Posted: September 18th, 2017

Response Paper

Your assignment is to read his short article and respond to each of the questions below.  The basis for your answers should come from the resources provided in the lessons covering the philosophy of religion unit of the course (Evans, Craig, and the PointeCast presentation). You are not merely to quote these sources as an answer to the question – answer in your own words. When it is essential to confirm your argument with a quote, of course do so. You may appeal to other outside sources as well, but all quotes and paraphrases must be properly documented, using whichever style is appropriate to your major (Turabian, MLA, or APA), but you do not need the internet at all to properly write this paper.  Note that we take plagiarism very seriously! All papers are automatically run through SafeAssign to detect plagiarism. Any violations are awarded a grade of F, or 0 points.

***Here are a list of references you can use to paraphrase and document off of:

(Copy and paste 1 & 2 into the search engine bar to access)






3)   R. Zachary Manis

Article first published online: 3 AUG 2011

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9795.2011.00490.x

Journal of Religious Ethics

Volume 39, Issue 3, pages 474–492, September 2011


(You are more than welcome to use other references that you find that relate to the assignment topic, However: Please do not use excessive quoting, this instructor likes everything to be put in our own words. Please just to be sure to include your citations of references used)


This Response Paper is to be a minimum of 1500 words (equivalent to six pages) and should be written as a single, unified essay and not just a list of answers to the questions.  You may be critical of McCloskey, but should remain respectful.  I am looking for a detailed response to each of the 10 questions below, and will grade the content on that basis.  So use them as your outline.


Specifically, you should address the following 10 points:


  1. On Proofs

(1) McCloskey refers to the arguments as “proofs” and often implies that they can’t definitively establish the case for God, so therefore they should be abandoned.  What would you say about this in light of the comments on the approaches to the arguments in the PointeCast presentation?


  1. On the Cosmological Argument:

(2) McCloskey claims that the “mere existence of the world constitutes no reason for believing in such a being [i.e. a necessarily existing being].”   Using Evans’ discussion of the non-temporal form of the argument (pp. 69-77), explain why the cause of the universe must be necessary (and therefore uncaused).

(3) McCloskey also claims that the cosmological argument “does not entitle us to postulate an all-powerful, all-perfect, uncaused cause.“   In light of Evans’s final paragraph on the cosmological argument (p. 77), how might you respond to McCloskey?


  1. On the Teleological Argument:

(4) McCloskey claims that “to get the proof going, genuine indisputable examples of design and purpose are needed.” Discuss this standard of “indisputability” which he calls a “very conclusive objection.”  Is it reasonable?

(5) From your reading in Evans, can you offer an example of design that, while not necessarily “indisputable”, you believe provides strong evidence of a designer of the universe?

(6) McCloskey implies that evolution has displaced the need for a designer.  Assuming evolution is true, for argument’s sake, how would you respond to McCloskey (see Evans pp. 82-83)?

(7) McCloskey claims that the presence of imperfection and evil in the world argues against “the perfection of the divine design or divine purpose in the world.”  Remembering Evans’ comments about the limitations of the teleological argument, how might you respond to this charge by McCloskey?


  1. On the Problem of Evil:

(8) McCloskey’s main objection to theism is the presence of evil in the world and he raises it several times: “No being who was perfect could have created a world in which there was unavoidable suffering or in which his creatures would (and in fact could have been created so as not to) engage in morally evil acts, acts which very often result in injury to innocent persons.” The language of this claim seems to imply that it is an example of the logical form of the problem.  Given this implication, using Evans’s discussion of the logical problem (pp. 159-168, noting especially his concluding paragraphs to this section), how might you respond to McCloskey?

(9) McCloskey specifically discusses the free will argument, asking “might not God have very easily so have arranged the world and biased man to virtue that men always freely chose what is right?” From what you have already learned about free will earlier in the course, and what Evans says about the free will theodicy, especially the section on Mackie and Plantinga’s response (pp. 163-166) and what he says about the evidential problem (pp. 168-172), how would you respond to McCloskey’s question?


  1. On Atheism as Comforting

(10) In the final pages of McCloskey’s article he claims that atheism is more comforting than theism.  Using primarily the argument presented by William Lane Craig in the article “The Absurdity of Life without God,” respond to McCloskey’s claim.



Take a look at the rubric for the paper. It will give you broadly what I’m looking for. But here is how I grade specifically. I will put brief comments in response to your paper that will refer to these specifics and will indicate by #1-10 where development is lacking. If you want further detail on the grade don’t hesitate to ask. Remember that I have only a few days, and a fair number of other courses, in which to grade these papers, so I have tried to streamline this as best I can while still giving each paper the attention your hard work deserves.


Content: For each of the 10 sections I deduct 5 points if the detail is insufficient, 10 if there is no real development or detail.

Organization: Deduct 10-40 if the paper is too short, 10 if poorly organized.

Form: Deduct 10 if poorly proofread, 20 if very poorly.  Deduct 10 if insufficient, 20 if no documentation or research indicated.




****Let me suggest this parallel. Suppose you are called into court to testify on behalf of your best friend who has been accused of a serious crime. So now you tell the judge that you firmly “believe” she is innocent. When the judge asks why – asks for reasons why – you simply keep insisting that you believe it, that you have faith in her, and just keep repeating it. This is not an act of loyalty or faithfulness to your friend, but in fact a refusal or failure to be loyal. You need to give the reasons for your belief! You need to tell the judge what you know to be true about your friend.  Now imagine an even more extreme situation. Suppose that the person turns out to be someone you know nothing about, or have never met. Now to insist that you believe in their innocence is just irresponsible, silly, in fact. It’s certainly not loyalty or “faith”.


The matter is the same with God. The atheist and other unbelievers have called us out on our belief, our faith. They want reasons. To simply respond “I believe” is not loyalty or faith in God, but a refusal to follow the command in I Peter 3:15 to “give the reason” for your hope in God.  If anything, it is a betrayal of our faith.  And the only way to “demolish arguments” set up against God (II Cor. 10:5) is to have a better argument!  So this is our goal in the paper assignment: to encourage, empower and enable you to respond intelligently. Scripture itself uses these arguments. The Cosmological is in Romans 1:19-20, the Teleological in Psalm 19:1, Job 38 (God himself uses it!), Acts 14:17, and 17:25-27. The Moral Argument, which is not here but may be interesting to you and for which C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity is famous, is in Romans 2:14-15.


So note, this paper is an academic exercise on how to provide a reasoned argument in response to atheism. It is not about your personal reasons for belief in God, or how you would engage an unbeliever. You are being asked here to respond specifically to McCloskey’s arguments with counter-arguments.


So let me encourage you to take this paper seriously. It brings together much of what we have studied so far: the logic of argument, knowledge as justified true belief, the nature of persons as free knowers, and, of course, the nature of God. So bring it all to bear here. And I pray that this exercise will greatly enrich and empower you.




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