Where is God? Searching for a new way to justify God’s existence in the face of evil.

1.0  Introduction

The fact of evil constitutes the most serious objection to the Christian belief in a God of love. (Hick 1988: ix)

The above quote from John Hick explains that the biggest problem faced by belief in the traditional Christian God of love, is the fact that evil and suffering exist in the world, and that these notions are incompatible with each other (Bowker 2004: 968). One may often hear the question asked: “why if God is so loving and all-powerful, does He allow bad things to happen?” It is this idea of the incompatibility of the Christian ideal and the stark realities of the world, that may often cause one to lose their faith or to abstain from religion altogether. Numerous attempts have been made throughout history to justify the existence of God in the face of evil and suffering (the task of theodicy – see Migliore 2004: 426), but there remains a lack of consensus as to the problem of evil. Is it then, time to consider a new approach and to construct a contemporary theodicy?

This essay aims to argue that the traditional approaches to theodicy and the conservative interpretation of God’s nature are incompatible with the existence of evil and suffering in the world; a move away from a conservative understanding of God and His link to evil is required, if we are to maintain belief in His existence. Through a discussion and critique of classical theodicies, a liberal approach (as offered by John Hick, 1966; 1988; 2001) will be suggested as the appropriate method of interpreting the problem of evil. In conjunction with this, the argument put forward by protest theologian[1] John Roth will be considered in order to argue for a change in perception and understanding of the nature of God.

2.0 Classical approaches to the problem of evil

Before new ways of approaching the problem of evil can be assessed, it is important to gain an understanding of the theodicies from which contemporary theories have stemmed. The Patristic era of Church history saw the formulation of two significant and opposing theologies surrounding the question as to the link between God’s ‘goodness’ and the existence of evil; the notion of Original Sin as set out by St. Augustine, and the idea of ‘person/soul-making’ suggested by Irenaeus.

Augustine and Original Sin

The affirmation of God’s goodness and the original state of perfection in which the world was created is the central precept upon which, Augustine’s theodicy is based (McGrath 2011: 225). The theory of Original Sin allows for belief in the omnipotent and benevolent God, prescribed to by those within traditional streams of Christianity, to be maintained; the ‘blame’ for the coming into existence of evil is placed directly with humanity. Based on the ‘fall of man’ narrative found in Genesis 3, the disobedience to God displayed by Adam and Eve’s free choice[2] to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, caused the world to be “contaminated” with suffering and evil (McGrath 2011: 225).

Following from this understanding, a conservative view of the Genesis narrative maintains that all humanity may be traced back to common ancestors; Adam and Eve. As Adam committed the Original Sin, his sinfulness is ‘seminally present’ within all mankind; we are born sinful, and only through obedience to God (and Christ) may we be saved from our wrongdoings. If one accepts Augustine’s view without challenge, then it may be argued that the problem of evil is somewhat solved; God remains free of responsibility for the existence of evil and the traditional Christological affirmation of Christ’s salvific power for humanity is maintained.

However, Augustine’s theory may be challenged on three accounts. Firstly, Augustine’s theodicy appears to only account for the existence of moral evil (suffering that is brought about by the actions of humanity) (cf. Arliss & Vardy 2003: 49 ) and does not explain fully as to how the existence of a benevolent God is compatible with the fact of natural evils such as earthquakes, famines, disease and illness. Secondly, it could be argued that for Augustine’s theory to be a viable account for the existence of evil, a literal interpretation of the Genesis account is needed. Adam and Eve must have literally existed and literally disobeyed God by eating from the forbidden tree; by contrast, a metaphorical interpretation of this story does not add anything to its understanding, more it could be seen to detract from its value and render Augustine’s theodicy implausible. Although the use of allegorical language, a view that Augustine himself appears to advocate (Astley 2004: 52), may be used in order to suggest that all sin is disobedience to God (thus humanity suffers), there still appears to be a lack in clarity as to the ‘whys’ and ‘wherefores’ of natural evil; why does humanity’s disobedience to God allow for the occurrence of natural disasters and disease? It could be argued that natural evil acts as a ‘punishment’ for humanity’s sins; the punishment here appears to be disproportionate, unselective in who is targeted and ultimately, unfair.

