Marilyn Adams on Evil


Philosophy Bites is a free podcast offered by the Open University in which top philosophers are interviewed on interesting topics (including such cool things as ‘the Yuk factor’) for around 12-20 minutes. This episode sees major Christian philosopher Marilyn Adams interviewed on the subject of evil, though the interview spreads out to discuss her faith more broadly.

This is particularly relevant and interesting for several reasons:

  1. Adams is referenced and discussed by Gregory MacDonald in The Evangelical Universalist.
  2. Adams has a non-traditional spin on the problem of evil
  3. Philosophy Bites is normally relentlessly secular. Nigel Warburton, the main presenter, does a lot of work for the British Humanist Association. The closest PB have come to giving sensible Christian philosophers airtime include: Don Cupitt (who doesn’t believe in God as a being), Keith Ward (who wasn’t talking about religion) and Anthony Kenny (who is no longer a believer)!


Nice link, Qoh; thanks! Will listen through it presently.


Well, that certainly is an approach to the problem of evil that I hadn’t heard before. Although not a complete picture of her views I’m sure, I thought her approach was interesting in that it sounds very similar to my own views. Specifically what interested me was her suggestion that we try to use the notion of free-will to get God off the hook in terms of the evils we see, but I think she rightly points out that we can’t do this. This is one of the problems I personally have with the notion of human free-will (as typically expressed) and I think I find myself more in Marilyn’s camp with respect to sovereignty.

For me, the answer to the problem of evil is that God does more than merely allow evil; He uses it intentionally to accomplish His greater purposes; in other words, it’s part of the plan. This fits in nicely with CU, as I see it.


Hi Melchizedeck, I don’t think we’ve met.

We had an earlier discussion on this site on God’s responsibility for evil (viewtopic.php?f=47&t=279) and there was a lot of agreement similar to what you propose.

See here: … s&pg=PA250 for a longer introduction to Adams’ viewpoint on evil. It’s so interesting because it’s so different to everything else on the topic! :slight_smile:


Ah, Thanks Qoh; I’ll check it out.