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God, Freedom, and Evil [Paperback]

By Alvin Plantinga (Author)
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Item description for God, Freedom, and Evil by Alvin Plantinga...

God, Freedom and Evil discusses and exemplifies philosophy of religion or philosophical reflection on central themes of religion.

Citations And Professional Reviews
God, Freedom, and Evil by Alvin Plantinga has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Christianity Today - 09/01/2010 page 80

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pages   121
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.5"
Weight:   0.35 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2000
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  0802817319  
ISBN13  9780802817310  

Availability  0 units.

More About Alvin Plantinga

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Alvin Plantinga is O'Brien Professor of Philosophy, at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of: Essays on the Metaphysics of Modality, The Nature of Necessity, Warrant and Proper Function, Warrant: The Current Debate, Warranted Christian Belief, and Science and Religion: Are they Compatible? (with Dan Dennett).

Alvin Plantinga has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Notre Dame.

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Science & Religion

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Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

Reviews - What do customers think about God, Freedom, and Evil?

Focused, Readable, and Convincing  Apr 29, 2008
Plantinga brings some of the best thought done recently in the philosophy of religion down to the level of anyman willing to think. His free will defense appears to refute the problem of evil on at the very least a strictly logical ground. The ontological argument is probably one of the most enjoyable and strange things for me to read about, and while I know Plantinga's treatment of it will not be the last word on it, the argument from Anselm to Plantinga sure convinces me. Another interesting benefit of the book is it got me familiar with thinking in modality about a subject which has been surprisingly helpful.

My only complaint might be is that some specific objections or perhaps the evidential problem of evil could have recieved a little more attention, but doing so would have made the book longer and its shortness is one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much.

This book is not for emotional comfort or anything like that. A Grief Observed or A Son's Lament treat that side of the problem of pain, this book is strictly dealing with philosophic issues at an intellectual level. Very short and very rewarding I would suggest this book to anyone who wants to think seriously about God.
There are two good reasons why I oppose the concept of a completely Good, Omniscient, and Omnipotent (GOO) God: (1) Acceptance of this God insists that the petty-minded cruelty of God as described in the Old Testament is actually love. If Christians refuse to acknowledge that Moses invented the tradition of ethnic cleansing, and that this was evil, it is too easy to justify applying this concept to native Americans, Jews, and Moslems, as has been done throughout history, and is being done at the present time. (2) Rejection of this God usually entails rejection of any notion of God, and acceptance of the doctrine that we are merely machines whose existence is accidental. So while I cannot pretend that I studied Plantinga's attempt to reconcile God and evil with an open mind, I tried to be at least fair. His argument not only fails, it is silly. I shall explain why as briefly as I can.

The analogies that Plantinga chooses to support his case are odd to say the least. The fact that a theist does not know why God permits evil says nothing about the rationality of the belief. We also do not know how the desire to mow the lawn leads to the bodily motions of mowing the lawn, yet it is rational to suppose there is a connection. True, but if the desire mow the lawn led instead to sticking one's hands in the whirling blades and hacking them off, we would consider that irrational.

Since God is GOO, he will eliminate all evil that he can that does not entail eliminating an outweighing good or bringing about a greater evil. Suppose I am deliriously happy, and my friend Paul has a sore knee. God cannot eliminate Paul's pain without also eliminating my happiness. It's impossible to imagine why God cannot do this, unless Paul's pain makes me happy. Admitting this example to be trivial, Plantinga suggests that heroism in the face of evil is inspirational, and this heroism would be eliminated by the absence of evil. Facing evil with heroism is good, but the absence of evil is clearly better.

The good that prevents God from eliminating evil is free will. Since no argument can be better than its major premise, free will needs to be scrutinized. Inasmuch as nearly all atheists dismiss free will as a delusion, Plantinga's argument is obviously not meant for them. My conviction is that free will does exist, but only in the same way that the ability to do calculus exists; it requires a lot of hard work and few people ever develop it to any extent. At best, one's free will is confined within the limits of one's character, and Plantinga's claim that predictability has nothing to do with free will is clearly false. For instance, the average white man in 1850's Georgia insisted that slavery was completely consistent with Christian morality and no rational argument could have convinced him otherwise, while the opposite would have been true for his counterpart in Maine. People with free will do not permit their characters to be molded by arbitrary cultural circumstances. We might be free to do what we want, but is what we want really a free will choice? Christians acknowledge that wanting to sin is beyond their control. But only evil people want to do heinous things. How many men want to crush a woman's skull with a tire iron and rape the corpse, as Ted Bundy did? Was the desire to do this Bundy's free will choice? Plantinga acknowledges that God might interfere with Maurice's decision to have oatmeal for breakfast by inflicting him with an equine obsession that makes it psychologically impossible for him to refuse oats. I am by no means convinced that Bundy did not suffer from a more sinister obsession.

At any rate, since God knows who will "choose" to become evil, why not NOT CREATE THOSE PEOPLE? Plantinga ignores this question. He says, "God could not have created any of the possible worlds containing just the persons who do in fact exist, and containing moral good but no moral evil" (p.48). He claims that God cannot create a world in which people do not have "transworld depravity." I had to reread Plantinga's explanation of transworld depravity several times before I could convince myself that he actually says what he actually says. Stripped of the obfuscating logical symbols of which he is so fond it goes like this: There are two worlds identical in every way except in one Bundy kills the woman, and in the other he doesn't. But if the world in which he doesn't kill the woman is going to be as much like the actual world as possible, then if this world were actual, then he would have killed the woman. It says nothing except that if Bundy actually exists, and he has free will, he must kill the girl. It is a fatuous argument that never addresses why Bundy should be obsessed with evil in the first place.

Plantinga argues that natural disasters that we typically refer to as "acts of God" are actually the free will acts of demons. Although earthquakes are explained quite well by plate tectonics, Plantinga insists it is not irrational to insist demons pushing the plates around. This is so inane I cannot even comment on it.
Great book  Oct 21, 2006
I think many of the reviewers here express much better the pros of Plantinga than I could.

The only new thing I coud add is that Plantinga only offers a draw. I think in the past a reviewer said this is not a 'theodicy', which is right. My conclusion was that all he was saying is that it is not illogical to give the benefit of the doubt to God for allowing evil.

I especially enjoyed this book because my wife is taking a class in philosophy and we have talked about many terms about false argumentation. Indeed those who accuse God for allowing evil certainly use false argumentation.
A Small Classic  Sep 13, 2005
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. Although with time I increasingly appreciate a certain force behind the ontological argument, it still strikes me somewhat as an artificial linguistic construct. On the other hand, I find the other two arguments more compelling than Plantinga does (I share his thought that, even if successful, the cosmological argument can offer little on the nature of God). To be fair to Plantinga, this work was composed prior to recent scientific developments that have strengthened the argument from design (particularly in the world of cosmology but, also to a limited degree in the biological sciences). A look at some of Plantinga's more recent work is also worthwhile.

Overall a good short book by an outstanding philosopher who effectively altered the argument surrounding the existence of evil. I highly recommend this book to all students of philosophy and religion. J.L. Mackie's "The Miracle of Theism is also worth a look for a dissenting view.
Most influential theistic philosopher currently writing  Aug 2, 2003
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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