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Theodicy is a branch of theology that defends God's goodness and justice in response to the problem of evil.

The word was supposedly coined by the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), and is derived from two Greek words (theos, God, and dike, justice).

The premise which Theodicy is based upon is that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, with the question being how can God be the author of evil, or allow evil and suffering to exist?


In response, various proposals have been made, such as,

God could have,

  • 1. made us (and angels) with no moral standard or sense or deprived us from the moral ability to respond to or choose good [morally insensible, even as with clouds].
  • 2. granted us free moral agency, but never have given us anything to choose between [negation of moral choices, and no devil or God].
  • 3. left man only with recourse to finite competing sources as his ultimate object of spiritual affection and allegiance and source of security, and supreme judge of what is good [atheism and atheistic governments].
  • 4. called man to make the Creator their ultimate object of spiritual affection and allegiance and source of security as being what is right and what is best for man, versus finite created beings or things being one's "god," and provided moral revelation and influences. Yet always have moved us to do good, and never have allowed us to choose evil (even if as by making believing in God and choosing good so utterly compelling — like God appearing daily and always doing miracles on demand, and preventing any seeming evidence to the contrary - so that no man could attempt to make excuses for not believing in Him [effective negation of any freedom to choose]).
  • 5. allowed created beings a negative alternative to faithfulness to the creator, and the ability to choose evil, but immediately reversed any effects and not penalized such [negation of consequences to choices].
  • 6. allowed us to do bad, but restricted us to a place where it would harm no one but ourselves [isolated consequences to choices].
  • 7. allowed us to choose between good and evil, and to affect others by it, but not ultimately reward or punish us accordingly [negation of judicial and eternal consequences, positive or negative].
  • 8. given us the ability to choose, and alternatives to chose between, and to face and overcome evil or be overcome by it, with the ability to effect others and things by our choices, and to exercise some reward or punishment in this life for morality, and ultimately reward or punishment all accordingly [pure justice].
  • 9. restrained evil to some degree, while making the evil that man does to work out for what is Good, with justice yet with mercy, and grace, towards those who want good, and who thus the One who is supremely Good.
  • 10. in accordance with 8, the Creator could have chose to manifest Himself in the flesh, and by Him to provide man a means of escaping the ultimate retribution of Divine justice, and instead receive unmerited eternal favor, at God's own expense and credit, appropriated by a repentant obedient faith, in addition to the loss or gaining of certain rewards based on one's quality of work as a child of God. And eternally punish, to varying degrees relative to iniquity and accountability, those whose response to God's revelation manifested they want evil, [justice maintained while mercy and grace given].

Arminian response

Christian responses include the Arminian position that argues that evil is a consequence of God giving man freedom to choose, and that, if choice means anything, man must have something to choose from, this being turning away from the good to do the opposite. As angels or man have chosen to do evil, this results in suffering. While God knows what man will do, that is not the same as ordaining or decreeing it.

Calvinist response

The Calvinist position is that of "determinism", which holds that man has a more limited extent of free will than in the Arminian position, and that God has determined all things that will ever come to pass, as the Westminster Confession of Faith states. (3:1 5:2, 4) The Confession essentially states that God in His sovereignty is the first cause of all things, though many of the things which occur are through the "free" actions of man, which God influences. As one authority wrote, God "does not arrange things or control history apart from second causes...", and He uses such as instruments, so as to make all things work together to accomplish His plan, which is for the good of those who love Him. (Rom. 8:28)[1]

Some object to the further conclusions of Calvinism related to this.[2] While Armianism believes God has the right and the ability to ultimately determine all things, it seeks to reconcile the actions of God concerning the basis for the predestination of the lost with God's own statements about justice, (Dt. 24:16; etc.) while the Calvinist tends to appeal to God's sovereign right to do as He pleases, as Scripture does, (Rom. 11:20) in which not all things are revealed. (Dt. 29:29)


Non-Christian attempts to resolve this problem range from denying at least one of the omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence of God, to denying the reality of evil, to making God consist of a dual nature. However, the Bible upholds that God is both almighty and all-knowing, and of a consistent character, and that evil does exist as a reality, and is in opposition to the character of God.

See also


  1. W. Gary Crampton, A Biblical Theodicy