Religious responses - The Augustinian theodicy

  1. Click on the religious response to the problem of evil and suffering and then click on the criticism and evaluate both viewpoints.
  2. Consider what responses could be made to the criticisms.
  3. Then use the slider to decide which argument you think is most successful.

problem of evil and suffering – Page 4

Religious response

The Augustinian Theodicy

  • Augustine (354-430 CE) argued that the Bible shows that God is wholly good and that, according to Genesis 1, created out of nothing (ex nihilo) a world perfectly good and free from defect, evil, and suffering: ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good ’. (Genesis 1:31).
  • Evil itself is not a physical thing and therefore God did not create it. Evil is really the going wrong of something that is good (evil as a privation).
  • Augustine said that evil came not from God, but from those entities which had free will – angels and human beings who turned their backs on God.
  • So, the state of perfection was ruined by human sin.
  • Natural evil came about through the loss of order in nature.
  • Moral evil came from the knowledge of good and evil which human beings had discovered through their disobedience.

God is right not to put a stop to suffering, since the punishment is justice for human sin and God is a just God. However, Augustine notes that God, in his infinite love and grace, sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die so that those who believed and accepted him could be saved. The emphasis of the theodicy is soul-deciding. Our response to evil and God’s rescue plan of salvation determines what happens to us when we die.

  • Either the world was not perfect to start with, or God made it go wrong. If so, then it is God, and not humanity, who is to blame.
  • Augustine's view that the world was made perfect and damaged by human beings is contrary to the theory of evolution, which asserts that the universe began as chaos and has been developing continually.
  • If God created perfect human beings who sinned, then they must have been created with a flaw.
  • Suffering is essential to survival – things must die in order that others might eat and live – God must bear the responsibility for this.
  • The existence of Hell as a place of eternal punishment seems a contradiction for an all-loving God.
  • If Hell was part of the design of the universe, then did God know that the world would go wrong anyway, and still allowed it to happen?