Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James

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When confronted by horrendous evil, even the most pious believer may question not only life's worth but also God's power and goodness. A distinguished philosopher and a practicing minister, Marilyn McCord Adams has written a highly original work on a fundamental dilemma of Christian thought—how to reconcile faith in God with the evils that afflict human beings. Adams argues that much of the discussion in analytic philosophy of religion over the last forty years has offered too narrow an understanding of the problem. The ground rules accepted for the discussion have usually led philosophers to avert their gaze from the worst—horrendous—evils and their devastating impact on human lives. They have agreed to debate the issue on the basis of religion-neutral values, and have focused on morals, an approach that—Adams claims—is inadequate for formulating and solving the problem of horrendous evils. She emphasizes instead the fruitfulness of other evaluative categories such as purity and defilement, honor and shame, and aesthetics. If redirected, philosophical reflection on evil can, Adams's book demonstrates, provide a valuable approach not only to theories of God and evil but also to pastoral care.
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Editorial Reviews

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"It is her own dissatisfaction with the usual strategies that philosophy and theology have adopted in the face of evil—strategies that she feels underestimate either the horror of evil or the goodness of God—that led her to mount her own philosophical alternative. . . . She proposes an entirely different approach. Instead of seeking reasons why a good God might permit evil, philosophy should seek an explanation of how God might 'make good' on evil."—Peter Steinfels. New York Times Book Review, 10/13/01

"In this post-Holocaust world, much that passes for philosophical analysis of the problem of evil seems beside the point, if not culpably irrelevant. It is to Adams's great credit that in her often insightful discussion of the issue, she puts the emphasis where it belongs: on the victims' point of view. . . A provocative book."—T. Michael McNulty, S.J., Marquette University. Theological Studies, December 2000

"It would be difficult to take offense at a book which is so manifestly honest in its search for the truth, and which so clearly expresses a deep awareness of, and compassion for, the suffering and moral frailty of human beings. . . . Whatever their own views on the problem of evil, most readers will find insights here that they will want to hold on to."—Patrick Shaw, Glasgow University. Religious Studies, Vol. 37, 2001

"This book is based on work on God and evil that Adams did over a period of more than a decade. . . . But the book is by no means a mere collection of previously published essays. . . The book integrates them into a unified whole that highlights their coherence and displays connections among them. So even those who are very familiar with her earlier work on God and evil will profit from reading the book carefully. . . . This is a brave book. It has something fresh to say on a difficult and important philosophical topic. It deserves readers who will debate its challenging claims."—Philip L. Quinn, University of Notre Dame. The Philosophical Review, Vol. 110, No. 3, July 2001

"Adams argument is an important contribution to recent philosophical and theological discussions on the problem of evil. . . . Whether one agrees with . . . Adams' answer to the problem of evil, it is hard not to think that we are better off for the ways that her attempts to think about evil encourage and challenge us to take evil seriously."—Jennifer L. Geddes, The Hedgehog Review. Summer 2000

"Marilyn Adams . . . makes a compelling argument at several levels."—First Things, August/September 2000.

"By focusing on horrendous evils, Marilyn McCord Adams has transformed the way we formulate and discuss the problem of evil. All too often philosophical theism ignores the actual core of Christianity, the crucifixion of Jesus as a sacrifice. She has shown its relevance for philosophers of religion as they go about their business."—Diogenes Allen, Princeton Theological Seminary

"Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God is a terrific book. This important and highly original contribution to the discussion of the problem of evil should interest philosophers and non-philosophers alike."—William J. Wainwright, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

"If you thought nothing new could come of the stalled, stale debates in analytic philosophy over the problem of evil, think again. With characteristic elegance and precision, Marilyn McCord Adams decisively advances the discussion by including overlooked problems—notably, the horrendous evils of her title—and overlooked resources—from the Bible and the history of Christian thought."—Kathryn Tanner, University of Chicago

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Deconstructing a Problem 5
1 Problems of Evil 7
2 Global Goodness and Its Limitations 17
3 The Dignity of Human Nature? 32
Pt. 2 Conceptual Enrichments 57
4 Divine Agency, Remodeled 62
5 Purity and Defilement 86
6 Symbolic Value: Honor and Shame 106
7 Taste and See ... 129
Pt. 3 Resolution and Relevance 153
8 Resources to the Rescue 155
9 The Praxis of Evil 181
Conclusion: Horrors, Disruptive and Disrupting 203
Works Cited 209
Index 215
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