Theodicy is a branch of theology that seeks to explain why a God that is seen as all-loving, all-seeing, and all-powerful allows evil to exist. The word comes from the Greek words for God and Judgment and so means the judgment of God. It was first made up by the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz in 1710 in his work Théodicée. The subject has been the focus of argument and thought for hundreds of years before that and since.
Theodicy tries to explain why God, who has complete free will, has the power to change anything he wants to, can see all the evil in the world and is all-loving and compassionate, yet does nothing to alleviate the suffering in the world, especially the suffering of innocents.
The weakness of the arguments for Theodicy are often used by atheists to emphasise the problems that go with the belief in God.
There are many arguments to try and explain evil; here is an incomplete list:
- The argument of the 'Greater Good'. God has a plan for the world which is unfolding as it should; this involves some suffering at the hands of evil for the arrival at a destination for the greater good of all. This is also called the Ultimate Harmony Theodicy .
- The Augustinian defence, originating from Saint Augustine of Hippo. God created the world as pure and good but it was spoiled by man through his sins and disobedience of God. This is also known as the Original Sin Theodicy which says that evil came into the world because of humanity's original sin and so is the creation of humanity, not God.
- The Irenaean theodicy which was made by Irenaeus a bishop who died in AD 202. This argues that God gave man free will, in other words the freedom to choose to do good or evil; this allows for the moral development of man.
- The Finite God Theodicy says that God is all-good but not all-powerful and so cannot prevent evil.
- "The best of all possible worlds" theodicy, which was thought up by Leibniz in 1710, says that God, because he is an infinitely perfect being, created a world that has the greatest possible balance of good and evil.
- Some forms of reincarnation believe that people suffer evil as a punishment for their wrong-doing in a previous life.
- Contrast Theodicy holds that evil is needed to enable people to appreciate or understand good.
- Warning Theodicy rationalizes evil as God’s warning to people to mend their ways.