A Review of Loke, Andrew Ter Ern, Evil, Sin, and Christian Theism, 2022. Pp. ix + 242. Hardback $252.00 USD.

16 May 2022


Defining Evil

  • “evil refers to ‘any bad state of affairs, wrongful action, or character flaw’ (Calder 2018)” (Loke, 16). Calder, Todd (2018). ‘The Concept of Evil.’ In Edward N. Zalta (ed.) The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 edn) <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/concept-evil/>.

  • “Moral evils (e.g. murder and lying) are bad states of affairs which result from the intentions or negligence of moral agents” (Loke, 16).

  • “a natural evil is a ‘suffering due to earthquake, disease and the like … that can not be ascribed to the free action of human beings’ (Plantinga 1998, p. 48”) (Loke, 16). Plantinga, Alvin (1998). The Analytic Theist: An Alvin Plantinga Reader. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.


Evil as a privation

  • “The privation thesis is not a thesis about the existence of evil but a thesis about the nature of evil … it is the claim that evil is not a positive substance, that is, not an individual thing (unlike e.g., a cat which is an individual thing), but a lack of a certain property, the absence of good. (Woudenberg 2013, p. 179)” (Loke, 16) Woudenberg, Rene (2013). ‘A Brief History of Theodicy.’ In Dan Howard-Snyder and Justin McBrayer (eds) The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Blackwell.


The logical argument from evil

  1. “If God is all knowing, he knows when evil might exist.

  2. If God is all powerful, he can prevent evil.

  3. If God is all good, he would prevent evil.

  4. Evil exists.

  5. Therefore, an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good God does not exist.” (Loke, 17)


Burden of proof

  • “Since the argument from evil is raised by the atheist as an argument against the existence of God, the atheist bears burden of proof” (Loke, 18).


Theodicy vs. defence

  • “a theodicy as an attempt to provide an account of why God (if he exists) actually permits the evils in the world, whereas a defence is an attempt to provide an account of the possible reasons which God (if he exists) might have for permitting the evils in the world, and/or why we might not know of these reasons even if they exist.” (Loke, 18).


Free will defence

  • “God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil. (Plantinga 1977, p. 30)” (Loke, 18) Plantinga, Alvin (1977). God, Freedom and Evil. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.


Transworld depravity

  • “An essence suffers from transworld depravity iff for every world W such that E entails the properties is significantly free in W and always does what is right in W, there is a time t and action A at t such that (1) A is morally significant for E’s instantiation in W at t, and (2) If God had (weakly) actualized the initial segment of W up to t, E’s instantiation would have gone wrong with respect to A.” (Loke, 19)

-Plantinga, Alvin (2009). ‘Transworld Depravity, Transworld Sanctity, & Uncooperative Essences.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (1): 178–191.

-Otte, R. (2009). ‘Transworld Depravity and Unobtainable Worlds.’ Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 78 (1): 165–177.


Argument from the origin of evil

  • “A sceptic might ask: why wouldn’t God be the source of moral evil?” (Loke, 20).

  • “a perfect being—precisely because of his perfect goodness and love—might freely create creatures (e.g. angels, humans) that have significantly morally valuable freedom (see Section 2.4) for his perfectly loving purpose of wanting to bless these creatures, and this entails the possibility that these creatures might freely choose to make the world less perfect than it was previously” (Loke, 21).


Argument from ignorance and sceptical theism

  • “The foregoing approach to the problem of evil which highlights the fact that there might be moral reasons which we might not know about for why God allows evil is often called sceptical theism” (Loke, 22).


Christian theism and the origin of evil and sin (chp 3)

  • “Sin is an offence against a personal holy God, whether intentional or unintentional. Scriptural passages which portray a state of bondage to sin (e.g. Romans 7:17) do not exclude the possibility that this bondage may have resulted from earlier libertarian free choices for which the person is responsible; and thus they do not support theological compatibilism. Libertarian freedom does not require that free creatures could have done otherwise for every act done of their own free wills, but it does require that they could have done otherwise with respect to some acts in their past life histories by which they formed their present characters, by which some acts would then be determined (Kane 2007, pp. 14–15).” (Loke, 69)

Kane, Robert (2007). ‘Libertarianism.’ In John Martin Fischer, Robert Kane, Derk Pereboom, and Manuel Vargas. Four Views on Free Will. Malden, MA: Blackwell.


