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The Triumph of God over Evil: Theodicy for a World of Suffering (Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology) [Paperback]

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Pages   228
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6.06" Height: 0.68"
Weight:   0.86 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 24, 2008
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN  0830828044  
EAN  9780830828043  

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Item Description...
IVP Print On Demand Title Noted philosopher William Hasker explores a full range of questions concerning the problem of evil. Hasker forges constructive answers in some depth showing why the evil in the world does not provide evidence of a moral fault in God, the world's creator and governor.

Publishers Description
Noted philosopher William Hasker explores a full range of issues concerning the problem of evil. Having taken account of the current state of the discussion and squarely facing some of the most trenchant arguments marshaled by John K. Roth and D. Z. Phillips, Hasker forges a constructive answer in some depth showing why the evil in the world does not provide evidence of a moral fault in God, the world's creator and governor. A fresh and provocative contribution to the ongoing discussion of theodicy.

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More About William Hasker

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William Hasker (Ph.D., University of Edinburgh), is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, where he taught from 1966 until 2000. His main interests in philosophy are philosophy of religion and philosophy of mind. He is the author of Metaphysics (1983), God, Time, and Knowledge (1989), The Emergent Self (1999), Providence, Evil, and the Openness of God (2004), and The Triumph of God Over Evil (2008), and is co-author or co-editor of several other volumes. He was the editor of Faith and Philosophy from 2000 until 2007.

William Hasker currently resides in the state of Indiana. William Hasker was born in 1935 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Huntington University Huntington College Huntington College Huntington.

William Hasker has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Contours of Christian Philosophy
  2. Cornell Studies in the Philosophy of Religion
  3. Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Disturbing  Jan 19, 2010
William Hasker is an eloquent writer, and one who writes on an academic subject with remarkable lucidity. I am most impressed by the fact that he interacts with the likes of N.T. Wright and someone as fundamentalist as Henry Morris. He reviews most of the relevant theories in theodicy, and seems to give each a fair hearing. He was considerate enough to sum up his views towards the end of the book - something all philosophers should do, because it is easy to get lost in the various speculations and nuances that are discussed between beginning and end.

In the end, however, Hasker left me cold. I got concerned as early as page 13 when I read: "I do not agree ... that Darwinian evolution creates a special problem with respect to the suffering of animals..." On page 109 we are told that on the fifth day of creation God made the sea monsters, in other words, predators, and that these creatures are pronounced to be "good." Elsewhere we are told that predation is okay because of all the rich nutrients found in meat. Towards the end of the book he enumerates a very short list of sentient beings that includes humans and extraterrestrials (if they exist). It is doubtful, he says that animals have a theory of mind (he should meet my dog), so predation, of course, isn't really so bad after all. In other words, animals don't know they are killing other living beings, so it really isn't such a bad thing. The natural order really is just what God wanted in so far as he was able to make it the way he wanted it, which is why God decribes it all as "very Good."

Hasker denies the possibility that this is the best of all possible worlds. It seems he believes that this is the only possible physical world. My opinion is that he is a little off the mark here. The scripture indicates that God will make a new earth and cosmos, so it is possible, and we don't live in the only possible world. So what's God's problem? I think the problem is physical, and maybe even supernatural, chaos. At this point I would like to recommend "Creation & The Persistence of Evil" by the Jewish scholar, Jon Levenson and Sjoerd Bonting's "Creation Theology" or "Creation & Double Chaos." I really hate having to come down on this book, because I think Hasker is a good thinker who happens to be a little indifferent to the plight of animals. I think his book is a remarkable achievement in terms of depth and clarity.

It is really sad to me that factory farming and other human abuses of animals are never discussed in theodicies. Perhaps the plight of wild and domestic animals just isn't covenient for theodicists, and so they prefer to water it down or ignore it completely. For more information about the plight of factory farmed animals, please Google Humane Farming Association and United Poultry Concerns.
Controversial, yet plausible  Jul 9, 2009
Ever since Auschwitz claims have been made that even to assert faith in God, or worse, to propose a reason for allowing the Holocaust, is to disqualify oneself from the enterprise of moral reasoning. Nothing can be legitimately proposed in the face of Auschwitz, for nothing of any redeeming value could ever come from it. To propose a justification for God would make the Holocaust acceptable.