The third point, upon which one can base a critique of Augustine’s theodicy, is centred on the idea that humans are born sinful (cf. Hebblthewaite 2005: 94). This idea can be considered highly controversial as it implies that a new born child is sinful despite having never committed a sin or been disobedient to God. The idea of being born sinful is argument enough for those within the conservative framework of Christianity to maintain belief in Jesus as the only path to salvation; through a lifetime of dedication to Christ and God, one can be saved from their original sinful state. However, based on additional critiques as discussed, Augustine’s theodicy can be seen insufficient in providing a coherent and plausible explanation as to the problem of evil. As Brian Hebblethwaite makes clear:

Philosophers have attempted to make some sense of this doctrine [Original Sin] but, generally speaking, have balked at the idea… (Hebblethwaite 2005: 94)

The Irenaean Theodicy

As Augustine’s theodicy points to the past, Irenaeus’ thinking, contrarily, points to an eschatological hope; that good will eventually triumph over evil (Hick 1983: 95). Like with his contemporary, Irenaeus claims that humanity is responsible for the existence of evil not due to some ultimate demonstration of disobedience however, instead he suggests that Man was created imperfect with the “capacity for [this] perfection through a process of growth” (McGrath 1996: 92). Irenaeus describes humanity as child-like, lacking in maturity which, is suggested as the cause for the initial failure to resist the temptation by “the deceiver” (Irenaeus 1996: 93). Through the trials and tribulations endured through life by virtue of the existence of evil, and by placing faith in Christ, one is able to achieve the perfection that was deliberately omitted from humanity’s creation.

Differently to Augustine, the Irenaean approach appears to make use of the Genesis narrative in a metaphorical or allegorical sense, which stands in direct contrast to the literal interpretation offered by the Original Sin type of theodicy (cf. Hick 1993: 99). Already this provides us with a stronger basis upon which to conduct further discourse concerning a relevant theodicy for the modern context, as one is not confined to the often illogical and implausible implications suggested by a literal reading of scripture.

Further to this, the presence of an eschatological dimension in Irenaeus’ theodicy adds a component of Christianity that can be seen as essential to the faith as a whole. Richard Bauckham emphasises this point by stating that, within the 20th Century, eschatology became “something more like a dimension of the whole subject matter of theology” (Bauckham 2009: 206). If we are to consider a theodicy for a 21st Century context, then as Bauckham has suggested, eschatology must be the central focus of our answer to the problem of evil.

The Augustinian approach to theodicy has been shown to fall short of providing a basis upon which to construct a relevant and coherent answer for the contemporary context, due to its highly conservative and, it could be argued, requirement for, a literal interpretation of the Genesis narrative. The traditional understanding of God’s omnipotence and benevolence is maintained through both of the discussed theodicies, however, Alister McGrath points out that Irenaeus’ thinking does not provide as clear an explanation as would be required, if one were to consider this theodicy as an appropriate answer to the problem of evil (McGrath 2011: 224). The work of John Hick expands on the Irenaean idea, and is to this, the search for a new way of justifying God’s existence, now turns.

3.0 A brief discussion of Hick’s method and sources

Before assessing Hick’s enquiry into the problem of evil, it is firstly important to establish his theological methods and sources in order to gain a basic understanding as to the nature of Hick’s overall theological work. By virtue of Hick’s position within the liberal framework of Christian theology, the sources of ‘reason’ and ‘experience’ are of vital importance in shaping the conclusions reached within his theological discourse. The aim, for the liberal theologian, is to reinterpret and rethink archaic language and supposedly out-dated doctrine, in order to make sense of traditional ideas in the contemporary context (McGrath 2011: 82).

Hick’s published work has often caused great controversy within theological and academic spheres; The Myth of God Incarnate (1977), of which Hick was the editor, caused religious outrage by offering a radical shift from the traditional Christology of Jesus’ metaphysical incarnation of God, to a more mythic understanding. The Metaphor of God Incarnate (1993) by Hick himself, took this argument further and claimed that the Incarnation should be understood in a metaphorical sense. Roots for the argument against Hick’s seemingly radical ideas stem from the fact that without logical or plausible reasoning or explanation, traditional Christian affirmations are rejected entirely.

