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A Rational Problem of Evil: The Coherence of Christian Doctrine with a Broad Free Will Defense

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  • Additional Information
    • Advisors:
      Zagzebski, Linda T
    • Abstract:
      The problem that evil presents for Christian theism is often thought to be the most diffi- cult problem to solve. Since Alvin Plantinga's celebrated free will defense, however, some have argued that the logical problem was indeed solved. Yet, many non-theists remain convinced that evil is a problem for Christian theism. In this dissertation I attempt to move the strategy of defense forward by developing a distinction between narrow and broad defenses to the problem of evil. The former only aims to rebuff the immediate charge of inconsistency and makes no claims about the additional proposi- tions used in the defense. The latter also seeks to rebuff the charge of inconsistency, but in doing so only employs propositions that are consistent with the defender's actual beliefs. It is hoped that non-theists find this broad defense to be more rationally persua- sive than its narrow counterpart. In chapter 1, I develop this distinction, and in the re- maining chapters use it to survey the consistency of traditional Christian doctrines with a broad defense. In chapter 2, I construct a consistency problem for two accounts of original sin, and consider potential solutions. In chapter 3, I explore the nature of crea- turely freedom in heaven and attempt to refute charges of inconsistency already present in the literature. In chapter 4, I turn to the divine will and consider whether it was possi- ble, or desirable, for creatures to be created with that same type of will. Finally, in chapter 5, I demonstrate how the project can be extended to include other beliefs Christ- ian theists may take to be true, and also how the distinction developed in chapter one can be employed in discussing other alleged problems for the Christian theist.