Theodicy (/θiːˈɒdɪsi/), in its most common form, is an attempt to
answer the question of why a good
God permits the manifestation of
evil. Some theodicies also address the evidential problem of evil by
attempting "to make the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful and
all-good or omnibenevolent
God consistent with the existence of evil
or suffering in the world." Unlike a defense, which tries to
demonstrate that God's existence is logically possible in the light of
evil, a theodicy attempts to provide a framework wherein God's
existence is also plausible. The German mathematician and
Gottfried Leibniz coined the term "theodicy" in 1710 in
his work Théodicée, though various responses to the problem of evil
had been previously proposed. The British philosopher
John Hick traced
the history of moral theodicy in his 1966 work,
Evil and the
Love, identifying three major traditions:
the Plotinian theodicy, named after Plotinus
the Augustinian theodicy, which Hick based on the writings of
Augustine of Hippo
the Irenaean theodicy, which Hick developed, based on the thinking of
The problem was also analyzed by pre-modern theologians and
philosophers in the Islamic world. German philosopher Max Weber
(1864–1920) saw theodicy as a social problem, based on the human
need to explain puzzling aspects of the world. Sociologist Peter L.
Berger (1929–2017) argued that religion arose out of a need for
social order, and an “implicit theodicy of all social order”
developed to sustain it. Following the Holocaust, a number of
Jewish theologians developed a new response to the problem of evil,
sometimes called anti-theodicy, which maintains that
God cannot be
meaningfully justified. As an alternative to theodicy, a defense has
been proposed by the American philosopher Alvin Plantinga, which is
focused on showing the logical possibility of God's existence.
Plantinga's version of the free-will defence argued that the
God and evil is not logically impossible, and that free
will further explains the existence of evil without threatening the
existence of God.[not verified in body]
Similar to a theodicy, a cosmodicy attempts to justify the fundamental
goodness of the universe, and an anthropodicy attempts to justify the
goodness of humanity.
1 Definition and etymology
2 Reasons for theodicy
3.1 Ancient religions
3.1.1 Biblical theodicy
3.2 Augustinian theodicy
3.3 Irenaean theodicy
3.4 Origenian theodicy
3.5 Relatively minor theodicies
3.6 Islamic world
4.1 Jewish anti-theodicy
4.2 Christian alternatives to theodicy
Free will defense
4.4 Cosmodicy and anthropodicy
4.4.1 Essential kenosis
5 See also
8 External links
Definition and etymology
As defined by Alvin Plantinga, theodicy is the "answer to the question
God permits evil".
Theodicy is defined as a theological
construct that attempts to vindicate
God in response to the evidential
problem of evil that mitigates against the existence of an omnipotent
and omnibenevolent deity. The word theodicy derives from the Greek
words Θεός Τheos and δίκη dikē. Theos is translated "God"
and dikē can be translated as either "trial" or "judgement". Thus,
theodicy literally means "justifying God".
In the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
Nick Trakakis proposed an
additional three requirements which must be contained within a
Common sense views of the world
Widely held historical and scientific opinion
Plausible moral principles
As a response to the problem of evil, a theodicy is distinct from a
defence. A defence attempts to demonstrate that the occurrence of evil
does not contradict God's existence, but it does not propose that
rational beings are able to understand why
God permits evil. A
theodicy seeks to show that it is reasonable to believe in
evidence of evil in the world and offers a framework which can account
for why evil exists. A theodicy is often based on a prior natural
theology, which attempts to prove the existence of God, and seeks to
demonstrate that God's existence remains probable after the problem of
evil is posed by giving a justification for God's permitting evil to
happen. Defenses propose solutions to the logical problem of evil,
while theodicies attempt to answer the evidential (inductive)
"It is important to note that there are at least two concepts of
evil: a broad concept and a narrow concept. The broad concept picks
out any bad state of affairs... [and] has been divided into two
categories: natural evil and moral evil. Natural evils are bad states
of affairs which do not result from the intentions or negligence of
moral agents. Hurricanes and toothaches are examples of natural evils.
By contrast, moral evils do result from the intentions or negligence
of moral agents. Murder and lying are examples of moral evils.
the broad sense, which includes all natural and moral evils, tends to
be the sort of evil referenced in theological contexts... [T]he narrow
concept of evil picks out only the most morally despicable... [it]
involves moral condemnation, [and] is appropriately ascribed only to
moral agents and their actions."