Sin (cont)

  • “Using the distinction between the desirative will and permissive will of God, the ‘Middle Knowledge’ account of divine providence, and the Libertarian account of creaturely freedom, I have argued that God did not create evil. […] I have argued that God created free creatures for which it is natural (and not an evil) that they have desires for good things. However, a creature with libertarian freedom may freely choose to regard these good things and its own self-interest to be more important than God himself, and hence freely chose to reject God and brought about the origination of evil. Even though God is the cause of free creatures, God is not the cause of their moral evil choices; rather, given libertarian freedom these free creatures are the ‘first causes’ of their evil choices, hence they are responsible for them.” (Loke, 69)


Cosmic Conflict Theodicy

  • “Cosmic Conflict Theodicy which proposes that the Angelic Fall preceded the Human Fall and that certain evils could have been caused by fallen angels (i.e. demons)” (Loke, 70).


Evolutionary Evils (the problem of pre-human evils) (chp 4)

  • “Murray’s (2008) argument that those creatures which do not have a nervous system do not suffer pain, whereas those which do have may not truly suffer phenomenological pain (similar to cases of blindsight)” (Loke, 95).

  • “Others (e.g. Collins 2013) argue that God created conscious agents (e.g. angels, humans) which can affect the welfare of other creatures so as to allow for the possibility of eternal bonds of appreciation, contribution, and intimacy (Connection Building Theodicy). Certain evolutionary evils could have resulted from free decisions by angels (O’Halloran 2015, Lloyd 2018) or non-human animals (Moritz 2014; Sollereder 2018, chapter 4) which set the conditions for these evolutionary evils.” (Loke, 95)

-Murray, Michael (2008). Nature Red in Tooth and Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

-Collins, Robin (2013). ‘The Connection Building Theodicy.’ In Dan Howard-Snyder and Justin McBrayer (eds) The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Blackwell.

-O’Halloran, Nathan (2015). ‘Cosmic Alienation and the Origin of Evil: Rejecting the “Only Way” Option.’ Theology and Science 13 (1): 43–63.

-Lloyd, Michael (2018). ‘The Fallenness of Nature: Three Nonhuman Suspects.’ In Stanley Rosenberg (ed.) Finding Ourselves after Darwin: Conversations on the Image of God, Original Sin, and the Problem of Evil. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

-Moritz, Joshua (2014). ‘Animal Suffering, Evolution, and the Origins of Evil: Toward a “Free Creatures” Defense.’ Zygon 49 (2): 348–380.

-Sollereder, Bethany (2018). God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall. Abingdon: Routledge.


​An Afterlife Theodicy

  • “As for those weak creatures which suffered and did not have a chance to live fulfilling lives, they may be comforted by God’s presence in their suffering, and in the afterlife, they would have a chance to flourish. The glories of those creatures whom they had contributed to would be reflected back on them who suffered and made these achievements possible. They would acquire new capacities, and share in the glory of the whole to which they contributed (Sollereder 2016; 2018).” (Loke, 96)

-Sollereder, Bethany (2016). ‘Evolution, Suffering, and the Creative Love of God.’ Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 68 (2): 99–109.

-Sollereder, Bethany (2018). God, Evolution, and Animal Suffering: Theodicy without a Fall. Abingdon: Routledge.


Adamic Fall Theodicy (chp 5)

  • “the traditional Christian account concerning the origin of human evil.” (Loke, 98)

  • “On the Genealogical Adam model which has been defended by Swamidass and myself, sin entered the human race through Adam (Romans 5:12) in the sense that Adam is the first image-of-God bearer (i.e. the first anatomical Homo to be elected by God for the role of royal representative) who sinned, and his sin affected his descendants (see discussion of Original Sin in Chapter 6).” (Loke, 101).

-Swamidass, Joshua (2019). The Genealogical Adam and Eve: The Surprising Science of

Universal Ancestry. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity.

-Loke, Andrew (2020b). ‘Joshua Swamidass’s The Genealogical Adam and Eve.’ Sapientia



Original Sin (chp 6)

  • “Original Guilt is contrary to the principle of justice which is affirmed in many Scriptural passages, viz. a person is guilty for his/her own sins and not those of his/her parents (Deuteronomy 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6; Jeremiah 31:29–30; Ezekiel 18:20).” (Loke, 159)


Connection Building Theodicy

  • “Connection Building Theodicy (Collins 2013), i.e. given that God created humans to have a love relationship not only with him, but also with one another and with the rest of creation, it is inevitable that a person’s actions will necessarily have positive or negative consequences on others.” (Loke, 159)

-Collins, Robin (2013). ‘The Connection Building Theodicy.’ In Dan Howard-Snyder and

-Justin McBrayer (eds) The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil. Oxford:



Corruption-Only view

  1. All human beings except Christ possess Original Sin.

  2. Original Sin is an inherited corruption of nature, a condition that every fallen human being possesses from the first moment of generation.

  3. Fallen humans are not culpable for being generated with this morally vitiated condition.

  4. Fallen humans are not culpable for a first, or primal, sin either. That is, they do not bear Original Guilt (i.e., the guilt of the sin of the first human beings).

