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The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil Paperback – December 11, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

Review

How can a good God allow the tremendous evils that we see around us every day? Some would argue that the very existence of evil disproves the existence of God. Others would say that evil does not really exist. Davies (philosophy, Fordham Univ.) thinks that both of these approaches are faulty. Drawing on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas but making it his own in a way that allows him to respond to more contemporary statements of the problem, Davies, a Dominican priest, does not try to explain away evil. Instead, he concentrates on showing that a recognition of the existence of evil does not preclude belief in a good God. This is a well-written consideration of a perennial topic, written by a veteran teacher who knows how to make abstract ideas understandable through the use of relevant examples. (Augustine J. Curley, Library Journal, November 1, 2006 Library Journal)

"This is a well-written consideration of a perennial topic, written by a veteran teacher who knows how to make abstract ideas understandable through the use of relevant examples.... Recommended for academic and larger public libraries." (Augustine J. Curley, Library Journal, November 1, 2006)

"So this is a welcome book. It debunks a number of unconvincing theodicies which are based on over-anthropomorphic understandings of God".
(Mark Dowd The Catholic Herald)

"an excellent volume...The book is remarkable in a number of ways, including its brevity...its clarity, and its depth...Davies has written an excellent book that everyone can benefit from reading. It can be used in undergraduate courses and parish study groups, but scholars will also profit from the author's carefully wrought arguments and nuanced conclusions. The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil provides another indication that Thomism continues to thrive as a vital tradition in philosophy and theology."
(Stephen Pope, Commonweal Commonweal)

Review in Catholic Herald
(The Catholic Herald)

"His book is important because he forces us to to begin with some searching preliminary questions. Before we can think about God and evil, we need to ask how we understand God, and what we mean by evil. Davies is in the perfect position to undertake this task, combining a thorough knowledge of Christian thinking across the centuries with the lingusitic precision of an Anglo-American philosopher"
(Church Times)

"(Davies)writes attractively, combining philosophical rigour with homely examples"
(The American Spectator)

"Brian Davies...writes attractively, combining philosophical rigour with homely examples."
(Brian Hebblethwaite The American Spectator)

'This book provides a readable exposition and assessment of a range of theodicies, and makes a valuable contribution to debate about one of the less common responses to the problem of evil. It would therefore be of interest both to undergraduates and to those with a postgraduate interest in questions about the coherence of theism.'
Elizabeth Burns, Heythrop College, Religious Studies
(Elizabeth Burns, Heythrop College, Religious Studies, Vol 44, 2008)

[Davies'] book has three main strengths. First, it is easy to read. The way the argument is presented helps the reader to pick up on a point and then to work backwards or forwards to see the presuppositions behind an idea...That leads us to the second strength of this book. Davies succinctly summarizes a wide range of arguments about God and evil...Indeed, we have here a compendium of how the fact of evil in the world has shaped what people say about God...This in turn brings us to the third strength of the book, the insistence that how we understand God comes before how we undertand evil.'
Owen Huggs, New Directions
(New Directions)

"Davies generally argues his case with clarity and humour...
what he offers is a rigorous examination of a perennial problem which perhaps more than any other leads many to deny the reality of God. Davies has provided an excellent resource for anyone willing to engage with that problem"
Expository Times, 1 February 2008
(Trevor Williams)

"Brian Davies...[is a] first class philosopher." -Ric Machuga, Books & Culture, March/April 2010


How can a good God allow the tremendous evils that we see around us every day? Some would argue that the very existence of evil disproves the existence of God. Others would say that evil does not really exist. Davies (philosophy, Fordham Univ.) thinks that both of these approaches are faulty. Drawing on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas but making it his own in a way that allows him to respond to more contemporary statements of the problem, Davies, a Dominican priest, does not try to explain away evil. Instead, he concentrates on showing that a recognition of the existence of evil does not preclude belief in a good God. This is a well-written consideration of a perennial topic, written by a veteran teacher who knows how to make abstract ideas understandable through the use of relevant examples. (Sanford Lakoff Library Journal)

"This is a well-written consideration of a perennial topic, written by a veteran teacher who knows how to make abstract ideas understandable through the use of relevant examples.... Recommended for academic and larger public libraries." (Sanford Lakoff)

"So this is a welcome book. It debunks a number of unconvincing theodicies which are based on over-anthropomorphic understandings of God".
(Sanford Lakoff The Catholic Herald)

"an excellent volume...The book is remarkable in a number of ways, including its brevity...its clarity, and its depth...Davies has written an excellent book that everyone can benefit from reading. It can be used in undergraduate courses and parish study groups, but scholars will also profit from the author's carefully wrought arguments and nuanced conclusions. The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil provides another indication that Thomism continues to thrive as a vital tradition in philosophy and theology."
(Sanford Lakoff Commonweal)

Review in Catholic Herald
(Sanford Lakoff)

"Brian Davies...writes attractively, combining philosophical rigour with homely examples."
(Sanford Lakoff The American Spectator)

