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From these according universities, on this Highbrowhound. This response to the logical argument from evil is called a defense , which is distinguished from a theodicy. The aim of a defense is to demonstrate that the arguments from evil are unsuccessful given a possible scenario or set of scenarios, whereas a theodicy is an attempt to justify God and the ways of God given the evil and suffering in the world. Both defenses and theodicies have been used by theists in responding to the various problems of evil. Evidential arguments attempt to demonstrate that the existence of evil in the world counts as inductive evidence against the claim that God exists.

One form of the evidential argument from evil is based on the assumption, often agreed on by theists and atheists alike, that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being would prevent the existence of significant amounts of gratuitous evil. Since significant amounts of gratuitous evil seem to exist, God probably does not. One influential approach, espoused by William Rowe , contends that many evils, such as the slow and agonizing death of a fawn burned in a forest fire ignited by lightning, appear to be gratuitous.

However, an omnipotent and omniscient being could have prevented them from occurring, and an omnibenevolent being would have not allowed any significant pointless evils to occur if they could have been avoided. So, the argument concludes, it is more reasonable to disbelieve that God exists. One way of responding to such arguments is to attempt to demonstrate that there is, after all, a point to each of the seemingly gratuitous evils.

A solid case for even some examples would lower the probability of the evidential argument, and one could maintain that normal epistemic limitations restrict knowledge in many other examples. The theistic traditions historically have, in fact, affirmed the inscrutability of God and the ways of God. The skeptical theist has created a chasm between human and divine knowledge far beyond what theism has traditionally affirmed.

Another version of the evidential argument has been advanced by Paul Draper. On this hypothesis, the existence of sentient beings including their nature and their place is neither the result of a benevolent nor a malevolent nonhuman person. Contrast this with the theistic account in which, since God is morally perfect, there must be morally good reasons for allowing biologically useless pain, and there must be morally good reasons for producing pleasures even if such pleasures are not biologically useful.

But given our observations of the pains and pleasures experienced by sentient creatures, including their biologically gratuitous experiences such as those brought about by biological evolution , the hypothesis of indifference provides a more reasonable account than theism. In response, Peter van Inwagen maintains that this argument can be countered by contending that for all we know, in every possible world which exhibits a high degree of complexity such as ours with sentient, intelligent life the laws of nature are the same or have the same general features as the actual laws.

We cannot assume, then, that the distribution of pain and pleasure including the pains and pleasures reflected in biological evolution in a world with a high degree of complexity such as ours would be any different given theism. We are simply not epistemically capable of accurately assigning a probability either way, so we cannot make the judgment that theism is less likely than the hypothesis of indifference.

When assessing arguments of this sort, some important questions for consideration are these: What is the claim probable or improbable with respect to? And what is the relevant background information with respect to the claim? In this case, there is further opportunity for God to bring moral good out of the many kinds and varieties of evil in this life.

Nevertheless, the evidential problem of evil remains a central argument type against the plausibility of theism. A theodicy, unlike a defense, takes on the burden of attempting to vindicate God by providing a plausible explanation for evil. There is evil in the world. There are various attempts to demonstrate what that good reason is, or those good reasons are. Two important theodicies are those that appeal to the significance and value of free will, and those that appeal to the significance and value of acquiring virtuous traits of character in the midst of suffering.

The first fully developed theodicy was crafted by Augustine in the fifth century of the common era. Since all creation is intrinsically good, evil must not represent the positive existence of any substantial thing. Evil, then, turns out to be a metaphysical privation, a privatio boni privation of goodness , or the going wrong of something that is inherently good.

Both moral and natural evil, for Augustine, entered the universe through the wrongful use of free will. Since all creatures, both angels and humans, are finite and mutable, they have the capacity to choose evil, which they have done. Thus, while God created everything in the world good, including angels and humans, through the use of their wills these free agents have ushered into the world that which is contrary to the good. Much of what is good has become corrupted, and this corruption stems from these free creatures, not from God.

