Judaism and the Prophetical Tradition (graded)
The prophet Amos spoke out against the injustices of the Northern Kings of Israel. He set the tone for centuries of prophetical figures in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A central theme of the prophetical tradition is social justice. Read Amos 2:6-16; 5:14-15 in this regard (see the Webliography for an online Bible). Do you think churches have done enough with regard to social inequality, poverty, injustice, and so on? What one issue do you think churches should address today?
Biblical Themes: The Problem of Evil (graded)
Epicurus is generally credited with first expounding the problem of evil, and it is sometimes called "the Epicurean paradox": "Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?" The problem of evil poses this question: how can a God who is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-good permit so much pain, suffering, and evil in the world? How would you answer this question?
Jesus and the Kingdom of God (graded)
Describe some of the values Jesus had in mind when he used the phrase "Kingdom of God." One scholar has called Jesus's message "ethical apocalypticism." What do you think this means in light of our discussion of apocalypticism in the text? (You might want to relate this to theBeatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12.)
The Proofs for the Existence of God (graded)
Read through the Proofs for the Existence of God carefully (see Webliography). Do any of them convince you? If the answer is yes, then explain one that resonates with you. If the answer is no, then what purpose do you think those proofs serve?Would it make a difference to you if the proofs were somehow made better? How would Jesus have responded to attempts to prove the existence of God?
In that it recognizes one God who rules the entire world, Islam may be called a universal religion. However, although Islam grew out of a particular seventh-century Arabian context, Muslims claims that its central document, the Qur'an, must be read in Arabic in order to be fully appreciated. How can Islam or any similar religion resolve the tension between the universal and the particular? How can it (or any other faith) be a religion for people of all races and nationalities without giving up its distinctive cultural heritage?
The Five Pillars of Islam (graded)
Indigenous Religions (graded)
Indigenous religions, such as those of Native American traditions, claim a special relationship with nature. Give an example of this relationship. Some have said that urban people in the modern world romanticize the attitude towards nature held by indigenous peoples. Are there any examples of unnecessary damage made to the environment by native groups of the past?