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Theodizee [ teodiˈʦeː ] (French théodicée , Greek θεοδικία theodikía from ancient Greek θεός theós 'God' and δίκη díkē 'justice') means "righteousness of God" or "justification of God". What is meant are various attempts to answer the question of how suffering in the world can be reconciled with the assumption that a (mostly Christian) God is both omnipotent and good. Specifically, it is about the question of how a God or Christ can allow suffering provided that he has the omnipotence (“ omnipotence ”) and the will (“goodness”) to prevent suffering. The name théodicée (later in German "Theodizee") goes back to the philosopher and early pioneer of the Enlightenment Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz .

The reference to suffering as a question of religion or religion is already used in ancient cultures, e. B. found in ancient China, India, Iran, Sumer, Babylonia and Egypt. Skeptical philosophers of ancient Greece argued that the demiurge (if he existed) must indeed prevent evils, and sometimes made further arguments in favor of agnosticism or atheism .

According to modern theology , the story of Job from the Jewish Tanach (Christian Old Testament ) already deals with the question of how it can be that a just God tolerates good people and bad things happen.

The classic question of Christian theology about the justification of God arose for many religious occidental people in a special way after the horrors of the Holocaust (see also theology after Auschwitz ).


A concise, often quoted philosophical formulation of theodicy reads:

God either wants to remove the evils and cannot:
Then God is weak, which does not apply to him,
Or he can and does not want to:
Then God is envious of what is strange to him,
Or he doesn't want to and can't:
Then he is weak and envious at the same time, so not God,
Or he wants it and can do it, which is only fitting for God:
Then where do the evils come from and why does he not take them away?

This line of argument was handed down by the Latin-African rhetoric teacher and Christian apologist Lactantius (approx. 250 to after 317), to whom it was attributed to the philosopher Epicurus ; but wrongly, because it is not Epicurean, but was formulated based on an unknown skeptical philosopher - possibly Arkesilaos or Carneades . With reference to Poseidonios , Cicero had reported that Epicurus had denied the gods because of their inactivity. The skeptic Sextus Empiricus developed a similar, somewhat more detailed consideration in the 2nd century AD, which assumes that God must take care of everything according to which there should be no evil, but evil does exist; the consequence that God does not exist (because it is contradictory) is not explicated, but is obviously implied. The problem is based on the theistic image of God.

Possible solutions

The theodicy can be constructed as a contradiction that arises from the assumption that there is evil in the world and that God exists:

  1. God exists and there are evils in the world.
  2. If God exists, then God is omnipotent.
  3. If God is omnipotent, then God can prevent evil.
  4. If the evil exists, then God cannot prevent the evil.
  5. If God exists and evil does exist, then God can prevent and not prevent evil. (Contradiction)
  6. Or: God does not exist.

Similar arguments can also be constructed for other attributes of God; H. if God is omniscient , then he recognizes the evil, and if God is all good, then he wants to prevent the evil. The problem is not significantly modified if the area of ​​relevant evils is specifically qualified. Reconstructed in this way, at least one of the above statements must be modified or negated according to the usual analysis. The following approaches do this in different ways.

Evils are interpreted as "lack of good"

Even the early Christian church doctor and philosopher Augustine and later medieval thinkers like the Dominican Thomas Aquinas established the view that evil has no independent existence , but is only a lack of being or lack of good (privatio boni) . Thomas gave as an example the blindness that is deprivation of sight. This philosophical position therefore assumes a real deficiency - in contrast to the one that claims that the suffering or the evil is not real for the person affected by it.

This theory of privation has an "extraordinary success story" behind it, writes the contemporary theologian Friedrich Hermanni . From the 2nd to the 17th century it was undisputed in almost all philosophical systems - between the church fathers and the philosophers of late antiquity , between Aristotelians and Platonists , between Thomists and Scotists , between reformers like Philipp Melanchthon and Roman Catholic dogmatists like Robert Bellarmine , this was a point on which there was agreement.

