Divine sovereignty and the religious problem of evil: An evaluation of evangelical models
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SubjectGood and evil -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
God -- Righteousness.
Providence and government of God.
Suffering -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
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This dissertation evaluates three evangelical models, namely, Open theism, Arminianism, and Calvinism in terms of how these models of divine sovereignty function to comfort suffering Christians. Central to this evaluation is discovering the various degrees of equivocation each model affords Christians in trusting God to bring good out of evil. Chapter 1 explores the nature of the religious problem of evil and distinguishes it from the logical and evidential problems of evil. Three evangelical models are introduced with attention given to their different conceptions of God's relationship to suffering. This chapter provides the background for evaluating each model. Chapter 2 provides additional background by establishing a biblical and theological context for thinking about divine agency and suffering. Two biblical texts (i.e., Romans 8:28 and the book of Job) are briefly introduced as the main passages for evaluating each model for exegetical accuracy. Special emphasis is given to each model's preferred theological term for understanding divine agency. Chapters 3-5 follow the same basic outline. The first part of each chapter is descriptive. Each model's conception of divine sovereignty is explained followed by its application to the religious problem of evil. The second part of each chapter evaluates the respective model based on three criteria, namely, internal consistency, exegetical accuracy, and existential adequacy. Strengths and weakness are pointed out in each model. It is argued that the Openness model is the weakest model for providing confidence in God's ability to bring good out of evil. It is argued that the Arminian model provides greater assurances than Open theism but not as much as Calvinism does. It is argued that the Calvinist model provides the highest level of confidence in God's ability to bring an eschatological resolution to suffering. Chapter 6 summarizes the material presented in chapters 1-5. On the basis of the conclusions reached through the evaluation of each model, it is suggested that the Calvinist model of divine sovereignty possesses a greater potential for handling the religious problem of evil than does the Openness and Arminian models.