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Sceptical theism

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K3583-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2015
Retrieved June 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Sceptical theists are theists who are sceptical of our abilities to discern whether the evils in our world constitute good evidence against the existence of God. According to sceptical theists, the human mind is limited in such a way that it would not at all be surprising that God would have reasons that are beyond our understanding for allowing the evils of our world. For that reason, we are not licensed to conclude that what look like pointless evils to us are really pointless evils. For all we know, the evils in our world are necessary to secure some greater good or prevent an evil equally bad or worse. The sceptical element of sceptical theism can be used to undermine various arguments for atheism including both the argument from evil and the argument from divine hiddenness.

Many trace the seeds of this view to the book of Job in the Hebrew scriptures, and it was developed by various modern thinkers, starting with Descartes and Hume. Contemporary philosophers have further refined sceptical theism into a family of related views, each with a different defence. These defences include appeals to analogies (for example the parent/child relationship), appeals to the limitations of our grasp of the moral realm and appeals to epistemic requirements (for example sensitivity requirements or contextual requirements). Sceptical theism has been criticized in a variety of ways including charges that sceptical theism falsely implies a consequentialist view of ethics, that consistent sceptical theism results in moral paralysis, that sceptical theism implies a more pervasive (or even global) form of scepticism and that sceptical theism reduces to absurdity.

Citing this article:
McBrayer, Justin. Sceptical theism, 2015, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K3583-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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