Special Issue "Theodicy and Challenges of Science: Understanding God, Evil and Evolution"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Theologies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 August 2021) | Viewed by 13318

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Piotr Roszak
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Theology, Nicolaus Copernicus University, 87-100 Toruń, Poland
Interests: theology of science; theodicy; science–religion debate; Thomism; pilgrimage; medieval liturgy; philosophy of religion; religious freedom
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Dr. Sasa Horvat
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Social Sciences and Medical Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, University of Rijeka, 51000 Rijeka, Croatia
Interests: philosophy of science; philosophy of religion; neurophilosophy; philosophical anthropology; cognitive science of religion; ontology; theodicy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The aim of the Special Issue is to address one of the most challenging questions in theodicy: if God is infinitely good, how can there be so much pain and suffering in the evolutionary path of the human beings? Or more specific, if God exists, why did He allow evolution to develop cognitive mechanisms that produce behaviour that is evil or morally bad, causing pain and suffering to so many? Contributions aiming to rethink the interconnectedness of the fundamental concepts such as evolution, nature, suffering, pain, values, evil, and good, would be welcomed. Very often, “nature red in tooth and claw” is raised as an argument against the existence of God. However, can we consider the nature and evolution from a broader perspective, providing a new framework for understanding pain and suffering? This Special Issue also welcomes contributions regarding the (evolutionary) cognitive science of religion, which is developing serious challenges to theodicy and understanding the God–world relation. Namely, the evolved moral bias of the in-group against the out-group for the goal of survival is considered one of the key factors for enabling the prejudice and dehumanization that causes harm and violence. Nevertheless, the same biological fundaments and cognitive mechanisms also enabled moral codes of religion that proclaim good moral behaviour, such as altruism, cooperation and sentience. How can we incorporate these theories into theodicy and provide new perspectives on the issue? Contributors are encouraged not to rely exclusively on philosophical and theological theories, but to be open for scientific insights that suggest reconsideration of the classical viewpoints in theodicy.

Dr. Piotr Roszak
Dr. Sasa Horvat
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • theodicy
  • evolution
  • cognitive science of religion
  • freedom
  • providence

Published Papers (15 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Introduction to the Special Issue: Theodicy and Challenges of Science: Understanding God, Evil and Evolution
Religions 2021, 12(12), 1079; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121079 - 06 Dec 2021
Viewed by 784
Abstract
In these “pandemic years” a number of scientific and humanistic questions arise [...] Full article

Research

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Article
Animal Suffering, God and Lessons from the Book of Job
Religions 2021, 12(12), 1047; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121047 - 25 Nov 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 705
Abstract
Nature shows itself to us in ambivalent ways. Breathtaking beauty and cruelty lie close together. A Darwinian image of nature seems to imply that nature is a mere place of violence, cruelty and mercilessness. In this article, I first explore the question of [...] Read more.
Nature shows itself to us in ambivalent ways. Breathtaking beauty and cruelty lie close together. A Darwinian image of nature seems to imply that nature is a mere place of violence, cruelty and mercilessness. In this article, I first explore the question of whether such an interpretation of nature is not one-sided by being phrased in overly moral terms. Then, I outline how the problem of animal suffering relates to a specific understanding of God as moral agent. Finally, in the main part of the argumentation, I pursue the question to what extent the problem of animal (and human) suffering does not arise for a concept of God couched in less personalistic terms. If God’s perspective towards creation is rather de-anthropocentric, then moral concerns might be of less importance as we generally assume. Such an understanding of the divine is by no means alien to the biblical-theistic tradition. I argue that it finds strong echoes in the divine speeches in the Book of Job: They aim at teaching us to accept both the beauty and the tragic of existence in a creation that seen in its entirety is rather a-moral. Finally, I address the question what such a concept of God could mean for our existence. Full article
Article
Relating Compassion, Spirituality, and Scandal before Unjust Suffering: An Empirical Assessment
Religions 2021, 12(11), 977; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110977 - 09 Nov 2021
Viewed by 545
Abstract
Recent studies in the field of cognitive science of religion have proposed a connection between religious beliefs, theory of mind, and prosocial behaviour. Theory of mind appears to be related to empathy and compassion, and both to a special sensitivity towards unjust suffering, [...] Read more.
