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Horrors in theological context

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 October 2002

Marilyn McCord Adams
Yale Divinity School and Religious Studies Department, 409 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511-2167,


Although my book Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Cornell University Press, 1999) takes its polemical starting point from discussions of the problem of evil by analytic philosophers from the 1950s onwards, it has an underlying theological perspective which begins with Job (and shades of 4 Ezra), continues with Christology, and stretches forward to the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. My medieval friends – Anselm, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Scotus, and Ockham – reinforce and give philosophical interpretation to Job's ‘size-gap’ between God and creatures. My youthful wrestlings with existentialist philosophers and neo-orthodox theologians lead me to locate the imago dei in human nature in its alleged capacity for meaning-making rather than its putative potential for moral virtuosity. The goal of reciprocal divine–human identification, so prominent in Francis of Assisi and Julian of Norwich, combines with Matthew's Emmanuel-theme and Chalcedon to render the Christology; while the conditions of the possibility of defeating horrors constitute my rubric for interpreting credal commitments and adjusting traditional eschatologies. Throughout the book and my sequel Gifford lectures, I try to rivet attention on the category of horrendous evils because they disrupt conventional approaches to evil in philosophy and theology alike.

Research Article
Scottish Journal of Theology Ltd, 2002

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