The Augustinian theodicy concludes with the culmination of history entailing cosmic justice. These evils do not seem to occur because of the free choices of moral creatures. The free will theodicy, then, is ineffectual as a solution to arguments from evil that include natural events such as these. Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, and others have proposed that supernatural beings may ultimately be responsible for evils of this kind, but most theodicists are skeptical of such a notion.

Another objection to this theodicy is that it was crafted in a pre-scientific culture and thus is devoid of an evolutionary view of the development of flora and fauna, including such elements as predation and species annihilation. The narrative of an originally perfect creation through which evil entered by the choices of free agents is now generally considered to be mistaken and unhelpful. The soul-making or person-making theodicy was developed by John Hick, utilizing ideas from the early Christian thinker and bishop Irenaeus c.

According to this theodicy, as advanced by Hick, God created the world as a good place, but no paradise, for developing morally and spiritually mature beings. Through evolutionary means, God is bringing about such individuals who have the freedom of will and the capacity to mature in love and goodness. Individuals placed in this challenging environment of our world, one in which there is epistemic distance between God and human persons, have the opportunity to choose, through their own free responses, what is right and good and thus develop into the mature persons that God desires them to be—exhibiting the virtues of patience, courage, generosity, and so on.

Evil, then, is the result of both the creation of a soul-making environment and of the human choices to act against what is right and good. While there is much evil in the world, nevertheless the trajectory of the world is toward the good, and God will continue to work with human and perhaps other persons, even in the afterlife if necessary, such that in the eschaton everyone will finally be brought to a place of moral and spiritual maturity.

One objection to the soul-making theodicy is that there are many evils in the world that seem to have nothing to do with character development. Gratuitous evils appear to be in abundance. Furthermore, there is no empirical support for the claim that the world is structured for soul making. Many persons appear to make no moral progress after much suffering; in fact, some persons seem to be worse off by the end of their earthly life.

In reply, it can be argued that apparently pointless evils are not always, in fact, without purpose and merit. The compassion that is evoked from such seemingly indiscriminate and unfair miseries, for example, is a great good, and one which may not arise without the miseries appearing as unfair and indiscriminate. While God did not intend or need any particular evils for soul-making purposes, God did arguably need to create an environment where such evils were a possibility. Thus, while each individual instance of evil may not be justified by a particular greater good, the existence of a world where evil is possible is necessary for a world where soul making can occur.

So in these instances, at least, the soul-making process would need to continue on in the afterlife. The free will and soul-making theodicies share a common supposition that God would not permit evil which is not necessary for a greater good. But many theists maintain that some evils are not justified, that some horrors are so damaging that there are no goods which outweigh them. But if there are such evils, the question can be raised why God would allow them. It may be that standard theism, theism unaccompanied by other religious claims, is inadequate to provide a response.

In fact, some have argued that an adequate reply requires an expanded theism which incorporates other particular religious claims. One such approach has been offered by Marilyn McCord Adams —. Utilizing the resources of her own religious tradition, Adams pushes theodicy beyond a general theism to an expanded Christian theism utilizing a Christocentric theological framework.

Adams argues that the Christian theodicist should abandon the widely held assumption that responses to evil can only include those goods that both theists and atheists acknowledge. She maintains that goods of this sort are finite and temporal, whereas the Christian has infinite and eternal goods at her disposal. An intimate, loving, eternal relationship with God, for example, may well be a good that is infinite and incomparable with any other kind of good.

As a Christian philosopher, she believes a more adequate response can be provided which involves the coexistence of God and the evils in the world. Rather than focusing on the possible reasons why God might allow evils of this sort, she maintains that it is enough to show how God can be good and yet permit their existence. Given this integration, she argues, all human beings, even those who have experienced the most horrific evils on earth, will in the eschaton be redeemed and thus find ultimate meaning and goodness in their lives.

Such a view does, of course, presuppose one particular religious tradition and one interpretation of that tradition. Another recent approach to the problem of evil has been offered by Eleonore Stump. She treats the problem of evil as centrally a problem of suffering and utilizes an account of second-person experiences and second-person biblical narratives to make her case. Stump suggests a possible world, one grounded in the worldview of Thomas Aquinas, in which love is central.

