For the sake of this question I define a theodicy as an attempt to see how three Christian ideas fit together:

  1. God is holy.
  2. God made everything.
  3. Sin exists.

Three candidates:

1a. A theodicy might be that God had a holy motive for making evil which did not compromise His holiness.

2a. Another might be God did not make everything as sin crept in through free will.

3a. A third might be that sin is a vacuum, an absence of good.

Has any philosopher come up with a fourth possibility?

1 Answer 1


The OP lists three theodicies and wonders if there is a fourth:

  1. God had a motive for making evil that we are unaware of that did not compromise his holiness.

  2. Evil is the result of the free will of other creatures, but not God. This appears similar to the Augustinian theodicy.

  3. Sin is an absence of the good.

Some candidates for a fourth might be the following.

  1. Irenean theodicy where evil is necessary for humans to develop as moral agents to achieve their potential of moral perfection:

Irenaeus (died c. 202), born in the early second century, expressed ideas which explained the existence of evil as necessary for human development. Irenaeus argued that human creation comprised two parts: humans were made first in the image, then in the likeness, of God. The image of God consists of having the potential to achieve moral perfection, whereas the likeness of God is the achievement of that perfection. To achieve moral perfection, Irenaeus suggested that humans must have free will. To achieve such free will, humans must experience suffering and God must be at an epistemic distance (a distance of knowledge) from humanity. Therefore, evil exists to allow humans to develop as moral agents.

  1. Universal reconciliation where evil reconciles fallen humanity to God.

  2. Leibniz' theodicy claims that God, though omnipotent, could not have created a better world that the present one.

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, May 14). Theodicy. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:27, May 30, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Theodicy&oldid=897069131

  • @ Frank Hubeny I am not sure where your "unaware" came from. Since within the Christian framework God alone is holy anything He makes must be less than holy.
    – C. Stroud
    May 30, 2019 at 15:32
  • @C.Stroud What I meant by "unaware" is we may not know what God's reasons are, but we believe God had good reasons for any evil that exists..Some of these theodicies many not be consistent. For example, Plantinga criticizes Leibniz' theodicy claiming God could not create any possible world and there is no "best" one. That is why he modified it for his Free Will Defense. May 30, 2019 at 19:15
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    At prima facie, your 3 candidates all have 1a as a starting point and are therefore types of 1a.
    – C. Stroud
    Jun 4, 2019 at 18:24
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    @C.Stroud As the Wikipedia article notes if one follows John Hicks categories there may be only three candidates. However, the reason to mention Leibniz separately is that Mackie and Plantinga may have shown this to be inconsistent through Leibniz' Lapse. That is, there is no best possible world and God may not be able to actualize any possible universe. Jun 4, 2019 at 18:32

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