Evil
  Introduction
  The Irenaean Theodicy
  The Augustinian Theodicy
  The Process Theodicy
The Irenaean Theodicy

Summary

The so-called 'Irenaean theodicy' comes in two parts. The first stems from St Irenaeus (130-202 AD), a Father of the early Christian Church, who thought that humanity was not created perfect, but that they required growth in order to approach spiritual perfection. However, God does not necessarily intend evil to provide a means for this growth (i.e. by providing challenging situations), for a person could grow to spiritual perfection simply by obeying God's laws. Also, from Irenaeus's point of view, God does not intervene in human affairs to prevent evil because that would be to interfere with free will.

The philosopher John Hick (b.1922) has developed this view further. Hick agrees with Irenaeus that God created us with the potential for spiritual growth. However, Hick then sees the process of 'soul making' (as he calls it) to be a response to the evil in the world. So, if cancer did not exist, or the evil actions of others, then we would not have the means whereby we could develop spiritually. Also, Hick argues, there exists what he terms an 'epistemic distance' between human beings and God, so that we are not born knowing of his existence, and it is not something which it is easy to gain certain knowledge of. Therefore, the process of soul making also involves a battle to attain religious faith.

Two further consequences of Hick's theodicy should be borne in mind here: firstly, because some individuals do not seem to have opportunity to develop spiritually (e.g. in the case of infant death), Hick argues that we must bring the possibility of an afterlife into the equation (so that such soul's receive a heavenly reward); secondly, because there is such a great amount of evil in the world, and not all suffering seems fair or understandable, we must finally admit that we cannot fully understand God's reasons or His plan.