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God, Freedom, and Evil Paperback – March 21, 1989

4.3 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Harry Gensler
-- John Carroll University
"A witty and logical introduction to the groundbreaking work of Alvin Plantinga, who has done more than anyone else to restore in analytic circles the respectability of belief in God."

Kevin Timpe
-- University of San Diego
"A classic work in the philosophy of religion, Plantinga's God, Freedom, and Evil is the single most influential text on the problem of evil in the past fifty years."

Stephen T. Davis
-- Claremont McKenna College
"Alvin Plantinga is one of the top Christian philosophers in the world today. He is well known in Christian and secular philosophical circles for his logical skills, his rigorous arguments, and his energetic defense of full-blooded Christianity. This book covers some of the same ground as his more technical The Nature of Necessity, but unlike most of Plantinga's works, it is aimed at the general reader. . . Students can understand this book; they must only be willing to think as hard as they read."

About the Author

Alvin Plantinga is John A. O'Brien Professor Emeritus ofPhilosophy at the University of Notre Dame. His other booksinclude Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science,Religion, and Naturalism and Warranted ChristianBelief.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 122 pages
  • Publisher: Eerdmans (March 21, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802817319
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802817310
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Alvin Plantinga, O'Brien Philosophy Professor at Notre Dame, shook the philosophy of religion world with this book when it was first published in 1978. His debunking of the atheistic evidential argument from evil is strictly a DEFENSE, not a THEODICY. A defense is merely a logical way out. A theodicy would attempt to give the specific reasons God allows evil. Plantinga does not claim to know the thoughts of God, so by offering a defense, he modestly shows that it is logically compatible for God to coexist with evil. His argument is NOT one by analogy (contra another reviewer), rather it is a strict application of the rules of logic.
Even though the book is more accessible to the public than most of his others, I imagine that someone without any basic training in philosophy may struggle with the read (but a struggle is not a good excuse not to read a good book!). In addition to the defense against evil, his exposition of the Ontological argument is very interesting, and worthwhile for anyone who intends to properly understand that argument. Those in the field of philosophy have almost universally accepted it as the theistic solution to the problem of evil. If you are an atheist, I challenge you to study his arguments to understand the rational case he is making. This will definitely be an exciting and fun read for the philosopher, as well as to the thinking and outspoken theist and atheist.
(By the way, if you are looking for a good THEODICY - try MAKING SENSE OUT OF SUFFERING by Peter Kreeft, philosophy professor at Boston College.)
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God, Freedom and Evil is a short work, originally published in the mid-1970s, wherein Plantinga addresses issues pertaining to the existence of God. The book draws upon the author's prior works, "The Nature of Necessity" and "God and Other Minds". For readers new to this area of thought Plantinga is one of the most widely respected and read contemporary philosophers.

A large part of the book is dedicated the so-called problem of evil. That is, the question of whether or not the existence of evil is compatible with the existence of an all-knowing all-powerful and wholly good God. In addressing this issue Plantinga focuses on the question of whether evil and God can logically co-exist - it is not a theodicy which seeks to explain the existence of evil. With regard the former more modest question the author is quite successful in proving that evil and God are not incompatible as had been previously argued - written nearly 30 years ago it has yet to be challenged in any significant way. Plantinga can rightfully take credit in helping this question largely disappear amongst serious thinkers. Arguments in this area now tend to be focused on the level of evil rather than its mere existence (i.e. is there too much evil to be consistent with the existence of God). As an earlier reader commented, I too find the author's argument about transworld depravity awkward - it removal, however, does not serious impact Plantinga position.

In the remainder of the book Plantinga offers some brief thoughts on the classic arguments of natural theology - I found this part of the book less helpful. Plantinga indicates that he finds the ontological argument more compelling than either the argument from design or the cosmological argument. I tend to disagree with his views in this regard.
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Some have called Alvin Plantinga this, and, whether you agree with him or not, the title is certainly warranted. In this book, 'God, Freedom, and Evil', Plantinga analyzes several mainline arguments of both natural theology and natural atheology. He finds all atheistic arguments wanting and most theistic arguments wanting. However, Plantinga eventually settles to the crux of the matter: the problem of evil. After showing that the problem of evil is obviously NOT a deductive problem--that is, from the existence of evil is does not necessarily follow that God doesn't exist--he utilizes the Free Will Defense to combat inductive arguments against theism. Plantinga ultimately concludes that the Free Will Defense, modified and elaborated to include considerations of possible worlds, successfully answers the problem of evil.
The arguments in this book, especially Plantinga's account of Transworld Depravity and other complex issues regarding possible worlds, are quite cumbersome. Still, if one is willing to take to work to a quiet corner and faithfully think through its contents, he will not be disappointed.
Adam Glover
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The argument that destroyed the Logical problem of Evil...

Leibniz's Lapse: Contrary to Leibniz, there are possible worlds that God cannot actualize

Here's an informal proof.

Imagine a situation S in which Curley is free to take, or to refuse, a bribe. Suppose God wants Curley freely to refrain from taking the bribe in S. The most he could do to bring this about would be to make Curley free in S. Can God get what he wants? That depends on which of the following propositions is true. (Note that one of them must be true, and the other false,)

(t) If Curley were free in S, then Curley would take the bribe.
(r) If Curley were free in S, then Curley would not take the bribe.

(Terminological note: (t) and (r) are among Curley's "counterfactuals of freedom.")

If (t) is true and God makes Curley free in S, then Curley will take the bribe and God won't get what he wants. Only if (r) is true will Curley do what God wants him to do.

Now let Wt be a possible world in which God makes Curley free in S and Curley freely takes the bribe. And let Wr be a world in which in which God makes Curley free in S and Curley freely refuses the bribe. If (t) is true, then God cannot actualize Wr. If, on the other hand, (r) is true, then God cannot actualize Wt. Since either (t) or (r) must be true, it follows that God can't actualize one or the other of these worlds--there is at least one possible world which he cannot actualize.

TWD ("transworld depravity")

For each possible person, and for each situation in which that person might exist and be free, there is a complete set of true conditional propositions (like (t) and (r)) about what that person would do if she were free in that situation.
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