Philosopher [Susan Nieman] says "a crime against humanity is something
for which we have procedures, ... [and it] can be ... fit into the
rest of our experience. To call an action evil is to suggest that it
cannot [be fitted in]...":8
Marxism, "selectively elaborating Hegel," defines evil in terms of its
effect.:44 Philosopher John Kekes says the effect of evil must
include actual harm "that 'interferes with the functioning of a person
as a full-fledged agent.' (Kekes 1998, 217)." Christian
philosophers and theologians such as
Richard Swinburne and N. T.
Wright also define evil in terms of effect saying an "...act is
objectively good (or bad) if it is good (or bad) in its
consequences".:12 Hinduism defines evil in terms of its effect
saying "the evils that afflict people (and indeed animals) in the
present life are the effects of wrongs committed in a previous
life".:34 Some contemporary philosophers argue a focus on the
effects of evil is inadequate as a definition since evil can observe
without actively causing the harm, and it is still evil.
Pseudo-Dionysus defines evil by those aspects that show an absence of
good.:37 Writers in this tradition saw things as belonging to
'forms' and evil as an absence of being a good example of their form:
as a deficit of goodness where goodness ought to have been present. In
this same line of thinking, St.Augustine also defined evil as an
absence of good, as did theologian and monk
Thomas Aquinas who said:
"... a man is called bad insofar as he lacks a virtue, and an eye is
called bad insofar as it lacks the power of sight.":37 Bad as an
absence of good resurfaces in Hegel, Heidegger and Barth. Very similar
are the Neoplatonists, such as
Plotinus and contemporary philosopher
Denis O'Brien, who say evil is a privation. 
Immanuel Kant was the first to offer a purely secular theory of evil,
giving an evaluative definition of evil based on its cause as having a
will that is not fully good. Kant has been an important influence on
philosophers like Hanna Arendt, Claudia Card, and Richard
Bernstein. "...Hanna Arendt... uses the term [radical evil] to
denote a new form of wrongdoing which cannot be captured by other
moral concepts." The Muslim also provides an evaluative definition
of evil saying it is the result of the world not being fully
Claudia Card says evil is excessive wrong-doing; others
Hillel Steiner say evil is qualitatively not quantitatively
distinct from mere wrongdoing.
Locke, Hobbes and Liebniz define good and evil in terms of pleasure
and pain. Others such as
Richard Swinburne find that
definition inadequate, saying, "the good of individual
humans...consists...in their having free will...the ability to develop
...character..., to show courage and loyalty, to love, to be of use,
to contemplate beauty and discover truth... All that [good]...cannot
be achieved without ... suffering along the way.":4
"Most theorists writing about evil believe that evil action
requires a certain sort of motivation... the desire to cause harm, or
to do wrong,...pleasure (Steiner 2002), the desire to annihilate all
being (Eagleton 2010), or the destruction of others for its own sake
(Cole 2006). When evil is restricted to actions that follow from these
sorts of motivations, theorists sometimes say that their subject is
pure, radical, diabolical, or monstrous evil. This suggests that their
discussion is restricted to a type, or form, of evil and not to evil
Some theorists define evil by what emotions are connected to it. "For
example, Laurence Thomas believes that evildoers take delight in
causing harm or feel hatred toward their victims (Thomas 1993,
76–77)." Buddhism defines evil as behavior resulting from a
failure to emotionally detach from the world.