In the 17th century and by some so-called nominalists in the universal dispute as early as the 14th century, however, suffering was viewed as a being - a fact based on empirical findings . Therefore the evil also has its own reality. Furthermore, it was argued that even a mere lack of good, which leads to suffering, is not compatible with the omnipotence and all-goodness of God.

Explanations for evils are sought in a larger context

We live in the best of all possible worlds (Leibniz)

According to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's monadology, there are an infinite number of possible worlds. Of these, God created only one, namely the most perfect, "the best of all possible worlds". Leibniz argued:

  • God's infinite wisdom let him find the best of all possible worlds,
  • his infinite goodness let him choose this best world,
  • and his omnipotence make him bring forth this best world.

Consequently, the world that God created - that is, the world that actually exists - must be "the best of all possible worlds", and every form of evil is ultimately necessary and explainable.

The philosopher Gerhard Streminger raised various objections to this. Already in the term "best world" he saw a difficulty: This term was "indefinite, since with the finiteness of everything created beyond any particular world, a better one can be thought, just as [...] even a larger one over every largest number" .

In addition, Streminger said that without additional considerations Leibniz's argument contained a Petitio Principii : Leibniz supported the main proposition of his theodicy that the existing world is the best of all possible, with reference to the wisdom and goodness of God. So that which has yet to be proven in theodicy, namely the goodness of God, is already assumed to be proven.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell expressed "great astonishment" at "that people can believe that this world, with everything that is in it and with all its faults, is the best that omnipotence and omniscience could create in millions of years". He asked: "Do you think that if you were given omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years to perfect your world, that you couldn't produce anything better than the Ku Klux Klan or the fascists ?"

A well-known answer to Leibniz's proposed solution is Voltaire's satirical novella Candide, or Optimism .

Contrasts and their uses

“By way of contrast and complement”, evils made “an indispensable contribution to the optimal overall picture of this world”, is how the philosopher Norbert Hoerster describes a different approach.

The juxtaposition of opposites beautifies the speech, explained church teacher Augustine , to continue: "This is how the divine rhetoric, which uses things instead of words, effects the beauty of the universe through the same juxtaposition of opposites." The philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz said: " But since divine wisdom ... had to choose that which resulted in the best harmony and the vice entered through this gate: God would not have been perfectly good, not perfectly wise, if he had excluded it. "

The philosopher Gerhard Streminger thinks of arguments of this kind : “Even if ugly parts can be put together in the aesthetic field to form an overall beauty, it cannot be seen that a benevolent God should treat people like pieces in a chess game - and not like individuals with their own drives . People have an intrinsic value and not just a value in a superordinate framework ”, and:“ There is no analogy between beautiful and good. [...] the claim that what is perfect is heightened by suffering is full of contempt for life at the latest when this suffering goes beyond a certain level of strength and quantity. "A" Christian theodicy ", explains Streminger," must be centered around the moral personality and not the idea of ​​the beauty of the whole universe; its decisive principle must be ethical and cannot be aesthetic. "

A variant of this approach is presented by Gerhard Streminger: "That suffering [...] is essential to become aware of what is good". Streminger denies this. He points out that an omnipotent God could have created us in such a way “that we recognize the good as such, that is, that we appreciate it even if we have never experienced bad.” On the “principle of opposition, accordingly Continuous pleasure and joy cannot be experienced as such by anyone, ”says Streminger, with such a principle, at best, an extremely small amount of suffering can be explained. Even if this principle were plausible, boredom would suffice as an opposite.

Irenean theodicy (soul-making)

Evil and suffering could be necessary for spiritual growth. This idea was developed by the theologian and religious philosopher John Hick and named after the church father Irenaeus . The theologian Armin Kreiner explains the relationship between this consideration and free will as follows: The “Iranian theodicy” is not an alternative to the argument of free will, but presupposes it as a constitutive component. The existence of free will enables the genesis of morality.

One problem with this is that many evils do not seem to be contributing, such as the suffering of young, innocent children. Others enjoy a life of comfort and luxury in which there is literally nothing to provoke moral development. Another problem arises with this type of theodicy when “spiritual growth” is centered on utility in overcoming evil. For if there were no evil to be overcome, then such a faculty would lose its usefulness. In that case it would be necessary to say more about the inherent value of spiritual health.