“Christians are committed to the notion that scripture is the word of God” (Fowl 2009: 346); Hick’s apparent lack of consideration for the authority of scripture leads many conservative theologians to stand in contention with his theology, instead harking back to traditional and classical understandings of Christian doctrine. Hick’s quest for religious pluralism appears to be the overall motive of his theology; the aim of making Christian doctrine (or ‘truths’) compatible with those found in the other world religions, in order for their religious and spiritual claims to remain ‘true’ for the adherents of such faiths. This aim is demonstrated by the conclusion reached in Hick’s theodicy, as will be demonstrated in the coming discussion.

 

3.1 ‘The Vale of Soul-Making’ – Hick’s theodicy

Many of the thorny theological and philosophical issues elided or overlooked by other theodicists are confronted by Hick. (Surin 1986: 92)

The point made above by Kenneth Surin highlights the relevance of assessing Hick’s theodicy when attempting to answer the problem of evil within a contemporary context. As demonstrated by the above discussion of the fundamental strengths of the Irenaean approach to theodicy, the fact that Hick chooses to formulate his theological conclusion as to the problem of evil on Irenaeus’ theory provides us here with further affirmation as to the importance of considering Hick’s work.

Hick appeals against the Augustinian idea of humans being created in a perfect state and utilises Irenaeus’ point that the creation of a ‘perfect humanity’ is an on-going process (Hick 1988: 254), as the starting point for his theodicy. For Hick, evil is necessary to our existence in order for humanity to develop, and to ultimately attain a higher state of spiritual and self-awareness as well as to attain a restored relationship with God; life if understood to be a process of “soul-making” (Hick 1988: 253)

The idea of evil and suffering as a challenge which humanity must overcome in order to progress is not unique to Hick, nor in fact is it restricted to theological discourse. The biological theory of natural selection as posited by Charles Darwin has at its centre, the concept of all life existing as a struggle for existence, whether it is competition for food, habitat, a mate or the challenges presented by illness and disease (cf. Darwin 1998: 49). In order for the progression or evolution of a species to take place, life must adapt to survive these challenges; this idea can be likened directly to Hick’s idea of evil and suffering as a means by which humanity may progress.

Although the link between theology and science (and thus it could be argued, the contemporary context) appears to have been bridged somewhat, it can be suggested that the supposed link deals only with suffering and evil that reside within the ‘category’ of natural evil. What then, is to be said of moral evil?

It has already been suggested that the concept of free will plays an important role when considering an explanation as to the problem of evil. Augustine’s theory shows us that it is free will that led to the original act of committing sin which, ultimately led to the fall of man. Irenaeus suggests that, despite its lacking in knowledge and maturity, humanity ‘allowed’ itself to be tempted by Satan, thus demonstrating an element of choice in turning away from God and his original instruction. The concept of free will has been at the heart of numerous theological apologies in the form of a ‘free will defence’. John Hick challenges free will in a move that radically changes the traditional nature of theodicy and, as will be seen, the classical Christian views of God.

Hick begins by discussing the free will defence and states, that the first two principals, upon which it is based, are actually logical and plausible. Point (1) dictates how the concept of divine omnipotence (understood to be God’s ability to perform any action; his all-powerfulness) does not allow for the performance of actions that are intrinsically illogical and contradictory. “God will never make a four-sided triangle” as the properties of a triangle dictate it has three sides and so the creation of such would be a logical impossibility (cf. Hick 1988: 265). Point (2), following on from (1), states that the creation of a human without the ability the freely choose right or wrong actions is also a contradiction, and thus is not possible within God’s scope of omnipotence. The possession of the freedom to choose either right or wrong, is a predicate of being human (Hick 1988: 266); just as the possession of three sides only, is a predicate of being a triangle.

