God And Evil: An Introduction To The Issues

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Westview Press, Sep 16, 2009 - Philosophy - 240 pages
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This concise, well-structured survey examines the problem of evil in the context of the philosophy of religion. One of the core topics in that field, the problem of evil is an enduring challenge that Western philosophers have pondered for almost two thousand years. The main problem of evil consists in reconciling belief in a just and loving God with the evil and suffering in the world. Michael Peterson frames this issue by working through questions such as the following: What is the relation of rational belief to religious faith? What different conceptual moves are possible on either side of the issue? What responses have important thinkers advanced and which seem most promising? Is it possible to maintain religious commitment in light of evil? Peterson relies on the helpful distinction between moral and natural evil to clarify our understanding of the different aspects of the problem as well as avenues for response.The overall format of the text rests on classifying various types of argument from evil: the logical, the probabilistic, the evidential, and the existential arguments. Each type of argument has its own strategy which both theists and nontheists must recognize and develop. Giving both theistic and nontheistic perspectives fair representation, the text works through the issues of whether evil shows theistic belief to be inconsistent, improbable, discredited by the evidence, or threatened by personal crisis.Peterson explains how defensive strategies are particularly geared for responding to the logical and probabilistic arguments from evil while theodicy is an appropriate response to the evidential argument. Theodicy has traditionally been understood as the attempt to justify belief in a God who is all-powerful and all-good in light of evil. The text discusses the theodicies of Augustine, Leibniz, Hick, and Whitehead as enlightening examples of theodicy. This discussion allows Peterson to identify and evaluate a rather dominant theme in most theodicies: that evil can be justified by designating a greater good. In the end, Peterson even explores how certain types of theodicy, based on specifically Christian renditions of theism, might provide a basis for addressing the existential problem of evil. The reader of this book gains not only an intellectual grasp of the debate over God and evil in professional philosophy but also the personal benefit of thinking through one of the most important issues in human life.

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Page 12 - Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? In what distant deeps or skies Burnt the fire of thine eyes? On what wings dare he aspire? What the hand dare seize the fire? And what shoulder, and what art, Could twist the sinews of thy heart? And when thy heart began to beat, What dread hand? and what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain? In what furnace was thy brain?
Page 4 - I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.
Page 112 - ... the highest human morality which we are capable of conceiving" does not sanction them; convince me of it, and I will bear my fate as I may. But when I am told that I must believe this, and at the same time call this being by the names which express and affirm the highest human morality, I say in plain terms that I will not. Whatever power such a being may have over me, there is one thing which he shall not do: he shall not compel me to worship him. I will call no being good, who is not what I...
Page 126 - I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
Page 18 - In its simplest form the problem is this: God is omnipotent ; God is wholly good; and yet evil exists. There seems to be some contradiction between these three propositions, so that if any two of them were true the third would be false. But at the same time all three are essential parts of most theological positions: the theologian, it seems, at once must adhere and cannot consistently adhere to all three.
Page 3 - This was the shocking thing, that the slime of the pit seemed to utter cries and voices; that the amorphous dust gesticulated and sinned; that what was dead and had no shape should usurp the offices of life. And this again, that that insurgent horror was knit to him closer than a wife, closer than an eye; lay caged in his flesh, where he heard it mutter and felt it struggle to be born...
Page 13 - What dread hand? & what dread feet? What the hammer? what the chain, In what furnace was thy brain ? What the anvil ? what dread grasp Dare its deadly terrors clasp ? When the stars threw down their spears And water'd heaven with their tears, Did he smile his work to see ? Did he who made the Lamb make thee? Tyger, Tyger, burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Dare frame thy fearful symmetry...
Page 3 - Though so profound a double-dealer, I was in no sense a hypocrite; both sides of me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I laboured, in the eye of day, at the furtherance of knowledge or the relief of sorrow and suffering.
Page 18 - Epicurus's old questions are yet unanswered. Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?
Page 36 - If God has made men such that in their free choices they sometimes prefer what is good and sometimes what is evil, why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good?

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About the author (2009)

Michael Peterson is professor of philosophy at Asbury College and the author of several books.

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