Theodicy (/θiːˈɒdɪsi/), in its most common form, is an attempt to answer the question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil, thus resolving the issue of the problem 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 philosopher 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 God of Love, identifying three major traditions:
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 coexistence of God and evil is not logically impossible, and that free will further explains the existence of evil without threatening the existence of God.
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.
As defined by Alvin Plantinga, theodicy is the "answer to the question of why God permits evil". Theodicy is defined as a theological construct that attempts to vindicate God in response to the evidential problem of evil that seems inconsistent with the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity. Another definition of theodicy is the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil. 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".
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 God despite 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) problem.
"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. Evil in 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 Muslim.:34 Claudia Card says evil is excessive wrongdoing; others like 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 per se."
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 various types of evil, one type defines 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 free will 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 Christianity "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 free will] 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 God is 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
German philosopher 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 suffering.
Sociologist 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.
Philosopher 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 Evil). Leibniz's 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.
French philosopher Voltaire criticised Leibniz's concept of theodicy in his 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". Voltaire also includes the earthquake/theodicy theme in his novel Candide.
In 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 reason.
In 1966, British philosopher John Hick published Evil and the God of 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 the Eastern Church Father Irenaeus, a version of which Hick subscribed to himself.
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 (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 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 punishment.
The "Epicurean trilemma" however was already raised ~300BC by Epicurus. It is the first credited to describe the problem of reconciling an omnipotent deity with their benevolence and the existence of evil.
The biblical account of the justification of evil and suffering in the presence of God has both similarities and contrasts in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. For the Hebrew Bible, the 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 Bible "does 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, ontological landscape.":27
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 God has 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 God of 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 productive."
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 governance.:82
"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 debate, 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 manifestation of God is a recognition of God's power to address these issues (4) 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 Bible.:201
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 free will, life after death, the end of the world, etc.) affirm. ...the 'good states' which (according to Christian doctrine) God seeks are so good that they outweigh the accompanying evils.":Intro.,51
This is somewhat illustrated in the 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 appeals to God's sovereignty as sufficient explanation, with God's goodness experientially known to the Christian.
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 God did not create evil. Augustinian scholars have argued that God created the world perfectly, with no evil or human suffering. Evil entered the world through the disobedience of 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.
Irenaeus (died c. 202), born in the early second century, expressed ideas which explained the existence of evil as necessary for human development. Irenaeus argued that human creation comprised two parts: humans were made first in the image, then in the likeness, of God. The image of 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 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 theodicy. Neither Irenaeus nor Augustine endorsed a theology of universal salvation in any form comparable to that of John Hick.
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 Zaydi and Twelver branches of Shia Islam.
Most Sunni theologians analyzed theodicy from an anti-realist metaethical standpoint. 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 hold that 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 Al-Shahrastani (1086–1153):
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 [asking] how).
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 world. 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 anticipated 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.
The Hanbali scholar Ibn Taymiyya, whose writings became influential in Wahhabism, 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 between 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.
The 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 considering whether 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 History.
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.
A number of Christian writers oppose theodicies. Todd Billings deems constructing theodicies to be a “destructive practice”. In the same vein, 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 God justifies Himself”.
Christian Science offers a rational, though widely unacceptable, solution to the problem by denying that evil ultimately exists. Mary Baker Eddy and Mark Twain had some contrasting views on theodicy and suffering, which are well-described by Stephen Gottschalk.
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.
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. 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 God and 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.
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 and anthropodicy:
In classical terms, this is to broach the problem of theodicy: how to think about 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 makes.
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, God cannot 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 God has 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.
Acosmism, in contrast to pantheism, denies the reality of the universe, seeing it as ultimately illusory, (the prefix "a-" in Greek meaning negation; like "un-" in English), and only the infinite unmanifest Absolute as real. Conceptual versions of Acosmism are found in eastern and western philosophies.Agnostic existentialism
Agnostic existentialism is a type of existentialism which makes no claim to know whether there is a "greater picture"; rather, it simply asserts that the greatest truth is that which the individual chooses to act upon. It feels that to know the greater picture, whether there is one or not, is impossible, or impossible so far, or of little value. Like the Christian existentialist, the agnostic existentialist believes existence is subjective.Augustinian theodicy
The Augustinian theodicy, named for the 4th- and 5th-century theologian and philosopher Augustine of Hippo, is a type of Christian theodicy designed in response to the evidential problem of evil. As such, it attempts to explain the probability of an omnipotent (all-powerful) and omnibenevolent (all-good) God amid evidence of evil in the world. A number of variations of this kind of theodicy have been proposed throughout history; their similarities were first described by the 20th-century philosopher John Hick, who classified them as "Augustinian". They typically assert that God is perfectly (ideally) good; that he created the world out of nothing; and that evil is the result of humanity's original sin. The entry of evil into the world is generally explained as punishment for sin and its continued presence due to humans' misuse of free will. God's goodness and benevolence, according to the Augustinian theodicy, remain perfect and without responsibility for evil or suffering.