This is precisely the problem Hasker begins his daunting project, "a theodicy for a world of suffering." Hasker responds by arguing that the human person is morally and existentially significant, and as humans we have the capacities to enjoy much positive value and suffer negative value, as well as the capacity to determine oneself in a fashion that greatly influences value either positively or negatively for ourselves and others. Moreover, a perfectly good and powerful God is able to bring about an eschaton that will make human suffering seem light and momentary in comparison. Simply claiming that people have no right or reason to believe such things about both God and human beings is simply dismissive and illegitimately claims an implausible moral superiority over the believer who is just as horrified by Auschwitz as the nonbeliever.

What is essential to a free will theodicy is developed by Hasker in some detail. He sums up in four detailed propositions:

[1] The world contains persons who are intelligent and free, living in communities with which they are responsible to and for one another. Human societies have developed by actualizing the inherent potentials of persons and utilizing these potentials for the development of progressively more complex social and cultural systems and progressively increasing control over the material environment.

[2] The human world so constituted offers great potential good in the realization and fulfillment of the potential of human persons and the development of human culture; beyond that, persons have the opportunity to become children of God, enjoying the ultimate fulfillment human beings are capable of. The human world also offers the possibility, and indeed the reality of evil, as persons utilize their freedom to choose evil over good, short-term gratification over the common interest, hatred over love.

[3] So far as we can see, no alternative world that does not share these general features could offer a potentiality for good comparable to that afforded by the actual world; only free and responsible persons are eligible to become sons and daughters of God.

[4] Frequent and routine intervention by God to prevent the misuse of freedom by his creatures or to repair the harm done by this misuse would undermine the structure of life and community intended in the plan of creation; accordingly, such intervention should not be expected to occur.

[5] In virtue of propositions 1-4, it is good that God has created a universe containing human society as described; there is not basis for holding God morally at fault for doing so or for supposing that a perfectly good Creator would have acted differently.

These propositions do not explain every particular instance of evil, but they do provide a framework for a way of viewing the world where particular evils occur. There really is no such thing as "the best of all possible worlds" but there are worlds that are better than others. These worlds contain creatures embedded in communal contexts that significantly free for moral and social purposes that cannot be obtained by pure determinism. In other words people, collectively and individually, do some pretty amazing things and some pretty disgusting things. Being human has that effect.

But what of natural evil, or that mode of suffering that comes through the violence of nature? Things like hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes or cancer, infant death syndrome, and mental illness don't seem to have a "free will" and would be perfectly under God's control. This seems to be a remaining problem. But for Hasker, he affirms that the creation does have a degree of autonomy that is analogous to our own freedom. He puts forward the following propositions for a way of viewing the natural world:

[6] The actual universe is a complex, multileveled natural world containing creatures that are sentient as well as some that are intelligent. The world has developed to its present state through a complex evolutionary process and enjoys a considerable amount of autonomy in its functioning.

[7] The universe so constituted makes possible a large amount of good, both in the order and beauty of the physical universe and in the development and flourishing of a myriad of living creatures. It also unavoidably contains a great deal of suffering and death.

[8] There is no reason for us to suppose that some alternative order of nature, capable of being created by an all-powerful God, would surpass the present universe in its potentiality for good or in its balance of good and evil.

[9] In virtue of propositions 6-8, it is good that God has created the universe; there is no basis for holding God morally at fault for doing so or for supposing that a perfectly good Creator would have acted differently.

This view of the world differs considerably from traditional Christian conceptions that see God as creating the world in the not too distant past and as an intelligent designing agency that did not introduce the curse of death into the world until after his human agents rebelled against him. Though it would take quite an effort to overturn these beliefs with others derived from Scripture, it is an ingenious solution to a number of questions that come up in a theistic-evolutionist perspective. The world is made with inherent properties to flourish in both beauty and diversity, always increasing with levels of complexity. The paradoxical reaction we have towards creation as being both beautiful and horrifying. He writes, "Natural evil, in the form suffering, pain and death, is the result of the overall order of the cosmos, an order which, taken as a whole, is good and admirable. Since we are part of this order-individually, each a very small part of it-we must expect that these things will affect us also; we are granted no exemption from suffering.

