Theodicy: Free Will and Natural Evil

Topics: Free will, Theology, God Pages: 6 (1951 words) Published: May 10, 2012
A theodicy is simply a justification of God’s ways. Theists are generally compelled to express a theodicy in response to the unfortunate, painful, evil events and circumstances found in our world. A theodicy is necessary only if we believe in a God who is inherently good, thus requiring an explanation of the apparent discontinuity between a good God and evil in the world.

In order to express my own theodicy, I will discuss the forms of evil in the world and their various manifestations as well as whether or not creation as a whole is a “good” expression of the creator God. I will also discuss how eschatology affects our view of evil and God’s part in allowing or interfering with evil. Finally, I will discuss which theodicy I find most complete and why, as well as some of the strengths and weaknesses of my own theodicy. Evil in the World

Expressing a theodicy requires a basic understanding of evil which can be referred to in light of that expression. The problem of evil has been dealt with in three separate classifications during our class time and reading; moral, natural and gratuitous evil. Moral evil is an evil event or circumstance caused by a human. Examples of moral evil would be murder, lying, stealing and greed. Moral evil results as the consequence of the decisions made by human beings exerting their free will. War, oppression and slavery are prime examples of moral evil perpetrated by human beings.

Natural evil includes the pain and suffering resulting from the forces of nature or the actions of humans. Natural evil can be found associated with weather events such as tornadoes and hurricanes, or geological events including volcano eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. There is some crossover between moral and natural evil, in that, humans may experience natural pain and suffering as a result of another’s actions. Some of these gray areas might include diseases such as AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases, acid rain or mercury poisoning.

Gratuitous evil transcends the line between moral and natural evil. Some events are so horrendous and cause such massive suffering they exist outside the boundaries of the evil encountered on a daily basis and call into question, even for committed theists, why a loving God would allow such events to continue or to happen at all. The prime example of gratuitous evil in the twentieth century was the Holocaust. Six million Jews were exterminated by the Third Reich before and during World War II, causing many survivors to question the existence of God altogether. The holocaust would undoubtedly fall in the realm of moral evil as well as gratuitous evil. The Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 is natural evil gratuitously expressed. More than 225,000 people in twelve different countries were killed as a result of rising waters. Natural disasters in highly populated countries such as China and India have killed more than one million people in a single event. Doctrine of Creation

The doctrine of creation is often discussed in relation to modern science and its influence upon the empirical method of scientific study. The doctrine of creation, in its simplest form, is the belief that “God freely chose to bring the world into existence… (and) Since God is good, his creation is also good…” The implications of the doctrine of creation upon theodicy manifest themselves in our concept of sin (or evil) and how it was introduced into the world as well as God’s involvement (or lack of involvement) in natural evil.

Augustine believed God created only good things, so every created thing is good in its most pure essence. For Augustine, evil exists as a function of the exercise of human free will. Further, Augustine believed in the concept of deprivation which describes evil not as the presence of something which is the opposite of good, but the absence of good itself. The Augustinian theodicy asserts that creation was perfect in the beginning and evil is a result of the...

Bibliography: Encyclopedia Britannica Academic Edition, “Holocaust.” (accessed April 24, 2012).
Encyclopedia Britannica Academic Edition. “Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.” 1027119/Indian-Ocean-tsunami-of-2004 (accessed April 24, 2012).
Grenz, Stanley J., David Guretzki and Cherith Fee Nordling. Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1999.
Peterson, Michael, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach and David Basinger eds. Reason & Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
[ 2 ]. Encyclopedia Britannica Academic Edition, Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, 1027119/Indian-Ocean-tsunami-of-2004 (accessed April 24, 2012).
[ 3 ]. Michael Peterson and others, eds., Reason & Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 276.
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