Skeptical theism

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Skeptical theism is a view taken in response to the evidential problem of evil in the philosophy of religion. Skeptical theists accept that God exists and that we can know general truths about God but denies that in any particular case we can know the reasons for God acting in a particular way.


The argument that skeptical theism is primarily responding to is the evidentiary problem of evil, which argues for the impossibility of God upon this basis:

  1. If an omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipotent God exists, there should be no gratuitous evil.
  2. There exists instances of gratuitous evil.
  3. Therefore, an omniscient, omnibenveolent and omnipotent God does not exist.

The skeptical theist argues that on the basis of our limited knowledge of the reasons for God's actions, we cannot know the second premise.[1]

In other formulations of the skeptical theism hypothesis, it has been described as the denial of the proposition that "If, after thinking hard, we can’t think of any God-justifying reason for permitting some horrific evil then it is likely that there is no such reason."[2]

Consequences for morality

A critical response to the skeptical theist proposal is that accepting the argument is akin to adopting a skeptical approach to morality. The argument goes that if one is unable to determine whether some particular good or evil is truly good or evil, such that we cannot even believe that there exists at least one instance of gratuitous evil, how can we be said to have any meaningful morality?[2][3]


  1. Skeptical Theism, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bergmann, Michael; Michael Rea (2005). "In Defense of Skeptical Theism: A Reply to Almeida and Oppy". Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83: 241–51.
  3. Jordan, Jeff (March 2006). "Does Skeptical Theism Lead to Moral Skepticism?". Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72 (2): 403–417. DOI:10.1111/j.1933-1592.2006.tb00567.x. Research Blogging.