This sets up Hasker's answer to the evidential argument from evil as articulated by William Rowe. Rowe's argument is powerful and succinct:

[10] There exists instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented with thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

[11] An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any instance suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

[12] There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.

Hasker believes that [11] is wrongly embedded in consequentialist ethics and that there is a single, universal scale that ascribes value to all events in history. Some are good and some are evil, but each has a numerical value to them that make them fall or rise on the scales. This is entirely implausible. The same point undermines the idea that there is a "best possible world" because there is no way to distinguish the best from one a step below the best. What would it matter if a neutron flew in one direction and not another? Further, could we not always imagine a better world in which we live? The idea that there is way to weigh evils in such a way suffers from the same problems. Couldn't it always be worse? Could there be one more rape in the world that tips the scales in one way and not the other?

Hasker continues in another creative fashion. He finds the belief that there is a good reason behind every instance of evil (so as to not make them gratuitous) undermines our response to evil as something to be rid of. We might be tempted to think that evil is good for us. If everything is understood as coming from the Father's hand then should we not resign to our sufferings and not revolt against them? If God doesn't want us to waste our cancer, why go to the doctor? Would we not be trying to undo his good plan to bring us closer to himself and increase our joy? Why should we relieve the suffering of anyone? Thus, Hasker asserts the Principle of Divine Intention:

[13] It is an extremely important part of God's intention for human persons that they should place a high priority on fulfilling moral obligations and should assume major responsibility for the welfare of their fellow human beings.

For Hasker, this is most exemplified by Christ, and this is where he launches into a Christian theology of redemption. The gospel story is about God triumphing over evil, most definitively with Christ on the cross. Here, he interacts with NT Wright's provocative book Evil and the Justice of God, and understands the gospel story to be the answer to the question, "Why doesn't God do more?" Hasker believes that God is leading us to a reality that will make our suffering seem light in comparison, and all that choose to receive his grace will find themselves there. Others that reject it will not find it.

Many will not agree with Hasker's ideas, his open theism, his theistic evolutionism; many will find his arguments against theological determinism (Calvinism) and middle-knowledge to be incorrect. It will strike many that Hasker has made God out to be less than all-powerful, but it would be a mistake to dismiss him out of hand. His arguments are careful, well-reasoned and cognizant of important objections. Even if one disagrees one will learn a great deal more about how to think seriously about the problem of evil.

Great Treatment of the Problem of Evil  Jan 31, 2009
I do not wish to repeat what other reviewers have already said so I will try to focus on other issues in Hasker's book that have not been mentioned yet. Hasker sets out to look at the problem of evil with an eye on the current philosophical and theological landscape. In particular he wants to use some of the recent work by theologian N.T. Wright (Wright's "Evil and the Justice of God") in order to give an explicitly Christian response to the problem of evil. Wright's book is somewhat negative on philosophical attempts to answer the problem of evil. Indeed, Wright seems to think that there is something wrong with trying to answer the philosophical problem of evil. Instead, he focuses on the death and resurrection of Christ as God's actual work to rid the world of evil. Hasker kindly disagrees with Wright about philosophical attempts to answer the problem of evil, and thinks that there is a great amount of worth to Wright's work that a philosopher could use in giving a Christian answer to the problem of evil.

There are several things about this part of Hasker's book that disappointed me. First, I was disappointed that Hasker was using Wright's work because I wanted to do that. Oh well, such is life. Second, I found Hasker's chapter on Wright's work to be rather weak. Hasker is a first rate philosopher of religion and I thought he could have done better in his use of Christ's resurrection in answering the problem of evil. My hope is that Hasker's work will at least inspire more dialogue between analytic Christian philosophers and theologians like Wright.

Apart from this disappointment the book has many strengthens. He does an excellent job at articulating an Open Theist account of providence. (However, I found his critique of Molinism to be rather crass.) His discussion of post-Holocaust theodicies was fascinating, and his critique of these theodicies is even more intriguing. As mentioned by other reviewers, he also does a great job at examining the philosophical discussions on the problem of evil that have taken place over the past few decades.
god's triumph placed in philosophical terms  Oct 17, 2008
The dialogue regarding God, suffering and evil has been long and often confusing (especially for many people who are struggling to find answers to their particular situations). Indeed, most treatments on the topic tend to err by being overly theoretical and philosophical that they do not lend any support or comfort to the suffering, or they are so comfort-minded that they accomplish little more than simple reassurance and some quick counseling. While I concede the need for either of these two options at particular points in time, neither really gets to the heart of the problem - to construct an understanding of God and the world which answers the problem of evil in the world while also maintaining the image of God which is envisaged by Scripture (and the church).

