Saturday 17 February 2007

Thinking theologically about theodicy

The topic of theodicy is often discussed merely as a philosophical problem. In the worst cases, it’s little more than an intellectual puzzle about reconciling various abstract divine attributes with an abstract concept of “evil.” What we really need, however, is to approach the so-called problem of evil from an explicitly theological standpoint – which is to say, from the standpoint of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

A number of books have taken up this challenge in different ways. If you wanted to read just four books, I’d recommend these ones:


Tripp said...

Theodicy is an issue I have been bothered by for a while and have read a bunch of books on it. I haven't read the Adams book you recommend but I would throw in:
"Encountering Evil" ed. by Stephen Davies. This has 5 different and good theologians all address the issue and respond to each other.
"The Creative Suffering of God" by Paul Fiddes.

Anonymous said...


D.Z. Phillips, The Problem of Evil and the Problem of God (2004)

Kenneth Surin, Theology and the Problem of Evil (1986)

Terrence W. Tilley, Evils of Theodicy (2000)

And Marilyn McCord Adams' new book, Christ and Horrors (2006)

Anonymous said...

In my journey alongside of people on the margins of society, the questions that relate to evil and suffering have been questions that I have been forced to face in all sorts of truly terrible ways.

As I have struggled with these things (experientially, biblically, and theologically), I have found most popular Christian approaches to the question of "theodicy" to be quite superficial and problematical.

However, along with The Crucified God (which you have already mentioned), I have found Hope in Time of Abandonment by J. Ellul, and Mysterium Paschale by von Balthasar to be definitive works in this regard. I would suggest these books to any who are wrestling with these things.

Unknown said...

Would you mind expanding a bit on this theological standpoint? Specifically, how " the standpoint of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ" is different from other abstractions? It seems that, while this event of Jesus is far from an abstraction, some of the ideas we may derive would appear, at first, to me nothing more than these same types of abstractions and to speak theologically about them is an attempt to avoid some of the epistemological problems with them (among other problems).

I know, I'm probably asking for what may be addressed in your book recommendations, but I'd like some clarity before I engage the texts.



Anonymous said...

SUPERB blog; one of my favorites (and I'm not a theologian in any way, shape or form). In addition to McCord's new book (which I HIGHLY recommend), I'd recommend another new book, "The Reality of God and the Problem of Evil" by Brian Davies.

Description (from the Church House Bookshop):

An important new book on how we can still believe in a God of love and confront the problem of evil in the world. Probably the most important book on the subject since John Hick's book `Evil and the God of Love`. Evil is a strong word that people now employ fairly rarely. Many people believe these days that God is omnipotent,omniscient and good and that what we deem to be bad or evil in the world is no reason for abandoning belief in God. It is an intellectual or theoretical problem not one where the focus is on how one might bring about some desirable goal (a practical matter).

Professor Davies says we should tackle this problem by attending to the basics, by asking whether there is a God and then What is God? he starts by summarizing the arguments so far (from Seneca to the present day). He then moves to what he describes as the basics (see above) and demonstrates that much of what has been written about on the topic of evil is in fact irrelevant or just plain wrong.

Finally, though many theologians argue that evil is a mystery, Davies argues that this too is wrong and a cop out. We should rather be concerned with the problem (or mystery) of good. The real issue is ` Why is there not more good than there is`. From the discussion Aquinas emerges as a hero (as filtered through analytical philosophy) but many moderns thinkers do not emerge so well. Davies effectively picks holes in the arguments of Peter Geach, Paul Helm, Richard Swinburne and even Mary Baker Eddy.

This is a lively book on a tricky subject, written at all times with humour and much practical example.


Another book I'd like to recommend, albeit slightly off topic, is "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" by Richard Bauckham. A different approach, to be sure, but perhaps a new (and better) way to examine this subject matter sans philosophical approaches.


David Scott Lewis

Post a Comment


Contact us

Although we're not always able to reply, please feel free to email the authors of this blog.

Faith and Theology © 2008. Template by Dicas Blogger.