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Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion$
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Jonathan Kvanvig

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198722335

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198722335.001.0001

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The Ecclesiological Problem of Evil

The Ecclesiological Problem of Evil

(p.245) 11 The Ecclesiological Problem of Evil
Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion

N. N. Trakakis

Oxford University Press

The problem of evil is ordinarily understood as the attempt to reconcile the existence of a perfectly loving God with the realities of evil and suffering. Although this problem continues to receive much attention in philosophy of religion, an ecclesiological variant of the problem remains neglected. The ‘ecclesiological problem of evil’, as it will be called, consists in the attempt to reconcile the traditional attribution of ‘holiness’ to the church with the empirical reality of the church as rife with sin and abuse. This chapter begins by clarifying the ecclesiological problem, principally by clarifying what it means to call the church ‘holy’ and ‘sinful’. The chapter then examines four possible solutions to the problem: exclusivism; an eschatological understanding of the church’s holiness; the notion that the church ‘as such’ is holy, even though its members are sinful; and Hans Küng’s view of the holiness of the church as something bestowed on it by God. Each of these four proposals is rejected as inadequate. In the final part of the chapter, an alternative solution is developed which remains committed to the idea of the church as both holy and sinful, but regards the sinfulness of the church, as much as its holiness, as integral to the church’s being or nature.

Keywords:   problem of evil, church, ecclesiology, holiness, sin, Hans Küng

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