Some have argued that the presence of evil in the world is evidence that God does not exist. After all, some assert, how could an all-good and all-powerful God allow evil to exist?
Not everyone, though, believes that the presence of evil in the world means that there is no God. Some have attempted to defend God in regard to the issue of evil in the world. This leads us to the issue of “theodicy.”
The term “theodicy” literally means “the justification of God.” Theodicy, therefore, is “the attempt to reconcile or justify God’s positive attributes with the problem of evil.”
There are several theodicies or approaches to defending God in light of the problem of evil:
1. Free will defense
The free will defense argues that God made humans with free will and thus they have the ability to choose evil. Although God is all-powerful, he decided to create humans with the ability to choose between good and evil. The evil in the world today, then, is not the result of God directly, it is the result of humans who have chosen to do evil and thus brought negative and tragic consequences into the world. This perspective is consistent with the traditional view that evil entered the world through the sin and fall of Adam and Eve. This view was promoted by the fifth-century theologian, Augustine, and is held by many Christians today.
2. Irenaean theodicy
This approach is named after the second century church father, Irenaeus. Irenaeus argued that God purposely made this world a “vale of tears” in order to prepare us for the better next world to follow. For Irenaeus, this present world is not the best world, but it is the best way to the coming best world. With this world we grow in character and strength as we face various trials. We thus become better people and become better prepared for the glorious world to come.
3. Christian Science approach
A much less accepted approach to the problem of evil is that proposed by Christian Scientists and their founder, Mary Baker Eddy. This approach denies that evil actually exists. Evil is just an illusion.
4. Moral goodness approach
Some argue that God allows evil because it makes known the truly good works. In other words, goodness shines brightest in the midst of evil. If there were no evil, good actions would not be as readily evident.