Augustine of Hippo was the first to develop the theodicy. He rejected the idea that evil exists in itself, instead regarding it as a corruption of goodness, caused by humanity's abuse of free will. Augustine believed in the existence of a physical Hell as a punishment for sin, but argued that those who choose to accept the salvation of Jesus Christ will go to Heaven. In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas – influenced by Augustine – proposed a similar theodicy based on the view that God is goodness and that there can be no evil in him. He believed that the existence of goodness allows evil to exist, through the fault of humans. Augustine also influenced John Calvin, who supported Augustine's view that evil is the result of free will and argued that sin corrupts humans, requiring God's grace to give moral guidance.
The theodicy was criticised by Augustine's contemporary Fortunatus, a Manichaean who contended that God must still be somehow implicated in evil, and 18th-century theologian Francesco Antonio Zaccaria criticised Augustine's concept of evil for not dealing with individual human suffering. Hick regards evil as necessary for the moral and spiritual development of humans, and process theologians have argued that God is not omnipotent and so cannot be responsible for any evil. The logic of Augustine's approach has been adapted by Alvin Plantinga, among others. Plantinga's adapted Augustinian theodicy, the free will defence – which he proposed in the 1980s – attempts to answer only the logical problem of evil. Such a defence (not a "theodicy" proper) does not demonstrate the existence of God, or the probable existence of God, but attempts to prove that the existence of God and the presence of evil (or privatio boni) in the world are not logically contradictory.Best of all possible worlds
The phrase "the best of all possible worlds" (French: le meilleur des mondes possibles; German: Die beste aller möglichen Welten) was coined by the German polymath Gottfried Leibniz in his 1710 work Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal (Essays of Theodicy on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man and the Origin of Evil). The claim that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds is the central argument in Leibniz's theodicy, or his attempt to solve the problem of evil.Book of the Heavenly Cow
The Book of the Heavenly Cow, or the Book of the Cow of Heaven, is an Ancient Egyptian text thought to have originated during the Amarna Period and, in part, describes the reasons for the imperfect state of the world in terms of humankind's rebellion against the supreme sun god, Ra. Divine punishment was inflicted through the goddess Hathor, with the survivors suffering through separation from Ra, who now resided in the sky on the back of Nut, the heavenly cow.
With this "fall", suffering and death came into the world, along with a fracture in the original unity of creation. The supreme god now changes into many heavenly bodies, creates the "Fields of Paradise" for the blessed dead, perhaps appoints Geb as his heir, hands over the rule of humankind to Osiris (Thoth ruling the night sky as his deputy), with Shu and the Heh gods now supporting the sky goddess Nut.Though the text is recorded in the New Kingdom period, it is written in Middle Egyptian and may have been written during the Middle Kingdom period.Evil God Challenge
The Evil God Challenge is a thought experiment. The challenge is to explain why an all-good god should be more likely than an all-evil god. Those who advance this challenge assert that, unless there is a satisfactory answer to the challenge, there is no reason to accept God is good or can provide moral guidance.George I. Mavrodes
George I. Mavrodes is an American philosopher who is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Michigan.Irenaean theodicy
The Irenaean theodicy is a Christian theodicy (a response to the problem of evil). It defends the probability of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent (all-powerful and perfectly loving) God in the face of evidence of evil in the world. Numerous variations of theodicy have been proposed which all maintain that, while evil exists, God is either not responsible for creating evil, or he is not guilty for creating evil. Typically, the Irenaean theodicy asserts that the world is the best of all possible worlds because it allows humans to fully develop. Most versions of the Irenaean theodicy propose that creation is incomplete, as humans are not yet fully developed, and experiencing evil and suffering is necessary for such development.
Second-century philosopher and theologian Irenaeus, after whom the theodicy is named, proposed a two-stage creation process in which humans require free will and the experience of evil to develop. Another early Christian theologian, Origen, presented a response to the problem of evil which cast the world as a schoolroom or hospital for the soul; theologian Mark Scott has argued that Origen, rather than Irenaeus, ought to be considered the father of this kind of theodicy. Friedrich Schleiermacher argued in the nineteenth century that God must necessarily create flawlessly, so this world must be the best possible world because it allows God's purposes to be naturally fulfilled. In 1966, philosopher John Hick discussed the similarities of the preceding theodicies, calling them all "Irenaean". He supported the view that creation is incomplete and argued that the world is best placed for the full moral development of humans, as it presents genuine moral choices. British philosopher Richard Swinburne proposed that, to make a free moral choice, humans must have experience of the consequences of their own actions and that natural evil must exist to provide such choices.
