Manual Can God Be Trusted?: Faith and the Challenge of Evil

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Certain modern philosophies refrain from making any claims about the way things ought to be, reducing both good and evil to little more than matters of personal preference. Traditional theists, whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, cannot evade the problem so simply, however.

Their strong claims about the nature of God, along with their belief that good and evil are not matters of mere subjective preference, give the problem its distinctively sharp edge. Ironically, the stronger the claims advanced about God, the sharper the problem becomes. As he puts it: Clearly our world does not now embody shalom, the comprehensive wholeness in human relationships, both with God and with each other, that the great theistic religions affirm as the end for which the world was created. Just as clearly, we need to change before shalom could be realized.

Although God created us to love Him and each other, we have chosen otherwise and have corrupted ourselves and our relationships.

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Plantinga has always been careful to stress that he was not proposing a theodicy, that is, an actual explanation of why God allows evil. His Defense has the more modest goal of showing that theism can be saved from the charge of internal contradiction advanced by those who maintain that a perfectly powerful and good God could surely create a world without evil.

Stackhouse ventures beyond the relatively safe world of this defense by pushing the free will theme in the direction of theodicy. As Stackhouse puts it: The first is that God could provide us with a complete theodicy, that is, a detailed explanation of every evil we ever encounter. For a start, this moves us immediately beyond generic theism into the rich and complex world of Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, and Resurrection.

Stackhouse demonstrates this by sketching the Christian story of things from creation and fall to redemption and eschatology. He shows that Christianity provides a compelling picture of our world and human existence that can account plausibly for the origin and nature of evil and offer hope for its ultimate resolution and defeat. He argues that intimacy with Christ provides satisfactory answers to both the religious and existential dimensions of the problem of evil. We can respond properly to evil in our lives because we know that God is all- good and all- powerful because we know Jesus.

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Thus he can say: I would argue, however, that such material is simply a matter of coming to grips with the truth claims that are the subject matter of the book. As Stackhouse observes, for example, anyone who wants to confront Christianity seriously must decide whether or not he believes the Resurrection actually occurred. Either way, enormous ramifications are involved. There are a few criticisms worth noting. In the first place, Stackhouse appeals to the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination to illustrate the point that sometimes believers must learn to trust in the face of mysteries they cannot understand.

He does not commit himself to the doctrine and apparently does not believe it, given his view of free will, but he does see it as a useful example of the nature of religious trust.

Can God Be Trusted?

As he notes, both Calvin and Luther had difficulty with the doctrine that God unconditionally elected some but not others to salvation, yet both believed it because they were convinced Scripture taught it. The problem for trust in this case is that nothing can compensate for the unrelieved evil and misery of eternal damnation. There is always consolation amidst the evils of this life, no matter how severe, if one affirms an eternity that can bring healing and resolution. John Stackhouse starts this book by building up the problem of evil from almost every angle then proceeds to discuss how to deal with this as a Christian.

He takes a look at how other people throughout history and how they dealt with this problem, people like Augustine, David Hume, and Luther.


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  3. Can God Be Trusted? - John G. Stackhouse - Oxford University Press.
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May 28, Poetreehugger rated it it was amazing. Upon rereading, I realize again how helpful this book is for those of us who need to, and like to, think things through. Mar 11, Tucker rated it it was ok Recommends it for: This is an overview of the problem of theodicy. If God is all-good and all-powerful, why does evil and suffering exist?

Faith and the Challenge of Evil

It is examined through a Christian lens, citing thinkers like Plantinga, Kreeft, C. As the book nears its conclusion, it turns toward Christian apologetics for the importance of faith. The overall argument seems to be that some questions and disappointments don't have obvious intellectual answers and that committing to Christianity is the best way to live in the face This is an overview of the problem of theodicy. The overall argument seems to be that some questions and disappointments don't have obvious intellectual answers and that committing to Christianity is the best way to live in the face of such challenges.

Suffering | The Christian Reflection Project | Baylor University

That is a valid approach to dealing with the existential problem posed by evil and suffering, but it skirts the intellectual conundrum which is anyway unanswerable. Some of the apologetics runs like this: That's why they converted. Plenty of people convert out of Christianity, too, and it would be fair to consider their opinions about whether the religion fits the world as they experience it. It would be a far more provocative, relevant statement to say — if indeed it were true, and I don't know that it is — that Christianity is superior from the viewpoint of people who are deeply knowledgeable about multiple faiths, and not just from the viewpoint of those who already prefer Christianity for whatever reason.

Those who are Christians may gain something from this defense of faith, and those who are unfamiliar with the traditional expression of the "problem of evil" may benefit from its presentation here. However, there is not much in here for non-Christians who are already aware that the concepts of God's benevolence and omnipotence are at odds with the reality of suffering. In his Introduction, the author opens with his intended audience in mind: I offer it to people who want to prepare themselves to face the reality of life, which includes the reality of evil, with as many intellectual tools in the cupboard as they can get.

And I offer it to people who have experienced bitter trouble and who long for a helpful, hopeful word on the subject of faith in God" pp12, Well, I believe that about covers everyone. Seriously, while, there are some good thoughts regarding God's faithfulness in the midst of our struggles, there are multiple times that the author places Christian, Jewish and Muslim religion and teaching on equal footing.

I guess so not to offend anyone's god or religion. This I could not understand nor do I agree with. Oct 09, Tony rated it really liked it. A well-argued, thoughtful, and even respectful book. The author discusses the intellectual reasoning to trust in the God of Christianity despite a world filled with evil.

Can God Be Trusted?Faith and the Challenge of Evil

I would definitely suggest reading it at some point. I have a copy if you want to borrow it! Pretty long for what it's saying but his arguments are well constructed and his writing is casual but insightful. Aug 01, A rated it liked it.

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