To this end, Hasker provides a solid step forward.

In the introduction is found this caveat: "To put it more briefly: a Christian response to the problem of evil should not be focused too exclusively on evil" (10). At this point I realized that I would appreciate the author's perspective on the subject (and direction of the book), for he is quite right that too often we approach the topic (and many other theological/biblical discussions!) without adequately considering the biblical data. Although this is a philosophical treatment to the discussion Hasker clearly writes from the position of Christian theism, a commitment which keeps him heading in the right direction on this point.

What Hasker is attempting to do in the present work is create a theodicy regarding the nature of the world of suffering. Since a number of different understandings and definitions of this exist, he clarifies his approach as one which "seeks to provide a justifying reason for the existence of the evil in the world, a reason such that, if it obtains, God is not morally at fault for permitting the evil" (20, emphasis in original).

He begins by offering a review and evaluation of the current "state of play" in the work being done on the question of suffering - an overview of various arguments and defenses. One of the first and fundamental questions which he raises in the book concerns the fundamental nature of these other options and defenses: "It seems clear, furthermore, that the most important question that needs to be asked about these arguments concerns their cogency as judged in the light of assumptions that are congruent with the religious worldview that is being called into question" (16, emphasis in original).

Finally, Hasker reviews his own theological disposition to approaching the problem of suffering. As an open theist he works from the understanding that God does not control every aspect of creation - that there are elements which act outside of his will. Although no open theist would deny that suffering can be explained (or that anyone would find comfort in these other models), I personally believe that issues surrounding suffering and evil provide opportunity for the openness model to demonstrate one of the strongest aspects of their position. And Hasker indeed capitalizes on this in various points throughout the book.

(. . . the complete four-part review of the book may be found on my blog.)

Great Introduction to Christian Philosophical Responses to the Problem of Evil  Sep 5, 2008
This book is perhaps the finest introduction to Christian philosophical responses to the problem of evil. Note: this is a philosophical text, and Hasker is a philosopher. Thus, some of the theological and pastoral problems that arise for Christians are, more or less, tangential. Hasker does review and evaluate all the major ideas and contributes in the literature on the problem of evil. However, this book is not set up as an overview. Hasker will present his own views, and disagree with various theists. Furthermore, this book is not highly complex; any general reader would be able, with a little effort, to read it.

Thus, Hasker will begin with important distinctions (such as `defense' vs. `theodicy') and an endorsement of what is called `Open Theism.' He spends his second chapter with an evaluation of John Roth and D. Z. Phillips various approaches to God and evil. Then the third chapter beings with the logically problem of evil a la Mackie, followed up with Plantinga's now famous defense. The fourth chapter addresses problems concerning which possible world God could have actualized, and interacts with Leibniz, Rowe, and Adams. The fifth chapter moves to the problem of natural evil--roughly, evil that is not caused by human free choice. Here Hasker interacts with Dembski, Morris, and Polkinghorne, before endorsing a van Inwagen like response. Chapter six deals with moral evil, and contains Hasker's critique of Plantinga's theodicy. Chapter seven deals with the epistemology of the problem of evil. Thus, it begins with Rowe's famous argument and then the important responses to it: Wykstra, Alston, and Swinburne, before concluding with Hasker's own proposal. The final chapter is an interesting proposal where Hasker sketches some light ruminations upon how God can triumph over evil--an area little discussed by professional Christian philosophers!

The greatest virtue to this book is also its greatest vice. If you do not know what Mackie's logical problem of evil is, and Plantinga's response--or, Rowe's argument and Wykstra's response--then you should buy this book. It will provide a solid introduction and contains a plethora of footnotes for further study. But, if you have already these various articles and are familiar with the issues here, then perhaps the utility of this book will be limited for you. Regardless, this is a solid book which provides a beneficial introduction to Christian philosophical responses to the problem of evil. If one is interested in this topic, this is quite possibly the best place to begin.

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