Christian theologians generally define evil in terms of both human
responsibility and the nature of God: "If we take the essentialist
view of Christian ethics... evil is anything contrary to God's good
nature...(character or attributes)." The Judaic view, while
acknowledging the difference between the human and divine perspective
of evil, is rooted in the nature of creation itself and the limitation
inherent in matter's capacity to be perfected; the action of freewill
includes the potential for perfection from individual effort and
leaves the responsibility for evil in human hands.:70
"[It is] deeply central to the whole tradition of Christian (and other
western) religion that
God is loving toward his creation and that
involves him behaving in morally good ways toward it.":3 Within
God is supposed to be in some way personal... a being
who is essentially eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, Creator and
sustainer of the universe, and perfectly good. An omnipotent being is
one who can do anything logically possible... such a being could not
make me exist and not exist at the same time but he could eliminate
the stars... An omniscient being is one who knows everything logically
possible for him to know... he will not necessarily know everything
that will happen [i.e. humans with freewill] unless it is
predetermined that it will happen..." :3-15 God's perfect goodness
is moral goodness.:15 "Western religion has always held that there
is a deep problem about why there is pain and suffering--which there
would not be if
God were not supposed to be morally good... a personal
being who was not morally good would not be the great being
supposed to be... [Since theodicy is concerned with] the existence (or
not) of the sort of
God with which Western religion is concerned, this
understanding of the definition of
God must stand.":16
Reasons for theodicy
Max Weber interpreted theodicy as a social
problem, and viewed theodicy as a "problem of meaning". Weber
argued that, as human society became increasingly rational, the need
to explain why good people suffered and evil people prospered became
more important because religion casts the world as a "meaningful
cosmos". Weber framed the problem of evil as the dilemma that the good
can suffer and the evil can prosper, which became more important as
religion became more sophisticated. He identified two purposes of
theodicy: to explain why good people suffer (a theodicy of suffering),
and why people prosper (a theodicy of good fortune). A theodicy of
good fortune seeks to justify the good fortune of people in society;
Weber believed that those who are successful are not satisfied unless
they can justify why they deserve to be successful. For theodicies
of suffering, Weber argued that three different kinds of theodicy
emerged—predestination, dualism, and karma—all of which attempt to
satisfy the human need for meaning, and he believed that the quest for
meaning, when considered in light of suffering, becomes the problem of
Peter L. Berger
Peter L. Berger characterised religion as the human
attempt to build order out of a chaotic world. He believed that humans
could not accept that anything in the world was meaningless and saw
theodicy as an assertion that the cosmos has meaning and order,
despite evidence to the contrary. Berger presented an argument
similar to that of Weber, but suggested that the need for theodicy
arose primarily out of the situation of human society. He believed
that theodicies existed to allow individuals to transcend themselves,
denying the individual in favour of the social order.
Richard Swinburne says "most theists need a theodicy,
[they need] an account of reasons why
God might allow evil to occur.
Without a theodicy evil counts against the existence of God.":2
The term theodicy was coined by German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz
in his 1710 work, written in French, Essais de
Théodicée sur la
bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal (Theodicy:
Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man and the Origin of
Théodicée was a response to skeptical
Protestant philosopher Pierre Bayle, who wrote in his work
Dictionnaire Historique et Critique that, after rejecting three
attempts to solve it, he saw no rational solution to the problem of
evil. Bayle argued that, because the
Bible asserts the coexistence of
God and evil, this state of affairs must simply be accepted.
Voltaire criticised Leibniz's concept of theodicy
Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne (Poem on the Lisbon
disaster), suggesting that the massive destruction of innocent lives
caused by the
Lisbon earthquake demonstrated that
God was not
providing the "best of all possible worlds".
includes the earthquake/theodicy theme in his novel Candide.
The Catholic Encyclopedia
The Catholic Encyclopedia (1914), Constantine Kempf argued that,
following Leibniz's work, philosophers called their works on the
problem of evil "theodicies", and philosophy about
God was brought
under the discipline of theodicy. He argued that theodicy began to
include all of natural theology, meaning that theodicy came to consist
of the human knowledge of
God through the systematic use of
In 1966, British philosopher
John Hick published
Evil and the
Love, in which he surveyed various Christian responses to the problem
of evil, before developing his own. In his work, Hick identified
and distinguished between three types of theodicy: Plotinian, which
was named after Plotinus, Augustinian, which had dominated Western
Christianity for many centuries, and Irenaean, which was developed by
Church Father Irenaeus, a version of which Hick subscribed
In his dialogue "Is
God a Taoist?", published in 1977 in his book
The Tao is Silent,
Raymond Smullyan claims to prove that it is
logically impossible to have sentient beings without allowing "evil",
even for God, just as it is impossible for him to create a triangle in
the Euclidean plane having an angular sum other than 180°. So the
capability of feeling implies free will, which in turn may produce
"evil", understood here as hurting other sentient beings. The problem
of evil happening to good or innocent people is not addressed directly
here, but both reincarnation and karma are hinted at.
“Writings and discourses on theodicy by Jews, Greeks, Christians,
and Eastern religions have graced our planet for thousands of
years.” In the
Middle Kingdom of Egypt
Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2000 BC to 1700 BC) as
“in Ancient Mesopotamian and Israelite literature,” theodicy was
an important issue.
