The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil
Continuum, $24.95, 224 pp.
Brian Davies has written an excellent volume on God and evil. The book is remarkable in a number of ways, including its brevity (given the subject matter), its clarity, and its depth (given its brevity and clarity). Davies, a Dominican friar and professor of philosophy at Fordham University, has already produced one of the best introductory works on the thought of Thomas Aquinas. Now he takes his considerable intellectual skills to a cluster of perennial questions about the implications of evil for belief in God.
Some philosophical confusion regarding the significance of evil can be avoided by carefully adopting Aquinas’s philosophical theology. Consider the case of antitheists who argue that claims about the existence of a theistic God lead people to expect that the world would not be marked by evil. Since there is evil, the conclusion runs, then such a God cannot exist. Davies responds by arguing that because God alone necessarily exists, and everything else that exists does so only because God has chosen to create this kind of universe and not another, there is no purely logical (as distinct from scientific) basis for saying that we should expect the universe to be structured in one way rather than another. We are not in a position to claim, as some antitheists do, that if God exists, we should expect the world to be lacking in evil. According to Davies, since “we have no means of determining what logically...