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Sceptical theism and a lying God: Wielenberg's argument defended and developed

  • STEPHEN LAW (a1)

Abstract

Sceptical theists attempt to block the evidential argument from evil by arguing that a key premise of that argument – that gratuitous evil exists – cannot reasonably be maintained. They argue that, for all we know, our knowledge of reasons God may have to permit such evil is radically incomplete. Thus the fact that we cannot identify reasons for God to permit the evil we observe does not allow us reasonably to conclude that no such reasons exist. In response, Erik Wielenberg has pointed out what appears to be, for many sceptical theists, an unfortunate further consequence of their position. According to Wielenberg, if sceptical theism is correct, then, similarly, the fact that we cannot identify reasons why God would lie to us does not allow us reasonably to conclude no such reasons exist. But then, for all we know, God's word constitutes not a divine revelation but a divine lie. This article examines sceptical theist responses to Wielenberg's argument to date (from Segal, and McBrayer and Swenson) and develops two new Wielenberg-style arguments for the same conclusion.

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References

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Beaudoin, John (2005) ‘Skepticism and the skeptical theist’, Faith and Philosophy, 22, 4256.
Bergmann, Michael (2001) ‘Sceptical theism and Rowe's new evidential argument from evil’, Nous, 35, 278296.
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Fales, Evan (2002) ‘Darwin's doubt, Calvin's calvary’, in Beilby, James (ed.) Naturalism Defeated? (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2002), 5556.
Gale, Richard (1996) ‘Some difficulties in theistic treatments of evil’, in Howard-Snyder, Daniel (ed.) The Evidential Argument from Evil (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996), 206218.
McBrayer, Justin (2010) ‘Skeptical theism’, Philosophy Compass, 5, 611623.
McBrayer, Justin (2012) ‘Are skeptical theists really skeptics? Sometimes yes and sometimes no’, International Journal of the Philosophy of Religion, 72, 316.
McBrayer, Justin & Swenson, Philip (2012) ‘Scepticism and the argument from divine hiddenness’, Religious Studies, 48, 129150.
Plantinga, Alvin (1986) ‘The foundations of theism: a reply’, Faith and Philosophy, 3, 310312.
Rowe, William (1979) ‘The problem of evil and some varieties of atheism’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 16, 335341.
Rowe, William (1988) ‘Evil and theodicy’, Philosophical Topics, 16, 119132.
Rowe, William (1991) ‘Ruminations about evil’, Philosophical Perspectives, 5, 6988.
Segal, Aaron (2011) ‘Sceptical theism and divine truths’, Religious Studies, 47, 8595.
Wielenberg, Erik (2010) ‘Sceptical theism and divine lies’, Religious Studies, 46, 509523.
Wykstra, Stephen (1996) ‘Rowe's noseeum arguments from evil’, in Howard-Snyder, Daniel (ed.) The Evidential Argument from Evil (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996), 126150.

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