Reference to God's goal: to transform mankind

Throughout the entire Bible there is repeated evidence that God wants to draw people close to him through suffering : After Job has gone through suffering, he says at the end of the book in Job 42.5  EU : “I only had from you Hearsay heard; but now my eye has seen you. "

Similar statements can be found in

  • Ps 78,34  EU : "When he brought death among them, they sought God and asked again for him."
  • Rom 8:28  EU : "We know, however, that all things serve for the best for those who love God, those who are called according to his counsel."
  • Heb 12,5–7,10-11  EU : “… you have already forgotten the consolation that speaks to you as it does to his children ( Prov. 3:11-12  EU ): 'My son, do not respect the Lord's education and do not despair if you are punished by him. For whom the Lord loves, he chastises and beats every son he adopts. ' It serves for your education when you have to tolerate. God treats you as with his children; for where is a son whom the father does not chasten? ... but he does it for our best, so that we may share in his holiness. But every chastisement, when it is there, seems to us not to be joy but sorrow; but afterwards it brings as fruit to those who are trained through it, peace and justice. "

It is warned that people who are doing very well tend to forget God: “But when Yeshurun ​​got fat, he became cocky. He has become fat and fat and fat and has rejected the God who made him. "( 5 Mos 32,15  EU )

Martin Luther writes on Ps 118,5  EU : "... everyone will also become a falcon who can soar in such need and know at first for sure, also do not doubt that God will not send such distress to him to destroy, [ ...], but that he wants to drive him to prayer, to shout and to quarrel, so that he can practice his faith and learn to know God, in a different sight than he has before, and also get used to the devil and to fight sins and to conquer with God's help. Otherwise we would never learn what faith, word, spirit, grace, sin, death or the devil would be, wherever it should always be in peace and without trial. With that we would never get to know God, we would never become real Christians ... He wants you to be too weak to bear and overcome such hardship, so that you learn to be strong in him and he is praised in you for his strength . "

The Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer has the same attitude: “I believe that God can and wants to create good things from everything, even from the worst. For this he needs people who allow all things to be served for the best [reference to Rom 8:28  EU ]. I believe that God wants to give us as much resilience as we need in any emergency. But he does not give it in advance so that we do not rely on ourselves but on him alone. In such faith all fear of the future should be overcome. I believe that our mistakes and errors are not in vain either, and that it is no more difficult for God to cope with them than with our supposed good deeds. I believe that God is not a timeless fate, but that He waits and answers for sincere prayers and responsible deeds. "

The transformation of the human soul can take several earth lives

People who believe in reincarnation argue that God's goodness consists in giving people a time frame of several lives in which they can learn to behave in the divine sense through the suffering caused by their wrong choices. This or a very similar thought model is followed by the theosophy followers or, in the Christian area, the anthroposophists , the spirit Christians and the representatives of the Universal Life movement who call themselves “original Christians” , as well as many New Age followers.

Evils are seen in the context of a development

Evil as a transitory stage in history (Hegel)

The evil is only a necessary transitory stage; according to Hegel , it serves the dialectical development of history in which a “divine providence” realizes the “absolute, reasonable end purpose of the world”. In periods of happiness, according to Hegel, there is no contrast; they are "empty pages" in world history. Hegel calls the result of his exposition "the true theodice , the justification of God in history".

Evil is remnants of imperfect test creations of God ( Kabbalah )

According to the Jewish-mystical Zohar interpretation of the Book of Genesis , God created other worlds before the creation of our world and destroyed them again because of their imperfection (as far as there is agreement with the interpretation of the Midrash ). According to Zohar, the remnants of these worlds have been preserved as “pods” (Heb. Qlīpōt ) that persist and cause evil in the world (the “other side”, Heb. Sitra aḥrā ). But since they were originally created by God, they still contain “sparks of holiness” (Heb. Nīṣōṣōt šēl qədušā ).

