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The Soul-Making Theodicy:
A Response to Dore

2. Our Obligation to Minimize Suffering

2.3 Dore's Escape to Faith

In a later essay, Dore [1974: 361f] tries a completely different approach in attempting to explain the dichotomy between God's utilitarian obligations to cause and permit instances of suffering-cum-virtuous responses and our contrary obligations. Dore's argument is this.

Book cover: Evil and the God of Love by John Hick
  1. Proposition Q is the proposition, 'The value of the ends which the theodicist claims are served by suffering is great enough to outweigh the suffering which serves those ends.'
  2. Principle R is, 'When someone, S, holds a proposition, p, only as an item of faith, then his belief in the truth of p cannot legitimately be cited as a justification (or part of a justification) for his performing a prima facie immoral action.'
  3. R is true.
  4. Causing suffering when one can do otherwise is prima facie immoral.
  5. God knows that Q is true.
  6. The theodicist believes Q only as an item of faith.

As Dore points out, statements (1), (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6) entail 'God's knowing Q justifies his causing suffering-cum-virtuous responses. But, he concludes, the theodicist's belief in Q only as an item of faith cannot justify his causing suffering-cum-virtuous responses'.

Even though Dore [1974: 360, n. 5] regards this new reply to be more satisfactory than his previous reply, I consider it to be much less satisfactory. Although a lot could be said here against Dore's presentation of his argument, the crucial objection to it is that he has abdicated his role as a theodicist. Dore has shown that the 'soul-making' theodicy can be made internally coherent, but, as I have argued above in §1, this is insufficient for a theodicy to be acceptable. The problem of theodicy-making is not the problem of demonstrating logical consistency between the theist's beliefs that God exists and that evil exists and the acceptance of some normative moral theory, for any number of morally objectionable normative theories can easily satisfy this condition. Dore must demonstrate the consistency of these beliefs with an adequate normative theory. But here Dore declines the task, for the crucial normative premise needed to justify God's causing and permitting suffering (that is, proposition Q), Dore admits the theodicist to believe only as an item of faith. And for Dore [1974: 362], for a proposition to be believed as an item of faith, the believer must truly believe that it would be at least as rational for him not to believe it as to believe it. However, if no attempt has been made to justify rationally the belief that God, if he exists, does have a morally sufficient reason for permitting suffering, then no attempt has been made to provide a theodicy.

Dore could reply here that he has shown that the 'soul-making' theodicist can consistently believe that soul-making justifies the occurrence of suffering and accept that the theodicist himself cannot justifiably cause suffering for the sake of evoking virtuous responses. This is true, but I must reiterate that for a theodicy to succeed, internal coherence is insufficient. The purported reason that God has for causing and permitting suffering must be shown to be a morally sufficient reason.

Copyright © 2015

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