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Ali Mobini, Mohammed, , . Earth’s Epistemic Fruits for Harmony with God: An Islamic Theodicy
2013, in The Blackwell companion to the problem of evil (eds J. P. McBrayer and D. Howard-Snyder), John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, Oxford. Chapter 20.
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Publisher’s Note: The best life is realized when all existents are in such harmony with one another that all can play their assigned roles. Suffering always comes from disharmony. The vital harmony of life is harmony between creatures and Creator; and the way in which a creature fits with the existence of the Creator is a necessary condition for the creature’s survival. Among all creatures, human beings are able to have comprehensive knowledge of God and achieve an active harmony with God in all aspects. The earth is a testing ground in which humans can prepare themselves epistemically and then practically to contribute actively to harmony with God. Since a laboratory has its own rules, we should not expect an ideal life in the earthly laboratory. After the laboratorial role that one plays in the present world, one still is on the watch and can share in the experiences of living people and develop epistemically so that one receives an epistemic safe point that is necessary for harmony with God.

Comment: A great chapter to use when teaching about theodicies, especially because it can be hard to find non-Christian theodicies in mainstream Philosophy of Religion literature. The laboratory analogy is particularly interesting, and it could be good to have a couple of seminar questions relating specifically to the strength of this analogy.

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Clack, Beverley, , . Feminism and the Problem of Evil
2014, in Justin P. McBrayer & Daniel Howard Snyder (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil (Wiley & Sons): 326-339.
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Abstract: Feminists have challenged the claim that gender is irrelevant to the discussion of evil and suffering in the world. This chapter considers a range of approaches offered by feminists to the problem of evil, suggesting something of the innovation that considering gender issues bring to the discussion of evil. In describing a variety of feminist perspectives, I intend to highlight the way in which feminist theories invariably turn to the practical solutions that might be made to evil and suffering in our world.

Comment: Useful for an introduction to philosophy of religion course – especially after looking at traditional theodicies to get students re-thinking the whole framing of the problem of evil.

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Ekstrom, Laura W, , . Suffering as Religious Experience
2004, in Peter Van Inwagen (ed.) Christian Faith and the Problem of Evil. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Press: 95-110.
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Summary: In this paper, Ekstrom argues that some instances of suffering might reasonably be viewed as religious experiences that serve as a means of intimacy with God. Thus, where atheologians typically take suffering as evidence against the existence of God, Ekstrom argues that it might in fact be a route of knowledge to God.

Comment: This chapter would probably be most useful in arguments for/against the existence of God. In particular, it could follow on from a unit on the problem of evil. It is of particular interest because it’s commonly argued that suffering is an argument against God’s existence, but Ekstrom argues to the contrary.

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Ellis, Fiona, , . Atheism and Naturalism
2017, in A. Carroll and R. Norman (eds.) Religion and Atheism: Beyond the Divide. London: Routledge
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Summary: Ellis argues that atheism and naturalism don’t have to be traditionally-opposed rivals. First of all offers a helpful synopsis of these traditionally-opposed positions, and then argues that there is scope for allowing that nature is God-involving as well as being value-involving, and this move can be defended on (liberal) naturalistic grounds.

Comment: A good paper to use for an atheism and agnosticism unit, especially as many do tend to use naturalism as an argument against the existence of God.

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Griffioen, Amber, , . Theraputic Theodicy? Suffering, Struggle, and the Shift from the Gods-Eye View
2018, Religions 9(4).
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Abstract: From a theoretical standpoint, the problem of human suffering can be understood as one formulation of the classical problem of evil, which calls into question the compatibility of the existence of a perfect God with the extent to which human beings suffer. Philosophical responses to this problem have traditionally been posed in the form of theodicies, or justifications of the divine. In this article, I argue that the theodical approach in analytic philosophy of religion exhibits both morally and epistemically harmful tendencies and that philosophers would do better to shift their perspective from the hypothetical ‘God’s-eye view’ to the standpoint of those who actually suffer. By focusing less on defending the epistemic rationality of religious belief and more on the therapeutic effectiveness of particular imaginings of God with respect to suffering, we can recover, (re)construct, and/or (re)appropriate more virtuous approaches to the individual and collective struggle with the life of faith in the face of suffering.

Comment: Useful for an introductory or intermediate Philosophy of Religion course – probably following or preceding the study of a ‘classical’ theodicy. It would be interesting to then have seminar questions in which students are invited to compare the two approaches to theodicy.

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Luis Oliveira, , . Skeptical Theism and the Paradox of Evil
2019, Australasian Journal of Philosophy
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Abstract: Given plausible assumptions about the nature of evidence and undercutting defeat, many believe that the force of the evidential problem of evil depends on sceptical theism being false: if evil is evidence against God, then seeing no justifying reason for some particular instance of evil must be evidence for it truly being pointless. I think this dialectic is mistaken. In this paper, after drawing a lesson about fallibility and induction from the preface paradox, I argue that the force of the evidential problem of evil is compatible with sceptical theism being true. More exactly, I argue that the collection of apparently pointless evil in the world provides strong evidence for there being truly pointless evil, despite the fact that seeing no justifying reason for some particular instance of evil is no evidence whatsoever for it truly being pointless. I call this result the paradox of evil.

Comment: This is a good piece for a class discussing the problem of evil. The progression of instruction on this topic typically proceeds through the logical problem of evil, then the free will defense as a response, then the inductive problem of evil, then skeptical theism as a response. This paper continues the discussion past that typical end point.

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Stump, Eleonore, , . Knowledge, Freedom, and the Problem of Evil
1983, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 14(1): 49-58
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Introduction: The free-will defense successfully rebuts the claim that the presence of evil in the world is logically incompatible with God’s existence. But many people, theists as well as atheists, feel that the free-will defense leaves some of the most important questions about evil unanswered. If there is a God, the nature and quantity of evil in the world still remain a puzzle; and even if they do not support a conclusive argument, they still seem to provide strong evidence against the probability of God’s existence. In particular, natural evils such as diseases, congenital defects, earthquakes, and droughts, need to be given some plausible explanation which shows their existence to be compatible with God’s goodness. It is the problem of evil in this sense which Swinburne addresses in Chapter 11 of The Existence of God. In what follows, I will describe Swinburne’s solution and give reasons for thinking it unacceptable.

Comment: This paper is a great way to motivate the ‘what about natural evils?’ response to the problem of evil. It does this by responding to Swinburne, so it could be good to first set Swinburne’s chapter and then see whether can students can organically anticipate some of Stump’s lines of argument.

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Stump, Eleonore, , . The Problem of Evil
1985, Faith and Philosophy 2(4): 392-423.
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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.

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Stump, Eleonore, , . Wandering in Darkness: Narrative And The Problem Of Suffering
2010, Oxford: Oxford University Press
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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.

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