9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2010
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This is the latest book on the question of evil. It addresses one of the biggest questions that befuddle theists; it is a question that can be raised in several forms. "How can a good God permit evil?" is the simplest way a lay person might see the issue. This book by Trakakis, however, addresses the technical and advanced form which is to ascertain the probability of God's existence from the evidence of evil in the world. Much has already written about this subject with theists and Christian apologists stoutly defending the idea that their God is all-powerful, all- knowing, and all-good ("The Theistic Position"), while atheists question the inherent contradiction in that description. No one can claim to be all powerful and be all good if evil exists. In 1996 Indiana University Press published a book edited by Daniel Howard-Snyder entitled, "The Evidential Argument from Evil". It consisted of 16 articles on the question of evil. That was a well received book although the complaint seemed to be that the contributions were lop-sided in favour of theistic arguments. The answer to the question of evil is not dependent on the number of answers but on the quality of the answers. Howard-Snyder's book raised the level of the debate to a very high level. Perhaps that explains why it has taken so long for another book on this subject to reach the same level.
The God Beyond Belief may be criticised by those who are counting, that it was written entirely against the theistic position. However, the author declared himself as a `theist, although a tentative one". It is a very well argued and plainly written book that answers some of the theistic defences raised in Howard-Snyder's book. Wykstra's "noseeum" argument was one of those defences that Trakakis breached. Although the book has 13 chapters running into 342 pages, it is a captivating work that was well organised as each chapter deals with a specific argument and follows naturally from the preceding chapter. The book is a full defence of William Rowe's thesis that the presence of evil renders the existence of an all-powerful, all-good god highly improbable. Trakakis begins with an introduction that explains his methodology; then he sets out the background of "the problem of evil" in chapter 2, but quickly moves into Rowe's thesis in chapter 3 in which Rowe's argument as refined over the years was explained. He then spends chapters 4, 5, and 6 arguing against the Wykstra "noseeum" theistic defence (which in brief, was based on the argument that just because we do not understand or know God's reason for permitting evil doesn't mean that he (God) doesn't have one).
Trakakis then considered related issues and arguments in the rest of the book, including the problem of God's "divine hiddenness" which he sees as a further indictment against any defence of God's existence. In brief, in the face of evil, God has no reason to hide himself. He must appear and explain or make his ways and reasons known. That leads Trakakis to issues of what a theistic argument must provide in order to succeed in its defence, and he considered the failure of theists to present any such argument. One of the last chapters dealt with the question of free will and its use by Christian apologists like Richard Swinburne. William Rowe had asserted that the idea of free will must be applied to God if he exists, and that an omnipotent, omni benevolent divine being must have allowed evil as an exercise of its own free will.
"The God Beyond Belief" is a scholarly work and it will likely send the theist defenders back to work for a long time on a reply.