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Posted February 22, 2007

Book: The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil
Author: Brian Davies
Continuum. New York. 2006. Pp. 264

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Does evil show that there could not possibly be a God? Does it suggest that God’s existence is unlikely? With these questions we come to the so-called problem of evil — an intellectual one, not a practical one. Yet how is it best approached?

In this book, Brian Davies suggests that we should start by attending to certain ‘basics’ – by asking why we might have reason to believe in God in the first place and by considering what our knowledge of God tells us (or does not tell us) about his nature. He then considers a number of famous attempts to deal with the problem of evil, and suggests that almost all of them fall short in various ways. In particular, he challenges efforts to defend or deny God’s existence which work from the assumption that God is, in a certain sense, a moral agent with an ethical case to answer. Davies argues that God is no such thing.

In the course of his discussion (one much influenced by the thought of Thomas Aquinas) Davies maintains that goodness, love and perfection can be literally ascribed to God. He also argues that, paradoxical as it may seem, much evil is positively desirable and that, rather than dwelling on the problem of evil we should be concerned with the problem (or mystery) of good — the real issue being ‘Why is there not more good than there is?

An Excerpt from the Book:

God’s Moral Standard

In The Coherence of Theism Richard Swinburne (who takes himself to be speaking on behalf of theism) writes as follows:

In claiming that God is by nature perfectly morally good, I suggest that the theist be interpreted as claiming that God is so constitute that he always does the morally best action (when there is one), and no morally bad action. For God, as for us, there is often no one best action, but a choice of equal best actions, only one of which can be done . . . perfect moral goodness includes ding both the obligatory and supererogatory and doing and doing nothing wrong or bad in other ways . . . Perfect moral goodness surely involves fulfilling one’s moral obligations . . . ’Morally good actions are those which it is of overriding importance to do, which are overall better than other ones . . . I suggest that in our sense of ‘moral’ all theists hold that God is perfectly good, and that this is a central claim of theism.

Table of Contents:

1. The problem of evil

2. God the Creator

3. Identifying God

4. God’s moral standing

5. How not to exonerate God: I

6. How not to exonerate God: II

7. Evil, causation and God

8. Goodness, love and reasons

9. God, evil and goodness