Providence and the Problem of Evil

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OUP Oxford, Aug 27, 1998 - Philosophy - 278 pages
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Why does a loving God allow humans to suffer so much? This is one of the most difficult problems of religious belief. Richard Swinburne gives a careful, clear examination of this problem, and offers an answer: it is because God wants more for us than just pleasure or freedom from suffering. Swinburne argues that God wants humans to learn and to love, to make the choices which make great differences for good and evil to each other, to form our characters in the way we choose; above all to be of great use to each other. If we are to have all this, there will inevitably be suffering for the short period of our lives on Earth. But because of the good that God gives to humans in this life, and because he makes it possible for us, through our choice, to share the life of Heaven, he does not wrong us if he allows suffering. Providence and the Problem of Evil is the final volume of Richard Swinburne's acclaimed tetralogy on Christian doctrine. It may be read on its own as a self-standing treatment of this eternal philosophical issue. Readers who are interested in a unified study of the philosophical foundations of Christian belief will find it now in the tetralogy and in his trilogy on the philosophy of theism.

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I The Problem of Evil
1 The Need for Theodicy
Does the Theist Need to Prove His Case?
2 Theodicy in Christian Tradition
The FreeWill Defence
The Fall
Other Strands of Theodicy
Incentive and Deterrent Desires
Sloth and Decay
9 Natural Evil and the Scope for Response
Human Response in Forming Souls
Animal Response
The Extent of Animal Suffering
10 Natural Evil and the Possibility of Knowledge

II The Good Goals of Creation
3 Beauty
4 Thought and Feeling
5 Action
The Scope of Responsibility
The Greatness of Being of Use
Gods Provision of Human Freedom
The Influence of Angels and Ancestors
6 Worship
The Mechanism of Providence
Life After Death
III The Necessary Evils
7 The Fact of Moral Evil and Free Will
The FreeWill Defence
8 The Range of Moral Evil and Responsibility
The Principle of Honesty
The Bad Involved in Responsibility for Oneself and the Consequences of Ignorance
The Bad Involved in Responsibility for Others
Learning Involves the Operation of Natural Processes Producing Good and Bad
Knowledge Provided by Animal Suffering
11 The Evils of Sin and Agnosticism
The Value of the Possibility of Sin
PunishmentHere and Hereafter
The Religious Value of Worldly Failure
The Value of Agnosticism
The Advantages of Human Death
The Incarnation and the Atonement
Conclusion to Part III
IV Completing the Theodicy
12 Gods Right
The Rights and Duties of Carers
Gods Decisions About the Unborn
Gods Decisions About Adult Humans
13 Weighing Good Against Bad
The New Testament on the Value of Service
The Primary Point of Life
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About the author (1998)

Richard Swinburne has been Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion at the University of Oxford since 1985; he is a Fellow of the British Academy.

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