This goodness is also within human beings, and so a proper object of love includes love of other human beings as well as oneself. Fallen human beings prefer pleasure and power over the greater goods, and as such human beings are not properly internally integrated around the ultimate and proper good. One must be redeemed in order to have proper internal integration. But the way Job received this assurance, the way he knows that his suffering is under the providence of a good and loving God, occurs through a second-person experience that is difficult to explain to one who did not have the same experience.

In fact, in some cases, suffering seems to predictably diminish the sufferer. Furthermore, much evil and suffering seems to be indiscriminate and gratuitous. A related problem is that of divine hiddenness. Many people are perplexed and see as problematic that, if God exists, God does not make his existence sufficiently clear and available. The problem, concisely stated, can be put this way. If God exists as the perfect, loving, omnibenevolent being that theists have generally taken God to be, then God would desire the best for his creatures.

However, many people, both non-theists and sometimes theists themselves, claim to have no awareness of God. Why would God remain hidden and elusive, especially when individuals would benefit from being aware of God? John Schellenberg has argued that the hiddenness of God provides evidence that God does not in fact exist.

Using a child-parent analogy, an analogy which is often used in the Abrahamic traditions themselves, Schellenberg notes that good parents are present to their children, especially when they are in need. But God is nowhere to be found, whether one is in need or not.

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So God, at least as traditionally understood, must not exist. Schellenberg offers several different forms of the argument. One version can be sketched this way. If God does exist, then reasonable nonbelief would not occur, for surely a perfectly loving God would desire that people believe in God. And if God desires that people so believe, God would work it out so that persons would be in a reasonable position to believe.

However, reasonable nonbelief does occur. There are persons who do not believe in God, and they are reasonable in doing so. Even after studying the evidence, examining their motives of belief, praying and seeking God, they still do not believe and see no good reason to believe. But a perfectly loving and good God, it seems, would ensure belief in God by all such persons.

God would make himself known to them so that they would believe. Since there is reasonable nonbelief, then, we have solid evidence that God, as a perfectly loving, caring being does, not exist. The argument can be stated concisely this way:. Various replies can be made to this argument. While not a common move by theists, one could deny the first premise. Dystheists maintain that God is less maybe much less than omnibenevolent. Another reply is to deny premise two, and several reasons might be offered in support of its denial. First, it may be that those persons who do not believe are, for one reason or another, not ready to believe that God exists, perhaps because of emotional or psychological or other reasons.

So God hides out of love and concern for the person. A third reply is to deny the third premise. Some theists have, in fact, maintained that any nonbelief of God is unreasonable—that every case of nonbelief is one in which the person is epistemically and morally culpable for her nonbelief. That is, while such persons do not believe that God exists, they should so believe. They have the requisite evidence to warrant such belief, yet they deny or suppress it; they are intentionally disbelieving. For many philosophers of religion, these replies to the issue of divine hiddenness are unsatisfactory.

The elusiveness of God continues to be a problem for both theists and non-theists. Non-theistic religions have also offered accounts of evil, including its nature and existence, specifically with respect to suffering. For Hindus and Buddhists, these considerations are rooted in karma and rebirth.

In its popular formulations, rebirth is the view that the conscious self transmigrates from one physical body to the next after death. Each human being has lived former lives, perhaps as another human being or maybe even as another kind of organism. Rebirth is connected to the doctrine of karma. Understood this way, it involves causal connections linking what an individual does to what happens to them.

It is, in effect, the idea that one reaps the good and bad consequences of her or his actions, either in this life or in another life. Reincarnation and karma seem to offer a better account of evil and suffering than does theism. For example, it seems exceedingly unfair that one child is born healthy into a wealthy, loving family, whereas another child is born sickly into a poor, cruel environment. If there is a personal, creator God who brought these two persons into the world, God seems to be unloving and unjust.

