The Theodicies


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  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 18-05-12 15:53

Augustinian Theodicy

Augustine of Hippo; reflects the influence of Plato on his thought. For Plato, particular things are imperfect copies of their 'Forms'. Imperfection is a feature of the world of every day things.

Augstine argued that evil is not a seperate force opposing the good, but is a lack of goodness, a deprivation (privatio boni)

Human free will can lead to suffering and evil, for the world as we experience is made up of imperfect copies, and suffering and evil are bound up with that imperfection.

For Augustine, evil first came into the world through the 'fall' of the angels. He argues that all angels were created to be perfect, but that some received less grace than the others, and were able to fall'. 

According to the Fall, sin entered the human race through Adam's disobedience and Orginal Sin. Yet, how could Adam make a sinful choice if he was made in he image of a good creator?

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Loaf of Bread analogy

However, Augustine used the bread analogy:

  • God is like a baker, who creates a perfect loaf of bread
  • He leaves it on a table, and it goes mouldy
  • External forces make it become less than perfect
  • People became tempted and tainted by the Devil


  • The loaf of bread is designed to go mouldy
  • Why did God create people to become so bad?
  • Surely he could have made people a little bit better
  • Response: He gave them a test
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However, this does not excuse God from choosing to create a world that is less than perfect. Aquinas presents the issue in another way:

  • God is believed to be both good and without limit, so there is nowhere that God is not present
  • In that case, evil cannot exist; there is no room for it, since it cannot arise where God is present, if God is good
  • But we know that evil 'exists'
  • Therefore there cannot be an infinite and good God

Clearly, the way out of this dilemma is to say that evil exists only as a limitation of good. But does this Augustinian approach actually solve that problem?

HOWEVER, could a the torture of an innocent child be regarded simple as a lack of goodness in the torturer? Is there not a very definite act of evil in such situations? & If I do anything wrong, can I claim that it is not my fault? God created me, he made my imperfections, he should have made me better, it's HIS fault.

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Thus, 'Good' and 'evil' are not entities but qualitative judgements There is no such 'thing' as evil, only things which are judged to be evil.

If there is a God, and if he chose to create a less than perfect world, then it is logical to seek a reason for his doing so.

That brings us to the second of the tradional ways of answering the problem of evil as set out by Iranaeus.

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Iranaean Theodicy

Iranaeus: does not deny that suffering and evil exist, or that they are permitted to exist by God.

Rather, he seeks to show that God chose to allow these things to exist in the world in order to bring about a greater good - human freedom and the ability of human beings to have a relationship with God.

Human life is imperfect, but having been made in the image of God, men and women should have the opportunity to grow and develolp into what God intended them to be. As they encounter the sufferings of life, people have an oppurtunity to grow and learn.

Without the existence of both good and evil, that would be impossible.

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Hick supports Ireaenous by saying that evil is something that is to be tackle and overcome, and it is all part of an overall divine plan. 

Evil is a necessary evil, without which there can be no spiritual growth.

He describes the world as a 'vale of soul making' - an environment within which people can grow.

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Some suffering is unmerited (undeserved). Unmerited suffering is often justified on three grounds.

First it purifies the sufferer by affording an oppurtunity to strenghten their character.

Secondly, suffering can produce virtues that would not otherwise be shown, thus it can produce courage in the sufferer and sympathy in those who care for the sufferer

Thirdly, examples of suffering endured with courage and faith can afford moral and spiritual inspiration to others.

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However, it could be argued that some suffering does not ennoble, but degrades. Some too does not evoke sympathy or inspire others. Some again is so prolonged and acute that it can scarcely be justified.

However, it must be stressed that most theists admit that evil is not now fully explicable when it is set against belief in an omnipotent God of love.

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  • Allowing everyone into heaven seems to excuse evil people
  • Is extreme evil/suffering acceptable on the basis that it is “soul making”? – People don’t need to suffer to the extent of which many of them do (Holocaust – unnecessary)
  • Why didn’t God just create a morally perfect world in the first place? If there was an alternative, we wouldn’t need to go through the trials and suffering that we must endure now.
  • The suffering seems very arbitrary – some people suffer  a lot more than other people. Moreover, some morally evil people have wonderful lives, whereas many good-natured people have terrible lives.
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Process Theodicy

Griffin: The process theodicy rests upon the assertion that God is not omnipotent.

He did not create the universe, the universe is an "uncreated process which includes the deity". In other words, God is part of the world and is bound by natural laws.

God's role in creation was limited to starting off the evolutionary process. Since the process has led to the development of humans who exert their own influence on the world, God no longer has total control, since humans are free to ignore God.

Moreover, they have very limited knowledge of God's will, since he did not fashion them after his own likeness; "it is necessarilty the case that God cannot completely control the creatures" - John Hick

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  • This solves the problem of why there is suffering in the world
  • Because it limits God's power, it allows for the possibility that God can suffer as we do, and therefore knows what we go through
  • As God is not considered to be all powerful, there is the possibilty that evil will eventually overcome good, therefore it is an encouragement for us all to resist and fight against evil


  • It goes against the traditional concept of God
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Robyn Nightingale


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