Dr Philip Irving Mitchell of the
Dallas Baptist University
Dallas Baptist University notes that
some philosophers have cast the pursuit of theodicy as a modern one,
as earlier scholars used the problem of evil to support the existence
of one particular god over another, explain wisdom, or explain a
conversion, rather than to justify God's goodness. Professor Sarah
Iles Johnston argues that ancient civilizations, such as the ancient
Mesopotamians, Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians held polytheistic beliefs
that may have enabled them to deal with the concept of theodicy
differently. These religions taught the existence of many gods and
goddesses who controlled various aspects of daily life. These early
religions may have avoided the question of theodicy by endowing their
deities with the same flaws and jealousies that plagued humanity. No
one god or goddess was fundamentally good or evil; this explained that
bad things could happen to good people if they angered a deity because
the gods could exercise the same free will that humankind possesses.
Such religions taught that some gods were more inclined to be helpful
and benevolent, while others were more likely to be spiteful and
aggressive. In this sense, the evil gods could be blamed for
misfortune, while the good gods could be petitioned with prayer and
sacrifices to make things right. There was still a sense of justice in
that individuals who were right with the gods could avoid
Theodicy and the Bible
The biblical account of the justification of evil and suffering in the
God has both similarities and contrasts in the Hebrew
Bible and the New Testament. For the Hebrew Bible, the
Book of Job
Book of Job is
often quoted as the authoritative source of discussion.
"The author of Job seeks to expand the understanding of divine justice
...beyond mere retribution, to include a system of divine sovereignty
[showing] the King has the right to test His subject's loyalty... The
book of Job corrects the rigid and overly simplistic doctrine of
retribution in attributing suffering to sin and punishment. It closes
with a focus on the bond between creator and creation, on placing
one's trust in that, and on hope rooted in belief that
God is in
ultimate control.":Chapter 3:Job
It is generally accepted that God's responsive speeches in Job do not
directly answer Job's complaints;
God does not explain Himself or
reveal the reason for Job's suffering to him; instead Yahweh's
speeches focus on increasing Job's overall understanding of his
relationship with God. This exemplifies Biblical theodicy.:21,28
There is general agreement among
Bible scholars that the
not admit of a singular perspective on evil. ...Instead we encounter a
variety of perspectives... Consequently [the
Bible focuses on] moral
and spiritual remedies, not rational or logical [justifications].
...It is simply that the
Bible operates within a cosmic, moral and
spiritual landscape rather than within a rationalist, abstract,
This is in evidence in Yahweh's first and second speech in Job.
Yahweh's first speech concerns human ignorance and God's authority.
Job had seen himself at the center of events, lamenting that
singled him out to oppress;
God responds that Job is not the center,
Yahweh is; His kingdom is complex, He governs on a large scale, and
has the right to exercise divine authority; since
God is the rightful
owner of everything in the universe, Job cannot justly accuse Him of
wrongful deprivation.:Chapter 3:Job Yahweh's second speech is
against human self-righteousness. Job has vehemently accused
thwarting justice as "the omnipotent tyrant, the cosmic thug". Some
scholars interpret Yahweh's response as an admission of failure on His
part, but He goes on to say He has the power and in His own timing
will bring justice in the end.:Chapter 3:Job
"Isaiah is generally recognized as one of the most progressive books
of the prophetic corpus.":208 Hebrew
Bible scholar Marvin A.
Sweeney says "...a unified reading of [Isaiah] places the question of
theodicy at the forefront... [with] three major dimensions of the
question...: Yahweh's identification with the conqueror, Yahweh's
decree of judgment against Israel without possibility of repentance,
and the failure of Yahweh's program to be realized by the end of the
book.":209 Christian theologians read some passages in Isaiah
differently. "In either case, suffering is understood as having
transcendent meaning... human agency can give particular instances of
suffering a mystical significance that transforms it into something
Theodicy in the book of Ezekiel (and also in Jeremiah 31:29-30)
confronts the concept of personal moral responsibility. "The main
point is stated at the beginning and at the end--"the soul that sins
shall die"--and is explicated by a case history of a family traced
through three generations." It is not about heredity but is about
understanding divine justice in a world under divine
Theodicy in the Minor Prophets differs little from that in Isaiah,
Jeremiah and Ezekiel." For example, the first chapter of Habakuk
raises questions about Yahweh's justice, laments God's inaction in
punishing injustice, and looks for God's action in response--then
objects to what
God chooses.:Chapter 1 Instead of engaging in
God gives Habakuk a vision of the future which includes five
oracles that form a theodicy: (1)
God has a plan and has appointed a
time for judgment. It may be slow in coming as humans see things, but
it will come. (2) The woe oracles confront the prevalence of evil in
the world and the justice those acts have earned (3) The vision of the
God is a recognition of God's power to address these
God as a warrior will fight for his people (5) The song of
triumph says the faithful will prevail by holding to trust and
hope.:Intro, Chapter 3 Joel and the other minor prophets
demonstrate that theodicy and eschatology are connected in the
Psalm 73 presents the internal struggle created by personal suffering
and the prosperity of the wicked. The writer gains perspective when he
"enters the sanctuary of
God (16-17)" seeing that God's justice will
eventually prevail. He reaffirms his relationship with Yahweh, is
ashamed of his resentment, and chooses trust. :Chapter 3:Psalm 73
Psalm 77 contains real outspokenness to
God as well as determination
to hold onto faith and trust.:Chapter 3:Psalm 77
For the Christian, the Scriptures assure him or her that the allowance
of evil is for a good purpose based on relationship with God.