Recent studies in the field of cognitive science of religion have proposed a connection between religious beliefs, theory of mind, and prosocial behaviour. Theory of mind appears to be related to empathy and compassion, and both to a special sensitivity towards unjust suffering, which could trigger a religious crisis, as has often happened and is revealed in the “theodicy question”. To test such relationships, adolescents were surveyed by an exploratory questionnaire. The collected data point to a more complex, less linear interaction, which depends more on cultural factors and reflexive elaboration than cognitive structures. In general, compassion and outrage before unjust suffering appear to be quite related; compassion is related to religious practice and even more to spiritual perception. Full article
Article
Why Open Theism Is Natural and Classical Theism Is Not
Religions 2021, 12(11), 956; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110956 - 02 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1244
Abstract
The cognitive science of religion (CSR) indicates that belief in supernatural agents, or “gods”, is underpinned by maturationally natural cognitive biases and systems (Natural Religion). It is unclear, however, whether theism is natural. Does the god concept that our cognitive biases and systems [...] Read more.
The cognitive science of religion (CSR) indicates that belief in supernatural agents, or “gods”, is underpinned by maturationally natural cognitive biases and systems (Natural Religion). It is unclear, however, whether theism is natural. Does the god concept that our cognitive biases and systems give rise to approximate theism? In other words, is Natural Religion “theism-tracking”? As Christian theologians have different views of what God is like, we argue that the answer depends partly on one’s model of God. We discuss two models: classical theism and open theism. We argue that classical theism is far from being natural. The classical divine attributes are very hard to comprehend. Moreover, people naturally conceptualize God as a special sort of person, but the classical God strongly deviates from our cognitive expectations about persons. Open theism is much more natural. However, recent findings in CSR challenge the suggestion that Natural Religion tracks open theism. The possibility that we are “born idolaters” rather than “born believers” might undermine the Christian doctrine of general revelation and attempts to make CSR compatible with theology. Full article
Article
(In)active God—Coping with Suffering and Pain from the Perspective of Christianity
Religions 2021, 12(11), 939; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110939 - 28 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 752
Abstract
Colloquially, suffering and pain are usually and exclusively concerned with the human body. Pain and suffering are clearly objective facts, as well as lasting and memorable experiences. Are suffering and pain purely biological phenomena and neurological states, or can they be interpreted by [...] Read more.
Colloquially, suffering and pain are usually and exclusively concerned with the human body. Pain and suffering are clearly objective facts, as well as lasting and memorable experiences. Are suffering and pain purely biological phenomena and neurological states, or can they be interpreted by culture, religion, philosophy, sociology, Christianity, etc.? To what extent can it, therefore, be said that the body is sufficiently cognitively, motorically, and sensibly equipped to accept or reject unpleasant situations. Except biological, neurological, and medical, i.e., physical, views about suffering and pain, the Christian solution is one of the essential elements of human life which can serve as a bridge between adaptive and cognitive management and control of the body and mind and learned (parents, culture, society) patterns of dealing with pain and suffering. Our article aims to show how Christianity, in describing suffering and pain as the physiological fact and subjective experience, can be gathered up into a meaningful whole and a powerful sense of (in)active God. Full article
Article
What the Fall of Angels Tells Us about the Essence of Morality
Religions 2021, 12(11), 920; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110920 - 22 Oct 2021
Viewed by 673
Abstract
The article describes two concepts of the sources of morality present in the evolutionist traditions (Evolution of Ethics and the Veneer Theory). Then, a modal argument against the evolutionist theory of morality is presented, based on the history of the fall of angels [...] Read more.
The article describes two concepts of the sources of morality present in the evolutionist traditions (Evolution of Ethics and the Veneer Theory). Then, a modal argument against the evolutionist theory of morality is presented, based on the history of the fall of angels present in classical theism. This story is taken in the article as a possible example of the actions of individuals who operate outside of any evolutionary and social context, and of those whose ontic constitution excludes the possession of emotions. In this way, an attempt is made to present the essential features of anyone that is subject to moral evaluation, thus concluding that morality in its essence cannot be defined in biological and evolutionary terms. Full article
Article
Will Cyborgs Ever Be Humans in the Image and Likeness of God?
Religions 2021, 12(10), 850; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100850 - 09 Oct 2021
Viewed by 582
Abstract
Advances in technology and genetic engineering have rekindled the hopes of some communities for human immortality on earth. Projects aimed at copying the human brain for the purpose of enabling humans to achieve “cybernetic eternity” are emerging. From the perspective of Christian anthropology, [...] Read more.
