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GOD AND THE DOCTRINE THAT EVIL A NEGATION

THE ARGUMENT
 
Here is the argument that evil is compatible with the existence of an all-powerful and all-good God for it is not a thing or as power but a lack. A lack is not a thing or a power. 
 
God is all good and all powerful and has made all things. There is evil in the world. How can an all-good and all-powerful God who issued all things create evil? The answer is that he cannot and he didn't. Evil has to be a positive or negative. That is to say it is a thing or it is not a thing. Evil is not a thing. The believers in God say that evil does not really exist - its just good in the wrong place or a lack of good. They say good is a power but evil isn't. 
 
Believers in an all-good creator of all things hold that evil is real but unreal in the sense that it is a lack of good. A good that is less good than it can be is evil. Evil is not an energy or a thing or an entity. Thus it is not created. God did not make evil.
 
Despite calling evil a lack they still refer to it as real. They treat it as real and as a thing. So what do they mean by calling evil real? It amounts to no more than to say it should not happen.

 

If evil is not a thing and believers still think of it as one or can't help doing so then that is as good as attempting to create evil.Would it being a thing make it better or wrose?

Can it be both?

 
Evil means that which should not be permitted for any reason.
 
There is physical evil. For example, when somebody is sick. The argument supposes that sickness is the absence of health.
 
There is moral evil. Evil is the act itself of choosing the lesser good instead of the proper good. You make good less good than it can be by putting it in the wrong place at the wrong time.
 
Is saying that evil is a negative, that is it is nothing, but good is real the same as saying that evil is good in the wrong time and place? Yes - because good alone is said to be real and evil is just good that is not as good as it can be. For example, hate is said to be good when directed at evil actions but wrong when directed against persons. This means that hate is good in itself. It is how it is used that is bad.
 
What is being clamed by believers is this: Evil is simply the absence of good so it does not exist in the sense that it is not a real thing. God is right to allow it to happen for it is a negation and nothing more. Strictly speaking, there is no evil - just misused good. God is not to blame for evil for evil isn’t real. 
 
CASE AGAINST EVIL BEING A POWER
 
Christians say that if evil is a real thing and a power and God makes it then God is at least partly evil. God is not like us - we are a bit like split personalities because we can say the most helpful things and then seconds later say the most evil things. God is said to be a unity and is not like that. Thus if he makes evil then he is wholly evil. The good he does is really part of his evil manipulative plan.
 
If God didn't make evil and evil is a power, what then? God is not really God for there is a power outside of him that he cannot control or organise. It is wholly independent of him and thus is a "God" in its own right.
 
If God is good and nevertheless makes evil powers, it follows that he does it to fight an evil greater evil power than they, one that he didn't create or has any control over. This would deny that God is the sole origin of all that exists and would in effect imply a good God and a bad one. There is one God who is love and who lets suffering happen for it is the mere absence of evil and his creation despite the evil in it is all good for the evil is not a thing or power but a nothing.
 
Evil being a force means that there is no real God though there might be a supreme being or it means God is evil.
 
What would religion say if you asked if evil as in power exists? "That there is no such power. When you are evil, you make absent the ability to be good. You do not use a force that is evil. Everything God has made is good (Genesis 1). Evil is really a good that exists in absence of the good that should be there. Because evil is warped good, God can use the good in it to overcome the badness. But if evil were a power he couldn't do that. An artist makes a beautiful painting. It has faults for he is only human. But the faults have a good side and so they do not affect the beauty of the painting. But if the faults are powers, they are like spots of pizza that the artist vomited when sick and they spoil the painting. See the difference?"
 
Are believers saying that evil is not real because they want to believe in God or are they recognising that evil is not real and then moving on to the possibility of believing in a perfect God?
 
The notion that we do wrong or do evil because we abuse our free will which is not meant to be exploited that way, supports the view that evil is an absence of good not a reality. The free will defence exonerates God from being to blame for the wrong we do and blames us instead saying he gave us the gift of free will which we abused so it is our fault. We are responsible for evil not God. The defence defends and expresses the fact that evil is an absence not a reality. If one falls so does the other. If the free will defence fails there is no point in bothering trying to defend the idea of an all-good God. He is pulling the strings when we do evil. If evil is a power, then he made it and is not all-good.
 
