PP3GTF-God, Time and Freedom

Module Provider: Philosophy
Number of credits: 10 [5 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Module version for: 2017/8

Module Convenor: Prof David Oderberg

Email: d.s.oderberg@reading.ac.uk

Summary module description:

This module introduces students to a set of classic problems to do with the relation between God as understood in traditional monotheism and the world of time and human freedom. How can a God who is classically understood to be outside space and time, omniscient, omnipotent, and provident, co-exist with a created world in which there is physical space and time, containing human beings who are supposed to be free and in some sense autonomous? This tension manifests itself in various ways and has been debated for centuries in the history of philosophy. In contemporary philosophy the problems are still enthusiastically debated, both in philosophy of religion and in metaphysics more generally. We will examine closely some of the most famous questions and problems arising in this area, looking at both historic debates and contemporary theories.


This module builds on the core skills of analysis and conceptual thinking that students have acquired at Part 2. You will be introduced to research-led teaching by a member of staff who researches and publishes in this area. The Philosophy programme is designed to introduce you to progressive intellectual challenges so that, by your third year, you will be able to take on some of the hardest philosophical questions and come to new understanding by means of smaller lectures, seminars, and guided independent learning. In particular, this module aims to develop the following skills:


  • an understanding of the historic problems of the relationship between God, time, and human freedom

  • an appreciation of developments in contemporary metaphysics and philosophy of religion that shed light on these historic problems.

  • the ability to analyse and interpret famous texts on this topic by philosophers such as Boethius, St Augustine, St Thomas Aquinas, William of Ockham, Luis de Molina, and John Calvin

  • the ability to analyse and evaluate contemporary writings on this topic by philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga, William Lane Craig, Thomas Flint, Timothy O’Connor, and Alfred Freddoso


This module also aims to increase diversity by presenting in a general way classic problems of God, time, and freedom that will be of interest to students from a variety of backgrounds who want to learn more about philosophical approaches to problems in the broadly monotheistic tradition.

Assessable learning outcomes:

Students will gain:

  • knowledge and understanding of classic problems at the interface between metaphysics and philosophy of religion

  • an understanding of how these problems have been expounded and discussed throughout history

  • an understanding of how contemporary writers have developed, modified, defended or rebutted historic theories and ideas on this topic

  • the ability to distinguish between and evaluate solutions to various problems in the area

  • the skill of writing a closely argued coursework essay on one of the topics to be discussed in lectures

  • the ability to make good use of secondary literature to inform the essay by analyzing theories put forward by various writers

  • the skill of making an oral presentation before the class on another of the topics (not one on which the essay is written), explaining it to the class and evaluating various solutions

  • the ability to make good use of visual aids in making the presentation

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:

Topics covered on the module will typically include:

  • the problem of divine foreknowledge and human freedom

  • the problem of prayer

  • evil and omnipotence

  • God’s relation to time

  • the problem of divine providence

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The module is taught by lectures and seminars. Students are expected to attend 10 hours of lectures and 5 hours of seminars during the term in which the module’s lecture and seminar classes take place. All students are required to write a single essay from a list of questions supplied by the module convenor. The essay assignment will be due in week 5 of the Summer term. In addition, students will be required to write a short précis of the topic for discussion in each seminar class. Students are encouraged to be active in all classes, asking questions and trying to answer the questions posed by others. A reading list and sample questions will be given out at the start of the course.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10
Seminars 5
Guided independent study 85
Total hours by term 100.00
Total hours for module 100.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Other information on summative assessment:

Formative assessment methods:

Students will write a short précis of the topic for discussion for every seminar class. Some classes may involve quizzes.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convenor will apply the following penalties for work submitted late, in accordance with the University policy.

  • where the piece of work is submitted up to one calendar week after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for the piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Length of examination:

    Requirements for a pass:

    A mark of 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Written assignment, to be completed in August

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 31 March 2017

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