;
  2. Grasp and understand the complexity of belief and the range of options amongst philosophers;
  3. Be able to articulate their own position on these questions.

Method/s of Delivery:

Each session will start with lecture input, followed by a discussion of the set reading for that week.

Method of Assessment: 

Book Review (one of the following)

Pamela Sue Anderson, A Feminist Philosophy of Religion: The Rationality and Myths of Religious Belief (Oxford: Blackwell 1997)

Don Cupitt, Taking Leave of God (SCM Press 2001)

Keith Ward, God: A Guide for the Perplexed (Oxford: Oneworld 2002)

Richard Swinburne, Is there a God? (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1997)

Ian Markham, Truth and the Reality of God  (T&T Clark 1998)

Paper on a topic discussed with the Professor.

The two exercises will evaluate the three learning outcomes.


Session Breakdown

Session one: Thinking clearly: the relationship of faith to reason

Session two: Talk about God: the classical solutions and the modern problems

Session three: Talk about God: truth, realism, and non-realism

Session four: Concept of God: Perfection, timelessness, and changelessness

Session five: Concept of God: Process, creativity, and Goddess theology

Session six: Omnipotence, omniscience, and freewill

Session seven: Existence of God: the Ontological Argument

Session eight: Existence of God: the Cosmological Argument

Session nine: Existence of God: the Design Argument and the Moral Argument

Session ten: Providence and Miracles

Session eleven: Theodicy and the Problem of Evil

Session twelve: Life after Death.

Session thirteen: Deciding what we think?  The challenge and the duty.


Preliminary reading list

Students must obtain:

Wainwright and Rowe (eds.) Selected Readings in the Philosophy of Religion  (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1999)  Third Edition.  Every week certain chapters in this book will be discussed.

For the paper, students will discuss a topic with the Professor and then will use up to three of the books listed below in that paper: 

Alvin Plantinga, God, chance and necessity.

Ann Loades and Loyal D. Rue, Contemporary classics in philosophy of Religion

B. L. Hebblethwaite, The Ocean of Truth.

Beverly Clack and Brian Clack, Philosophy of Religion. A Critical Introduction.

D. Z. Phillips, Faith After Foundationalism.

Don Cupitt, The Sea of Faith.

Grace Jantzen, Becoming Divine. Towards a Feminist Philosophy of Religion.

J. C. A. Gaskin, The Quest for Eternity.

J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism

John Cobb and David Griffin, Process theology. An Introductory Exposition.

John Hick, An Interpretation of Religion.

John Hick, Death and Eternal Life.

John Hick, Philosophy of Religion.

John Hick, Evil and the God of Love.

John Polkinghorne, Science and theology. An Introduction

Keith Ward, Holding Fast to God.

Keith Ward, Rational Theology and the Creativity of God

Kenneth Surin, Theology and the Problem of Evil.

Maurice Wiles, God’s Action in the World.

Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenback, David Basinger, Reason and Religious Belief.

Peter Vardy, The Puzzle of Evil.

Peter Vardy, The Puzzle of God

R. Douglas Geivett and Brendan Sweetman (eds.) Contemporary Perspectives on Religious Epistemology.

Richard Gale, On the Nature and Existence of God.

Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth. Philosophical papers 1

Richard Swinburne, Faith and Reason

Richard Swinburne, Providence and Evil

Richard Swinburne, The Coherence of Theism

Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God

Sallie McFague, Models of God



Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500