A Study and Critique of Various Theodicies -- By: Aaron K. Newton

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 20:3 (Summer 2003)
Article: A Study and Critique of Various Theodicies
Author: Aaron K. Newton


A Study and Critique of Various Theodicies

Aaron K. Newton

Batchelor of Arts in Biblical Studies (History of Ideas) Student
Southeastern College at Wake Forest
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587

The actual world is marred by the presence of evil. Everyday experience testifies to the harsh reality of the presence of evil in human society. Indeed, to deny evil is to deny reality. Evil manifests itself in war, in famine, and even in natural disasters, all of which can make the world a brutal place. The problem of evil in the actual world is both intriguing and baffling, and although it is not a soothing reality to encounter, evil is a reality that every person must consider. For centuries, theologians, philosophers, and poets have sought to navigate between the problem of evil and the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. This navigation is called theodicy. The one proposing a theodicy seeks to present propositions that reconcile the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God with the reality of evil. The author seeks to give a succinct, balanced presentation of the theories of Western thinkers on the problem of evil and to reveal the consistencies and inconsistencies of each theory.

The Best-of-All-Possible-Worlds Argument: Two Rationalists

The best-of-all-possible-worlds approach to theodicy is founded upon the presupposition that a higher good exists. Plato (c. 429-347 B.C.) and G. W. Leibniz (A.D. 1646-1716) were two popular rationalistic philosophers who held to the best-of-all-possible-worlds theory. Plato contended that the physical world was surreal, and therefore it could not be trusted for epistemological certainty. Leibniz, a metaphysician, approached the problem of evil from the standpoint of the essential nature of a necessary being. Although Plato originated the best-of-all-possible-worlds approach to the problem of evil, Leibniz perfected it. Both philosophers approached the problem of evil in a deductive manner by beginning with the assumption that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds. The reasoning of these two philosophers is significant to theodicy because both philosophers approached the problem of evil from the perspective that an essentially perfect Creator created the actual world.

Although the approach was not fully developed, Plato was the first philosopher to contend that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds. The best-of-all-possible-worlds approach to the problem of evil is grounded upon the presupposition that there is an all-good creator God:

Let me tell you then why the creator made this world of generation. He was good, and the good can never have any jealousy of anythin...

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