Providence, Evil and the Openness of God is a timely exploration of the philosophical implications of the rapidly-growing theological movement known as open theism, or the 'openness of God'. William Hasker, one of the philosophers prominently associated with this movement, presents the strengths of this position in comparison with its main competitors: Calvinism, process theism, and the theory of divine middle knowledge, or Molinism. The author develops alternative approaches to the problem of evil and to the problem of divine action (...) in the world. In particular, he argues that believers should not maintain the view that each and every evil that occurs is permitted by God as a means to a 'greater good'. He contends that open theism makes possible an emphasis on the personalism of divine-human interaction in a way that traditional views, with their heavy emphasis on divine control, cannot easily match. The book concludes with a section of replies to critics, in which many of the objections levelled against open theism are addressed. (shrink)
Skeptical theism contends that, due to our cognitive limitations, we cannot expect to be able to determine whether there are reasons which justify God’s permission of apparently unjustified evils. Because this is so, the existence of these evils does not constituted evidence against God’s existence. A common criticism is that the skeptical theist is implicitly committed to other, less palatable forms of skepticism, especially moral skepticism. I examine a recent defense against this charge mounted by Michael Bergmann. I point out (...) that the Bergmannian skeptical theist is unable to determine concerning any event or feature of the world whether that feature or event is good or evil all-things-considered. Because of this the skeptical theist must abandon any attempt to act in such a way that the world becomes better rather than worse as a result. These, I claim, are seriously skeptical conclusions, and should cause us to be skeptical about skeptical theism itself. (shrink)
In his article, ‘Gratuitous evil and divine providence’, Alan Rhoda claims to have produced an uncontroversial theological premise for the evidential argument from evil. I argue that his premise is by no means uncontroversial among theists, and I doubt that any premise can be found that is both uncontroversial and useful for the argument from evil.
An argument is given showing that, on the assumptions of Molinism, human beings must bring about the truth of the counterfactuals of freedom that govern their actions. But, it is claimed, it is impossible for humans to do this, and so Molinism is involved in a contradiction. The Molinist must maintain, on the contrary, that we can indeed bring about the truth of counterfactuals of freedom about us. This question turns out to depend on whether the counterfactuals of freedom are, (...) or are entailed by, part of the causal history of the world. A further argument is given that these counterfactuals are entailed by events intrinsic to the world's history. If this is so, then we cannot bring about the truth of these counterfactuals; the anti-Molinist argument succeeds, and Molinism is refuted. (shrink)
Dale Tuggy argues that his divine-deception argument against social Trinitarianism remains unscathed, in spite of my recent objections. I maintain that his argument is question-begging and exegetically weak, and does not succeed in refuting social Trinitarianism.
In his article, 'Gratuitous evil and divine providence', Alan Rhoda claims to have produced an uncontroversial theological premise for the evidential argument from evil. I argue that his premise is by no means uncontroversial among theists, and I doubt that any premise can be found that is both uncontroversial and useful for the argument from evil.
Richard Swinburne's tetralogy on Christian doctrine, together with his earlier trilogy on the philosophy of theism, is one of the most important apologetic projects of recent times. This paper focuses on some difficulties with this project that stem from Swinburne's use of confirmation theory. Arguably, the problem of dwindling probabilities, pointed out by Plantinga, has not been solved. The paper is principally focused, however, on the ways in which Swinburne's confirmation theory contributes to his comparative neglect of the personal, existential (...) dimension of Christianity. A solution for these difficulties is suggested but not elaborated. (shrink)
This article reviews a number of objections to social Trinitarianism that have been presented in the recent literature, especially objections alleging that social Trinitarianism is not truly monotheistic. A number of the objections are found to be successful so far as they go, but they apply only to some versions of social Trinitarianism and not to all. Objections to social Trinitarianism as such, on the other hand, are not successful. The article concludes with a proposal for a social Trinitarian conception (...) of the unity of God. (shrink)
In his book, Can God Be Free?, William Rowe has argued that if God is unsurpassably good He cannot be free; if He is free, He cannot be unsurpassably good. After following the discussion of this topic through a number of historical figures, Rowe focuses on the recent and contemporary debate. A key claim of Rowe's is that, if there exists an endless series of better and better creatable worlds, then the existence of a morally perfect creator is impossible. I (...) show that this argument is unsound, since a key premise can be proved false from propositions Rowe himself accepts. (shrink)
The intelligent design movement aspires to create a new scientific paradigm which will replace the existing Darwinian paradigm of evolution by random mutation and natural selection. However, the creation of such a paradigm is hampered by the fact that the movement pursues a 'big tent' strategy that refuses to make a choice between young-earth creationism, old-earth (progressive) creationism, and divinely directed natural selection. The latter two options are discussed in some detail, and it becomes apparent that either one presents difficult (...) challenges that the movement shows no signs of overcoming. It is concluded that there are not good prospects for the creation of an alternative paradigm in the foreseeable future. (shrink)
