43095667 - [MJTM 9 (20072008) 3949] THE PROBLEM OF EVIL: A...

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[ MJTM 9 (2007–2008) 39–49] THE PROBLEM OF EVIL: A REVIEW ESSAY Bruce Ballard Lincoln University, Jefferson City, MO “If God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent, then why is there (so much) evil in the world?” runs the inevitable question of the problem of evil. Or alternatively, doesn’t the occurrence of (so much) worldly evil actually imply the non- existence of such a God, as the leading atheological gambit, the “argument from evil,” contends? Apparently inexhaustible, the topic has recently received newly challenging and insightful, if very different, treatment in the hands of two Christian analytic philosophers, Brian Davies, in his book The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil , 1 and Peter van Inwagen, in his contribution The Problem of Evil . 2 Especially interested in how the argument from evil might be blocked, neither aims at a full theodicy. “I do not claim to be able to explain why evil exists on the scale it does or why it exists at all . . . In my view, there can be no such explanation,” writes Davies. 3 Yet on his account of God’s unique being, this lack of explanation in no way counts against the existence of a good God, as proponents of the argument from evil want to argue. Similarly, for Peter van Inwagen, living in a fallen world “means being the playthings of chance. It means living in a world in which innocent children die horribly, and it means something worse than that: it means living in a world in which innocent children die horribly for no reason at all .” 4 In a 1. Davies, Reality of God (vi + 264 pp. Pbk. $29.95, ISBN 0-8264-9241- X). 2. van Inwagen, Problem of Evil (viii + 183 pp. Hbk. $35.00, ISBN 9-19- 924560-6). 3. Davies, Reality of God , 246. 4. van Inwagen, Problem of Evil , 89.
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McMaster Journal of Theology and Ministry 9 40 seeming paradox, for van Inwagen, there is yet “an explanation of why evils happen to people without any reason.” 5 Van Inwagen’s short answer here is that the incomparable good of an eternity of love with God requires our free choice and the cost of that freedom is the evils of this world (or evils as bad or worse). Davies proposes an apparently simpler but more radical solution to the problem: God is by definition beyond moral evaluation. Since he also offers reasons to dismiss other approaches, including van Inwagen’s “free will” defense, beginning with Davies allows us to set the stage by way of a challenge for van Inwagen’s account. Davies’s book ranges very broadly over the problem of evil. He surveys a wide array of challenges and responses to the prob- lem, offering his own critical comments on each. In the end, typical responses are rejected, a negation highlighting the alter- native Davies will supply with positive reasons. One is never in doubt about Davies’s sincerity or honesty employing this well- known argument strategy. But whether a burn-all-bridges-but- my-own approach is the wisest course on the problem of evil seems debatable. As the title of his book implies, Davies’s
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43095667 - [MJTM 9 (20072008) 3949] THE PROBLEM OF EVIL: A...

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