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Adams, Marilyn McCord, and . Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God

1999, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Publisher’ Note: When confronted by horrendous evil, even the most pious believer may question not only life’s worth but also God’s power and goodness. A distinguished philosopher and a practicing minister, Marilyn McCord Adams has written a highly original work on a fundamental dilemma of Christian thought – how to reconcile faith in God with the evils that afflict human beings. Adams argues that much of the discussion in analytic philosophy of religion over the last forty years has offered too narrow an understanding of the problem. The ground rules accepted for the discussion have usually led philosophers to avert their gaze from the worst – horrendous – evils and their devastating impact on human lives. They have agreed to debate the issue on the basis of religion-neutral values, and have focused on morals, an approach that – Adams claims – is inadequate for formulating and solving the problem of horrendous evils. She emphasizes instead the fruitfulness of other evaluative categories such as purity and defilement, honor and shame, and aesthetics. If redirected, philosophical reflection on evil can, Adams’s book demonstrates, provide a valuable approach not only to theories of God and evil but also to pastoral care.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on philosophy of religion or atheism. It is most likely that this would serve as a secondary rather than primary reading, but would be particularly useful for students who feel that discussions of the problem of evil for theism are carried out at too high a level of abstraction to get to what is really central to the problem.

De Cruz, Helen, and . The Enduring Appeal of Natural Theological Arguments

2014, Philosophy Compass 9/2: 145-153.

Abstract: Natural theology is the branch of theology and philosophy that attempts to gain knowledge of God through non-revealed sources. In a narrower sense, natural theology is the discipline that presents rational arguments for the existence of God. Given that these arguments rarely directly persuade those who are not convinced by their conclusions, why do they enjoy an enduring appeal? This article examines two reasons for the continuing popularity of natural theological arguments: (i) they appeal to intuitions that humans robustly hold and that emerge early in cognitive development; (ii) they serve an argumen- tative function by presenting particular religious views as live options. I conclude with observations on the role of natural theology in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on philosophy or religion, metaphysics (where arguments for and against the existence of God are being considered), epistemology or religious epistemology. The paper is clear and non-technical. It does not provide arguments for or against the existence of God but considers the debate as a whole. It may then be useful for scene-setting, or for placing previously considered arguments in their context.

Jaeger,Lydia, and . Against Physicalism-plus-God

2012, Faith and Philosophy , 29, 295-312

Abstract: It is often assumed that contemporary physics is more hospitable to divine action (and human freedom) than classical mechanics. The article criticizes this assumption on the grounds of both physics and theology. Most currently discussed models of divine action do not challenge the physicalist assumption that physics provides a true and complete description of nature’s causal web. Thus they resemble physicalism-plus-God. Taking up suggestions from Herman Dooyeweerd and Henri Blocher, I propose an alternative framework for divine action in the world. It takes creation as the starting-point to understand the world and leads to a non-reductionist, multidimensional picture of reality

Comment: Good article for undergraduate students. It is valuable for studying the relation between science and divinity.

Nagasawa, Yujin, and . The Ontological Argument and the Devil

2010, The Philosophical Quarterly 60 (238): 72-91.

Abstract: The ‘parody objection’ to the ontological argument for the existence of God advances parallel arguments apparently proving the existence of various absurd entities. I discuss recent versions of the parody objection concerning the existence of ‘AntiGod’ and the devil, as introduced by Peter Millican and Timothy Chambers. I argue that the parody objection always fails, because any parody is either (i) not structurally parallel to the ontological argument, or (ii) not dialectically parallel to the ontological argument. Moreover, once a parody argument is modified in such a way that it avoids (i) and (ii), it is, ironically, no longer a parody – it is the ontological argument itself.

Comment: Useful in a philosophy of religion course. Provides an account of the ontological argument, parody objections to it, and responses to those objections. This paper is particularly useful because it is both cutting edge and graspable by advanced undergraduate or graduate students. Any course that treats arguments for and against the existence of God in any depth will discuss the ontological argument. Parody objections to ontological arguments are common (and often taken to be decisive); this would fit well in a course that discusses these parody objections.

Nagasawa, Yujin, and . A New Defence of Anselmian Theism

2008, The Philosophical Quarterly 58 (233): 577-596.

Abstract: Anselmian theists, for whom God is the being than which no greater can be thought, usually infer that he is an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent being. Critics have attacked these claims by numerous distinct arguments, such as the paradox of the stone, the argument from God’s inability to sin, and the argument from evil. Anselmian theists have responded to these arguments by constructing an independent response to each. This way of defending Anselmian theism is uneconomical. I seek to establish a new defence which undercuts almost all the existing arguments against Anselmian theism at once. In developing this defence, I consider the possibility that the Anselmian God is not an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent being.