What comes first? The free will defence or the notion of evil being unreal? What if you have to choose one or the other?
 
God is not evil for allowing evil to happen for evil is a non-thing. It is a failure. But is that all it is? Nope. The failure aspect is the least of the believer in God's problems.
 
THE ARGUMENT IS ABOUT GOD NOT YOU OR ANY SUFFERING PERSON
 
Does the argument care about evil and call it bad just because it is horrible? No. It does not care about how we feel about evil. It is purely about honouring God by exonerating him for evil. So the argument that God is good for evil is not real, is not about us at all. It is purely about God and honouring him.
 
Theories about why God allows evil to happen tend to dwell on how evil is supposed to pave the way for our benefit. Evil feels real to us and we experience it as real. The argument however does not care what we experience it as. It is about how God sees evil. It is about answering the question, "How can we say God is good when there is evil?" The argument is fundamental for believers. It is the argument the devotee of God must have and revere even at the expense of any others. For example, if you love God alone you will care about showing that evil does not disprove his love or glory. You will not worry about showing how any divine plan of his benefits us. At a stroke, that takes away the very reason for why religion is popular. It sells itself on the basis that God has a lovely plan for us though it may have its challenges.
 
An atheist would argue that if evil is an imbalance in good, that to bring God into it is terrible and evil in itself. The atheist wants man and woman and child put first not God.
 
IT CONTRADICTS THE WAY WE THINK OF EVIL
 
The suggestion that evil is just a falling short of good and not a power or force is used to deny that God creates evil. This is an attempt to make the goodness of God fit with the existence of evil. It seeks to miss the point. The point is not what evil is. The point is that evil is.
 
To be more interested in what evil is than that it is shows you have flaws in your empathy for suffering people.
 
Astonishing, truly astonishing, that anybody could accept the suggestion that evil is just misplaced good as an excuse for divine evil! It is very hurtful to tell people that their suffering is nothing but the absence of health. It is very hurtful to say to earthquake victims, "What happened in the earthquake was good for evil is just lesser good. The earthquake was sent by God and he didn't do wrong for the earthquake is simply the absence of stable ground." In fact, as we are bound to respect God if he exists it would be a sin to see evil as terrible instead of seeing it as just good that was in the wrong place and time. We are to see good as the mirror in which we see God and it honours him who makes it.
 
We do treat and think of evil as real when we try to avoid it and we don’t excuse anybody for doing it on the grounds that it isn’t real! You don't argue for example that Jack the Ripper was a good man who just happened to have a lower level of good when he murdered. You don't say his murders were just the absence of an inclination to preserve life and not true evil. To dwell on the alleged good will desensitise you to the horror of his crimes.
 
If a woman went out and got pregnant knowing she would pass on a cruel and terminal and incurable sickness to her baby we would condemn her action. We would not be arguing that she only created the good and the evil is just a falling short of good and not her making. Religion may answer that unlike a woman God can make babies that are sick for he is not obligated to make babies at all. But the woman isn't either! The woman might have the baby but she does not cause the problems that will make her baby suffer - she co-operates with the problems. God's role is bigger for he makes the problems.
 
Babies often suffer unimaginably. Believers contend that God is not our equal so we should not think he is being cruel and we should be grateful for the goods that the babies have. This says that God can make as much good or as little as he wants - he doesn't owe anybody anything. Thought he was supposed to be generous! Even if it is true that God can make sick babies, then he must look after them and provide for their healing. Kittens are not our equal and even if we make them in a lab we must not treat them like objects and make them suffer by making them as blind or whisker-less or whatever. Equality or inequality with God has nothing to do with it. To bring in such issues is simply insulting to people. To teach the excuse is simply to take the side of evil! A big God has no more right to hurt people than a small God has! To dwell on the good and not see the evil is no way to act!
 
If you have self-esteem and if you esteem yourself, you will not like the suggestion that God has the right to prevent you liking yourself if he wants to. For example, some people have genetic instructions to produce and develop depression. The claim that God can give us as little good as he likes means that if you are screaming out in agony for death you should be kept alive at all costs for it is good to be alive no matter how much you are suffering!
 
Evil is not justified if it is the nothing that the argument says it is. Murder is as real as life-saving. No matter what evil is, it should not exist. This argument is vicious for it has people who oppose evil embracing it by lying to themselves that it isn’t real. How can we insult sick people with such an attitude? Evil is what you can condemn a person for committing and if this argument works you cannot do that.
 
