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God, Evil, and Human Learning

A Critique and Revision of the Free Will Defense in Theodicy

Fred Berthold Jr.

Publication Year: 2004

God, Evil, and Human Learning explores the age-old question: How is it possible to believe in the God of the Christian faith when the world contains so many grievous evils? Author Fred Berthold Jr. examines the most influential argument used by Christian theologians to answer that question, the “free will defense,” which holds that God is not responsible for the evil in the world, but that evil arises from the human misuse of free will. He points out the weaknesses of this defense and provides a more adequate concept of free will. Berthold argues that free will is a complex of abilities which are acquired—if acquired—through human learning in the context of experiences of actual goods and evils and their consequences. He revises the “free will defense” and offers a new view of the relationship between God and his creatures.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Front Matter

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-6

Is it possible for a person who has a proper regard for his or her rational faculties, and for the evidence afforded by experience, to believe in the God who is the object of worship by Christians? In this world there is so much suspicion, hatred, and cruelty, and so much grievous suffering, that is impossible for anyone with even a modest degree of open-mindedness to avoid questions or doubts about this God. ...

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2. The Central Importance of the Free Will Defense

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pp. 7-18

The so-called free will defense is of central importance to any theodicy because the other main arguments, which have been put forward, are quite weak in themselves: that is, unless they are made an integral component within the free will defense. No Christian theodicy denies the reality of many evils in the world.1 Acknowledging these evils, the most general strategy of Christian theodicy ...

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3. Why Doesn’t God Cause Us to Have a Wholly Virtuous Free Will?

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pp. 19-32

According to the traditional free will defense, it was essential (given his goal) that God create humans with free will. This is because his goal, the Kingdom of God, is a society in which humans freely love God and one another. On the other hand, the traditional argument, at least in the influential form developed by Augustine, traces all evil in the world to the misuse ...

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4. Should the Traditional Free Will Defense Be Revised?

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pp. 33-36

It seems that the traditional free will defense is in need of revision, but there are many who resist such a notion, and many more yet who will object to the revisions I will eventually suggest—revisions which will seem to many traditionalists extreme and as an abandonment of the Christian faith altogether. In this brief chapter I want, first, to list in summary form, the problems ...

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5. The Concept of a Limited God

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pp. 39-46

In the mainline tradition of Christian thought the free will defense is set in the context of a theology which conceives of God as omnipotent. In most of the attacks upon the free will defense this doctrine of omnipotence has played a prominent role. The line of attack usually takes something like the following form: if God is truly omnipotent (or, indeed, if there be such ...

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6. The Concept of Free Will: A Preliminary Sketch

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pp. 47-64

Free will, in the sense that is relevant to our inquiry, is a complex and learned ability—the ability to exercise rational control over one’s volitions. I shall draw upon and adapt the analysis of this ability as developed by Professors Timothy Duggan and Bermard Gert. According to Duggan and Gert, an act of free will must be uncoerced, intentional, and voluntary.1...

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7. A Revised Free Will Defense

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pp. 65-72

In this chapter I want first to state very succinctly the free will defense in its optimal form. Second, I want to elaborate and comment on a few of its chief elements. Third, I want to suggest ways in which it helps to meet some of the more serious problems, which arise for the more traditional formulation. Most changes from the traditional formulation of the free will ...

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8. An Ecological Theology

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pp. 73-90

In this final, rather speculative chapter, I suggest a somewhat more radical concept of the limitation of God’s power. As we have seen, problems remain even for a revised and more adequate formulation of the free will defense. These are most problematical in connection with the problem of natural evil, but also troublesome in connection with the problem of ...


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pp. 91-100


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pp. 101-104

Index of Names

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pp. 105-106

Index of Subjects

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pp. 107-108

E-ISBN-13: 9780791485309
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791460412
Print-ISBN-10: 079146041X

Page Count: 108
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 62386234
MUSE Marc Record: Download for God, Evil, and Human Learning

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Subject Headings

  • Free will and determinism -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Theodicy.
  • Good and evil -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
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