Theodicy, the enterprise of searching for greater goods that might plausibly justify God's permission of evil, is often criticized on the grounds that the project has systematically failed to unearth any such goods. But theodicists also face a deeper challenge, one that places under question the very attempt to look for any morally sufficient reasons God might have for creating a world littered with evil. This 'anti-theodical' view argues that theists (and non-theists) ought to reject, primarily for moral reasons, the project of 'justifying the ways of God to men'. Unfortunately, this view has not received the serious attention it deserves, particularly in analytic philosophy of religion. Taking my cues from such antitheodicists as Kenneth Surin, D.Z. Phillips and Dostoyevsky's Ivan Karamazov, I defend several reasons for holding that the way of thinking about God and evil enshrined in theodical discourse can only add to the world's evils, not remove or illuminate them.Keywords Problem of evil . Theodicy . Anti-theodicy . D.Z. Phillips . Dostoevsky No statement, theological or otherwise, should be made that would not be credible in the presence of the burning children. -Rabbi Greenberg (1989: 315) Apart from a few lonely voices in the wilderness -such as those of Kenneth Surin and D.Z. Phillips -there is little discussion today within analytic philosophy of religion of the meta-theodical question of whether it is legitimate (in some significant sense) to offer a theodicy in response to the problem of evil. The recent SOPHIA (2008) 47:161-191
Kirk Durston recently presented an argument aimed against evidential arguments from evil predicated on instances of suffering that appear to be gratuitous; ‘The consequential complexity of history and gratuitous evil’, Religious Studies, 36 (2000), 65–80. He begins with the notion that history consists of an intricate web of causal chains, so that a single event in one such chain may have countless unforeseen consequences. According to Durston, this consequential complexity exhibited by history negatively impacts on our grasp of the data necessary to determine whether or not an evil is gratuitous. He therefore concludes that our epistemic condition poses an insurmountable barrier towards the inference from inscrutability to pointlessness. By way of reply, I contend that Durston's argument is flawed in two significant respects, and thus the evidential argument emerges unscathed from his critique.
Received wisdom has it that a plausible explanation or theodicy for God's permission of at least some instances of natural evil is not beyond the reach of the theist. In this paper I challenge this assumption, arguing instead that theism fails to account for any instance, kind, quantity, or distribution of natural evil found in the world. My case will be structured around a specific but not idiosyncratic conception of natural evil as well as an examination of three prominent theodicies for natural evil. In contrast, however, to much contemporary discussion, my assessment of these theodicies will be grounded in the prior conviction that a successful theodicy for moral evil is available.
In this reply I argue that Durston's defence of his argument from the complexity of history ought to be unacceptable to the theist as it undermines not only common theistic attitudes towards God, such as gratitude and praise, but also the rationality of our ordinary moral practices.
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