It can be argued against this theory that it contradicts some of God's properties:

  • Omniscient : God should have known that the previous worlds were imperfect.
  • Omnipotence : God would have already created the imperfect worlds perfectly or at least could have eliminated them to such an extent that the evil and imperfect does not find its way into our world.
  • Goodness : How can God destroy his own creations if He is kind? And how can he allow his imperfect works to bring suffering to bystanders in our world?

Isaac Luria tried to resolve this contradiction by introducing the necessity of the tzimtzum . Tzimtzum, literally contraction or withdrawal , is an act of divine self-restraint of the En Sof ( the Infinite ). Because of the tzimtzum and the appearance of the infinite light, the vessels break ( šəvīrat hakəlīm ).

The assumption that creation is "not finished"

New Testament theologians like Klaus Berger from Heidelberg point out that the goal of the Bible itself, and thus the Christian faith, is not to give an answer to the origin of evil, but rather that God is salvation from it. God did not create evil, but evil was already given when God began to work. In the Old Testament of the Bible, God created the world as an area of ​​order that was wrested from the hostile chaos. According to this approach, chaos and the forces that threaten people and life are pushed back for the time being, but the chaos forces are still present and dangerous as soon as the presence of God disappears.

This calls into question the omnipotence of God as a principle, which is not known in biblical thought, but rather comes from the influence of Greek thought. According to this, God would be building up his kingdom in an evil world and an unfinished, weak creation, but he could not do this with the snap of his fingers and in an instant (so the concept of omnipotence would be wrong). According to this view, omnipotence should rather be understood to mean that ultimately the promise of the kingdom of God and the perfect creation will be fulfilled and God is more powerful than all other powers in space and time, but not that God works everything and everyone at all times. According to Berger, the secret of time stands between the "weak creation" and the fulfillment of the promise:

“God is not cruel, I have become increasingly convinced of that in the course of my life as a New Testament scholar. But when an accident happens, it is always the inherent laws of this creation. If someone runs in front of the car and is run over, it's not a cruel god, it's the laws of nature. Anyone who overlooks the red light cannot be helped. Miracles are not intended for these cases. There is no human right to miracles. Death belongs to this creation because it is weak. God wants to overcome death in all its forms. "

Further approaches to defending belief in an almighty and benevolent God

There is no solution

According to the Evangelical Reformed theologian Karl Barth, there is no solution to the theodicy problem. We are not entitled to accuse God. We can only speak of the paradox dialectically (Karl Barth: Evil is the “impossible possibility”).

Theologians of today express themselves in a similar way, according to the former President of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia, Alfred Buß : “Honest theology admits that there is no answer to the question of the meaning of suffering. Anyone who tries them anyway will only put on wisps. "

Almost 2000 years earlier, the sayings of the fathers , part of the Mishnah and main work of Jewish ethics , formulated: "Rabbi Janai says: It is not given to us to know why wicked people live in well-being and the righteous in suffering" (chap. IV, verse 19)

In metaphysics, reason reaches its limits (Kant)

Immanuel Kant defined the problem as follows: “Under a theodice one understands the defense of the highest wisdom of the originator of the world against the accusation which reason raises against the wrong in the world.” At the same time, for Kant all philosophical attempts in theodicy seemed to Doomed to failure. We are too limited to speculate metaphysically. Here our reason reaches its limits.

Evil as the unknowable will of God in the Bible

Another interpretation of the Bible says that things appear bad to people , but they cannot judge objectively. Evil has a meaning for God, although it is incomprehensible from a human point of view. Accordingly, God is not only responsible for what people subjectively evaluate as "good", but for everything if one wants to take his omnipotence seriously. This will u. a. based on the following passages from the Christian Bible :

