Evil, Suffering and Religion by Brian Hebblethwaite

There is a phrase which has entered English usage recently. This is ‘the elephant in the room’. It is used to indicate a large inconvenient truth about which some prefer to remain blind. It could well be used in discussions of ‘theodicy’, otherwise known as ‘the problem of evil’ (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/). This is an entire branch of theology which addresses the problem of why an omnipotent, omniscient and beneficent god permits the appalling suffering that everywhere surrounds us. The literature in this branch alone is vast.

To enter this territory I’d recommend Brian Hebblethwaite’s (http://www.giffordlectures.org/lecturers/brian-hebblethwaite) brief 128 page book Evil, Suffering and Religion. Like a chess player defending a hopeless position, Hebblethwaite here draws on every possible line of defence to prevent defeat. He explores the resources which the world’s religions have offered us in understanding and coping with evil and suffering, and assesses the rationality and moral force of the main explanations.

Your own assessment of the strength of these arguments may well differ from Hebblethwaite’s (as does mine), but grappling with them could help to clarify your own thoughts.

Enquire at your local library or consult  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Evil-Suffering-Religion-Brian-Hebblethwaite/dp/0281053146/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1448791853&sr=8-11&keywords=brian+hebblethwaite  for full bibliographic detail.

128 pages in SPCK Publishing; 2nd Revised edition edition (21 July 2000)

First published 1976

ISBN  978-0281053148

Brian Hebblethwaite

If you are bewildered, challenged, confused or angered by this most serious of questions – here are some leads for reading to investigate the subject further. The books by Hick (1966), Van Inwagen (2006) and Adams (1999) are standard entries on undergraduate reading lists.

