The Augustinian theodicy is from St Augustine, who based his arguments on the bible, especially the accounts of the creation and the fall in Genesis. His significant theodicy depends on two statements. One is that evil did not come from God, since God’s creation was flawless and perfect. The other, evil coming from elsewhere, so God s justified for allowing it to stay.
Augustine started from believing that God was entirely good and that God had created a perfect world without any flaws. He followed the teaching in Genesis 1, where he emphasised that “All God has made pleased him.” Therefore suffering and evil were unidentified.
He made the point that God cannot be responsible form evil because evil cannot be categorised into being a “substance” rather he believed that evil refers to “lacking of good.” For example, an eye is essentially good- it enables a person to see. If an eye is made imperfect, a person cannot see and therefore suffering results. The “good” is corrupted causing suffering/evil/pain etc.
Augustine also believed that evil comes from humans and angels who deliberately chose to turn away from God. He believed that humans and angels have their own free will to do what they want and evil comes when they choose to use their will to turn away from God. He argued that the desire for power proved too much for Adam and Eve, who were tempted by Satan, a fallen angel, to break God’s command and to eat the forbidden fruit.
After explaining the origin of evil, he explained that suffering arises due to the consequences of human sin. Natural evil originated from the loss of order within nature following the first sin. This destroyed the delicate balance of the world. It also let the world become remote from God and this new damaged environment resulted in moral evil to grow and spread.
Both of these types of evil are interpreted as punishment “all evil is either sin or the punishment for the sin” Augustine made the point that all humans including innocent babies are meant to suffer because all humans were present in the “loins of Adam.” This mirrors the idea that every generation was seminally present in Adam and so every generation is guilty because they inherit his guilt for disobeying God.
Augustine concluded his theodicy with a reminder of God’s grace: if God were simply just, everyone would go to his or her rightful punishment in hell. Through his grace however, God sent his son to die on the cross so that some might be saved and go to heaven. This demonstrates that God is merciful as well as just.
The Irenaean theodicy admits that God is partly responsible for evil. His responsibility extends to creating humans imperfectly and making it their duty to develop the perfection. This idea is based upon Irenaeus’ understanding of Genesis 1:”6 where God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Irenaeus believed that at first humans were made in God’s image and later it would develop into his likeness. Irenaeus’ belief of being in God’s image meant that you have intelligence, morality and personality, yet it lacked completion. He believed that to be complete, it would only be gained by transforming into God’s likeness. Irenaeus claimed that evil was an essential means to effect this alteration.
Irenaeus’ answer to the question why evil is necessary and why God didn’t simply create humans perfectly to begin with is that he believed that attaining the likeness of God requires the “willing cooperation of human individuals.” Willing cooperation requires genuine freedom; we cannot willingly cooperate with something if we are being forced into it. Genuine freedom involves the option of choosing evil instead of good. God’s plans therefore require the authentic possibility that our actions might produce evil.
Irenaeus explains that humans did choose evil that’s why the fall happened. But evil clearly makes life difficult (it “multiples the perils” we face), it nonetheless is beneficial in that it allows us to understand what good is: “how, if we had no knowledge of the contrary, could we have instruction in that which is good?” He then argued that whoever says that God should never have allowed evil to happen then they are really saying that God should take away their humanity. For being human entails having freedom; yet if God were to intervene each time an evil act is committed, there would not in fact be any freedom to commit evil: “If anyone do shun the knowledge of both kinds of things… he unaware divests himself of the character of a human being.”
After he had explained the necessity of both potential and actual evil, he looked ahead to heaven, where everybody will complete the development of God’s likeness and where the sufferings on Earth will have been long forgotten. Irenaeus believed that if everyone attained this stage then they were marking the completion of God’s creation.
John Hicks version of the Irenaean theodicy considers the idea that God, in creating man in his own image has in the first stage of this process produced a creature through the evolutionary process that can live in conscious fellowship with God. The next stage is the ability of that creature to make free moral choices. Part of this process requires humanity to live at distance from God. In terms of knowledge of God rather than space. He sees this process, despite the suffering involved, as worthwhile because of the outcome.
Outline the problem of evil and suffering for religious believers (7)
Even though there are people like Brian Davies who support features of Augustine’s theodicy, the claim that evil cannot properly be called a substance, rather it is a “gap between what there is and what there ought to be.” However there are many others who criticise his theodicy. People claim that his theodicy has logical errors and it has expressed by Schleiermacher. Schleiermacher argued that there was a logical contradiction in holding that a perfectly created world has gone wrong, since this would mean that evil was created itself out of nothing, which is logically impossible. If creation simply falls short of being perfect God is still responsible for this short fall. For e.g., if car maker designs a car to have four wheels, but then fails to ensure it has four wheels after it has been made, then the fault lies within the car maker.
A second criticism, which has come to light with modern scientific knowledge, is that there was never a time when humanity was perfect. If humans evolved from primitive creatures then there never was a time when they were perfect; good and morally enlightened beings. Also natural evils like volcanoes etc were in existence long before human beings existed.
The third criticism is the idea of eternal punishment. If the order of the universe were to return to God at the end of time, then the existence of Hell would permanently incorporate evil and suffering into the framework of God’s universe.
One of the criticisms of Irenaeus’ theodicy is the concept of heaven for all because it does not seem fair and therefore questions God’s justice. Many religious people object to this idea because it contradicts what the Bible and the Qur’an say as it promises punishment for the unrighteous.
It also makes moral behaviour pointless because if this were the case then there would be no pointing going out our way to do good.
Another of his criticisms is that although Irenaeus gives a good account of why there must be suffering, he doesn’t explain why some peoples sufferings has to be so extreme.
Another of his criticisms include that although the argument does explain the reason for evil, it doesn’t explain how it can be the expression of God’s goodness.
Other criticisms include that if God guarantees the end result, what is the point of the pilgrimage? If the end result is not realised then how can the pain be justified? The suffering involved cannot justify the ultimate joy. The occurrence of pointless suffering is not explained. The atonement seems superfluous and unnecessary.
Both theodicies contain the argument that evil was a tragic consequence of human free will. This has separated and is now known as a theodicy known as the free will defence. The argument talks about the world being a place for humans and a place that enables them to be humans- for the world provides true freedom in the form of real choices which produce real goodness or real harm. Without each choices we wouldn’t be free and nor therefore, should we be human.
Richard Swinburne has supported this argument and helped to counter some criticisms that are often levelled against it. One criticism asks why God needs to allow the scale of suffering witnessed in the holocaust. “… He would be like an over-protective parent who will not let his child out of sight for a moment.” His reply conveyed that a God who intervened to prevent large-scale horrors would compromise the gift of freedom and remove human responsibility, thus preventing genuine human development.
The free will defence adds to the work of Augustine and Irenaeus, giving further explanation as to why some evil and suffering may be necessary. However it attracts criticisms that we have discussed, especially the concern that divine love cannot be expressed through such suffering.
I’d like to end the essay with the words of John Hick who talks about his evil and suffering: ” Our solution, then, to this baffling problem of excessive and undeserved suffering is a frank appeal to the positive power of mystery. Such suffering remains unjust and inexplicable, haphazard and cruelly excessive. The mystery of dysteleological suffering is a real mystery, impenetrable to the rationalizing of the human mind.”
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