Advances in technology and genetic engineering have rekindled the hopes of some communities for human immortality on earth. Projects aimed at copying the human brain for the purpose of enabling humans to achieve “cybernetic eternity” are emerging. From the perspective of Christian anthropology, it is advisable to ask the following question: is a cyborg a human being in the image of God? It boils down to the criteria for being in the image of God. The first of these is creativity, understood as the actualized relationship of the human with their Creator. For the human is not a product of even the most brilliant minds and technologies, but a creature for whom a personal relationship with the Persons of the Holy Trinity is constitutive in nature. Full article
Article
Contingency, Free Will, and Particular Providence
Religions 2021, 12(10), 832; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100832 - 06 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 601
Abstract
The results from contemporary science, especially the theory of evolution and quantum physics, seem to favor process theology. Moreover, the evil committed by free will leads some theologians to reduce divine action in order to prevent God from being responsible for evil. Thus, [...] Read more.
The results from contemporary science, especially the theory of evolution and quantum physics, seem to favor process theology. Moreover, the evil committed by free will leads some theologians to reduce divine action in order to prevent God from being responsible for evil. Thus, among those who defend a particular providence, Molinism finds many followers. This article first argues that contemporary science does not constrain us to deny particular providence. Second, it criticizes the implicitly deterministic character of Molinism. Thirdly, a Thomistic solution is proposed as an alternative which, by means of a different metaphysical approach to cosmic contingency and freedom of will, defends particular providence without reducing divine activity except in personal sins. Full article
Article
Persona in spe. Anthropological and Theodical Aspects of Hope
Religions 2021, 12(10), 809; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100809 - 26 Sep 2021
Viewed by 703
Abstract
I intend to reflect on three phenomena that are revealed in the personal experience of hope: (1) hope distinguishes a person from the natural context, but it does so through nature, i.e., based on desires rooted in human nature; (2) hope is not [...] Read more.
I intend to reflect on three phenomena that are revealed in the personal experience of hope: (1) hope distinguishes a person from the natural context, but it does so through nature, i.e., based on desires rooted in human nature; (2) hope is not only inscribed in the existential situation of human being, but also expresses the very meaning of human transcendence: the person transcends themself, because they live the hope of fulfillment in the transcendent reality; hope is a foretaste of a higher, more perfect life; (3) hope is a person’s deeply experienced expectation of love, that is, of someone who loves. The above phenomena require a justification, which is the answer to the question “what is the reason for experiencing hope?”. Carrying out analyses on the basis of the modernized metaphysics of the person, I refer primarily to the concept of personal acts, to the concept of religiosity as an essential property of the person and to elements of the concept of love. The conclusions of these analyses indicate the necessity of accepting the real existence of the object of human hope, since personal life essentially goes beyond contingency, towards wholeness in the form of union with Someone who loves. Full article
Article
Forgiveness and the Naturalistic Approach to Religion: A Contextual View of the Problem of Evil
Religions 2021, 12(9), 756; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090756 - 13 Sep 2021
Viewed by 740
Abstract
Cognitive Science of Religion and evolutionary approaches in the study of religion have opened the rapidly developing field of naturalistic explanation of religion. Since its inception, this empirically driven project has undergone a slow evolution, giving rise to the view that explaining religion [...] Read more.
Cognitive Science of Religion and evolutionary approaches in the study of religion have opened the rapidly developing field of naturalistic explanation of religion. Since its inception, this empirically driven project has undergone a slow evolution, giving rise to the view that explaining religion is not a matter of accounting for a single (cognitive or functional) trait, but rather involves explaining a very complex repertoire of patterns of thinking and behavior. In this paper, we would like to provide a philosophical analysis of the highly complex problem of forgiveness from the Christian religious and naturalistic perspectives. Our analysis demonstrates a crucial way to understand the concepts of guilt, forgiveness and reconciliation as discussed in the context of Christian theology. At the same time, we also discuss certain strengths and weaknesses of the naturalistic accounts. Finally, we formulate some suggestions for advancing the science–religion dialogue on the problem of evil. Full article
Article
The Evolution of Suffering, Epiphenomenalism, and the Phenomena of Life: Evidential Problems for Naturalists
Religions 2021, 12(9), 687; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090687 - 26 Aug 2021
Viewed by 774
Abstract
Paul Draper argues that the central issue in the debate over the problem of suffering is not whether the theist can offer a probable explanation of suffering, but whether theism or naturalism can give a better explanation for the facts regarding the distribution [...] Read more.