The development of process theology has challenged the Irenaean tradition by teaching that God's power is limited and that he cannot be responsible for evil. Twentieth-century philosopher Alvin Plantinga opposed the idea that this is the best possible world, arguing that there could always be at least one more good person, in every possible world. His free will defence was not a theodicy because he was trying to show the logical compatibility of evil and the existence of God, rather than the probability of God. D. Z. Phillips and Fyodor Dostoyevsky challenged the instrumental use of suffering, suggesting that love cannot be expressed through suffering. However, Dostoyevsky also states that the beauty of love is evident, in that love can continue to grow, withstand and overcome even the most evil acts. Michael Tooley argued that the magnitude of suffering is excessive and that, in some cases, cannot lead to moral development. French theologian Henri Blocher criticised Hick's universalism, arguing that such a view negates free will, which was similarly important to the theodicy.List of philosophies
Philosophies: particular schools of thought, styles of philosophy, or descriptions of philosophical ideas attributed to a particular group or culture - listed in alphabetical order.Misotheism
Misotheism is the "hatred of God" or "hatred of the gods" (from the Greek adjective μισόθεος "hating the gods", a compound of μῖσος "hatred" and θεός "god"). In some varieties of polytheism, it was considered possible to inflict punishment on gods by ceasing to worship them. Thus, Hrafnkell, protagonist of the eponymous Hrafnkels saga set in the 10th century, as his temple to Freyr is burnt and he is enslaved, states that "I think it is folly to have faith in gods", never performing another blót (sacrifice), a position described in the sagas as goðlauss, "godless". Jacob Grimm in his Teutonic Mythology observes that:
It is remarkable that Old Norse legend occasionally mentions certain men who, turning away in utter disgust and doubt from the heathen faith, placed their reliance on their own strength and virtue. Thus in the Sôlar lioð 17 we read of Vêbogi and Râdey á sjálf sig þau trûðu, "in themselves they trusted".
In monotheism, the sentiment arises in the context of theodicy (the problem of evil, the Euthyphro dilemma). A famous literary expression of misotheistic sentiment is Goethe's Prometheus, composed in the 1770s.
A related concept is dystheism (Ancient Greek: δύσ θεος "bad god"), the belief that a god is not wholly good, and is possibly evil. Trickster gods found in polytheistic belief systems often have a dystheistic nature. One example is Eshu, a trickster god from Yoruba religion who deliberately fostered violence between groups of people for his own amusement, saying that "causing strife is my greatest joy."
The concept of the Demiurge in some versions of ancient Gnosticism also often portrayed the Demiurge as a generally evil entity.
Many polytheistic deities since prehistoric times have been assumed to be neither good nor evil (or to have both qualities). Thus dystheism is normally used in reference to the Judeo-Christian God. In conceptions of God as the summum bonum, the proposition of God not being wholly good would be an oxymoron.
A historical proposition close to "dystheism" is the deus deceptor "evil demon" (dieu trompeur) of René Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, which has been interpreted by Protestant critics as the blasphemous proposition that God exhibits malevolent intent. But Richard Kennington states that Descartes never declared his "evil genius" to be omnipotent, but merely no less powerful than he is deceitful, and thus not explicitly an equivalent to God, the singular omnipotent deity.Natural-law argument
Natural-law argument for the existence of God was especially popular in the eighteenth century as a result of the influence of Sir Isaac Newton. As Bertrand Russell pointed out much later, many of the things we consider to be laws of nature, in fact, are human conventions. Indeed, Albert Einstein has shown that Newton's law of universal gravitation was such a convention, and though elegant and useful, one that did not describe the universe precisely. Most true laws are rather trivial, such as mathematical laws, laws of probability, and so forth, and much less impressive than those that were envisioned by Newton and his followers. Russell wrote:
"If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others -- the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it -- if there was a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary. You really have a law outside and anterior to the divine edicts, and God does not serve your purpose, because he is not the ultimate law-giver. In short, this whole argument from natural law no longer has anything like the strength that it used to have."The argument of natural laws as a basis for God was changed by Christian figures such as Thomas Aquinas, in order to fit biblical scripture and establish a Judeo-Christian teleological law.Nicholas Wolterstorff
Nicholas Wolterstorff (born January 21, 1932) is an American philosopher and a liturgical theologian. He is currently Noah Porter Professor Emeritus Philosophical Theology at Yale University. A prolific writer with wide-ranging philosophical and theological interests, he has written books on aesthetics, epistemology, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, metaphysics, and philosophy of education. In Faith and Rationality, Wolterstorff, Alvin Plantinga, and William Alston developed and expanded upon a view of religious epistemology that has come to be known as Reformed epistemology. He also helped to establish the journal Faith and Philosophy and the Society of Christian Philosophers.Problem of evil
The problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient God (see theism). An argument from evil claims that because evil exists, either God does not exist or does not have all three of those properties. Attempts to show the contrary have traditionally been discussed under the heading of theodicy. Besides philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is also important to the field of theology and ethics.