Hick’s sympathy with the free will defence ends however, when the question is asked:

If God made us, why did he not make us so that we should always want to do what is right? (Hick 1988: 268)

The question may be answered, by those outside a theological forum, by assuming that if God were to in some way ‘manipulate’ humanity to always want to perform the ‘right action’, then this would be a violation of free will. This assumption is erroneous as Hick uses an analogy of two contrasting people, on opposing ends of the ‘moral spectrum’, to demonstrate his critique of free will[3]. A saint is logically able to commit sin, but by virtue of his being a saint, it is morally impossible for him to do so; the “depraved and perverted monster”, is logically able to not commit sin, but by virtue of his character, it is morally impossible for him to not sin. Both of the persons within this analogy possess the freedom given to humanity to choose either right or wrong. The analogy of the saint indicates that it is entirely possible to possess freedom without ever feeling compelled or inclined to commit sin; whilst temptation may exist, the possibility remains to overcome this and remain ‘perfectly good’ and the example of Christ provides the best demonstration of this (Hick 1988: 267).

Evidence dictates that God did not create humanity to always choose to act morally, for if He did, then there would be no need for a theological endeavour to discover the answer to the problem of evil. Anthony Flew can be seen to challenge the omniscience[4] of God by suggesting that He was short-sighted in his creation of humanity:

Why did God not realise this possibility in His initial creation of mankind? Why did He not make men…always overcome temptation and freely act rightly? (Flew cit. Hick 1988: 271)

If one were to accept Flew’s challenge to God’s omniscience then it may be suggested that the responsibility for the allowing of evil into the world, rests solely with God and thus contradicts all classic accounts of theodicy. In a move uncommon to Hick’s general approach to theology, his conclusion as to the nature of free will and thus the existence of moral evil, attempts to remain somewhat consistent with traditional conclusions within theodicy. Hick acknowledges Flew’s point and argues that it is a ‘failing’ on God’s part that has allowed for the existence of evil in the world; Hick coins the term “omni-responsibility” to demonstrate this point (Hick 1988: 291).

Although this is the case, Hick does accept the accountability of humanity for their actions; “the divine and human responsibilities are not mutually incompatible” (Hick 1988: 291). He moves to suggest that the presence of evil within the physical realm of existence is due to humanity’s failing, whereas the overarching problem lies with God, as He created the world in which He knowingly (it is suggested), allowed for the conditions for evil to exist: “…He took His decision in awareness of all that would flow from it” (Hick 1988: 290).

Perhaps one of the biggest critiques of this theodicy comes when one considers Hick’s own admission that the ‘soul-making’ process at the centre of his proposed answer to the problem of evil, fails during the physical existence of humanity:

This person-making process, leading eventually to a perfect human community, is obviously not completed on this earth. (Hick 2001a: 51)

Kenneth Surin offers critique of Hick’s theodicy based on this point and argues that the suffering endured throughout one’s life must have a justifiable end “guaranteed by God” (Surin 1986: 93). Further to this point, John Roth asks as to how the horrors such as those endured by the millions tortured and executed during the holocaust, can be justified by the process of soul-making (Roth 2001: 62); if there is no ‘reward’ or positive outcome to be had that can be experienced in an embodied or physical existence, then how can extreme cases of suffering ever hope to be justified? Hick’s only response to the charge that such evils are unjustifiable, is to assert that belief in the eschatological dimension of faith must be maintained, and to place trust in the advancement of humanity after death.

Stephen Davis critiques Hick’s eschatological hope by suggesting that there is no guarantee that the nature of free choices made by humanity in life, will differ in an afterlife setting (cf. Davis 2001: 59). Humans that, by the fact of free will, have chosen to act wrongly in life are not guaranteed to change their moral viewpoint after death, and so will never be able to attain the higher state of being Hick talks about. Rejecting the freedom of choice present in the eschaton[5], Davis instead suggests that for Hick’s theodicy to become more plausible there must feature a causal joint[6], in which God can be seen to offer “those who say yes to Him a new ‘heart of flesh’ (Ezek. 11: 19-20)” (Davis 2001: 59).

If one takes Hick’s theodicy as a ‘true’ account for the existence of evil and suffering, then it can be seen that the understanding of God held by traditional Christianity would be obliged to change quite significantly. God’s ultimate accountability for the existence of evil could be seen to stand in direct contention with His apparent omnipotence and benevolence. Conservative theologians may choose to reject Hick’s theodicy based on this point, however to them, Hick provides an answer. Based upon the manifestations of the divine in all of the major religious traditions, Hick suggests a supposed change in the way in which God is thought of.