  • Accordingly, God also created calamity: “I [God] form the light and create the dark, effect the good and create the calamity. I am the Lord who does all of this. "( Isa 45,7  EU )
  • "Or does an accident happen in the city and the LORD would not have done it?" ( Am 3,6  EU )
  • Everything , d. H. every being without exception is at the service of God. ( Ps 119.91  EU )
  • God make everything for his purpose, including the wicked. ( Spr 16.4  EU )
  • Unbelief is also seen as God-wrought, because "God gives you a mind of numbness, eyes that cannot see". ( Rom 11.8  EU )
  • “Does that mean that God is acting unjustly? Not at all! For he said to Moses: I will show mercy to whom I will and show mercy to whom I will. So it is not a question of human will and striving, but of God's mercy. In the scriptures it is said to Pharaoh: This is exactly what I have appointed you to show my power in you and that my name be proclaimed all over the world. So he has pity on whoever he wants and makes hardened whoever he wants ”( Rom 9 : 14-18  EU ); see 2 Mos 4.21  EU , 9.12 EU , 14.4 EU , 14.7 EU
  • “Now you will reply: Then what is He still criticizing? Who has ever resisted His intention? - Oh man, indeed, who are you to give such an answer to God? The structure will not reply to the artist: Why did you make me like that? - Doesn't the potter have authority over the clay to make one vessel for honor and the other for dishonor from the same modeling clay? ”( Rom 9 : 19-21  EU ).
  • God is credited with the power to completely prevent or restrict the work of Satan without further ado, as it would happen in the completed kingdom of God: "He [a messenger of God] took possession of the dragon, the ancient serpent (which is the counteracting force and Satan) and bound him for 1000 years. "( Rev 20,1ff  EU )
  • The crucifixion of Jesus is said to have been laid down in his plan, and no one could have prevented it: “Herod and Pontius Pilate with the nations and peoples of Israel [were gathered] to carry out all that your hand and your counsel had predetermined that it may be done. "( Acts 4, 26-28  EU )
  • The evil that happens to people is seen as a test which contributes to steadfastness in faith: "Have we received good from God and shouldn't we also accept evil?" ( Hi 2,10  EU )

The book of Job: against the doing-doing-context

According to the Protestant theologian Klaus Koch , the author of the dramatic story of the suffering Job in the Old Testament wisdom literature creates a theodicy answer that is primarily negative. In particular, the author argues intensely against the so-called “doing-doing-connection” (happiness / prosperity on the one hand and suffering / need on the other hand are regarded as a reward or punishment from Yahweh for a just or sinful life). That Job is innocent is not only asserted by himself ( Hi 9:21  EU ) - on the contrary, Yahweh himself says it: Job is “blameless and righteous; he fears God and avoids evil ”. Yahweh declare that he was incited by Satan to "destroy Job without cause" ( Hi 2,3  EU ). In disputes with his friends, Job plausibly rejects the allegedly divinely guaranteed connection between suffering and guilt and demands a different answer from Yahweh. In two great speeches from God at the end of the book, Yahweh himself spoke and praised his creation as a proof of his power and his knowledge, in contrast to Job's impotence and ignorance. Thereupon Job retracts ( Hi 42.6  EU ): "So I spoke in ignorance about things that are too wonderful for me and incomprehensible" ( Hi 42.3  EU ). According to the Catholic theologian Klaus Kühlwein , in the end, Job recognizes "in the colorful mosaic of creation the face of the Creator and a plan that is far removed from human, all-too human retribution fantasies, from divine arbitrariness and cosmic futility".

The source material and the thought models developed from it are inadequate

Theologically recognized relevant traditions such as the Christian Bible, according to Klaus Kühlwein's point of view, cannot claim to be complete and free of contradictions. The Christian-theological / philosophical knowledge that can be drawn from these sources alone is not sufficient to provide a sufficiently plausible picture of the motives, plans and goals of a highly perfect God and Christ , to whom love, wisdom and power are ascribed to the highest degree, to draw. (Possible source expansion, see mysticism , new revelation .)

