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Can Theism Survive Without the Devil?

  • Wallace A. Murphree (a1)

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As the title suggests, the thesis of this essay is that any view which would affirm the orthodox concept of a theistic God and yet deny the existence of a devil is inherently untenable; or, alternatively put, that ‘fundamentalism’ (if it may be so called), which affirms the existence of both God and a devil, and atheism, which denies the existence of both, are the only viable options with respect to the question of the theistic God. The support for this conclusion comes from the problem of evil, together with considerations drawn from common sense.

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page 231 note 1 This paper is the product of a Summer Seminar grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities. So my thanks to the National Endowment. I am also indebted to the members of the seminar severally, and to its director – William L. Rowe – in particular, for invaluable criticisms and suggestions.

page 231 note 2 The quotations are taken from Plantinga, Alvin C., God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977).

page 233 note 1 Mavrodes, George I., Belief in God (New York: Random House, 1970).

page 234 note 1 More specifically, ‘s is a sufficient condition for ś’ is to be understood as either: (1) s is logically sufficient for s’, or (2) s is causally sufficient for s’, or (3) s is ‘agentially’ sufficient for s’ (i.e. where s is an agent's free choice and s’ is what is freely chosen), or – if the expression is meaningful – (4) s is statistically sufficient for s’. The definition is not intended to include other kinds of notions, such as: s is morally sufficient for s’.

page 238 note 1 Exceptions appear to be limited to ‘artificial’ cases where modes of obtaining are imbued with value by stipulation, such as in games of chance.

page 242 note 1 Along, of course, with unformalized reasoning just given.

page 244 note 1 Finally, I should acknowledge the contributions made by two friendly adversaries: Michael Peterson and my brother (Rev.) J. Tal Murphree. It was in response to Peterson's theodicy (now published in Evil and the Christian God, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982), that I was challenged to attempt a demonstration of the inconsistency of common sense theism. And it was Murphree's criticism of the argument which would do so that convinced me that its formulation was ill conceived. (Also see his A Loving God and A Suffering World, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1981). So the conclusion that common sense, nonfundamental theism is inconsistent is the diluted outcome of what began as a more ambitious undertaking.

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