CHAPTER 4
Forces of light and forces of darkness

In the previous chapter I quoted John Kekes as a representative of the humanist explanation of value. This is allied, in Facing Evil, to the belief in naturalism which he also describes as part of 'our modern sensibility'.

Western heirs of the Enlightenment [are] people whose sensibility is formed, negatively, by the rejection of all forms of supernaturalism and, positively, by the combined beliefs that whatever exists or happens is natural, that the best approach to understanding their causes is scientific, that while human beings are part of the natural world, we still have some control over our lives, and that one chief purpose for exercising the control we have is to make good lives for ourselves. I call this our sensibility to indicate that many people in contemporary Western societies and elsewhere share it … (Kekes 1990: 11, emphasis original)

Kekes thinks, correctly in my view, that evil presents a problem to such a mentality no less great than it does to the traditional Christian account of moral experience. There is, as he puts it, a 'secular problem of evil'. In the last chapter I was concerned to reveal the inadequacies of the humanistic element in 'our modern sensibility' in dealing satisfactorily with the reality of evil as a challenge to moral endeavour, despite Kekes's best efforts. But there is another dimension on which we must also deal with evil — namely its explanation: why it happens. Is it true that, faced with some of the appalling occurrences we find perpetuated against, and by, human beings, 'the best approach to understanding their causes is scientific'? 'Our modern sensibility' as described, accurately, by Kekes, has in fact two components, humanism and naturalism. In the previous

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Evil and Christian Ethics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • New Studies in Christian Ethics *
  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • General Editor's Preface xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Chapter 1 - Christian Ethics or Moral Theology? 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Real Jesus 29
  • Chapter 3 - Evil and Action 74
  • Chapter 4 - Forces of Light and Forces of Darkness 119
  • Chapter 5 - The Transformation of Evil 161
  • Chapter 6 - The Theology of Hope 205
  • Bibliography 230
  • Index 235
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