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Petruschka Schaafsma

The idea that religion provides ideas and practices that help people cope with evil is widespread. It may be used in a neutral way to define the function of religion but can also be used by both adversaries and advocates of religion. Thus religion may be criticized for “easy coping,” for providing cheap, comforting theories. Religion may also be appreciated for giving an anchor or focus to life in hard times. In this paper, the coping thesis and the presuppositions behind it are confronted with the example of Karl Barth’s view of evil and Christian belief. Barth deals with evil under the term das Nichtige and aims to understand God’s relation to it. He criticizes the idea that human beings by themselves can know what evil is and how they should cope with it. Thus, Barth’s view seems to differ on important points from the coping thesis. What does this mean for the value of this thesis?


Beverley Clack

Theodicists have sought to show that belief in an all-powerful, all-loving, personal God is not at odds with the existence of evil and, in particular, with the extreme suffering that results from it. This paper, in common with other antitheodical approaches, argues that the attempt to show that God and evil can coexist invariably leads to the distortion and misrepresentation of suffering. At the same time, it builds upon such criticisms, proposing an approach that does not seek to provide a solution to evil conceived as a puzzle. Rather, it contends that the philosopher should take suffering seriously, allowing it to challenge the assumptions that underlie Western philosophy of religion. In particular, it accepts the limited significance of theoretical claims in the light of events that often challenge any attempt to impose meaning.

Wrestling with God and with Evil

Philosophical Reflections


Edited by Hendrik M. Vroom

The fact of evil continues to raises questions – questions about the relationship between God and evil but also questions about human involvement in it. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, it is now time to see the existence of evil not just as a problem for belief in God; it is a problem for belief in humanity itself as well. For human involvement in evil is not simply a matter of coping with evil but also concerns the fact that humans themselves often seem to do wrong and evil inevitably. Human finitude, ignorance and the unforeseeable consequences of good intentions as well as of neglect can often lead to tragedy.
This volume contains contributions from an equal number of male and female scholars in Western Europe and America. It contains discussions of thinkers like Kant, Kierkegaard, Barth, Weil, Levinas, Naber, Caputo and Johnson. It deals with issues like tragedy, finitude, critiques of Western culture, violence and God, and the question of whether theodicies are needed or are even honest. This volume offers an interesting survey of ‘wrestling with God and evil’ from a variety of perspectives in the philosophy of religion on both sides of the Atlantic.