"Some of the good ... cannot be achieved without delay and suffering,
and the evil of this world is indeed necessary for the achievement of
those good purposes. ...
God has the right to allow such evils to
occur, so long as the 'goods' are facilitated and the 'evils' are
limited and compensated in the way that various other Christian
doctrines (of human freewill, life after death, the end of the world,
etc.) affirm. ...the 'good states' which (according to Christian
God seeks are so good that they outweigh the accompanying
This is somewhat illustrated in the
Book of Exodus
Book of Exodus when Pharaoh is
described as being raised up that God's name be known in all the earth
Exodus 9:16. This is mirrored in Romans' ninth chapter, where Paul
makes an appeal to God's sovereignty as sufficient explanation, with
God's goodness experientially known to the Christian.
Main article: Augustinian theodicy
The Protestant and Reformed reading of Augustinian theodicy, as
promoted primarily by John Hick, is based on the writings of Augustine
of Hippo, a Christian philosopher and theologian who lived from AD 354
to 430. The catholic (pre-reformation) formulation of the same
issue is substantially different and is outlined below. In Hick's
approach, this form of theodicy argues that evil does not exist except
as a privation—or corruption—of goodness, and therefore
not create evil. Augustinian scholars have argued that
the world perfectly, with no evil or human suffering.
Evil entered the
world through the disobedience of
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve and the theodicy casts
the existence of evil as a just punishment for this original sin.
The theodicy argues that humans have an evil nature in as much as it
is deprived of its original goodness, form, order, and measure due to
the inherited original sin of
Adam and Eve, but still ultimately
remains good due to existence coming from God, for if a nature was
completely evil (deprived of the good), it would cease to exist.
It maintains that
God remains blameless and good.
In the Roman Catholic reading of Augustine, the issue of just war as
developed in his book The City of
God substantially established his
position concerning the positive justification of killing, suffering
and pain as inflicted upon an enemy when encountered in war for a just
cause. Augustine asserted that peacefulness in the face of a grave
wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin. Defense
of one's self or others could be a necessity, especially when
authorized by a legitimate authority. While not elaborating the
conditions necessary for war to be just, Augustine nonetheless
originated the very phrase, itself, in his work The City of God.
In essence, the pursuit of peace must include the option of fighting
with all of its eventualities in order to preserve peace in the
long-term. Such a war could not be pre-emptive, but defensive, to
restore peace. Thomas Aquinas, centuries later, used the authority
of Augustine's arguments in an attempt to define the conditions under
which a war could be just.
Main article: Irenaean theodicy
Irenaeus (died c. 202), born in the early second century, expressed
ideas which explained the existence of evil as necessary for human
Irenaeus argued that human creation comprised two parts:
humans were made first in the image, then in the likeness, of God. The
God consists of having the potential to achieve moral
perfection, whereas the likeness of
God is the achievement of that
perfection. To achieve moral perfection,
Irenaeus suggested that
humans must have free will. To achieve such free will, humans must
experience suffering and
God must be at an epistemic distance (a
distance of knowledge) from humanity. Therefore, evil exists to allow
humans to develop as moral agents. In the twentieth century, John
Hick collated the ideas of
Irenaeus into a distinct theodicy. He
argued that the world exists as a "vale of soul-making" (a phrase that
he drew from John Keats), and that suffering and evil must therefore
occur. He argued that human goodness develops through the experience
of evil and suffering.
