FAITH, DOUBT, AND GOD
Most people, whether believers or atheists, seem content with assumptions. They are happy to sleep walk their way through life, preferring the status quo of their mental habits to the rigors of genuine inquiry. This course is not for such people. It is for those instead who find themselves ill at ease with so unexamined a life and who are eager for the opportunity to peel away their habitual patterns of thinking so as to reach, finally, a truly satisfying conclusion as to whether God really exists.
It should be understood in advance that Professor Cutsinger is by no means neutral with regard to this question. He himself knows there is God—which is not quite the same thing, be it noted, as knowing that there is a God—and that others may come to share in this absolute certainty. The entire course is a single, extended argument designed to lead those who are serious and sincere to the same conclusion. Arguments on both sides of the issue will be carefully examined and due weight given to a wide variety of informed opinions. But the instructor will be endeavoring to show all the while that the truly intelligent person, who is prepared to use his entire apparatus of knowing in the fullest possible way, will inevitably come to see that God is.
It should also be understood, however, that Professor Cutsinger has no wish to browbeat or argue anyone down. He intends to listen carefully and to do his very best to be open, honest, and patient in his approach to discussion, and he strongly encourages his students to be just as rigorous in their interrogation of him as he is of them. Atheists, agnostics, and the merely diffident are warmly invited to join in this dialectical exchange, as are religious believers of various degrees of conviction, whether Christian or otherwise.
James S. Cutsinger, ed., The Question of God: Readings in Philosophical Theology
- Reading. Reading and thoughtful reflection are essential. The assigned texts are difficult and demand study and not just skimming. Students will be expected to read these materials very closely and carefully. Those who are serious about their grades may expect to spend at least two hours of preparation for each and every class.
- Attendance, both prompt and regular. A sign-up sheet will be circulated at the start of each class to record daily attendance; two unexcused absences are permitted, but a penalty of one letter grade is imposed for each additional unexcused absence. When quizzes (see below) are given, they will be administered immediately at the start of class, so that tardiness can take a further toll on one’s grade; it is in any case a discourtesy to fellow students to be late, so please come on time or do not come at all.
- Participation. Students should be active participants. During the first part of each class, the instructor will highlight certain points in the day’s assigned readings and introduce additional material, but there will always be ample time for discussion. Although there is no grade as such for class participation, constructive contributions on a regular basis can help raise a student’s final course grade by as much as a full letter.
- Quizzes and examinations. There will be six unannounced quizzes, based on the daily readings in The Question of God (30% of the final course grade), and two essay examinations: a midterm (30%) and a comprehensive final (40%).
Please note that make-ups for missed quizzes or examinations will not be permitted except for medical or other essential reasons, and only then if one promptly presents a written excuse from a doctor or other responsible authority.