He argues the case for an ultimate reality that manifests itself in different manners across the world’s religions, which he names ‘the Real’ (cf. Hick 1983: 83). According to Hick, we cannot know anything of the Real, therefore the attributes we attach to it are completely meaningless (Griffin 2001: 53); this view is shared by Jewish theologian Dan Cohn-Sherbok, as he argues that the use of cataphatic theology (that is, using positive language to refer to God’s attributes) is a futile task (cf. Sherbok 2011), based on the assumption made by Hick, that God is totally-other from humanity and thus impossible to understand through any realms of anthropic logic or reasoning.

Hick’s theodicy, despite the challenges as discussed, does offer an understanding of the problem of evil that may be seen to hold credence in a contemporary context. It does not appear to be based on potentially archaic ideas that are often grappled with in the modern context, nor does it assume all responsibility for the existence of evil is placed with mankind. The eschatological dimension of Hick’s theodicy is an important feature as it remains consistent with the supposed central focus of theology as a whole[7]. What Hick’s theodicy also allows for, is the understanding of Christ as the means by which humanity may be saved. In The Metaphor of God Incarnate, Hick discusses the idea that the salvation of humanity is not fulfilled through Jesus’ death on the cross, more it is the example set by Jesus throughout his life and ministry that inspires humanity to live morally and free of temptation that ultimately leads to the attainment of a higher state of existence; the ‘perfect humanity’:

Salvation consists in human beings becoming fully human, by fulfilling the God-given potentialities of their nature. (Hick 1983: 79)

The explicit incorporation of Christ’s salvific work is another point that strengthens the argument for carrying forward Hick’s theory into our enquiry of theodicy. However the fact remains that using the soul making theodicy as expressed by Hick, changes the traditional omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent claims about God’s nature. If God is to be held responsible for the existence of evil, can He still be considered to be benevolent? If God is all-knowing, why did He not create humanity with free will but yet the inclination to always perform morally right actions? If God is omnipotent, why can He not be seen to intervene in extreme cases of unjustified suffering?

If we are to maintain belief in God in the face of evil and suffering in the world, then our traditional preconceptions of His nature must change. The task of protest theodicy is to argue this point, and is to where our search for an answer to the problem of evil continues.

3.2 ‘God on Trial’ – Roth’s protest theodicy

John Roth offers a theodicy that, by virtue of its name, stands in direct contention with traditional religious and philosophical claims made about the nature of evil and its link to God (cf. Roth 2001b: 3). The basis and ‘inspiration’ for the construction of Roth’s theodicy is based upon the testaments of Holocaust survivors; from this it is important to note that a number of key Jewish theologians would sympathise with the argument put forward by this type of theodicy (cf. Migliore 2004: 128). From the comment made by Roth in his critique of Hick’s theodicy, it is evident to see that the events of the European genocide during the 1940s heavily influence this type of theodicy. The immense evil and suffering that was inflicted upon the victims of the holocaust is, as already alluded to, unjustifiable by any means of philosophical and theological enquiry. The existence of an all-loving, benevolent God cannot be maintained in the face of such horrors and thus, a new typology of God is required.

Roth begins by asserting that the continued demonstrations of evil and suffering throughout human history are evidence for God’s apparent lack of action in the world. Citing Hegel, Roth dubs history the “slaughter-bench” of humanity (Hegel cit. Roth 2001b: 7) which emphasis the point of immense suffering throughout its (relatively) brief existence. Roth argues that either, (a) God has one single path for the world to follow and the suffering endured by humanity is necessitated by such, or (b) that there are a number of alternative paths but God ‘decided’ to maintain such a route that resulted in horrific suffering like that seen during the holocaust. Either way each of these potentialities is a “grounds for protest”; taking example (a) if there is only one way in which to fulfil the earth’s purpose then surely by deduction, this limits God’s omnipotence? Example (b) demonstrates a clear lack in benevolence as why would God not ‘choose’ a path that did not include immense suffering and pain for countless innocent lives? (cf. Roth 2001b: 7) If either of these conclusions is brought forward then it is a clear challenge on one of the traditional conceptions of God’s nature; either His omnipotence or His benevolence must at this point, be surrendered.