But if the two children are reaping the consequences of actions they performed in previous lives, this seems to provide a justification for the inequalities. We reap what we sow. So the solution hoped for regarding inequalities never seems to come to an end. Furthermore, does it really seem fair that when a person who has lived a long life dies and is reincarnated, she must start all over again as a baby with her maturity, life experiences, wisdom, and memories completely erased? An initial advantage of this solution to the problem of evil is that real moral agency is preserved.

Upon further reflection, the view seems to run contrary to free moral agency. Consider the example of a man contemplating the rape and murder of a woman. Suppose he has done so before, and has thus far not been caught. He is considering redirecting his life by turning himself in to the authorities and receiving the consequences of his actions. But just as he is pondering this option, a woman strolls by and his mad passions for rape and murder begin to burn within him. He now has the choice to continue down the path of destruction or put a stop to it. If he decides to attack the woman and does so, then on the karmic account the woman was not completely innocent after all; she is paying the price for her former evil actions.

In that case, the rapist is not truly free to act as he does, for he is simply following mechanistically the effects of karmic justice. If, however, the woman does not deserve such moral recompense, then karmic justice will ensure that she does not receive it. In that case, the rapist will be unable to engage in the attack. The problem that arises has to do with locating the moral freedom in this system. If the rapist is deterministically carrying out justice on his victim, then it seems that he is not truly a free moral agent after all.

He is simply a cog in the karmic justice machine. It is disconcerting to affirm a moral system in which we understand raped and murdered victims to be themselves morally culpable for such acts of brutality against them. On the other hand, suppose the rapist really is free to attack the woman. As with theistic replies to evil, karmic solutions may be helpful at some level, but they nevertheless leave one with less than complete answers to the variety of problems of evil and suffering.

Theists commonly consider most of the events that occur in the world to be, fundamentally, acts of God. As creator and sustainer of the universe, God is, broadly construed, the ultimate cause of what occurs in the universe. But there is debate among philosophers of religion about what kinds of divine activity should be considered miraculous. One objection is that it is never reasonable to believe a report that a violation of a law of nature has occurred.

The evidence used to support a claim of a miraculous event is the testimony of witnesses. But the establishment of a natural law was based on the uniform experience of many persons over time. So the witness testimony necessary to establish a miracle would need to be greater than that which established the natural law in the first place.

Since this never happens, no evidence is sufficient to make probable or establish the occurrence of a violation of a natural law, so it is always unreasonable to believe that such a violation has occurred. One objection is that miracles are not in fact violations of natural laws.

Natural laws are descriptive rather than prescriptive; they describe what will, or likely will, occur or not occur under certain specifiable conditions. If what one means by a violation of the laws of nature is just an exception to usual processes in the natural world, however, this objection is unwarranted. This leads back to the issue of whether it is ever reasonable to believe that an exception to the usual processes in the natural world has occurred, and also whether it can be established that God has directly acted in the world.

Hume does not attempt to demonstrate that miracles are a metaphysical impossibility. His approach is an epistemic one: to show that there is never sufficient evidence to warrant belief in a miracle. Determining the probability of an event is a rather complex undertaking, and simply utilizing the frequency of an occurrence to determine its probability, as Hume apparently does, simply will not do. Establishing the a priori probability of a miracle without the background information of, for example, the existence of God, the nature of God, the purposes and plans of God, and so on, is impossible.

If one had such knowledge, a particular miracle may turn out to be highly probable. Recent discussions of miracles by philosophers of religion have often focused on the concept of natural law, probability theory, and the role of religion as evidence for a particular religion or for belief in God. Philosophy of religion is a flourishing field. Beyond those specific areas described above, there are also a number of important currents emerging, including feminist and continental approaches, renewed interest in medieval philosophy of religion, and an emphasis on the environment, race and ethnicity, and science and faith.

Chad Meister Email: chad. Philosophy of Religion Philosophy of religion is the philosophical study of the meaning and nature of religion. Religious Language and Belief a.