The argument is wrong because God made evil when he made thistles and poisonous snakes and disease-causing viruses and no pretending that evil is nothing can make that right. The idea that evil is nothing isn't even relevant. If the argument is wrong and God exists then we can whatever evil we like. God does not agree with it himself if he has any sanity.
  
MORAL AGENCY
 
To say evil is the absence of a good that ought to be present is to say that evil is good in the wrong place. It makes no sense to say that good ought to be there and if God does not put it there he is still a perfect God!
 
Some religionists say that God is not a moral agent if you mean by moral agent a being that can do wrong but doesn't and which behaves well. God cannot argue with himself like a moral agent would for he knows right away what to do. But they still say that God cannot make what is evil in itself or condone it. So we still have a God who must do the right thing. Yet some use the God not being a moral agent type of thinking to deal with God allowing evil to happen and making sick babies and keeping them sick and making some babies have a stronger genetic predisposition to evil than others.  These people say that God is different from us and so much higher and bigger that we can't expect him to have moral obligations towards us. They say he makes us but owes us nothing. But they say we are moral agents though we have no moral obligations to ants. So it follows that if God owes us nothing and if he can refuse us benefits for that reason then he is still being a moral agent. Not owing us anything does not mean he isn't a moral agent but means he is and just owes us nothing. The argument from moral agency has nothing to do with it at all unless you want to teach that God not being a moral agent means he doesn't care about goodness or is both good and evil.
 
The existence of germs and bacteria that are good for nothing but making sickness is a plain proof that the argument that God can make them for he owes us nothing and isn't a moral agent is nonsense. When I do something that I make fall short of what it ought to be, its called a sin by those religionists. Yet they say God can do what falls short of goodness. They add that when it is him who does is not a sin for he makes only the good not the bad for the bad is not real but just good in the wrong place! So a sin is not a sin when God does wrong. This is plainly accusing humans of evil for doing what God does while he is worshipped for it! It is as ridiculous as saying that murder is not evil when God does it and evil when a human being does it! If murder is evil then no matter who does it, it is still evil! Is it any wonder that many people feel religion is vindictive?
 
If God is not a moral agent, then surely a God that is a moral agent would be a better God to believe in? Surely if God claims to be perfect he would only be perfect if he were a moral agent? We need role models and a God who is not a moral agent cannot function as our role model. The God of the Christians is something they pretend to revere or they try to force themselves to love something above all things that is not really relevant to their hopes of becoming a truly good person. It would be strange to argue that belief in God honours goodness so much that it rejects the abuse of goodness that is evil and then promote a God who is a futile role model.
 
THE ARGUMENT AND THE DIVINE PURPOSE
 
Evil is useless though God may bring good out of it. Evil is the definition of waste and uselessness. God allegedly brings good out of evil but that is only trying to make the best of a situation that should not be. There should be no evil. "God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist” (St Augustine of Hippo, Enchirid., xxvii).
 
This does not alter the fact that making yourself sick in order to feel superb when you get better is still wrong. It cannot be better. God cannot make you sick to help you later.
 
Some believers say evil is not a power but a misused good power. But if it is a misused power then it is a power. Evil must be a power for misuse exists so it must be something real. What is misused is evil.
 
If evil is a power, then it deserves to be used to make a greater good for it is owed no respect and there is nothing good in it. The problem then is how something useless can be used to do any good. It implies that evil people should be forced to do good but we consider that degrading and tyrannical.
 
What if God makes evil, as in power not a negative thing, for a good purpose that he needs it for? The good purpose won't be done without it. The Church says that this is impossible. It says the creation of evil power is never necessary. Why? Because evil is necessarily useless. If evil is so bad that God can't make it even for a good purpose that justifies it, then it follows that if it is a negation then it is still intolerable. God cannot allow it even it he needs to so that we might have free will. It is an odd argument that evil is useless if it is a force and useful if it is a lack. The lack doctrine is really seeing evil as some kind of good rather than as evil.
 
If evil is not a power but just an absence of good then the idea of a good purpose for evil wouldn’t work. How could God have a use for the misuse of good? A misuse is necessarily useless. It is only whatever aspects of the situation that are good that produce more good.
 