'This book provides a readable exposition and assessment of a range of theodicies, and makes a valuable contribution to debate about one of the less common responses to the problem of evil. It would therefore be of interest both to undergraduates and to those with a postgraduate interest in questions about the coherence of theism.'
Elizabeth Burns, Heythrop College, Religious Studies
(Sanford Lakoff)

"Davies generally argues his case with clarity and humour...
what he offers is a rigorous examination of a perennial problem which perhaps more than any other leads many to deny the reality of God. Davies has provided an excellent resource for anyone willing to engage with that problem"
Expository Times, 1 February 2008
(Sanford Lakoff)

About the Author

Brian Davies is Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University, New York, USA. His publications include An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford University Press, 3rd edition, 2003) and The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (Oxford University Press, 1992).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; 1 edition (December 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082649241X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826492418
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #917,228 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Peter S. Bradley on August 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a deep, dense but readable text that follows the insights of St. Thomas Aquinas rigorously to what appears to be a highly disturbing conclusion for modern Americans, who have been raised on more treacly fare.

The author, Brian Davies, is a Dominican priest and a professor at the Jesuit Fordham University. He is the literary executor of Thomistic scholar Herbert McCabe. Davies writes from a staunchly Thomistic background, and liberally sprinkles his text with quotations from McCabe. Nonetheless, this book does not read as particularly "Catholic," so much as reads as a rigorously philosophical exploration which follows the arguments to their conclusions. Davies is the editor of Aquinas' "On Evil." He seriously knows evil.

Davies organizes the book into nine chapters.

Chapter One is "The Problem of Evil." In this chapter, Davies "tees up" the issue of the problem of evil by introducing the problem as framed by David Hume. The various fictional interlocutors in Hume's "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" basically treated God as simply a really powerful person, with no real thought given to what it means to be transcendent and infinite, as wells as the Creator and the sustainer of all existence, as if the difference between God and creation were only a matter of degree. (p. 11.) Under this view, the palpable reality of suffering and evil in the world counts against a divine being who must either be as morally good as we are - caring, sacrificing, concerned - or forfeit some basic attribute of God, citing Epicurus's "old question." (p. 9.
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Format: Paperback
Many, especially atheists, seems strongly impressed by the problem of Evil (POE) but most people do not realize that the POE comes in TWO flavors, a RATIONAL one and a (fallacious) APPEAL TO EMOTION one.

Brian Davies explores the RATIONAL implications of the POE, showing that the PEO, once you correctly understand who God is and what Evil is (or rather "isn't") is no problem at all.

Of course the solution of the POE is not a simple to be dismissed in one sentence as I did above, but requires a careful philosophical exploration and Brian Davies provides just that.
This requires a proper understanding of Classical Theism and Thomism, which Davies adequately provides.

Davies examines all the driticism and pits that arise from the POE and carefully responds to them.

Other reviewers had some complaints based more on the "emotional problem of evil":

One claimed the book made "God unattractive"... but that seems to me he bases his review on some sort of appeal to emotion where he perhaps seeks a God who is fully anthropomorphized .

This book however is a PHILOSOPHICAL book, not some pastoral pat in the back meant to console a grieving mother.

Clearly people who are affected by some strong emotion, especially negative ones, are often unable to reason hence this book is not meant for them.

This book is meant for people who want to calmly examine the POE and its relation to God.

Also it will help people detatch from the fallacious and childish notions of a god who is just a "superman in the sky" and understand the God of real theism, which is not some anthropomorphic ideal.

=========

Do I reccomend this book?

YES, but for people who want to tackle the POE rationally and are open to abbandon childish ideals.
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Format: Paperback
Brian Davies leads us to expect that he has an answer to the basic problem of evil in the Christian conception of an all knowing, all powerful, and all benevolent god. The very fact that evil exists is a strong, if not irrefutable argument that the creator of all universe cannot be at once all powerful and all good. However, reading through to the end, one wonders what point Davies has succeeded in making except that the problem has not been solved. It appears that having very articulately drawn up all the arguments by atheists such as Hume and pointing out the strength and persuasiveness of these arguments, and also bringing up the standard defences of Christian apologists such as Aquinas and Plantinga, Davies was at last about to deliver the punch line. He didn't. His conclusion seems to be that there is nothing we can do about evil. It exists, but it does not mean that it proves that God therefore does not. Davies says that we cannot judge God by the moral standards we judge ourselves. That seemed to be a weak argument because there is no other standard by which we judge whether any god was good or bad. We cannot say that a god is good by applying a tandard of good that we do not understand. It seems that ultimately, Davies had fallen back on an old theistic defence - we are in no position to understand God's reasons. The number of qualifications and emphasis he made to distance himself from some of his own strongest arguments only made his own position even more difficult to understand. However, to say that in the end, he had not explicated a clear and persuasive position that the problem of evil resonates against the concept of a good and powerful god, is not to say (using Davies' favourite phrase) that the book is not worth reading. The arguments that he takes us through were all cogent and coherent. Only his conclusions weren't. The book is worth reading just for the arguments. The reader can form his own conclusions.
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