In direct response to John Hick's description of theodicy, Mark Scott
has indicated that neither
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo nor
Irenaeus of Lyons
provide an appropriate context for the discussion of Hick's theistic
version of theodicy. As a theologian among the
Church Fathers who
articulated a theory of apokatastasis (or universal reconciliation),
Origen of Alexandria provides a more direct theological comparison for
the discussion of Hick's presentation of universal salvation and
Irenaeus nor Augustine endorsed a theology of
universal salvation in any form comparable to that of John Hick.
Relatively minor theodicies
Michael Martin summarizes what he calls “relatively minor”
Theodicy maintains that
God is all-good
(omnibenevolent) but not all-powerful (omnipotent).
The Best of all Possible Worlds Theodicy, a traditional theology,
argues that the creation is the best of all possible worlds.
Theodicy holds that evil came into the world because
of humanity's original sin.
The Ultimate Harmony
Theodicy justifies evil as leading to “good
The Degree of Desirability of a Conscious State
Theodicy has been
reckoned a “complex theodicy.” It argues that a person’s
state is deemed evil only when it is undesirable to the person.
God is unable to make a person’s state desirable to
the person, the theodic problem does not exist.
Theodicy believes that people suffer evil because of
their wrong-doing in a previous life.
Theodicy holds that evil is needed to enable people to
appreciate or understand good.
Theodicy rationalizes evil as God’s warning to people to
mend their ways.
Mu'tazila theologians approached the problem of theodicy within a
framework of moral realism, according to which the moral value of acts
is accessible to unaided reason, so that humans can make moral
judgments about divine acts. They argued that the divine act of
creation is good despite existence of suffering, because it allows
humans a compensation of greater reward in the afterlife. They
posited that individuals have free will to commit evil and absolved
God of responsibility for such acts. God's justice thus consists
of punishing wrongdoers. Following the demise of
Mu'tazila as a
school, their theodicy was adopted in the
of Shia Islam.
Most Sunni theologians analyzed theodicy from an anti-realist
Ash'ari theologians argued that ordinary
moral judgments stem from emotion and social convention, which are
inadequate to either condemn or justify divine actions. Ash'arites
God creates everything, including human actions, but
distinguish creation (khalq) from acquisition (kasb) of actions.
They allow individuals the latter ability, though they do not posit
existence of free will in a fuller sense of the term. In the words of
God creates, in man, the power, ability, choice, and will to perform
an act, and man, endowed with this derived power, chooses freely one
of the alternatives and intends or wills to do the action, and,
corresponding to this intention,
God creates and completes the action.
Ash'ari theology, which dominated Sunni Islam from the tenth to the
nineteenth century, also insists on ultimate divine transcendence and
teaches that human knowledge regarding it is limited to what has been
revealed through the prophets, so that on the question of God's
creation of evil, revelation has to accepted bila kayfa (without
Ibn Sina, the most influential Muslim philosopher, analyzed theodicy
from a purely ontological, neoplatonic standpoint, aiming to prove
that God, as the absolutely good First Cause, created a good
Ibn Sina argued that evil refers either to a cause of an
entity (such as burning in a fire), being a quality of another entity,
or to its imperfection (such as blindness), in which case it does not
exist as an entity. According to Ibn Sina, such qualities are
necessary attributes of the best possible order of things, so that the
good they serve is greater than the harm they cause.
Philosophical Sufi theologians such as
Ibn Arabi were influenced by
the neoplatonic theodicy of Ibn Sina.
Al-Ghazali echoed the
optimistic theodicy of Leibniz in his dictum "There is nothing in
possibility more wonderful than what is." Fakhr al-Din al-Razi,
who represented the mainstream Sunni view, challenged Ibn Sina's
analysis and argued that it merely sidesteps the real problem of evil,
which is rooted in the human experience of suffering in a world that
contains more pain than pleasure.
Ibn Taymiyya argued that, while God
creates human acts, humans are responsible for their deeds as the
agents of their acts. He held that divine creation is good from a
casual standpoint, as
God creates all things for wise purposes.
Thus apparent evil is in actuality good in view of its purpose, and
pure evil does not exist. This analysis was developed further with
practical illustrations by Ibn al-Qayyim.
In 1998, Jewish theologian
Zachary Braiterman coined the term
anti-theodicy in his book (God) After Auschwitz to describe Jews, both
in a biblical and post-
Holocaust context, whose response to the
problem of evil is protest and refusal to investigate the relationship
God and suffering. An anti-theodicy acts in opposition to a
theodicy and places full blame for all experience of evil onto God,
but must rise from an individual's belief in and love of God.
