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A Brief History of Theodicy



This chapter narrates in broad strokes the history of theodicy. Starting with an indication how Biblical texts have functioned in theodical thinking, it discusses the key ideas of Irenaeus (soul-making), St. Augustine (free will), Leibniz (best of all possible worlds), Joseph Butler (imperfect comprehension of God's governance), Hegel (cunning of Reason), C.S. Lewis (God's megaphone), Ewing (principle of organic unities), Plantinga (felix culpa), and Swinburne (greater goods).
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Mid-twentieth century witnessed a renewal of the interest in the problem of evil, presented by Mackie et al. in the form of the logical argument from evil. However, this argument was proven ineffective in securing victory over theism. A more successful strategy was devised by Rowe and Draper—the so-called evidential argument from evil. I believe that the current responses to it fail to defend God. In this paper, I try to face the evidential argument by embracing a triple strategy, which involves an alternative theology. First, a shift of focus regarding suffering from the prevalent anthropocentrism to the perspective of soteriological teleology is proposed. Second, I present a theodicy in line with Plato’s approach in the Timaeus, as well as with some aspects of the theodicy in the Vedānta-sūtra II.1.32–36. Third, I argue that, if the previous two steps contribute towards a plausible answer to the problem of evil, the modified concept of the deity and the associated cosmogonical account should be brought close to the picture of Plato’s demiurge and his act of creation. If it is to provide a successful defense of theism against the problem of evil, that price should not be considered too dear.
When first published, Evil and the God of Love instantly became recognized as a modern theological classic, widely viewed as the most important work on the problem of evil to appear in English for more than a generation. Including a foreword by Marilyn McCord Adams, this reissue also contains a new preface by the author.