Evil and Christian Ethics

Evil and Christian Ethics

Evil and Christian Ethics

Evil and Christian Ethics


Genocide in Rwanda, multiple murder in Denver or Dunblane, the gruesome activities of serial killers--what makes these great evils, and why do they occur? In addressing such questions this book interconnects contemporary moral philosophy with recent work in New Testament scholarship. The conclusions to emerge are surprising. Gordon Graham argues that the inability of modernist thought to account satisfactorily for evil and its occurrence should not lead us to embrace an eclectic postmodernism, but to take seriously some unfashionable premodern conceptions--Satan, demonic possession, spiritual powers, cosmic battles. The book makes a powerful case for the rejection of humanism and naturalism, and for explaining the moral obligation to struggle against evil by reference to the New Testament's cosmic narrative.


Weary of the historicism, psychologism and relativism of the scientific study of religion, people long for revelation and demand a scientific approach to the Bible which does justice to its claim to be revelation.

Otto Eissfeldt (Quoted in Watson 1997: 19)

In his book Facing Evil, a book that addresses many of the themes with which I am concerned here, John Kekes remarks that 'Christianity is another way of succumbing to false hope'. This book, though not a point by point response to Kekes (to whom I shall refer only occasionally), aims to refute that contention — not just to deny it, or to represent another point of view, but to refute it, and to do so in a way that makes my reasoning as transparently open to criticism as I can make it. There is no better task that philosophy can perform, in my view, than to construct clear and rigorous arguments about perennially important topics.

'Refute' overstates the case perhaps. To be realistic, my aim is the slightly more modest one of providing compelling (admittedly not conclusive) reasons for thinking Kekes's view to be false. The way in which I propose to do so, however, cannot claim any fundamental originality. With considerable adaptation and extension, the elements of the line of thought I shall pursue are to be found in Kant's second Critique, the Critique of Practical Reason. My argument is essentially a version of his socalled 'moral argument for the existence of God'. Kant was one of the towering geniuses of Western thought. I am not. How then could I expect to improve on what he has to say?

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