Saturday 8 January 2022

The Problem of Evil - Martin Cyril D'Arcy SJ - CTS Explanations

The Problem of Evil
Martin Cyril D'Arcy SJ
John Haldane (Forward)
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860824814
eISBN 9781784694036
CTS Booklet EX26 and CL24

There are currently two editions of this booklet available. The one from the CTS Explanations series and the one from the CTS 150’s.The first series is one I have been working my way through for a while now. The second is a special collection of reprints issued on the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Catholic Truth Society released in 2018. I have over 200 volumes on my wish list that are from the Catholic Truth Society and have read over 250 over the last several years. This is another great volume in an excellent series no matter which edition you pick up.

The description for the Explanations edition is:

“In this classic text Fr Martin d'Arcy turns his vast intellect to the age-old problem of why God permits innocent suffering. His answers are tightly argued, and he concludes that evil casts no shadow on God but rather where sin abounded, there most of all did love abound. With an introduction by Prof. John Haldane.”

The description of the edition from the 150’s collection is:

“Reconciling belief in a good and all-powerful God with the obvious presence of suffering and evil in the world is one of the classic problems for Christian (and indeed Jewish) philosophy and theology.

The Book of Job famously examines this problem from various angles, and rejects several inadequate explanations. Numerous philosophers and theologians have attempted to answer the question; Martin D’Arcy draws on this rich tradition, and tries to give an account that is both acceptable to an unprejudiced reader, and also (what is more difficult) allows for the possibility not only of accepting the existence of evil in the world, but of giving praise to God for all we experience, good and bad alike. He argues that the Cross shows that God enters into pain and suffering so that evil is not a defeat but an opportunity for God’s love to flourish in exactly the events that seem most to deny it.”

According to Goodreads Father D’Arcy had 29 distinct works available, his profile there states: 

“Martin Cyril D'Arcy SJ (1888–1976) was a Roman Catholic priest, philosopher of love, and a correspondent, friend, and adviser of a range of literary and artistic figures including Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy L. Sayers, W. H. Auden, Eric Gill and Sir Edwin Lutyens. He has been described as "perhaps England's foremost Catholic public intellectual from the 1930s until his death.”

But back to this volume, the chapters in this book are:

Criticism of Wrong Answers
The Real Problem and the Possibility of a Complete Answer
 A. God’s Justice and Goodness
 B. Sin and Human Suffering
 C. The Purpose of Creation

In the forward we are forewarned that:

“A more immediate contrast to present day discussions, however, concerns not what he says but how he says it. D’Arcy writes in a somewhat rhetorical and elaborate manner, often in the course of a sentence re-expressing the same idea, adding another related one or ornamenting the point. This is in part a feature of the period but D’Arcy also aspired to a distinctive, high literary style. By today’s standards this can be seem over-crafted but it is worth remembering that he was writing in something of a golden age of literary journalism and commentary. This was the period of G.K. Chesterton, G.B. Shaw and H.G. Wells and no doubt M.C. D’Arcy sought to match those standards.”

We are also informed that:

“His first point by way of response is that evil may be either natural or moral: harm suffered or evil done. His second is that evil is not a something, a substantial reality, but an absence or privation. Blindness is the lack of sight; cruelty the lack of proper motive, and so on. All that is, has goodness to some degree; but as he writes “evil comes in when something is not, or ceases to be what it ought to be”. Why, then, does God permit such privations? D’Arcy warns us against expecting complete or detailed answers but he points us in several important directions. He proceeds through three stages: first, freeing God of any suspicions of injustice; second, finding positive reason why God should have permitted evil; and third, relating the existence of the world to Divine Love.”

In the introduction it states:

“The presence of evil in this world is a fact which has at all times taxed men’s minds; so much so, indeed, that on this account many have turned away scandalised from God, or found it an inseparable obstacle to belief in His existence. Even Catholics at times seem to feel it as a shadow on God’s goodness, a skeleton, as it were, in the cupboard; with the result that the suppressed doubts and uncertainty which accompany such an unrationalised fear produce a kind of creeping paralysis of faith.”

 And also:

“The simple and correct statement of the question - at stake, then, is: Why does God permit suffering, mental and physical, and the moral evil of sin in this world which He has created and governs? As seen from this statement, there are two kinds of evil, pain, whether physical or mental, and sin. God permits both: He does not cause them directly: never, certainly, sin - and as a rule not even pain. There is no reason why He should not cause pain for a good purpose - and obviously God will always have the best of purposes - but usually the pain we see around us comes from causes other than God, from natural secondary causes and the will of man.”

This volume is an excellent read. A little more academic than some in the series. And One I know I will need to return to again. It is a great read, even if it takes a bit more effort and work. Another wonderful volume in an excellent series from the Catholic Truth Society!   

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2022 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews of other books in the CTS Explanations series click here.

Books in the CTS Explanations Series:
Marriage Annulment in the Catholic Church
Jehovah’s Witnesses
Does the Church oppress Women?
Organ Transplant – and the definition of Death
Be Yourself An Explanation of Humility - William Lawson SJ
Gene Therapy – and Human Genetic Engineering
Prenatal tests
Gift of life and Love
Cloning and Stem Cell Research
Contraception and Chastity
Freemasonry and the Christian Faith
Intelligent Life in the Universe
Spirits, Mediums & The Afterlife

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