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Evil and the Problem of God

  • George D. Chryssides (a1)


The purpose of this article is to develop a solution to the problem of evil within the context of a ‘revisionist' concept of God. The traditional approach to the problem of evil has been to assume one particular model of God, and then to ascertain how evil can be reconciled with that model. I hope to demonstrate that this is a mistake. What needs to be done, rather, is to acknowledge the existence of evil, and to ask whether this problem is generated by a faulty model of God. What I shall contend is that it is the traditional concept of God which generates this area of philosophical and theological perplexity, not the nature and function of evil. In particular, I shall attempt to show that the problem admits of a much more acceptable solution if the Christian believer abandons the notion of God as ‘a person’ or a disembodied agent, and conceives of God in a less overtly ‘personalistic’ manner.



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page 467 note 1 This was first read as a paper at the Assembly of the World's Religions, New Jersey, 1985, and appears by kind permission of the organizers, to whom the author wishes to express his thanks.

page 467 note 2 Chryssides, George D., ‘God and the Tao’, Religious Studies, XIX (1983), 112.

page 468 note 1 Tillich, Paul, Systematic Theology (Welwyn: Nisbet, 1953).

page 468 note 2 Ibid.

page 468 note 3 Ogden, Schubert M., Christ Without Myth (New York: Harper, 1961), and Bultmann, Rudolf, Kerygma and Myth, ed. by Bartsch, W. H. (London: SPCK, 1962, 1964), p. 168.

page 468 note 4 Wittgenstein, L., Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, ed. by Barrett, Cyril (Oxford: Blackwell, 1970).

page 468 note 5 Braithwaite, R. B., An Empiricist's View of the Nature of Religious Belief (Cambridge University Press, 1955; reprinted in Mitchell, B. G. (ed.), Philosophy of Religion (London: Oxford University Press, 1971).

page 468 note 6 Buren, Paul M. van, The Secular Meaning of the Gospel (London: SCM, 1963).

page 468 note 7 Cupitt, Don, Taking Leave of God (London: SCM, 1980).

page 468 note 8 Swinburne, R. G., The Existence of God (Oxford, 1981).

page 468 note 9 The United Reformed Church, Alternative Order for Service of Ordination, with Responses, Schedule D (revised, 1983).

page 469 note 1 Tzu, Lao, Tao Te Ching, transl. by Lau, D. C. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963), vv. 56, 117.

page 469 note 2 Hick, John, Death and Eternal Life (London: Fount, 1979), p. 453.

page 469 note 3 E.g., Daly, Mary, Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973).

page 469 note 4 McFague, Sally, Metaphorical Theology (London: SCM, 1983).

page 470 note 1 Matthew 7.1; New International Version (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1979).

page 470 note 2 I have explored this issue further in my ‘Meaning, Metaphor and Metatheology’, Scottish journal of Theology, vol. 38, 1985, 145–153.

page 471 note 1 Phillips, D. Z. has already ably argued this point in his chapter entitled ‘Superstition and Petitionary Prayer’, in The Concept of Prayer (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965), pp. 112–30.

page 472 note 1 Aquinas, St Thomas, Summa Theologica, Part I, ch. xlix (London: Thomas Baker, 1906), p. 125.

page 473 note 1 See Heidegger, Martin, Being and Time, transl. by Macquarrie, John and Robinson, Edward (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967), Sect. II.1, 262, p. 307.

page 474 note 1 Cupitt, Don, Taking Leave of God (London: SCM, 1980), p. 86. Cf, e.g., Psalm 139.

page 475 note 1 Flew, Antony, in Flew, Antony and Maclntyre, Alasdair (eds.), Theology and Falsification (London: SCM, 1955), pp. 96–9.

Evil and the Problem of God

  • George D. Chryssides (a1)


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