In its most common form, attempts to answer the question why a good God permits the manifestation of evil. Theodicy addresses the evidential problem of evil by attempting “to make the existence of an All-knowing, All-powerful and All-good or omnibenevolent God consistent with the existence of evil” or suffering in the world. Unlike a defence, which tries to demonstrate that God’s existence is logically possible in the light of evil, a theodicy provides a framework which claims to make God’s existence probable. The German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz coined the term “theodicy” in 1710 in his work Théodicée, though various responses to the problem of evil had been previously proposed. The British philosopher John Hick traced the history of moral theodicy in his 1966 work, Evil and the God of Love, identifying three major traditions:
- the Plotinian theodicy, named after Plotinus
- the Augustinian theodicy, which Hick based on the writings of Augustine of Hippo
- the Irenaean theodicy, which Hick developed, based on the thinking of St. Irenaeus
Other philosophers have suggested that theodicy is a modern discipline because deities in the ancient world were often imperfect.
German philosopher Max Weber (1864-1920) saw theodicy as a social problem, based on the human need to explain puzzling aspects of the world. Sociologist Peter L. Berger (1929- ) argued that religion arose out of a need for social order, and an “implicit theodicy of all social order” developed to sustain it. Following the Holocaust, a number of Jewish theologians developed a new response to the problem of evil, sometimes called anti-theodicy, which maintains that God cannot be meaningfully justified. As an alternative to theodicy, a defence has been proposed by the American philosopher Alvin Plantinga (1932- ), which is limited to showing the logical possibility of God’s existence. Plantinga’s version of the free-will defence argued that the coexistence of God and evil is not logically impossible, and that free will further explains the existence of evil without threatening the existence of God.