The Irenaean Theodicy
For many individuals of the Christian faith, the delinquent of evil and the existence of a supreme and whole compassionate God, present difficult accounts to reconcile. Despite the existence of numerous volumes of publications by atheist on how irreconcilable the reality of God and that of evil can be, it would be important to note that atheistic philosophers especially those undertaking the project of theodicy need to provide this because it seems it is much needed today than ever. John Hick is one of the contributors to this project by presenting theodicies, which justify the existence of evil in the world despite the presence of an almighty and holy God. Of all his three theodicies, the Irenaean theodicy serves as the best placed to defend God for permitting evil in the world.
Hick believes that God formed man in his likeness and put him in the world for spiritual growth. According to Hick if diseases like cancer or atrocities resulting from human actions did not exist, then man would have no means of developing spiritually. The Irenaean theodicy, from Hick’s perspective, involves the fight by every man to attain religious faith. This is made possible by what Hick calls an epistemic distance between man and God. This separation helps distinguish a finite human being from an all-powerful God. Man is born without the knowledge of the reality of God. However, as he grows and encounters different problems in the world, he finds reason to seek help from an all-powerful being.
Hick identifies that one of the challenges that the theodicy may face is that some human beings do not get the chance to develop spiritually. In such situations, Hick suggest the introduction of an afterlife into the balance to ensure that such individuals, for instance infants who die at birth, receive heavenly awards. He further observes that since there are numerous instances of wickedness in the world that seem unfair for the human perspective, man must acknowledge that he cannot fully understand God’s reason or his plan.
Irenaean theodicy stands out as the best to explain the co-existence between God and evil because it provides a proper justification as to how to learn the difference between right and wrong. This theodicy recognizes that a world where humans cannot go wrong is also a world where humans cannot know that which is right. The capability of man to know right and wrong must have a basis and this, according to Hick, gives man proper reason to act in any of the two ways. By arguing from this theodicy, human beings have been able to develop great moral virtues that define relationships in the society. Virtues such as audacity, charity and benevolence all require the existence of challenges and complications that man has to overcome. To be able to develop spiritually, man cannot live in a static environment that demands no exertions or choices. This means that the existence of agony, natural wickedness and misery in the world are necessary occurrences. If God, for instance, was to keep ethically malevolent acts from ensuing in maltreatment to any man, then they would stop being evil and man would never progress the kind of ethical disposition that is devoted to overcoming this kind of wickedness.
When compared to the Augustinian theodicy of the original sin, which is provided as one way of reuniting the presence of evil and that of God, the Irenaean theodicy still stands out as the better one. This is because the Augustinian theodicy contends that evil exists as a form of punishment for engaging in sin at the Garden of Eden. Such a theodicy fails since it blames man who is considered as finite for the reality of evil. The Irenaean theodicy also edges out the process theodicy. The latter argues that God created man and gave him authority to make choices and accept the consequences of his actions. God according to this theodicy is not unlimited in power but interacts with the universe which he is not the creator but has some influence over it. This school of thought argues that God is not an all-powerful being and creator of the universe. He forms part of the universe and is therefore unable to perform any direct interventions in its dynamic details. There is no justification for God on permitting evil since he has no powers to prevent its happening. The main criticism of this the process theodicy is on its violation of Christian love for an all-powerful God. This makes the theodicy more aesthetic rather than moral. Despite the fact that it may be problematic for some Christians to accept God’s role in the existence of evil in the world, it would be important to acknowledge that when weighed against Augustinian notion of original sin and the process theodicy, the Irenaean theodicy serves to provide an almost perfect explanation.
In conclusion, the delinquent of evil and its possible reconciliation with the presence of an all-knowing and all-powerful God forms the basis of arguments for theorists of religion. Hick uses the Irenaean theodicy to explain how God uses a world full of evil to initiate some form of reconciliation with man. This brings Christians much nearer to an understanding of the presence of evil. Unlike the two other theodicies, that lay the blame for the reality of wickedness on man, and the inability of God to eradicate evil, the Irenaean theodicy claims that God, as the supreme and all powerful being, is solely responsible for the presence of evil.