Anti-theodicy has been likened to Job's protests in the Book of
Job. Braiterman wrote that an anti-theodicy rejects the idea that
there is a meaningful relationship between
God and evil or that God
could be justified for the experience of evil.
Holocaust prompted a reconsideration of theodicy in some Jewish
circles. French Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, who had
himself been a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, declared theodicy to
be "blasphemous", arguing that it is the "source of all immorality",
and demanded that the project of theodicy be ended. Levinas asked
whether the idea of absolutism survived after the Holocaust, which he
proposed it did. He argued that humans are not called to justify God
in the face of evil, but to attempt to live godly lives; rather than
God was present during the Holocaust, the duty of
humans is to build a world where goodness will prevail.
Professor of theology David R. Blumenthal, in his book Facing the
Abusing God, supports the "theology of protest", which he saw as
presented in the play, The Trial of God. He supports the view that
survivors of the
Holocaust cannot forgive
God and so must protest
about it. Blumenthal believes that a similar theology is presented in
the book of Job, in which Job does not question God's existence or
power, but his morality and justice. Other prominent voices in the
Jewish tradition commenting on the justification of
God in the
presence of the
Holocaust have been the Nobel prize winning author
Elie Wiesel and Richard L. Rubinstein in his book The Cunning of
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Rebbe of Chabad
Lubavitch, sought to elucidate how faith (or trust, emunah) in God
defines the full, transcendental preconditions of anti-theodicy.
Endorsing the attitude of "holy protest" found in the stories of Job
and Jeremiah, but also in those of Abraham (Genesis 18) and Moses
(Exodus 33), Rabbi Schneerson argued that a phenomenology of protest,
when carried through to its logical limits, reveals a profound
conviction in cosmic justice such, as we first find in Abraham's
question: "Will the Judge of the whole earth not do justice?" (Genesis
18:25). Recalling Kant's 1791 essay on the failure of all theoretical
attempts in theodicy, a viable practical theodicy is identified
with messianism. This faithful anti-theodicy is worked out in a long
letter of 26 April 1965 to Elie Wiesel.
Christian alternatives to theodicy
A number of Christian writers oppose theodicies. Todd Billings deems
constructing theodicies to be a “destructive practice”. In the
Nick Trakakis observes that “theodical discourse can only
add to the world’s evils, not remove or illuminate them.” As
an alternative to theodicy, some theologians have advocated
“reflection on tragedy” as a more befitting reply to evil. For
example, Wendy Farley believes that “a desire for justice” and
“anger and pity at suffering” should replace “theodicy’s cool
justifications of evil”. Sarah K. Pinnock opposes abstract
theodicies that would legitimize evil and suffering. However, she
endorses theodicy discussions in which people ponder God, evil, and
suffering from a practical faith perspective.
Karl Barth viewed the evil of human suffering as ultimately in the
“control of divine providence”. Given this view, Barth deemed
it impossible for humans to devise a theodicy that establishes "the
idea of the goodness of God". For Barth only the crucifixion could
establish the goodness of God. In the crucifixion,
God bears and
suffers what humanity suffers. This suffering by
God Himself makes
human theodicies anticlimactic. Barth found a “twofold
justification” in the crucifixion: the justification of sinful
humanity and “the justification in which
Christian Science offers a rational, though widely unacceptable,
solution to the problem by denying that evil ultimately
Mary Baker Eddy
Mary Baker Eddy and
Mark Twain had some contrasting
views on theodicy and suffering, which are well-described by Stephen
Redemptive suffering based in Pope John Paul II's theology of the body
embraces suffering as having value in and of itself. Eleonore
Stump in "Wandering in Darkness" uses psychology, narrative and
exegesis to demonstrate that redemptive suffering, as found in
Thomistic theodicy, can constitute a consistent and cogent defence for
the problem of suffering.
Free will defense
Theodicy and the
Bible and free will theodicy
As an alternative to a theodicy, a defense may be offered as a
response to the problem of evil. A defense attempts to show that God's
existence is not made logically impossible by the existence of evil;
it does not need to be true or plausible, merely logically
possible.[according to whom?] American philosopher Alvin Plantinga
offers a free will defense which argues that human free will
sufficiently explains the existence of evil while maintaining that
God's existence remains logically possible. He argues that, if
God's existence and the existence of evil are to be logically
inconsistent, a premise must be provided which, if true, would make
them inconsistent; as none has been provided, the existence of
evil must be consistent.
