Gratuitous Evil and Divine Providence

By | July 2, 2009

I’m really happy right now because a paper of mine (“Gratuitous Evil and Divine Providence”) was just accepted at Religious Studies. In my experience, at least, the turnaround at that journal is phenomenally fast. This is the second paper I’ve submitted there. On both I received an acceptance notice within a week or less.

I’ll post a digital version of the paper to my website once I’ve sent the final version off to the journal. Here’s the abstract:

Discussions of the evidential argument from evil generally pay little attention to how different models of divine providence constrain the theist’s options for response. After describing four models of providence and discussing theistic strategies for responding to the evidential argument, I articulate and defend a definition of “gratuitous evil” that renders the theological premise of the argument uncontroversial for theists. This forces theists to focus their fire on the evidential premise, enabling us to compare models of providence with respect to how plausibly they can resist it. I then give an assessment of the four models, concluding that theists are better off vis-à-vis the evidential argument if they reject meticulous providence.

UPDATE (7/20/09): The penultimate draft of the paper is now available on my website.

5 thoughts on “Gratuitous Evil and Divine Providence

  1. enigMan

    Hi Alan,

    Your new paper looks interesting; I look forward to reading it, when it arrives on your website. What is 'meticulous' providence? Is it micro-managing creation? I shall find out (but if so, I don't see how that would solve the problem, God being omnipotent and the evidence indicating that he ought to micro-manage)… Incidentally, my experience of Religious Studies was also good, in a different way. They had the paper I'm currently rewriting for months, before finally rejecting it, but they did give me lots of helpful comments (none valid, but at least indicating where I was indeed unclear), and the Editor was very fair. (I don't know of any better journal to be rejected by:)

  2. Alan Rhoda

    Hi Enigman,

    Thanks. Good to hear from you.

    By 'meticulous providence' I mean what theological determinism and Molinism have in common, namely, the thesis that God efficaciously ordains (and thereby either strongly or weakly actualizes) everything that ever comes to pass. Open theists and process theists reject meticulous providence as incompatible with creaturely freedom. I argue that this gives them an easier time with the evidential argument from evil.

    Hope your paper gets accepted soon. Best wishes.

  3. enigMan

    Thanks Alan,

    I think you're right about providence and freedom; the alternative would seem to allow a good God to create a world of only evil people, so long as they were punished for being evil, thereby giving pleasure to our good God (who ordained their evil-doing). And were that unacceptable, it would then be quite mysterious (on this alternative to openness) why an omnipotent God would not have ordained that we were all good. I guess that's where the evidence that not all of us are always good comes in?

  4. enigMan

    …it strikes me as relatively strong evidence too, since most of us do not feel that all that we have ever done was perfectly good (whereas the usually-mentioned evidence of earthquakes, holocausts and burning fawns is much more speculative, philosophically)…


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