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Infinite Paths to Infinite RealitySri Ramakrishna and Cross-Cultural Philosophy of Religion$
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Ayon Maharaj

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190868239

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190868239.001.0001

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A Cross-Cultural Approach to the Problem of Evil

A Cross-Cultural Approach to the Problem of Evil

Sri Ramakrishna, the Rowe-Alston Debate, and Hick’s Soul-Making Theodicy

(p.281) 8 A Cross-Cultural Approach to the Problem of Evil
Infinite Paths to Infinite Reality

Ayon Maharaj

Oxford University Press

This chapter adopts a cross-cultural approach to the problem of evil by bringing Sri Ramakrishna into conversation with recent analytic philosophers. Maharaj begins by exploring the philosophical resonances between Sri Ramakrishna’s skeptical theism and William Alston’s skeptical theist refutation of William Rowe’s argument from evil. On the one hand, Maharaj draws on Alston’s skeptical theist response to Rowe as a means of developing and defending Sri Ramakrishna’s own skeptical theist position. On the other, Maharaj argues that Alston’s failure to consider Indian karma-based theodicies significantly weakens his argument. Maharaj then brings Sri Ramakrishna’s saint-making theodicy into dialogue with Hick’s “soul-making” theodicy. Hick’s convincing arguments for the necessity of evil in a soul-making environment lend support to Sri Ramakrishna’s saint-making theodicy. However, Maharaj also identifies major weaknesses in Hick’s soul-making theodicy, which stem from Hick’s assumption of a one-life-only paradigm and his neglect of mystical experience. On this basis, Maharaj argues that Sri Ramakrishna’s mystically grounded saint-making theodicy, which presupposes the doctrines of karma and rebirth, has significant advantages over Hick’s theodicy.

Keywords:   Sri Ramakrishna, problem of evil, argument from evil, William Rowe, William Alston, John Hick, skeptical theism, soul-making theodicy, theodicy, cross-cultural theodicy

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