Comment: Useful in a philosophy of religion course or any course that discusses the existence of God. Provides an account of the Anselmian idea that God is the best possible being, objections to this idea and responses to those objections. This paper is particularly useful because it is both cutting edge and graspable by advanced undergraduate or graduate students. This will fit well in a course that discusses the coherence of classical theism.

Stump, Eleonore, and . The Problem of Evil

1985, Faith and Philosophy 2(4): 392-423.

Abstract: This paper considers briefly the approach to the problem of evil by Alvin Plantinga, Richard Swinburne, and John Hick and argues that none of these approaches is entirely satisfactory. The paper then develops a different strategy for dealing with the problem of evil by expounding and taking seriously three Christian claims relevant to the problem: Adam fell; natural evil entered the world as a result of Adam’s fall; and after death human beings go either to heaven or hell. Properly interpreted, these claims form the basis for a consistent and coherent Christian solution to the problem of evil.

Comment: A clear introduction to an important approach to the problem of evil. Good primary or secondary reading for undergraduate or postgraduate courses on philosophy of religion.

Stump, Eleonore, and . Aquinas

2003, Routledge

Publisher’s Note: Few philosophers or theologians exerted as much influence on the shape of Medieval thought as Thomas Aquinas. He ranks amongst the most famous of the Western philosophers and was responsible for almost single-handedly bringing the philosophy of Aristotle into harmony with Christianity. He was also one of the first philosophers to argue that philosophy and theology could support each other. The shape of metaphysics, theology, and Aristotelian thought today still bears the imprint of Aquinas work. In this extensive and deeply researched study, Eleonore Stump engages Aquinas across the full range of his philosophical writings. She examines Aquinas’ major works, Summa Theologiae and Summa Contra Gentiles and clearly assesses the vast range of Aquinas’ thought from his metaphysics, theology, philosophy of mind and epistemology to his views on free will, action, the soul and ethics, law and politics. She considers the influence of Aquinas’ thought on contemporary philosophy and why he should be still read today.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on Aquinas or medieval philosophy. Though to some extent the book functions as a single unit, chapters could be used individually and would be useful in courses on metaphysics, metaethics and philosophy of religion. The book is very clear and introduces difficult ideas well. It provides an "analytic" approach to a medieval philosopher.

Stump, Eleonore, and . Wandering in Darkness: Narrative And The Problem Of Suffering

2010, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Publisher’s Note: Only the most naive or tendentious among us would deny the extent and intensity of suffering in the world. Can one hold, consistently with the common view of suffering in the world, that there is an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good God? This book argues that one can. Wandering in Darkness first presents the moral psychology and value theory within which one typical traditional theodicy, namely, that of Thomas Aquinas, is embedded. It explicates Aquinas’s account of the good for human beings, including the nature of love and union among persons. Eleonore Stump also makes use of developments in neurobiology and developmental psychology to illuminate the nature of such union.

Stump then turns to an examination of narratives. In a methodological section focused on epistemological issues, the book uses recent research involving autism spectrum disorder to argue that some philosophical problems are best considered in the context of narratives. Using the methodology argued for, the book gives detailed, innovative exegeses of the stories of Job, Samson, Abraham and Isaac, and Mary of Bethany.

In the context of these stories and against the backdrop of Aquinas’s other views, Stump presents Aquinas’s own theodicy, and shows that Aquinas’s theodicy gives a powerful explanation for God’s allowing suffering. She concludes by arguing that this explanation constitutes a consistent and cogent defense for the problem of suffering.

Comment: The book, or extracts from the book, could be used in postgraduate teaching on philosophy of religion. Though the book functions as a whole, individual chapters could be used in teaching to address specific subtopics of the book. Part 1 of the book is useful as an account of the use of narrative in philosophy, and an illustration of the broader range of methods now deployed in analytic philosophy. Part 2 gives a detailed overview of accounts of the nature of love. Part 4 could be profitably used on its own in a course dealing with the problem of evil, though it does contain back-reference to earlier parts of the book.

Zagzebski, Linda, and . Does Ethics Need God?

1987, Faith and Philosophy 4: 294-303.

Abstract: This essay presents a moral argument for the rationality of theistic belief. If all I have to go on morally are my own moral intuitions and reasoning and those of others, I am rationally led to skepticism, both about the possibility of moral knowledge and about my moral effectiveness. This skepticism is extensive, amounting to moral despair. But such despair cannot be rational. It follows that the assumption of the argument must be false and I must be able to rely on more than my own human powers and those of others in attempting to live a moral life. The Christian God has such a function. Hence, if it is rational to attempt a moral life, it is rational to believe in the Christian God.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on philosophy of religion, metaethics or a course in which the epistemology of disagreement is relevant. This is a short, clear and simple paper which would be suitable for first year undergraduates.