What is the status of belief in God? Must a rational case be made or can such belief be properly basic? Is it possible to reconcile the concept of a good God with evil and suffering? In light of great differences among religions, can only one religion be true? The most comprehensive work of its kind, Reason and Religious Belief, now in its fourth edition, explores these and other perennial questions in the philosophy of religion. Drawing from the best in (...) both classical and contemporary discussions, the authors examine religious experience, faith and reason, the divine attributes, arguments for and against the existence of God, divine action (in various forms of theism), Reformed epistemology, religious language, religious diversity, religion and science, and much more. Retaining the engaging style and thorough coverage of previous editions, the fifth edition features revised treatments of omnipotence, miracles, and providence and updated suggestions for further reading. A sophisticated yet accessible introduction, Reason and Religious Belief, Third Edition, is ideally suited for use with the authors' companion anthology, Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, Fifth Edition (OUP, 2015). (shrink)
Brian Leftow has proposed a “Latin” doctrine of the Trinity according to which “the Father just is God,” and so also for the Son and the Spirit. I argue that Leftow’s doctrine as he presents it really does have the consequence that Father, Son, and Spirit are all identical, a consequence that is inconsistent with orthodox Trinitarianism. A fairly minor modification would enable Leftow to avoid this untoward consequence. But the doctrine as modified will still retain a strongly modalistic flavor: (...) it implies, among other things, that the prayers of Jesus in the Gospels are instances of God-as-Son praying to himself, namely to God-as-Father. If this is found unacceptable, Leftow may have been too quick to dismiss Social Trinitarianism. (shrink)
It is widely held that the logical problem of evil, which alleges an inconsistency between the existence of evil and that of an omnipotent and morally perfect God, has been solved. D. Z. Phillips thinks this is a mistake. In The Problem of Evil and the Problem of God, he argues that, within the generally assumed framework, “neither the proposition ’God is omnipotent’ nor the proposition ‘God is perfectly good’ can get off the ground.” Thus, the problem of evil leads (...) to the problem of God. Phillips goes on to provide an alternative response to the problem of evil, expounded by means of his Wittgensteinian analyses of various concepts drawn from the Christian tradition. I argue that his criticisms of the traditional conception of God either fail outright or are at best inconclusive. I also point out that the religious concepts analyzed by Phillips are not and cannot be the same concepts as those employed in the Christian tradition from which they are supposedly drawn. For the concepts as traditionally employed presuppose the actual existence and activity of precisely the sort of being that, according to Phillips, “God cannot be.”. (shrink)
Andrew H. Gleeson has written an essay commenting on an exchange between Dewi Z. Phillips and me, arguing that I was mistaken to dismiss Phillips’ criticism of the standard definition of omnipotence as unsuccessful. Furthermore, he charges Swinburne, me, and analytic theists in general, with an excessive anthropomorphism that obliterates the distinction between Creator and creature. In response, I contend that all of Gleeson’s criticisms are unsound.
It is beyond question that most ordinary religious believers would find talk about God as having beliefs strange, puzzling, and objectionable. God doesn't believe things, he knows them, and if some philosophers, overlooking or ignoring this obvious point, still speak of God as having beliefs – well, that says something about those philosophers! Recently this view of the ordinary believer has received help from an unexpected source, namely William P. Alston, who in his paper, ‘Does God Have Beliefs?’ makes a (...) strong case for a negative answer to its title question. To be sure, Alston's reasons for this conclusion are rather more complex than those we have attributed to the ordinary believer; he specifically eschews a ‘cheap way of winning a victory’ by means of the claim that knowledge excludes belief by conceptual necessity . Nevertheless, by a longer train of reasoning he comes to the same conclusion, and since this reasoning involves a new and more adequate conception of divine knowledge, and additionally solves two outstanding problems in thedoctrine of omniscience , the trip is well worth taking. (shrink)
It is widely held that the logical problem of evil, which alleges an inconsistency between the existence of evil and that of an omnipotent and morally perfect God, has been solved. D. Z. Phillips thinks this is a mistake. In "The Problem of Evil and the Problem of God," he argues that, within the generally assumed framework, "neither the proposition 'God is omnipotent' nor the proposition 'God is perfectly good' can get off the ground." Thus, the problem of evil leads (...) to the problem of God. Phillips goes on to provide an alternative response to the problem of evil, expounded by means of his Wittgensteinian analyses of various concepts drawn from the Christian tradition. I argue that his criticisms of the traditional conception of God either fail outright or are at best inconclusive. I also point out that the religious concepts analyzed by Phillips are not and cannot be the same concepts as those employed in the Christian tradition from which they are supposedly drawn. For the concepts as traditionally employed presuppose the actual existence and activity of precisely the sort of being that, according to Phillips, "God cannot be.". (shrink)
Human beings, like all other organic creatures, die and their bodies decay. Nevertheless, there is a widespread and long-standing belief that in some way death is survivable, that there is “life after death.” The focus in this article is on the possibility that the individual who dies will somehow continue to live, or will resume life at a later time, and not on the specific forms such an afterlife might take. We begin by considering the logical possibility of survival, given (...) different metaphysical views concerning the nature of the mind/soul, and then move on to consider possible arguments for and against the belief in survival. (shrink)
In 1999 Dean Zimmerman proposed a "falling elevator model" for a bodily resurrection consistent with materialism. Recently, he has defended the model against objections, and a slightly different version has been defended by Timothy O’Connor and Jonathan Jacobs. This article considers both sets of responses, and finds them at best partially successful; a new objection, not previously discussed, is also introduced. It is concluded that the prospects for the falling-elevator model, in either version, are not bright.
