The Problem of Evil: Religion's Greatest Challenge
- 1.5 hours on-demand video
- Full lifetime access
- Access on mobile and TV
- Certificate of Completion
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- Students will explore the problem of evil, and why it is a challenge to the classical theistic religions of the West. We will explore various solutions, particularly those offered by Judaism.
- There are no prerequisites.
We will study the problem of evil in the eyes of Western theistic religions, particularly Judaism. If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, how could God allow a world filled with suffering. We will seek answers both in Jewish tradition and more generally, in Western tradition. After looking a the book of Job, we will explore rabbinic approaches to the problem of evil. Finally in a series of lectures, we will explore whether God is truly all-powerful, whether God is truly all good, why human evil, and why natural evil.
- The course will have a particular appeal to Jewish students, but will have insights for anyone interested in religion or philosophy.
We will begin with the Biblical book of Job and how it struggles with God's justice in the face of evil. We will then turn to Rabbinic literature and the story of the rabbi who became a heretic Elisha ben Abuyah. Finally, we will look at how various thinkers attempted to understand God in the face of the Holocaust.
We will look at the idea of fate which was a fundamental Greek idea. Christianity developed two alternative views of theodicy based on the writings of Augustine and Irenaeus. We will also explore an Islamic approach to theodicy from the Muslim theologian Nursi. Finally, we will delve into Western philosophy by exploring Leibniz's belief that we live in "the best of all possible worlds."
Perhaps God is not all powerful. We will begin with Harold Kushner's classical book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Then we will explore the Jewish idea of hester panim (God hiding God's face), often called the eclipse of God. This will lead to a study of Lurianic Kabbalah, and the idea of tzimtzum or God's self-contraction.
The prophet 2nd Isaiah taught that God created both good and evil. Perhaps this is a reaction to the ancient idea that there are two different creative forces at work in the universe, a good force and an evil force. We will look at Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, and Manichaeism, before turning to the Western idea of Satan.