  • Adams, Marilyn McCord (1999). Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Adams, Robert M. (1977). “Middle Knowledge and the Problem of Evil,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 14: 109–17.
  • ––– (1985). “Plantinga on the Problem of Evil,” in Tomberlin and van Inwagen (eds.) 1985, 225–55.
  • Aiken, H. D. (1957–58). “God and Evil: Some Relations between Faith and Morals,” Ethics, 68: 77–97.
  • Audi, Robert, and William J. Wainwright (ed.) (1987). Rationality, Religious Belief, and Moral Commitment, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Chrzan, Keith (1987). “The Irrelevance of the No Best Possible World Defense,” Philosophia, 17: 161–7.
  • ––– (1988). “Plantinga on Atheistic Induction,” Sophia, 27: 10–14.
  • Clarke, Randolph. 1993. “Toward a Credible Agent-Causal Account of Free Will.” Noûs, 27: 191–203.
  • ––– 1996. “Agent Causation and Event Causation in the Production of Free Action.” Philosophical Topics, 24, no. 2: 19–48.
  • ––– 2003. Libertarian Accounts of Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Conway David A. (1988). “The Philosophical Problem of Evil,” Philosophy of Religion, 24: 35–66.
  • Draper, Paul (1989). “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists,” Noûs, 23: 331–350; reprinted in Howard-Snyder (ed.), The Evidential Argument from Evil, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996, pp. 12–29.
  • Fairbanks, Daniel J. (2007). Relics of Eden – The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA, Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.
  • Fitzpatrick, F. J. (1981). “The Onus of Proof in Arguments about the Problem of Evil,” Religious Studies, 17: 19–38.
  • Forrest, Peter (1981). “The Problem of Evil: Two Neglected Defenses,” Sophia, 20: 49–54.
  • Hartshorne, Charles (1962). The Logic of Perfection, La Salle: Open Court Publishing.
  • Hasker, William (1988). “Suffering, Soul-Making, and Salvation,” International Philosophical Quarterly, 28: 3–19.
  • Hick, John (1966). Evil and the God of Love, New York: Harper and Row, revised edition 1978.
  • Howard-Snyder, Daniel, ed. (1996). The Evidential Argument from Evil, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
  • Kane, G. Stanley (1975). “The Failure of Soul-Making Theodicy,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 6: 1–22.
  • Khatchadourian, Haig (1966). “God, Happiness and Evil,” Religious Studies, 2: 109–19.
  • La Para, Nicholas (1965). “Suffering, Happiness, Evil,” Sophia, 4: 10–16.
  • Langtry, Bruce (1989). “God, Evil and Probability,”Sophia, 28: 32–40.
  • Lewis, C. S. (1957). The Problem of Pain, London: Fontana Books.
  • Lewis, Delmas (1983). “The Problem with the Problem of Evil,” Sophia, 22: 26–35.
  • Mackie, John L. (1955). “Evil and Omnipotence,”Mind, 64: 200–12
  • Malcolm, Norman (1960). “Anselm’s Ontological Arguments,” The Philosophical Review, 69: 41–62.
  • Martin, Michael (1988). “Reichenbach on Natural Evil,”Religious Studies, 24: 91–9.
  • McCloskey, H. J. (1960). “God and Evil,”Philosophical Quarterly, 10: 97–114
  • McKim, Robert (1984). “Worlds Without Evil,”International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 15: 161–70
  • O’Connor David, (1983). “Swinburne on Natural Evil,”Religious Studies, 19: 65–73.
  • O’Connor, Timothy. 1995. “Agent Causation.” InAgents, Causes, and Events: Essays on Indeterminism and Free Will, Timothy O’Connor (ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, 173–200.
  • ––– 1996. “Why Agent Causation?”Philosophical Topics, 24(2): 143–58.
  • ––– 2000a. “Causality, Mind, and Free Will.” Philosophical Perspectives, 14: 105–17.
  • ––– 2000b. Persons and Causes: The Metaphysics of Free Will. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • ––– 2002. “Libertarian Views: Dualist and Agent-Causal Theories.” In The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, Robert Kane (ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, 337–55.
  • Perkins, R. M. (1983). “An Atheistic Argument from the Improvability of the Universe,” Noûs, 17: 239–50
  • Pierce, C. S. (1903) “Abduction and Induction,” in Justus Buchler, ed., Philosophical Writings of C. S., Pierce(New York: Dover Publications, 1955), pp. 150–6.  (The selection“Abduction and Induction” is a combination of different writings, with the crucial part being taken from Pierce’s Lectures on Pragmatism, delivered at Harvard in 1903.)
  • Plantinga, Alvin (1967). God and Other Minds, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • ––– (1974a). God, Freedom, and Evil, New York: Harper and Row.
  • ––– (1974b). The Nature of Necessity, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • ––– (1979). “The Probabilistic Argument from Evil,” Philosophical Studies, 35: 1–53.
  • ––– (1981). “Tooley and Evil: A Reply,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 60: 66–75.
  • ––– (1985a). “Self-Profile,” in Tomberlin and van Inwagen (eds.) 1985, 3–97
  • ––– (1985b). “Reply to Robert M. Adams,” in Tomberlin and van Inwagen (eds.) 1985, 371–82.
  • ––– (1998). “Degenerate Evidence and Rowe’s New Evidential Argument from Evil,” Noûs, 32(4): 531–44.
  • Reichenbach, Bruce R. (1976). “Natural Evils and Natural Law: A Theodicy for Natural Evils,” International Philosophical Quarterly, 16: 179–96.
  • ––– (1980). “The Inductive Argument from Evil,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 17: 221–7.
  • Rowe, William L. (1979). “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 16: 335–41
  • ––– (1984). “Evil and the Theistic Hypothesis: A Response to Wykstra,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 16: 95–100.
  • ––– (1986). “The Empirical Argument from Evil,” in Audi and Wainwright (eds.), Rationality, Religious Belief, and Moral Commitment, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 227–47
  • ––– (1991). “Ruminations about Evil,” Philosophical Perspectives, 5: 69–88.
  • ––– (1996). “The Evidential Argument from Evil: A Second Look,” in Howard-Snyder (ed.), The Evidential Argument from Evil, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996, 262–85.
  • ––– (1998). “Reply to Plantinga,”Noûs, 32(4): 545–51.
  • Schlesinger, George (1964). “The Problem of Evil and the Problem of Suffering,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 1: 244–7.
  • ––– (1977). Religion and Scientific Method, Boston: D. Reidel.
  • Smith, Quentin (1991). “An Atheological Argument from Evil Natural Laws,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 29: 159–174.
  • Stump, Eleonore (ed.) (1993a). Reasoned Faith, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • ––– (1993b). “Aquinas on the Sufferings of Job,” in Stump (ed.), Reasoned Faith, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 328–57.
  • ––– (1983). “Knowledge, Freedom and the Problem of Evil,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 14: 49–58
  • Swinburne, Richard (1979). The Existence of God, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • ––– (1988). “Does Theism Need A Theodicy?” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 18: 287–312.
  • ––– (1996). “Some Major Strands of Theodicy?” in Howard-Snyder (ed.), The Evidential Argument from Evil, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996, 30–48.
  • Tomberlin, James E., and Peter van Inwagen (eds.) (1985). Alvin Plantinga, Dordrecht: D. Reidel.
  • ––– (ed.) (1991). Philosophical Perspectives 5: Philosophy of Religion, Atascadero, California: Ridgeview Publishing).
  • Tooley, Michael (1977). “The Nature of Laws,”Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 7: 667–98.
  • ––– (1980). “Alvin Plantinga and the Argument from Evil,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 58: 360–76.
  • ––– (1981). “Plantinga’s Defence of the Ontological Argument,” Mind, 90: 422–7
  • ––– (1988). Causation: A Realist Approach, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • ––– and Alvin Plantinga (2008). Knowledge of God (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing)
  • ––– (2011). “Hume and the Problem of Evil,” in Philosophy of Religion: The Key Thinkers, edited by Jeffrey J. Jordan, London and New York, Continuum, 159–86.
  • ––– (2012a).  “Plantinga’s New Argument against Materialism,” Philosophia Christi, 14(1): 29–48.
  • ––– (2012b). “Inductive Logic and the Probability that God Exists: Farewell to Skeptical Theism,” inProbability in the Philosophy of Religion, edited by Jake Chandler and Victoria S. Harrison (Oxford, Oxford University Press) 144–64.
  • van Inwagen, Peter (1991). “The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence,” in Philosophical Perspectives, 5: 135–165.
  • ––– (2006). The Problem of Evil, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Whitcomb. John C. and Henry M. Morris (1966). The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications, (Phillipsburg, NJ: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.
  • Wykstra, Stephen J. (1984). “The Humean Obstacle to Evidential Arguments from Suffering: On Avoiding the Evils of‘Appearance’,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 16: 73–93.
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