Absolute trust in God instead of looking for rational solutions

According to the Roman Catholic theologian Hans Küng , “Through suffering ... man should come to life. Why this is so, why this is good and meaningful for people, why it would not work better without suffering, that cannot prove reasonable. From the suffering, death and new life of Jesus, trusting in God, this can already be accepted as meaningful in the present, in the certainty of the hope that the meaning will be revealed in perfection. "

“Absolute and complete trust” in God, despite “inability to unravel the riddle of suffering and evil”, Küng advertises with the promise that “the suffering, doubting, desperate man” will find a “last hold” in it; so the suffering “cannot be 'explained', but persists”. Thus Küng shifts the emphasis on the theodicy problem: away from the problem of a logical contradiction between two statements, towards the question of the quality of the relationship between believers and their God, and towards the question of what effects this trust in God has on a person's life can, especially on the life of a suffering person.

The Catholic professor of fundamental theology Armin Kreiner , on the other hand, calls it “completely absurd” to conclude from the recognition of the fallibility of human judgment “that it would be better to forego rational control and instead place your trust exclusively in divine revelation. Because the acceptance of a claim to disclosure […] is also an act of the subject of faith - an act for which it is responsible, as far as it is in its power, to itself and to others. The conscious renunciation of reasonable criteria of responsibility does not sanctify the obedience of faith, but dishonors it to blind obscurantism . "

Reference to the assistance of God

“God is with those who suffer. God does not suddenly pull us out of suffering, but when we suffer and are challenged, God stands by us. ”( Margot Käßmann , from 1999 to February 2010 regional bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover). Ps 68.20  EU : “Praise be to the Lord, day after day! God carries us, he is our help. "And Heb 13,5  EU :" For the Lord has said ( Jos 1,5  EU ): 'I will not leave you and will not leave you.' "

Theodicy question is rejected as presumptuous

Hans Küng speaks of "the arrogance to want to speak as a neutral and supposedly innocent censor about God and the world, the judgment" as it is not due to the people to ask the question of theodicy, but rather an assessment of one faith to form: a judgment about whether the belief in an almighty and benevolent God is justified despite theodicy problem.

God's attributes need to be reconsidered

For the theodicy question, among the properties of God, the (assumed) omnipotence, omnipotence, incomprehensibility and omniscience are relevant. Norbert Hoerster is of the opinion that the theist must give up at least one of the attributes of God. Either God be all good or he is all powerful. Assuming both properties at the same time he regards as contradicting itself and therefore irrational.

God's goodness is relativized

Some theologians and philosophers - some with reference to biblical statements - have held the opinion that God is complex in himself and not just good. The 'dear' God would be a shortening of the biblical image of God, whereby one should nevertheless trust in this aspect of God. The distinctions between Luther and Schelling are well known: Luther differentiates between the Deus absconditus (hidden God; anger, law) and the Deus revelatus (revealed God; love, gospel); Schelling differentiates between ground and existence in God, whereby God qua ground is the cause of evil. Friedrich Nietzsche denies God's goodness and sees him “beyond good and evil”.

An even more pronounced ambivalent conception of God is encountered, for example, in Hinduism , in the ancient Egyptian religion , in Greek mythology or in Germanic mythology , where the gods are not regarded as absolutely kind and good. They combine helping, giving and peace-making qualities as well as destructive, angry and warlike ones. In this sense, the all-goodness of God is also relativized by an ambivalent conception of God.

God's righteousness is contrasted with his goodness

It is argued that God's righteousness requires that he not always be able to work for maximum welfare. Human suffering is interpreted as “ just punishment” for human misconduct and / or for disobedience to God's commandments and / or for “ sin ”; H. the separation of man from God.

This attempt at theodicy is exposed to the objection that human suffering is often out of proportion to the guilt of the person concerned, that innocent people also suffer, e.g. B. Infants. So you don't get a solution to the theodicy problem, but a theodicy problem in a slightly different form: “Is the doctrine of almighty and just God compatible with the experience of a world full of injustices?” In addition, according to Bart D. Ehrman , professor for New Testament, a twofold problem: that the concept of suffering as God's punishment creates "both false security and false guilt". He writes:

“If punishment comes from sin and I don't suffer a bit, thank you very much, does that make me fair? Fairer than my neighbor who lost his job or whose child was killed in an accident or whose wife was brutally raped and murdered? On the other hand, if I am subjected to severe suffering, is it really because God is punishing me? Is it really my fault if my child is born with a disability? When the economy crashes and I can't put any more food on the table? If I get cancer? "

