On Friday we received copies of God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain edited by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr. The book features a number of scholars who address various aspects of this thorny problem (see end of this post for table of contents). Also included as an appendix is the debate between William Lane Craig and Michel Tooley, “Theism, Atheism and the Problem of Evil.” As I was browsing the chapters I noticed the chapter by Charles Taliaferro on “Evil and Prayer: Set Prayers and Other Special Weapons and Tactics in Times of Trouble.” In a book chuck full of philosophical speculation and argumentation on the problem of evil this chapter seemed oddly out of place. As I perused it I found it wonderfully encouraging. Consider these paragraphs:
“As for why some prayers are answered and some not, this seems not to be a matter that is any more or less grave than as to why good things happen to some people when this is underserved and bad things happen that are underserved. If Christian theism is true, God has elected to not be overwhelmingly obvious or even so evident that one cannot without loss of integrity resist acknowledging God’s reality. If every petitionary prayer were answered on the time specified by the petitioner, God might even be thought of as an instrument or tool for earthly benefits.”
“There is also a good involved in prayers that are not answered, and not just because sometimes the prayer itself may be misguided or based on bad motives. Sometimes simply aligning oneself with the good aims of God can itself be good. Here for example, the sections from ‘A Night Litany’ in the Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book (‘V’ stands for the one leading the prayer, and ‘R’ is for the response):
V: On all who are out tonight, the homeless, the weary, the starving, the suicide, the intemperate. On those who are out for sin.
R: Have mercy. . . .
V: For the sick and suffering, and all who are enduring any agony of body or mind,
R: Comfort them.
V: For all undergoing operations,
R: Strengthen them, Jesus, and help them in body and soul.
V: For the sleepless and lonely,
R: Be near them.
V: For those in anxiety, nervous or mental distress,
R: Calm them. . . .
V: For those who this night must suffer bereavement,
R: Visit and sustain them.
V: For those whom this will be their last night on earth,
R: Deepen their contrition and receive their souls. . . .
V: By thy holy death,
R: Deliver us, Jesus.
“Most Christians would (I think) say these prayers are all answered, though not necessarily in this life. The suicidal may still commit suicide, despite the repeated petition on their behalf. But in praying this prayer, the petitioner’s mind and soul cannot but be attuned to the needs of others such that she or he is strengthened in helping others.” (159-60)
God and Evil is from IVP books. It is a paperback with 360 pages and sells for $24.00. Here is the table of contents:
Part One: What is Evil and Why is it a Problem?
1. Evidential Problems of Evil
Gregory E. Ganssle and Yena Lee
2. Logical Problems of Evil
James K. Dew Jr.
3. God and Gratuitous Evil
Part Two: Some Reasons God Might Allow Evil
4. Natural Evil: A “Free Process” Defense
5. Augustine and the Problem of Evil
R. Douglas Geivett
6. The Irenaean Soul-Making Theodicy
7. Leibniz and the Best of All Possible Worlds
Jill Graper Hernandez
Part Three: Evil and Other Relevant Themes
8. Evil and Primeval Sin
9. Evil and Original Sin
10. Evil and the Hiddenness of God
11. Evil and Prayer
12. Evil, the Resurrection and the Example of Jesus
13. Evil in Non-Christian Religions
14. Evil and the New Atheism
15. Evil as Evidence for Christianity
Gregory E. Ganssle
Part Four: Issues in Dialogue
16. Diversity, Evil and Hell: A Particularist Approach
William Lane Craig
17. God and Hell Reconciled
Kyle Blanchette and Jerry Walls
18. Evil, Creation and Intelligent Design
19. Evil, Creation and Evolution
Karl W. Giberson and Francis S. Collins
Appendix: The Craig-Tooley Debate: Theism, Atheism and the Problem of Evil
William Lane Craig and Michael Tooley