  5. A person born with this corruption of nature will normally inevitably commit actual sin.

  6. Fallen human beings are culpable for their actual sins and condemned for them, in the absence of atonement.” (Loke, 159–160)

-McCall, Thomas (2019). Against God and Nature: The Doctrine of Sin. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

-Crisp, Oliver (2020). ‘A Moderate Reformed View.’ In J.B. Stump and Chad Meister (eds) Original Sin and the Fall: Five Views. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity.


Traducianist and Creationist and Hylomorphism

  • “According to Traducianism, God uses parents to create the souls of children, whereas according to Creationism the souls of children are directly created by God either at or soon after biological conception. Pre-existence is the doctrine that God has a ‘stock of souls from eternity and allocates them as needed’ (Baker 2005, p. 370).” (Loke, 151)

  • Hylomorphism (from Greek hylē, “matter”; morphē, “form”)



  • “As explained earlier, the modified hylomorphic theory applies to an immaterial individual by postulating a different kind of stuff from physical matter (call it ‘soul-stuff’) and a different kind of form from universals, such as individual essences. It postulates that the ultimate reality of a being which does individuate is a particular restriction on the specific form, and that restriction is the ‘individual essence’. It is the union of the individual essence with soul-stuff that brings into being particular individuals. This modified hylomorphic theory of human souls can be developed to formulate a view concerning the origination of human souls, according to which soul-stuffs are passed down from parents to children (as noted earlier citing Moreland and Rae, a possible mechanism is that human gametes are ‘carriers’ of DNA and soulish potentialities which, when syngamy takes place, generate a new immaterial, as well as material, substance), whereas the particular restrictions on the form of soul-stuffs are created by God to bring into existence particular individuals.” (Loke, 158)

  • “Just as there are different shapes such as squares, triangles, and circles, likewise there are different persons such as Judas, Peter, and John. If we think of each unique ‘person’ to be a unique ‘shape’ of a soul as a result of a particular restriction on the form of soul-stuffs, one can say that, as the gametes of the human parents meet and the soulish potentialities carried by the gametes generate a new soul, God causes the new soul to take a particular shape. In this way, different persons are directly created by God in accordance with Creationism, and God could have determined the time and place where each person would live. On the other hand, the soul-stuffs which constitute the descendants (as well as the corruption of human nature, in accordance with a certain interpretation of the theory of Original Sin) are passed down from ancestors to their descendants in accordance with Traducianism. In this way, the Traducianist and the Creationist accounts can be combined, and the merits of both can be retained.” (p. 158)

  • “My proposal would resolve the second paradox by saying that, although we received our capacities for willing from our parents (transmitted by the soulish potentialities carried by the gametes) as part of our human natures (exemplified by the ‘soul-stuffs’), our wills become entirely our own as God made us in accordance with the essential properties of each individual personhood (by causing the ‘soul-stuff’ to take on a unique ‘shape’ as a result of a particular restriction on the form of the ‘soul-stuff’).” (p. 159)

Loke, Andrew (2011). ‘Solving a Paradox against Concrete-Composite Christology: A Modified Hylomorphic Proposal.’ Religious Studies 47: 493–502.


The problem of divine hiddenness (chp 7)

  • “the lack of more obvious evidence does not mean that there is no evidence” (p. 176).

  • Further, the Christian God is a God who has revealed himself.

  • Also, “partial hiddenness may be necessary for moral testing, freedom of choice, and fostering of certain virtues (e.g. truth seeking)” (p. 176).


Why isn’t God more obvious? (cont)

  • Since the Christian God did not merely create humans to believe that He exists, but to have a love relationship with him, it could be the case that God has “left behind sufficient evidence for his existence and would make sure via his Middle Knowledge that those people whom he foreknew would be willing to enter into a love relationship with him would eventually get to know about these evidences” (p. 176).

Horrendous and apparently pointless evil (chp 8)

  • Some suffering is deserved, some suffering can prepare one to turn to God (the Good), and to provide moral testing and soul-making.


Why fight to eradicate evil? (chp 9)

  • Chapter 9 clarifies why one should fight to eradicate evil, even if it is part of God’s providential plan for the world, since evil is “related to the wrong free choices of creatures” (p. 207) and ultimately, suffering is “not the way God wanted the world to be” (p. 207, quoting Bishop, “Responses by Bishop to Stump,” 32; italics in original).

  • Further, following the example of Jesus Christ, the God-man who “cared for the sick and healed them, and was willing to sacrifice himself to save others” (p. 208).

  • Also, in the future, “God himself will indeed eradicate evil at the Final Judgement” (p. 209).

Bishop, John (2018a). ‘Responses by Bishop to Stump.’ In N.N. Trakakis (ed.) The Problem of Evil: Eight Views in Dialogue. Oxford: Oxford University Press.