Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Philosophy in Theology and Apologetics (PhD)


Ronnie Campbell


Christological, Incarnation, Suffering, Pain, Problem of evil, epistemology, knowing, ignorance, incognizance, cognitive, omnibenevolent, higher-order goods, patristics, Augustine, Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, immaterial, mind, body, will, soul, transworld, theodicy, defense, reconciliation, intellect, sentient beings, free will, hermeneutics, transformation, theosis, divinization, regularities, massive irregularities, allegory, broken relationships, Vanhoozer, Stump, Daley, Plantinga


Practical Theology | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


At issue is the question of whether it is logically consistent to embrace the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God in the presence of evil and suffering. Many factors prima facie seem to indicate that the existence of such a God in the presence of an abundance of pain, evil, and suffering is logically incoherent. If such a God does exist, why does He allow the evil and suffering that He does? Hume asserts, such a being should be capable of preventing evil and suffering. Van Inwagen argues that the existence of a world that is constantly modified to override the laws of nature by preventing evil and suffering, Hume’s happy world, would be massively irregular. Furthermore, Van Inwagen counters that an adequate defense can demonstrate that seemingly incoherent facts are not necessarily evidence against a theory. Therefore, is it possible to construct a defense that could satisfy some of Hume’s demands without causing massive irregularities? Can the construction of a possible world reconcile some of the demands of Hume’s hedonic Utopia with Van Inwagen’s objections? Is it possible to develop a middle ground—a middle world—that might behave as a defense against the problem of suffering? A Patristic Christological Defense explores potential options that may be available for how an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God may overcome evil and suffering, should He decide to do so. A possible world capable of making a Patristic Christological Defense against the problem of suffering caused by broken relationships must include 1. An omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God who cares about justice. 2. Should He decide to counter suffering, He must also behave within certain self-imposed limitations that were set the moment that creatures with moral competencies came into being. 3. This possible world must also include higher-level freewill, sentient creatures who are subject to natural laws (regularity), like the actual world. And finally, 4. these morally culpable creatures must also have the intellectual capacity to detect suffering but are limited in their scope as to why they suffer. Higher-level freewill, sentient creatures, in any possible world, will possess significantly less knowledge than their creator. Outside of the cognizance of these creatures, it is reasonable to believe that immaterial realms exist through which an omnibenevolent God can act. This project aims to build a creative defense utilizing the conduit of the immaterial realm (soul, mind, and will) of the Patristic view of the Incarnation by exploring the ontological implications of the Incarnation and the existential application of the Incarnation through biblical narratives as the Patristics saw them, which may, in turn, yield some morally sufficient reasons (not necessarily actual reasons) in a possible world for God allowing suffering caused by broken relationships.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 24, 2024