Paul Draper argues that the central issue in the debate over the problem of suffering is not whether the theist can offer a probable explanation of suffering, but whether theism or naturalism can give a better explanation for the facts regarding the distribution of pain as we find them. He likewise maintains a comparison of relative probabilities considering the facts of suffering; atheological naturalism is to be preferred. This essay proceeds in two phases: (a) It will be argued that mainstream positions in naturalistic philosophy of mind make it difficult to take pain as anything but epiphenomenal and therefore not subject to evolutionary explanation. While the distribution of suffering is a difficulty for the theist, the naturalist has equal difficulty explaining the fact that there is any suffering at all in the first place. Thus, the facts of suffering offer no advantage to the atheist. (b) Phenomenologists suggest that there is an intrinsic connection between animal life, pain, and normativity (including a summum bonum). The mere occurrence of life and normativity are, at least prima facie, more likely on the assumption of theism than atheism, so the theist may have a probabilistic advantage relative to the atheist. Phases (a) and (b) together support the overall conclusion that the facts of pain as we find them in the world (including that there is any pain at all) are at least as great, if not greater, a challenge for the atheist as they are the theist. Full article
Article
Ratzinger on Evolution and Evil: A Christological and Mariological Answer to the Problem of Suffering and Death in Creation
Religions 2021, 12(8), 583; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080583 - 28 Jul 2021
Viewed by 920
Abstract
This article argues that a compelling way to address the presence of suffering and death across evolutionary history lies in the thought of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. By situating human evolution within the broader divine plan for man’s salvation through the cross of [...] Read more.
This article argues that a compelling way to address the presence of suffering and death across evolutionary history lies in the thought of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI. By situating human evolution within the broader divine plan for man’s salvation through the cross of Jesus, Ratzinger is able to show that the presence of natural evils in this world is not incompatible with God’s goodness but on the contrary is an eminent means by which the love of God is made manifest. Exploring Christ’s kenosis and the sinless suffering of the Blessed Virgin, it is argued that suffering properly embraced is the raw material for love and thus essential for true human flourishing in this life. The real problem for man, it is contended, is not having to suffer and die, but how to suffer and die well. Finally, it is suggested that the full Christian answer to the problem of suffering connected with evolution nevertheless lies in the eschatogical hope for a new heaven and new earth, where man—and all creation with him—will undergo a definitive “evolutionary leap” of “transubstantiation” in Christ. Full article
Article
Biases for Evil and Moral Perfection
Religions 2021, 12(7), 521; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12070521 - 11 Jul 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 949
Abstract
I argue that deeply ingrained dispositions to do evil do not render moral perfection impossible. I discuss various accounts of moral perfection and the evidence from cognitive (neuro)science that points towards a strong disposition for evil. Afterwards, I discuss three strategies that can [...] Read more.
I argue that deeply ingrained dispositions to do evil do not render moral perfection impossible. I discuss various accounts of moral perfection and the evidence from cognitive (neuro)science that points towards a strong disposition for evil. Afterwards, I discuss three strategies that can allow humans to overcome their evil dispositions. These are: cognitive enhancement, avoiding triggering situations and structural solutions. Full article
Article
God as Highest Truth According to Aquinas
Religions 2021, 12(6), 429; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12060429 - 09 Jun 2021
Viewed by 1119
Abstract
Contemporary public opinion has come to assume that we live in the post-truth era, in which judgments on the most relevant realities of human life have been left in the hands of mere emotions. In such a context, it is very opportune to [...] Read more.
Contemporary public opinion has come to assume that we live in the post-truth era, in which judgments on the most relevant realities of human life have been left in the hands of mere emotions. In such a context, it is very opportune to redirect our gaze toward the concept of truth, in order to help to adequately ground such a primordial reality as that of the personal being. Furthermore, this is the object of the present research, following the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. To this end, we attempt to argue that the primacy in the analogical significance of the truth corresponds precisely to the person, as a subsistent being whose esse is intelligible to himself. Following the analogical ascent, we consequently arrive at God, who is absolutely intelligible to himself. We have to conclude, therefore, that the personal God is the highest truth. As a corollary to this argument, we add that the perfective dynamism of the personal life is realized in an eminent way in the communication of truth through words, also in God. Full article

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Reply
Reply to Cordeiro-Rodrigues (2022). Tutuism and the Moral Universe. Comment on “Gasser (2021). Animal Suffering, God and Lessons from the Book of Job. Religions 12: 1047”
Religions 2022, 13(3), 264; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13030264 - 21 Mar 2022
Viewed by 331
Abstract
In this reply, I aim to clarify my ideas presented in a recent paper and to address criticisms that have been raised by Luis Cordeiro-Rodrigues regarding my interpretation of (animal) suffering and God. Full article
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