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Theodicy refers to attempts to explain how it is possible that evil and pain and suffering exist along with a God who is good and loving and powerful. The issue has often been phrased in this way: If God is allpowerful and evil exists, then God must not be good and loving, or else God would have used God's power to prevent evil from occurring; or, if God is good and loving and evil exists, then God must not be very powerful, for God in God's goodness and love would have wanted to prevent evil from occurring. In a shorthand way, the question that captures the issue is this: Why do bad things happen to good people? This is a question that most humans are confronted with and struggle with. At different developmental stages through a person's life and depending on different life experiences, an individual's position on theodicy may change.
Various responses (theodicies) have been put forth to address this issue. One response is to assert that human beings simply do not know why God and evil simultaneously exist. The reason simply lies beyond humans' comprehension and ability to know. After all, humans are limited in their intelligence and restricted in their perspective. As a result, they cannot fathom how it could be the case that a good and powerful God and pain and suffering exist.
This theodicy is customarily termed "mystery," and it accents the tremendous dissimilarity between finite human beings and an infinite God. This theodicy also often appeals to the biblical figure Job, who continued to believe and have faith even though he did not understand why the terrible things that happened to him did in fact occur. This theodicy argues that God alone knows the answer or the reason. Humans do not know because they cannot know.
The strength of this theodicy is that it preserves the almightiness and goodness of God by reminding humans that they are human and not gods themselves. It encourages humility. At the same time, its weakness lies in its more modest estimate of human beings' ability to question, to think, and to arrive at answers. If human intelligence is a God-given gift, then ought it not to be directed toward all areas of life and to all questions that arise?
Another response is to suggest that God is not immediately responsible for evil in the world. Rather, God is the source of good things that occur, and the Devil (the demonic, Satan, the Evil One, Lucifer) is responsible for the bad things that happen. As a result, persons ought not to blame God for the things that the Devil does.
This theodicy is often called "cosmic dualism," and it draws on the sense in various religions that there is a negative force in life and the world that causes and promotes evil, as well as a positive force in life and the world that encourages and promotes goodness. This theodicy sometimes appeals to the figure Jesus, who wrestled with temptation from the Devil in the wilderness and emerged victoriously (Luke 4:1-13). The strength of this theodicy is that it makes God responsible for the good things that occur and thereby preserves God's goodness by accounting for the bad things that occur by pointing to the Devil as the culprit. The weakness of this theodicy is that it brings God's power into question:With another cosmic force competing with God, it would seem that God is not all-powerful in the world because God must share power with another agent of action. Further, this theodicy does not let God ultimately off the hook; for, though God is spared immediate responsibility, God holds final accountability as the ultimately more powerful force, unless it is argued that the Devil and God are equally powerful.
Another response is to point to human beings as the source of evil in the world. Individuals are free to choose how they will live their lives and how they will relate to one another. Often times, humans misuse their freedom and choose unwisely. This, in turn, produces pain and suffering, sometimes for the individuals themselves and often times for others.
This theodicy suggests that people need look no further than themselves to explain why evil occurs. It appeals to the biblical figures Adam and Eve, who were placed in the Garden of Eden and given choices. Their failure to make good choices resulted in the pain and suffering of their expulsion from the Garden. This theodicy is often called "bad choices," and has as its strength the location of evil in the abuse of human freedom. Each person knows that he/she is not perfect, and extrapolating from this, the individual has a sense of the enormity and gravity of suffering and pain that can result from this imperfection and unwise choices. This theodicy also preserves the goodness and power of God, because humans are the source of evil and because God self-limits God's power in such a way as to preserve human freedom as genuine and not just delusional.