The Nature of God

Logical Positivism The practice of philosophy, especially in the analytic tradition, places emphasis on precision of terms and clarity of concepts and ideas. Realism and Non-realism After the collapse of positivism, two streams emerged in philosophy of religion regarding what religious language and beliefs are about: realism and non-realism. Religious Diversity In the West, most work done in philosophy of religion historically has been theistic. Religious Pluralism One response to religious diversity is to deny or minimize the doctrinal conflicts and to maintain that doctrine itself is not as important for religion as religious experience and that the great religious traditions are equally authentic responses to Ultimate Reality.

Religious Relativism A second way of responding to the conflicting claims of the different traditions is to remain committed to the truth of one set of religious teachings while at the same time agreeing with some of the central concerns raised by pluralism. Religious Exclusivism In contrast to pluralism and relativism is a third response to the conflicting truth claims of the religions: exclusivism.

Arguments for and against the Existence of God It is generally the case that religious adherents do not hold their religious convictions because of well-articulated reasons or arguments which support those convictions. Ontological Arguments First developed by Saint Anselm of Canterbury — , ontological arguments take various forms. Proslogion , chapter II, 54 Since it would be a contradiction to affirm that the greatest possible being does not exist in reality but only in the mind because existing in reality is greater than existing in the mind , one is logically drawn to the conclusion that God must exist.

Cosmological Arguments Cosmological arguments begin by examining some empirical or metaphysical fact of the universe, from which it then follows that something outside the universe must have caused it to exist. Oxford, Blackwell, , 76 An objection raised against both the Thomistic- and the Leibnizian-type arguments is that they are demanding explanations which are unwarranted.

Based on these dilemmas, the argument can be put in the following logical form: Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has some kind of cause of its existence. The cause of the universe is either an impersonal cause or a personal one. The cause of the universe is not impersonal. Therefore, the cause of the universe is a personal one, which we call God.

Teleological Arguments Teleological arguments in the East go back as far as C. The works of nature, such as the human hand, resemble artifacts. Thus the works of nature are probably the products of design. Furthermore, the works of nature are much more in number and far greater in complexity. Therefore, the works of nature were probably the products of a grand designer—one much more powerful and intelligent than a human designer. The Challenge of Science Over the last several hundred years there has been tremendous growth in scientific understanding of the world in such fields as biology, astronomy, physics, and geology.

The Coherence of Theism Philosophical challenges to theism have also included the claim that the very concept of God makes no sense—that the attributes ascribed to God are logically incoherent either individually or collectively. Problems of Evil and Suffering a.

Logical Problems Perhaps the most compelling and noteworthy argument against theism is what is referred to as the problem of evil. Evidential Problems Evidential arguments attempt to demonstrate that the existence of evil in the world counts as inductive evidence against the claim that God exists. Theodicy A theodicy, unlike a defense, takes on the burden of attempting to vindicate God by providing a plausible explanation for evil.

The Hiddenness of God A related problem is that of divine hiddenness. The argument can be stated concisely this way: If there is a God, he is perfectly loving. If a perfectly loving God exists, reasonable nonbelief does not occur. Reasonable nonbelief occurs. So no perfectly loving God exists from 2 and 3.

Karma and Reincarnation Non-theistic religions have also offered accounts of evil, including its nature and existence, specifically with respect to suffering. Conclusion Philosophy of religion is a flourishing field. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Alston, W. Perceiving God. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, Anderson, Pamela Sue. Oxford: Blackwell, Insole, eds. Aldershot: Ashgate, Anselm of Canterbury. Anselm: Basic Writings. Beilby, James K.

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2. Feminist Critique of Traditional Philosophy of Religion

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Philadelphia: Temple University Press, Meister, Chad. Introducing Philosophy of Religion. Meister, Chad and Paul Copan, eds. The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion. London: Routledge, ; second edition Moreland, J. Consciousness and the Existence of God. Morris, Thomas V. The Logic of God Incarnate. Moser, Paul. Nielsen, Kai. Naturalism without Foundations. Buffalo: Prometheus Press, Oxford, Blackwell, Oppy, Graham.

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