Selected Background Readings

 

   Remember throughout this website we are not “giving” you the answer, we are  outlining the received tradition for the problems and solutions to the problems that are in the literature.  We believe these annotated readings will help you grasp the problems and see some high level responses to those objections.  Be sure to read the annotations (below) about where to start if you are not very familiar with this bone of contention.


Annotated Readings for Researching Good Answers:


The Book of Job


    The content of the book of Job has under gone fierce criticism if offered as an answer or partial answer to the problem of evil, however, the criticism and the fierceness (and occasionally the outrageous nature) of the criticisms are not by any means definitively correct.  Part of the difficulty of understanding the teaching of the book is due to it not being written primarily to answer the questions of a twenty-first century audience of skeptics, but rather to a much earlier culture and to a culture of believers.  Still, there are ways that the teachings of Job can speak to questions from a twenty-first century skeptic.


    Some theological conservatives may feel uncomfortable with Job’s confidence that he or some hidden sin is not the culprit and they may find themselves more in harmony with Job’s “devout” friends than they care to admit.  Ironically there is a very real sense where we find Job is not the culprit in the sense his friends think he is, rather there are things going on “behind the scenes” that are driving events. 


    Some theological liberals and skeptics typically feel uncomfortable with God’s exchange with Job from the whirlwind.  It seems to them that the exchange is much like the exchange between the Wizard of Oz and Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Lion--lot’s of bluster from the authority figure, but not much by way of direct answer to the queries.  There are, however, alternatives to both interpretations that seem more plausible about what the passage is teaching and no compelling reason to expect Job to get all the answers from God as to what He’s up to.  That is, no compelling reason given Job’s direct experience with God. 


    Eleonore Stump has written about the second person nature of this experience and why this important to understanding the text, see, “Second Person Accounts and the Problem of Evil” in Perspectives in Contemporary Philosophy of Religion pp. 88-113 and reprinted in Faith and Narrative, Keith Yandell (ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 86-103.


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Howard-Snyder, Daniel. (Ed.) The Evidential Argument from Evil, Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.


    An outstanding collection of essays on the currently most pressing part of the problem of evil--the evidential construal of the argument.  Be sure to take a look at the part of this site that discusses (and outlines some aspects) of this problem. (Link to that, which you can open in another window or tab to view).



_______ & Moser, Paul I. (Eds). Divine Hiddenness: New Essays. New York New York: Cambridge university Press, 2001.









______. “God, Evil and Suffering,” in Reason for the Hope Within. Michael  J. Murray, Ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1999.  See pps. 76-115.


    A very good and fairly concise essay about the problem of evil and suffering.  Written as an article more accessible to the non-professional philosopher, it’s a good starting place for understanding key issues in the current debate.


Plantinga, Alvin. God and Other Minds. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967.  See pps. 131-55.


    The earliest source I can find of Plantinga’s explication of the so-called ‘Free-will defense’ against the problem of evil, which is to be contrasted with a full-blown theodicy.  A theodicy would attempt to explain God’s ways instead of posing possible ways an apologist might use in defending against either the deductive or inductive argument.  Plantinga is arguably the most important living Christian philosopher who is widely respected among theists and non-theists for his philosophic competency and contribution to the discipline of philosophy of religion.  His work in philosophy of religion is both broad and deep and anyone wanting to work at the highest levels of apologetics in academe needs to at least understand what he has to say.  However, that challenge is no easy task!




_______.  The Nature of Necessity. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1974.  See pps. 164-95.


    In this later version of Plantinga’s ‘Free-will defense’ he handles a logical possible world objection to his earlier free-will essays.  This is a more difficult read because it introduces new terms (possible world analysis) and is a more rigorous read.



Plantinga, Alvin & Tooley, Michael (co-authors). Knowledge of God. Malden, Maine: Blackwell Publishing, 2008.  See especially chapter 3, pps. 151-83,


    The exchange between Michael Tooley and Alvin Plantinga about the inductive problem of evil is written at a very high philosophical level and so maybe difficult for non-professional philosophers to grasp in places, yet, it is probably one of the most important exchanges in print and I think a must reading (including Tooley’s criticisms).  Again, if you’re not a professional philosopher this would be a good book to get some help clarifying things from a Christian philosopher who does understand the arguments and can set up the framework for what’s going on between the two. 


Click Here for Additional Resources on This Book


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Wykstra, Steven. “The Humean Objection to Evidential Arguments from Suffering: On Avoiding the Evils of ‘Appearance’” in the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion (1984).


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