The problem of evil is often formulated in two forms: the logical problem of evil and the evidential problem of evil. The logical form of the argument tries to show a logical impossibility in the coexistence of God and evil, while the evidential form tries to show that given the evil in the world, it is improbable that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good God. The problem of evil has been extended to non-human life forms, to include animal suffering from natural evils and human cruelty against them.Responses to various versions of the problem of evil, meanwhile, come in three forms: refutations, defenses, and theodicies. A wide range of responses have been made against these arguments. There are also many discussions of evil and associated problems in other philosophical fields, such as secular ethics, and evolutionary ethics. But as usually understood, the "problem of evil" is posed in a theological context.The problem of evil acutely applies to monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism that believe in a monotheistic God who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent; but the question of "why does evil exist?" has also been studied in religions that are non-theistic or polytheistic, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.The Consolation of Philosophy
The Consolation of Philosophy (Latin: De consolatione philosophiae) is a philosophical work by Boethius, written around the year 524. It has been described as the single most important and influential work in the West on Medieval and early Renaissance Christianity, as well as the last great Western work of the Classical Period.The Rejection and the Meaning of the World
The Rejection and the Meaning of the World, known also as World Rejection and Theodicy (German: Stufen und Richtungen der religiösen Weltablehnung), is a 1916 book written by Maximilian Weber, a German economist and sociologist. The original edition was published in German as an essay in the 1916 issues of the Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialforschung, and various translations to English exist.
In this book Weber analyses the unavoidable tensions between religious values and worldly activities.Theism
Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of the Supreme Being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with deism, the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism (also referred to as classical theism) – or gods found in polytheistic religions—a belief in God or in gods without the rejection of revelation as is characteristic of deism.Atheism is commonly understood as rejection of theism in the broadest sense of theism, i.e. the rejection of belief in God or gods. The claim that the existence of any deity is unknown or unknowable is agnosticism.Theodicy and the Bible
Theodicy, in its most common form, is the attempt to answer the question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil. Theodicy attempts to resolve the evidential problem of evil by reconciling the traditional divine characteristics of omnibenevolence and omnipotence, in either their absolute or relative form, with the occurrence of evil or suffering in the world. “Writings and discourses on theodicy by Jews, Greeks, Christians, and Eastern religions have graced our planet for thousands of years,” and "debates about theodicy continue among believers and unbelievers alike".Theodicy is an "intensely urgent" and "constant concern" of "the entire Bible". Relating theodicy and the Bible is crucial to understanding Abrahamic theodicy because the Bible "has been, both in theory and in fact, the dominant influence upon ideas about God and evil in the Western world". The Bible raises the issue of theodicy by its portrayals of God as inflicting evil and by its accounts of people who question God's goodness by their angry indictments. However, the Bible "contains no comprehensive theodicy"."The most common theodicy is the free will theodicy." It lays the blame for all moral evil and some natural evil on humanity's misuse of its free will. This article shows that the free will theodicy interacts with the Bible at its core: what Jesus and Paul say about the freedom of the will and with what kind of freedom of the will God endowed humanity at the Creation.Theological noncognitivism
Theological noncognitivism is the position that religious language – specifically, words such as "God" – are not cognitively meaningful. It is sometimes considered synonymous with ignosticism.Théodicée
Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal ("Essays of Theodicy on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man and the Origin of Evil"), more simply known as Théodicée, is a book of philosophy by the German polymath Gottfried Leibniz. The book, published in 1710, introduced the term theodicy, and its optimistic approach to the problem of evil is thought to have inspired Voltaire's Candide (albeit satirically). Much of the work consists of a response to the ideas of the French philosopher Pierre Bayle, with whom Leibniz carried on a debate for many years.Théodicée was the only book Leibniz published during his lifetime; his other book, New Essays on Human Understanding, was published only after his death, in 1765.
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