This lesson will explore the philosophical process of rectifying God with evil. In doing so, it will define theodicy while explaining the works of Augustine, Irenaeus, and Hick.
God & Evil
It’s a theme that’s played out in books and on the big screen.
Man’s life is going well; man believes in God. Same man faces horrible tragedy; same man rejects God. Like I said, it’s a refrain that’s played out for generations, and it stems from one question, ‘How can there be a God when there’s so much evil in the world?’Today’s lesson will explore this age-old conundrum of reconciling God and the problem of evil. It’s a problem that some atheists, or those who refute the existence of God, use to validate their disbelief.
Now, before we go any further, there is one thing we must admit. Today’s lesson will not even come close to solving this problem. Coming to an answer requires self-study and reflection. Instead, we’re going to lay out the parameters of the problem as it pertains to philosophy. Then we’ll go over a few answers postulated by some rather famous scholars.
First, let’s start with the problem. Stating it very simply, it goes like this: How does one rectify the existence of God with the obvious existence of evil? In other words, if there really is an all-powerful God, why wouldn’t he wipe out things like evil and disease? Also, if he is supposed to be good, why doesn’t his compassion stop the world’s suffering?Now that we’ve laid out the problem, let’s look at some answers. For starters, the practice of trying to rectify God and evil is known as theodicy. With this in mind, let’s look at three rather famous philosophers who practiced it.
They are Augustine, Irenaeus, and John Hick.
As probably the most famous, we’ll start with Augustine. To sum up his views, Augustine believed evil was a product of man, not God.
Linking his ideas back to the Garden of Eden, Augustine asserted that God created perfection, but the free will of man, of Adam and Eve, messed it up. Putting it in modern terms, Augustine might say evil is a work of the children and not the parent.Think of it this way. A mom and dad might build a beautiful home with pristine walls and snow colored floors.
However, when the kids come in with their muddy feet, the perfection is tarnished and dirt abounds. Despite this, the parents are still good and loving parents; they just have messy kids. In the same way God is still good despite the presence of evil. It’s humans, not God who messed things up.
Irenaeus & Hick
Our next philosopher is Irenaeus. Interestingly, Irenaeus believed evil exists to accomplish soul making. In other words, evil is a tool used to make us better people. It’s a means to an end on our journey toward maturity.Going back to our parent/child analogy, parents often use discipline to help their kids reach maturity. No, it’s never fun, and sometimes it hurts. However, if used correctly, it’s a great tool for bringing about growth.
In the same way, God allows suffering to help humans become more like him.This brings us to our last philosopher, John Hick. Unlike the other two, Hick asserted that humans are still in the process of being created. To use a famous kids’ song, God’s not finished with me, yet! Sort of like a baby who is still in the womb, humanity is still in the growing process.
Earth is a workshop where souls are still being formed. When the product is finally perfected, evil will disappear.
Throughout time, man has grappled with the question, ‘How can God co-exist with evil?’ It’s an argument many atheists, or those who refute the existence of God, use to validate their skepticism.Theodicy is the practice of trying to rectify God and evil. Augustine, Irenaeus, and John Hick are three famous philosophers who used theodicy. Augustine believed evil was a product of man, not God.
Man’s free will has caused evil. Irenaeus believed evil exists to accomplish soul making. God uses evil as a tool to bring humans to spiritual maturity. John Hick asserted humans are still in the process of being created.
Once the process is complete, evil will cease to exist.
When this lesson is completed, you should be able to:
- Identify the philosophical question of the existence of both God and evil
- Define theodicy
- Identify the three main philosphers of theodicy