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Do theodicies explain why God allows evil in the world?
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Theodicies explain suffering as evil allowing personal growth

Humans are unable to reach moral perfection unless faced with obstacles that encourage them to improve morally. Through the endurance of suffering and evil, they grow closer to moral perfection.
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God needs evil for now, but one day he will destroy it.

The Argument

This argument, developed by the English philosopher Richard Swinburne, states that natural evils can be the means of learning and maturing. Natural evils, in other words, can help cultivate virtues such as courage and generosity by forcing humans to confront danger, hardship, and need. Such arguments are commonly supplemented by appeals to belief in a life after death, not just as reward or compensation but as the state in which the point of human suffering and the way in which God brings good out of evil will be made clear.[1] The most well known theodicies are the Augustinian and Irenaean versions.[2] The Irenaean Theodicy – following the discovery of evolution that suggested to Christians that the Garden of Eden story may not being literal, religious philosophers questioned whether original sin was bad enough to punish humanity for eternity. They argued a ‘soul-making theodicy’: we are capable of moral perfections but we must go through suffering and the opportunity to choose evil to become morally perfect. Perfect goodness requires going through suffering and evil.[2] This ‘quest’ through suffering is in the biblical story of Job and continues through religious stories like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and into modern stories like Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Counter arguments

Salvation through suffering has been, and continues to be, a way for the religious leaders and powerful in society to press the weak and poor by explaining their suffering part of God's plan rather than because of social inequities.


[P1] God is omnipotent and omniscient and benevolent. [P2] Therefore, he ordains evil for a reason. [P3] Once evil has served its purpose, he will eliminate it.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] If God is omnipotent, he does not need evil to realise his objectives. If God is benevolent, then he would not use evil out of choice.


This page was last edited on Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 01:10 UTC

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