Faith in the Face of Evil:
Kant’s Solutions to Five Standard Theological Problems
1. Critical Theodicy and the Problem of Evil
The fact that Kant’s Critical religion as expounded in Kt8 is grounded so firmly in the assumption that human beings must struggle to overcome evil gives rise to several problems for his Critical theology—problems that have vexed philosophical theologians long before and after Kant. This appendix will examine four problems typically addressed by philosophical theologians but not bound up too closely in Kant’s case with his systematic account of the nature of religion. Because Kant’s solution to each of these problems does not constitute any of the formal elements of systemr, we can deal with them separately at this point. First we shall look at how Kant thinks the reality of evil impinges on the moral concept of God, as presented in V.4. The second section will then deal with two of the three ‘difficulties’ Kant raises in Book Two of Kt8, concerning how a moral God can forgive a person’s present and past sins (i.e., personal evil). The remaining difficulty, relating to assurance of future salvation, will be examined in AVI.3. The final section will then clarify some common misunderstandings about Kant’s views on the age-old controversy over the relationship between faith and works.
For Kant the ‘problem of evil’ is not a mere logical conundrum to be overcome with a clever argument; it is an existential threat posed by the reality of evil in human life, directly
challenging the rationality of our moral concept of God and therefore calling into question the legitimacy of believing in such a God. Thus, in the two main texts where Kant deals with this problem most fully [viz., Kt26:1076-81(115-21) and Kt64], he relates it directly to the three moral attributes we discussed in V.4: moral evil challenges God’s holiness; natural evil challenges God’s benevolence; and the inequity in the way the latter relates to the former (i.e., the fact that bad things often happen to good people and vice versa) challenges God’s justice [see Fig. AVI.1; cf. Fig. V.5].