term of the week: theodicy

theodicy, n
Theodicy is the study of God's justness. It comes from the Greek : θεός + δίκη (God+ justice or righteousness)

But wait! There's more!
You knew it couldn't be that easy, didn't you? It doesn't actually mean just that. It means so much more.... Theodicy is a concern to understand how God can be good and omnipotent in the face of so much evil. If God is all powerful and all loving, how do you explain parking tickets, -much less genocide, disease and disaster. I mean, it's just a wee bit of a problem, you know? That's the real rub of theodicy: it is the codename for the problem of evil.

Why you need to know: It's like kryptonite for evangelism. How can you possibly say God is good in the midst of so much dreadful evil? It is even, perhaps, at the crux of faith (pun intended) as faith requires a belief in a good God, despite all the problems. This has led to a number of different solutions but three main solutions I think most people would identify.
The first is that evil is not God's fault: we did it. Evil is a necessary result of free will. The second solution, one probably held by a minority of believers in the US these days (and truth is a vote, afterall...) is that there are real spiritual entities at war with God, and the war just isn't finished yet. The victory is secure, but there are still spirits to vanquish, firey swords to burnish in the heavenlies, etc.

The final answer, and perhaps the most accepted amongst mainline churches in the US, is that God in his inscrutable wisdom chooses to order things, just so. In fact, a major argument amongst church fathers was that despite all the problems, this must be the best possible world imaginable for it is the one a perfectly powerful and good God created. What we call evil ultimately brings about his glory and is permissible because he is the great glory engineer and the evil is in some sense necessary for his purposes. This is more or mostly less what we call the reform tradition connected to folk like Calvin, John Piper, et al.

As for me: I became a Christian through a faith in Jesus that the third option defined. The surety of the heavens in a graspable, mechanical fashion was a great comfort to me then, but I just don't buy all of it anymore. Too many of the people Jesus died for are grist for the mill. God's actions must reveal his being - who he really is, as Christian tradition holds. I cannot bring myself to believe that the horrors visited upon our world reveal anything about God at all. But more on that later. :)


  1. I think I saw that picture on the side of a van from the seventies.

  2. That's right you did.
    God's van. A chariot of fire.

    (it's by Blake)

  3. Nice page man. "parking tickets- much less genocide"...Awesome.


Post a Comment

I cherish your comments, but not vileness or wickedness. By vileness I mean Spam, and wickedness I mean hateful speech. Unless it's about spam.

Popular Posts