God's universal goodness is distinguished from human concepts of goodness

The philosopher Norbert Hoerster opposes arguments: God's universal goodness cannot be grasped with human terms, the human concept of goodness only describes the universal goodness of God imperfectly and not without errors, and the contradiction in the theodicy problem is merely a consequence of the flawedness of human concepts:

“If that goodness which the believer ascribes to God to the maximum extent need not include even that modest form of goodness which can usefully be ascribed to a person, then the believer has his conviction (i.e. the conviction that God is all good, that is, he has a maximum of goodness ) obviously incorrectly formulated. A "goodness" that is not related to what we usually understand in the human realm by this term is an empty word. "

God's omnipotence is relativized ...

... by accepting human freedom

Further approaches to solving the theodicy question are based on the assumption that God allows man freedom and personal responsibility in his actions .

The philosopher Bertrand Russell believed that an Almighty God was responsible for everything. It is pointless to suggest that suffering in the world is caused by sin. Even if that were true, it wouldn't mean anything. If God had known in advance what sins human beings would commit, He would clearly be responsible for all the consequences of those sins through His decision to create human beings. The philosopher John Leslie Mackie shed another light on the problem: If people had freedom in the sense that in some cases they could actually decide one way or the other - if that were neither determined by external circumstances nor by the nature of these people - then it would be impossible to know how they would decide before they did; no one could know that beforehand, not even an almighty God who knew everything that can be known. So God could not have known how people would use their freedom. Such a defensive strategy for God, said Mackie, would only succeed at the expense of a very serious erosion of what is commonly understood to be the omniscience of God. Mackie also suggested that even if an almighty God couldn't know what Adam, Eve, and Satan would do if he found them, he would undoubtedly know what they could do . So he would have taken a "hellish risk" in creating Adam, Eve, and Satan; yes, he would have taken the risk that people might be far more evil than they actually are.

... by assuming that God has withdrawn from people

Basis of this approach, e.g. B. represented by the Protestant pastor, preacher and writer Wilhelm Busch (1897–1966), is the observation that secularization is always advancing in the western world . The commandments of God are no longer observed and are not even known to most people. This is a resounding no to God from the neglect. This is by no means a “no” from those who are not in the know. God respects this seemingly final decision and withdraws largely, but not entirely. God knows that man learns and at a more spiritually advanced point in time, based on a mature insight that he needs God's help, could make a different decision, which may include a deeper knowledge and understanding.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer took such a view to extremes in one of his letters: “Before and with God we live without God. God lets himself be pushed out of the world to the cross, God is powerless and weak in the world and straight and only in this way is he with us and helps us. "

... by assuming that God is good but not all powerful

From the experience of personal suffering, Rabbi Harold S. Kushner comes to the conclusion in his book “When bad things happen to good people” that God is good, but not all-powerful. The question of the “why?” Of the suffering leads to nothing, since it either leads to anger at yourself (What have I done to make this happen to me?) Or at God (why does God allow this?) And this anger result prevent man from accepting help from other people and from God. Since God works through people, the question should rather be “If this suffering has already happened to me, who can help me?” This approach is also widespread in the so-called theology after Auschwitz . Even Hans Jonas believes that the concept of omnipotence is doubtful and should be so that waived this attribute of God. Jonas believes that God did not intervene in Auschwitz because he could not. Jonas therefore proposes the idea of ​​a God who (has) renounced to intervene in the course of world events.

... by referring to Christ on the cross

Through the crucifixion of Christ the powerlessness of the triune God became clear ( Dorothee Sölle : "God has no other hands than ours"). At the same time, the special closeness of the Christian God to people is described in the Passion . God alienates himself and submits to human cruelty in order at the same time to show a perspective that extends into eternity.

... through a dualistic worldview

Evil can be explained by fallen angels , the devil , demiurge or competing world principles ( dualism ). The old Persian religion of Zarathustra can serve as an example for this, which assumed that two equally powerful primordial principles rule the world: on the one hand the good , giving, divine principle, on the other hand the evil , receiving, anti- divine principle . In this way the omnipotence of God is denied and (the good) God is then no longer responsible for the existence of the evil one.