Roth is seen to accept the notion set out by Flew and Hick of God’s ultimate responsibility for the existence of evil:

…man is not entirely to blame; it was not he who started history. (Camus cit. Roth 2001b: 8)

The idea that humanity has its part to play in the committing of morally unjustifiable acts is accepted by Roth, but for him God, as the creator of everything in existence, is ultimately responsible for the conditions of the world and the extent to which humanity may exercise its ‘God-given’ freedom. As with this idea in Hick’s theodicy, the benevolence of God is again challenged and once more demands that the traditional view of God is left behind, in favour of a new understanding of our divine creator.

Roth again challenges the traditional concept of God’s omnipotence by asserting that: if scripture is to be revered as God’s inspired word and thus treated with a certain aspect of truth, then the narratives of the resurrection and the exodus can be seen as clear demonstrations of God’s limitless power. Taking this forward, if God has the power to resurrect and to save an entire nation from slavery, then why was this power not used to thwart the holocaust and other such evils? (Roth 2001b: 11). It may be suggested that God does not possess omnipotence or that he had the ability to intervene, but chose not to; thus demonstrating a lack of benevolence. This argument is supported by Maurice Wiles in his discussion of God’s power in relation to miracles:

…no miraculous intervention prevented Auschwitz or Hiroshima, while the purposes apparently forwarded by some of the miracles acclaimed in traditional Christian faith seem trivial by comparison. (Wiles 1986: 66)

Wiles argues that the traditional accounts of miraculous activity (demonstrating God’s omnipotence) and the suggested reasons for their being, are in fact meaningless when considered against the potential miracle of God’s intervention in the act of saving millions of lives. One can either reject the notion that miracles exist which in turn reduces the scope of God’s power, or one can accept the claim by Wiles, in which case negates God of His benevolence.

Whichever way one interprets Roth’s arguments, one of God’s characteristics must be surrendered; the existence of evil and the supposed omnipotence, omniscience and benevolence of God are incompatible and implausible. By Roth’s own admission, his theodicy does not seek to justify the existence of evil; doing so is one of the major flaws of other theologies concerning the problem of evil (Roth 2001b: 17). Roth emphasises the importance of the acknowledgement of evil and urges humanity to continue to challenge God, to put ‘God on trial’ for the suffering his creation must endure.

The failure to ‘answer’ the problem of evil is – besides the rejection of the classic understanding of God’s nature – perhaps the biggest critique to offer against Roth’s so-called antitheodicy (cf. Roth 2001b: 17). The aim of his theological discourse is totally unclear; Roth still maintains belief in God but yet, as has been shown, appears to construct an image of God that would not warrant belief from any right-thinking soul! As John Hick suggests, “the God he stills seems to believe in is the Devil!” (Hick 2001b: 29). Clearly as an obvious religious contradiction, John Roth does hold belief that the deity to which humanity owes its existence is the Devil, so there must be an element of the traditional God hidden somewhere within his theodicy. David Ray Griffin comments that Roth must believe in a God that is a mixture of both good and evil (Griffin 2001: 26); this still does not alleviate the contradictions of the issue at hand and does not fill one with confidence in Roth’s conclusion as to the problem of evil.

4.0 A theodicy for today? – Conclusion

The problem of evil is one that has challenged, and will continue to challenge humanity for the entirety of its physical existence here, on earth. For those of a religious conviction (notably those whom ascribe themselves to the Abrahamic faiths), the suffering endured and evil witnessed are often grounds on which to doubt the existence of an all-powerful and all-loving God. Augustine sought to solve this problem by suggesting that the existence of evil originated with Adam and is thus, the fault of humanity and its disobedience to God. This theory has been discussed and rendered insufficient in providing an answer as to the problem of evil, due to its source in scripture and intrinsic conservative nature.

The Irenaean approach can be thought of as a more robust solution to the problem of evil and laid the foundation for John Hick’s enquiry into theodicy. Hick maintains that the existence of evil is necessary in order for humanity to develop into its full potential of ‘perfectness’; a view that can be seen common to the scientific theory of natural selection. That the struggle for existence is essential for the evolution of a species is an undeniable link between the secular world and Hick’s notion of ‘soul-making’.