Some say that God never has a purpose for evil but if it happens he will try to bring good out of it. But that means if it happens against his will he gives it a purpose and starts using it. This view implies that God is not the all-powerful creator when things can happen despite him.
 
Sometimes evil is followed by such great good that one might be glad the evil happened. If you think God brings good out of evil and can use evil so that the evil is almost worthwhile or actually worthwhile then surely as long as you wish and intend God to do this and you do harm then the result is his concern not yours? Why should you feel guilty or that you shouldn't have done the thing? You can murder with a merry charitable heart then!
 
The Church says that God has to encourage the increase of evil to create some good that makes the evil worthwhile - for example when he allows and creates temptation and weakness. When evil is being used to destroy evil then evil shouldn’t exist in the first place. In other words, there is no purpose for it that justifies it. We know that people aren’t entirely to blame for the evil they do. God could make us nicer if he tried. That is why attempts to save God’s reputation which is beyond salvation are so offensive.
 
GOOD THAT IS IN THE WRONG PLACE?
 
The God botherers say you cannot have good unless evil is possible. If evil is just a falling short of good it follows that evil is just good in the wrong place. When evil is good, how can these people say there could be good if there can be no evil? They really deny that they believe in such a thing as good at all.  

I have a painful tooth that is rotting. According to the God botherers, the tooth is good. The rotting is just good that is in the wrong place for it is good at making teeth rot. The pain is good for it is warning that something is in the wrong place so it is being even more good the more it hurts me. If you think like that, and you know there should be a tooth there is it not worse to get it removed than to leave it in? The tooth coming out would be a worse evil than the tooth being left in to rot.

They say the knife that cuts your finger is good but just in the wrong place ie your finger. However, the knife is bad only when it cuts you.
 
Does it make any sense to say that the knife that cuts you by accident is good but is just in the wrong place and that that shows that evil is just a negation? No for the wrong place bit shows that evil exists and is real. That’s where the evil is. It is madness to hold that evil is not real by considering it to be good that is just in the wrong place for the wrongness is still there is real. To distract people from evil in this way by saying it is not real and ignoring the wrongness is simply a conjuring trick and one that depends on a degree of callousness at that rate. 2+2=5 is as real an equation as 2+2=4. It is more than just a falling short of correctness. It is real but wrong. We know it is real in the sense that it communicates information.
 
If the sharpness of a blade is only bad when it is in the wrong place at the wrong time and cuts you what is it when nobody is using it or nobody needs it or even sees it? Is it good, is it evil or is it neither? Cutting a carrot with the blade is evil in a way. It causes damage to the carrot and destruction to a living thing for the carrot is alive. The blade is evil even when it is just lying there because it is meant to be used and is not being used. The same could be said about anything. The argument implies that creation is nearly wholly evil unless you want to believe that things disappear and cease to exist when nobody is looking at them. The whole point of the argument is to explain how God allows evil that has a purpose for it presupposes that God cannot fall short of his own perfection and that is why evil needs explaining. He would fall short if he did needless evil.
 
They say that existence is always good for it is better to be real than unreal. They say the evil thing that cuts or hurts you is not evil for existing but for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Evil by definition should not exist. Then evil should not exist in that place and time so its existence there in that time and place is evil at least when it hurts you. Existence then is not always good. The argument says that evil is not just a falling short of good but a form of good. It condones evil.

The existence of things then is a part of goodness.  Yet if something could exist but does not you do not say that is evil for it not to exist for there is nothing there to get a raw deal by not being created. There is a sense in which it is evil but we are on about the sense in which it is not.
 
The argument is nonsense. To say God can let evil happen for evil is merely good that is in the wrong place and not real, forgets that wrong has still happened and it is real wrong. It is insulting and cruel. It implies that God is evil and we should be blind to that evil and welcome it.

EVIL IS TRYING TO MAKE EVIL POWER
 
They say evil is a negative. If I desire to create evil for its own sake that desire is a power and it is real. It is not just the absence of goodness. Even if I cannot create evil for its own sake, I am succeeding in the sense that I am going as far as I can though perhaps not successfully in creating it.
 
Is not using good defectively far worse than creating what is evil in itself? Open evil is better than evil that looks good and distorts good. It cannot attract people or hide its true nature to do more harm in the long-term than crafty hidden evil would.
 