Dale Tuggy argues that his divine-deception argument against Social Trinitarianism remains unscathed, in spite of my recent objections. I maintain that his argument is question-begging and exegetically weak, and does not succeed in refuting Social Trinitarianism.
This paper discusses the “constitution view” of human persons, as set forth by Lynne Rudder Baker in her book, Persons and Bodies. The metaphysical notion of constitution is explained and briefly defended. It is shown, however, that the view that human persons are constituted by their bodies faces difficulties in specifying the “person-favorable conditions” under which a human body constitutes a person. Furthermore, none of the arguments in support of the claim that humans are constituted by (but not identical with) (...) their bodies is persuasive. It is proposed that the mind-body theory of “emergent dualism” offers many of the benefits of the “constitution view” without sharing in its drawbacks. (shrink)
This paper carries forward the discussion initiated by the publication in 1986 of “A Refutation of Middle Knowledge.” Answers are given to two objections that have been raised against the original argument. Next, an alternative argument by Robert Adams is discussed; this argument has the advantage of avoiding reliance on one of the most controversial premises of the original argument. Finally, a definition is given for “S brings it about that Y,” and this definition is used to construct a proof (...) of the “power entailment principle.”. (shrink)
Thomas Flint has claimed that my argument against Molinism suffers from a 'seemingly irreparable logical gap'. He also contests a key assumption of that argument, namely that 'something which has had causal consequences in the past is ipso facto a hard, fixed, settled fact about the past'. In reply, I show that there is no logical gap at all in the argument. And I argue that, even though Molinists have reasons, based on Molinist principles, for rejecting the assumption in question, (...) the assumption is indeed extremely plausible. Thus, the argument creates difficulties for Molinism that are more severe than Flint is willing to admit. (shrink)
In the extensive literature that has accumulated around Reformed epistemology, some of the most interesting material is found in the debate on the foundations of theism between Philip Quinn and Alvin Plantinga. This essay assesses that debate and draws some tentative conclusions.
Ever since Descartes there have been philosophers who have claimed that the unity of conscious experience argues strongly against the possibility that the mind or self is a material thing. My contention is that the recent neglect of this argument is a mistake, and that it places a serious and perhaps insuperable obstacle in the way of materialist theories of the mind.
Eleonore Stump’s Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering is a major contribution to the literature on the problem of evil. This reviewessay summarizes the overall argument of the book, pointing out both merits and difficulties with Stump’s approach. In particular, the essay urges objectionsto the solution she presents for the problem of suffering.
Arthur Cunningham has asserted that my argument targeting the “freedom problem” for Molinism is unsuccessful. I show that while he has correctly identified two minor problems with the argument, Cunningham’s main criticisms are ineffective. This is mainly because he has failed to appreciate the complex dialectical situation created by the use of a reductio ad absurdum argument. The result is to underscore the difficulty for Molinism of the freedom problem.
Thomistic dualism, based on the Aristotelian view of the soul as the form of the body, presents us with a conception of the person as part of the natural world in a way that deserves our attention. The view is outlined, following Eleonore Stump’s exposition, and some objections to it are noted. Consideration is then given to a modified version of Thomistic dualism developed by J. P. Moreland. Finally, attention is directed at the theory of “emergent dualism,” which obtains many (...) of the benefits aimed at by the Thomistic view without its drawbacks. (shrink)
In this comment I express my puzzlement about Burrell’s employment of “the distinction,” and request further clarification. I also discuss at some length his views concerning free will. I explain the libertarian view as I understand it and point out why his criticisms of it do not succeed. I sketch out his own view of created freedom, and raise certain questions concerning that view.