From Hick’s theodicy, it can be ascertained that the model of God held by traditional Christians is no longer compatible with our understanding of the world and with the inherited memory of extreme evils such as the holocaust. A new model of God is thus required; the argument for this is clearly explicated by John Roth’s protest theodicy, in which he claims that the evils endured during times of mass genocide is totally incompatible with God’s supposed benevolence and omnipotence. Although Roth does not provide a clear answer as to the problem of evil, the basis for his argument is sound.

We are in need of a new model of God, if belief in God at all is to carry on in to the future. What this essay has provided, is the case against the traditional view of God in conjunction with a way in which to understand our continued state of suffering, that is resonant not only within Christianity but within all scopes of religiosity. What is the proposed theodicy for today?

We must let go of the traditional view of God; to say he is omnipotent, benevolent and omniscient has no meaning. God is God, and humanity is humanity; God exists apart from humanity so we must appeal to the realm of myth in understanding His ways (cf. Hick 1988: 335). What we must focus on, is the challenges evil presents us with in order to strive for a better state of existence than the one currently facing us now. It has been demonstrated that the full attainment of this transformed state is confined to the eschaton, but this is no reason to dissuade us from the quest of becoming ‘perfected’:

…can there be a future good so great as to render acceptable, in retrospect, the whole human experience, with all its wickedness and suffering as well as all its sanctity and happiness? I think that perhaps there can, and indeed perhaps there is. (Hick 1988: 386)

Bibliography

–       Astley, J (2004) Exploring God-Talk: Using Language in Religion London: Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd.

–       Arliss, J & Vardy, P (2003) The Thinker’s Guide to Evil Alresford: John Hunt Publishing

–       Bauckham, R (2009) Eschatology in Tanner, K; Torrance, I; Webster, J (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology Oxford: Oxford University Press

–       Bowker, J (ed) (2004) The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions Oxford: Oxford University Press

–       Cohn-Sherbok, D (2011) St Wilfred Lectures How Odd of God to Choose the Jews? [lecture] April 7th. Ripon, England: Ripon Cathedral

–       Davis, S.T. (2001) Critique by Stephen T. Davis in Davis, S.T. (ed) Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press

–       Darwin, C (1998) The Origin of Species Ware: Wordsworth Editions Limited

–       Fowl, S.E. (2009) Scripture in Tanner, K; Torrance, I; Webster, J (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology Oxford: Oxford University Press

–       Griffin, D.R. (2001) Critique by David Ray Griffin in Davis, S.T. (ed) Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press

–       Hebblethwaite, B (2005) Philosophical Theology and Christian Doctrine Oxford: Blackwell Publishing

–       Hick, J et al (1977) The Myth of God Incarnate London: SCM Press

–       Hick, J (1983) The Second Christianity London: SCM Press

–       Hick, J (1988) Evil and the God of Love (2nd Edition) London: MacMillan

–       Hick, J (1993) The Metaphor of God Incarnate London: SCM Press

–       Hick, J (2001a) An Irenaean Theodicy in Davis, S.T. (ed) Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press

–       Hick, J (2001b) Critique by John Hick in Davis, S.T. (ed) Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press

–       Irenaeus (1996) Irenaeus on the Origin of Evil in McGrath, A (ed) The Christian Theology Reader (3rd Edition) Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

–       McGrath, A (ed) (1992) The Christian Theology Reader (3rd Edition) Oxford: Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

–       McGrath, A (2011) Christian Theology: An Introduction (5th Edition) Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell

–       Migliore, D (2004) Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (2nd Edition) Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co.

–       Roth, J (2001a) Critique by John Roth in Davis, S.T. (ed) Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press

–       Roth, J (2001b) A Theodicy of Protest in Davis, S.T. (ed) Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press

–       Surin, K (1986) Theology and the Problem of Evil Oxford: Basil Blackwell

–       Wiles, M (1986) God’s Action in the World London: SCM Press


[1] This term will be defined later within this essay.

[2] The concept of ‘free-will’ will be discussed further in relation to the theodicy of John Hick.

[3] See Hick 1988: 267.

[4] God’s ‘all-knowingness’.

[5] The term used by Davis to refer to the realm of existence after death. See Davis 2001: 59.

[6] An instance in which the divine, transcendent God, interacts with the world.

[7] See page 6 (cf. Bauckham 2009: 206).

6 thoughts on “Where is God? Searching for a new way to justify God’s existence in the face of evil.”

Leave a Reply