We know a person can have a totally evil intention. The power to intend may be good but the direction the intention is put in is a separate thing. It is not the same as the power to intend. You can use a good thing such as knife to do harm. But using a good thing does not mean that the harming is totally vile and totally evil. When you can't make something evil enough the fact remains that trying to is totally evil. That is because it is not your fault that you are unable to make it evil enough. It is not your fault that you are unable to make a good thing such as a knife totally evil. The evil is a negation thing definitely implies that evil people are not so bad!
           
THE RISK
 
The argument is evil for it is about a person, God, who might not even exist. It is very seriously wrong to present such a serious claim that evil is our fault and not God's for there is a sense in which evil is not real and thus not created without being able to put the existence of God beyond any serious doubt. Belief in God is not enough to justify this. Belief is a necessary evil itself. It is something we have to make do with when we have no proof. Belief in God is an example of something that shouldn't be based on faith but on proof. It is odd to use something that is evil, such as belief, in order to excuse evil! It is hypocritical and hypocritical in the face of great evil and suffering is criminal. The argument that God makes no evil for evil is a lack, is evil for it doesn't care about how evil affects us. It may agree with Jesus who said we must be willing to give up everything even health and our very existence for God. But it is proof that those who link God and true humanitarianism are lying, mistaken or stupid.
 
Finally
  
Evil is not just the absence of good. To say that it is, is just an attempt to minimise how bad evil is in our experience and to desensitise those who are horrified by it and cannot see how God could be involved in it even indirectly for it is so horrendously vile.
 
The argument supposes that from God's vantage point, the evil is really just inappropriate good and that is what matters. It does not matter that for us it is experienced as the opposite of good not its mere absence. When you are in terminal agony, telling yourself the suffering is good in the wrong place and time will only make you feel even worse and add guilt to your problems for you are blaspheming God.
 
Putting the experience of God before the experience of suffering that refutes the love of God is just a form of arrogant denial. It isn't logical.
 
The argument that evil is nothing but the absence of good does not help at all. It only worsens the problem of evil and the almighty God who can stop it but won't. It puts the problem beyond even the faintest hope of a solution.

WORKS CONSULTED
 
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AN INTELLIGENT PERSONS GUIDE TO CATHOLICISM, Alban McCoy, Continuum, London and New York, 1997
AN INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHICAL ANALYSIS, John Hospers, Routledge, London, 1992
APOLOGETICS AND CATHOLIC DOCTRINE, Part 1, Most Rev M Sheehan DD, MH Gill, & Son, Dublin, 1954
APOLOGETICS FOR THE PULPIT, Aloysius Roche, Burns Oates & Washbourne LTD, London, 1950
AQUINAS, FC Copleston, Penguin Books, London, 1991
ARGUING WITH GOD, Hugh Sylvester, IVP, London, 1971
ASKING THEM QUESTIONS, Various, Oxford University Press, London, 1936
BELIEVING IN GOD, PJ McGrath, Wolfhound Press, Dublin, 1995
BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, Friedrich Nietzsche, Penguin, London, 1990
CITY OF GOD, St Augustine, Penguin Books, Middlesex, 1986
CONTROVERSY: THE HUMANIST CHRISTIAN ENCOUNTER, Hector Hawton, Pemberton Books, London, 1971
CRITIQUES OF GOD, Edited by Peter A Angeles, Prometheus Books, New York, 1995
DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION, David Hume, William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1907
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DOING AWAY WITH GOD? Russell Stannard, Marshall Pickering, London, 1993
EVIL AND THE GOD OF LOVE, John Hicks, Fontana, 1977
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IN DEFENCE OF THE FAITH, Dave Hunt, Harvest House, Eugene Oregon, 1996
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THE WEB
  
THE ARGUMENT FROM EVIL AND THE EXISTENCE OF GOD by Michael Tooley.
www.colorado.edu/philosophy/wes/Tooley2.html
 
FINITISM AND THE PROBLEM OF EVIL, R Dennis Potter,
http://www.nd.edu/~rpotter/courses/finitism.htm
 
THE FREE WILL ARGUMENT FOR THE NON-EXISTENCE OF GOD by Dan Barker
www.ffrf.org/fttoday/august97/barker.html
 
AUGUSTINE AND THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF MORAL ACTION
http://www.minerva.mic.ul.ie//vol6/augustine.html