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December 31, 2023

Added Review of The Problem of Animal Pain: A Theodicy for All Creatures Great and Small (2023) by Liz Goodnick to the Evidential Arguments from Evil page under Arguments for Atheism in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

In The Problem of Animal Pain: A Theodicy for All Creatures Great and Small, Trent Dougherty claims that animal suffering is a logically necessary part of a world that contains the greatest goods—expression of the saintly virtues. He claims that even animal pain will be defeated insofar as animals will be resurrected as persons (think of the talking animals of C. S. Lewis’ Narnia) who will come to embrace their role (including their suffering) in the drama of creation. Dougherty claims that if he can show that his saint-making theodicy makes the existence of animal pain unsurprising given the existence of God, and if he can show that his theodicy doesn’t reduce the prior probability of God’s existence, then he will “screen off” the disconfirmatory power that the existence of evil bears on the existence of God. In this review, Liz Goodnick deftly questions Dougherty’s reasoning, particularly since the saintly virtues are only appropriate responses to a world that contains the kinds and as much suffering as this world does in the first place, and independently may not be worth that tremendous cost.

New in the Kiosk: A Lawyer Evaluates Evidence of Supernatural Events (2023) by Robert G. Miller

Christian apologists often claim to have “strong” evidence for Jesus’ resurrection—but compared to what? The arguments of legal apologists are a far cry from those found in actual courtrooms, for a court will compare the case at hand against previous cases (or precedent) to determine the strength of the evidence for a claim. But in case law the physical facts rule prevents the consideration of claims of supernatural events, so no such precedent exists. In this essay Robert Miller nevertheless compares the kind of evidence that apologists offer for the resurrection of Jesus against the evidence appealed to by Spiritualists and Mormons for their claims, as well as against the sort of “corroborating” evidence used to prop up urban legends. Miller concludes that when it comes to evidentiary factors like public demonstration, hearsay, multiple attestation, and early recordation, the evidence appealed to by Spiritualists—as poor as it is—is still far superior to that appealed to for Jesus’ resurrection.

Recommended reading: That I May Dwell Among Them: Incarnation and Atonement in the Tabernacle Narrative (2023) by Gary Anderson

In That I May Dwell Among Them Gary Anderson shows how passages in Exodus and Leviticus that detail the construction, furnishing, and liturgical use of the tabernacle—the tabernacle narrative—shed light on incarnation and atonement in both ancient Israel’s theology and Christian theology. Anderson explains how the chronology of the narrative reflects sacred time, how the Israelites saw divine features in the physical aspects of the tabernacle, and how Isaac’s sacrifice foreshadowed the sacrificial rite revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Ultimately, Anderson shows how the Old Testament can deepen our understanding of the New Testament Gospels. Careful analysis of the tabernacle narrative shows that sacrifice in the Old Testament does not connote pental substitution, but rather self-emptying as an antidote to sin.