Free will furthers this argument by providing
a premise which, in conjunction with the existence of evil, entails
that God's existence remains consistent. Opponents have argued
this defense is discredited by the existence of non-human related evil
such as droughts, tsunamis and malaria.
Cosmodicy and anthropodicy
A cosmodicy attempts to justify the fundamental goodness of the
universe in the face of evil, and an anthropodicy attempts to justify
the fundamental goodness of human nature in the face of the evils
produced by humans.
Considering the relationship between theodicy and cosmodicy, Johannes
van der Ven argued that the choice between theodicy and cosmodicy is a
false dilemma. Philip E. Devenish proposed what he described as
"a nuanced view in which theodicy and cosmodicy are rendered
complementary, rather than alternative concepts". Theologian J.
Matthew Ashley described the relationship between theodicy, cosmodicy
In classical terms, this is to broach the problem of theodicy: how to
God in the face of the presence of suffering in God's
creation. After God's dethronement as the subject of history, the
question rebounds to the new subject of history: the human being. As a
consequence, theodicy becomes anthropodicy – justifications of our
faith in humanity as the subject of history, in the face of the
suffering that is so inextricably woven into the history that humanity
Essential kenosis is a form of process theology, (also known as "open
theism") that allows one to affirm that
God is almighty, while
simultaneously affirming that
God cannot prevent genuine evil. Because
out of love
God necessarily gives freedom, agency, self-organization,
natural processes, and law-like regularities to creation,
override, withdraw, or fail to provide such capacities. Consequently,
God is not culpable for failing to prevent genuine evil. Thomas Jay
Oord's work explains this view most fully.
Gijsbert van den Brink effectively refutes any view which says
restricted His power because of his love saying it creates a
"metaphysical dualism", and it would not alleviate God's
responsibility for evil because
God could have prevented evil by not
restricting himself. Van den Brink goes on to elaborate an explanation
of power and love within the Trinitarian view which equates power and
love, and what he calls "the power of love" as representative of God's
involvement in the struggle against evil.
Problem of hell
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the Holocaust. New York University Press.
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Origen and the Problem of Evil, Oxford
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^ Ramblings of a Thomist, Blog of March 27, 2008
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^ Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Temple
University Press, 1992), 444–45. Martin finds this theodicy in
Religion and Scientific Method (Springer Science
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^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ayman Shihadeh (2005). "Suffering". In Josef
W. Meri. Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia. Routledge.
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^ Über das Misslingen aller philosophischen Versuche in der Theodizee
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YIddish is found in R. Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Likutei Siḥot,
Vol. 33 (New York: Kehot, 1962–2001), pp. 255–60.
^ Todd Billings, "
Theodicy as a 'Lived Question': Moving Beyond a
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Part of the Problem?”, Springerlink.com, accessed December 19, 2009.
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Theology (Abingdon Press, 1992), s.v. “Tragedy.”
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Theodicy (Westminster John Knox Press, 1990) 12, 23.
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ultimately any such thing as evil, as advocated by Christian
Scientists, solves the problem at a stroke, but such a remedy is too
hard for most to swallow."
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to Answer Our Most Important Question – Why We Suffer.
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God Allow It? Article discussing men's responsibility on the
one hand and his powerlessness regarding natural disasters on the
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
Alternating series test
Best of all possible worlds
Identity of indiscernibles
Law of Continuity
Principle of sufficient reason
Transcendental law of homogeneity
De Arte Combinatoria
De Arte Combinatoria (1666)
New Essays on
Human Understanding (1704)
Leibniz–Clarke correspondence (1715–1716)
Good and evil
Christian views on sin
Imputation of sin
Other views on sin
Logical order of God's decrees
See also Apologetics
Philosophy of religion
Concepts in religion
Problem of evil
Conceptions of God
Existence of God
Fine-tuning of the Universe
Divine command theory
Theories about religions
Problem of evil
Best of all possible worlds
(by date active)
Anselm of Canterbury
Augustine of Hippo
Gaunilo of Marmoutiers
Pico della Mirandola
King James VI and I
Marcion of Sinope
Gottfried W Leibniz
Johann G Herder
Karl C F Krause
Georg W F Hegel
W. K. Clifford
J L Mackie
George I Mavrodes
William L Rowe
Dewi Z Phillips
Robert Merrihew Adams
Peter van Inwagen
William Lane Craig
Ali Akbar Rashad
Criticism of religion
Ethics in religion
History of religions
Relationship between religion and science
Political science of religion
Faith and rationality