The New Testament teaching of Paul of Tarsus also contains in important parts aspects of Persian dualism (cf. Gal 5,19 f.  EU : "sinful flesh", original sin ), which were mixed with own interpretations of the Tanach on Pauline theology .

In Gnostic scriptures, the origin of evil is described by the behavior of some angels that is unacceptable to God . This saw Adam , who as God's image was created and made fun of him because of his weakness. Since God rejected these angels, they became his enemies. And since they cannot defeat God himself, they want to destroy God's creation through a war of attrition. Man can now align himself with his Creator or give himself up to self-destruction under the rule of these angels.

Such dualistic ideas of God can be found in the Bogomils , in Gnosis and in Manichaeism .

An atheistic example would be the yin-yang of Chinese philosophy , which explains what is happening in the world through dualistic primal principles.

God's omniscience is relativized

The Gnosis sees man as for a perfect relationship with God intended. By sin the development was creation imperfect, so that the relationship of man to his Creator is clouded and origin. Man suffers from this circumstance. Because of sin, God envelops himself in a mist that gives man the distance and freedom to live in sin during the time he has been given, if he so wishes. God's omniscience becomes a warning message of an absolute, holy righteousness that is not restricted to this world.

Theological objection: Wrong questioning

Peter Knauer considers the theodicy problem to be the result of a “wrong from the start”. He regards the theodicy problem as a speculative problem in which the world is inferred from God and God is inferred from the world. In his opinion, however, this is inadmissible, since there is no reality that extends beyond God and the world. He shifts the question from the speculative level to an existential question. So no longer "How can God allow evil?", But "How can man endure and exist his own finitude?"

Atheist conclusion: God's existence is denied

The atheistic conclusion of what was believed to be a failed theodicy gained ground in the late 18th century. When, after the Lisbon earthquake in 1755, Leibniz 's optimistic solution of theodicy lost its plausibility for many, it was only a small step instead of denying God's goodness equal to God's existence.

Many atheists and agnostics draw similar conclusions from the theodicy problem as the philosopher Norbert Hoerster : "... that at least at the present level of our knowledge the existence of an omnipotent and all-benevolent divine being in view of the manifold evils of the world must be considered extremely improbable ." Joachim Kahl even sees the theodicy problem as an “empirical refutation of belief in God”. John Leslie Mackie explained : Since there is evil and “no plausible theodicy is in sight”, there is much to be said for “that theism cannot be presented consistently without at least one of its central statements being significantly changed.” In one Overall, Mackie “after weighing the probabilities” comes to the conclusion “that far more speaks against the existence of a god than for it”.

A special point of view can be found with Odo Marquard :

“[After 1755] it was obvious to think: theodicy does not succeed where - as with Leibniz - God is relieved by the principle of creation 'the end justifies the means', but only where God is relieved of this principle. Where this principle remains unchallenged as the principle of creation, it must ultimately have the following consequence: God must - in favor of his goodness - be freed from the role of the creator; in order to save his goodness, his non-existence must be allowed or even suggested. ... Through this atheism ad maiorem Dei gloriam man becomes the heir to the functions of God: not only of his function as creator, but also for that very reason ... of his function as the accused of theodicy. "

The theodicy thus culminated in the philosophy of history in the second half of the 18th century . God's omnipotence, omniscience and omnipotence are thus fully adhered to. In order to save all three classical characteristics, however, the existence of (the so defined) God is given up.

Logical-philosophical explanation: Free will is an inevitable consequence of feeling

The mathematician, logician and philosopher Raymond Smullyan argues in his dialogue "Is God a Taoist?" Between God and a mortal that the existence of sentient beings inevitably leads to free will and thus the possibility of choosing for or against evil, defined here as an act that causes harm to other sentient beings. Therefore it is logically impossible for God to create a world with sentient beings in which evil does not exist, just as it is not possible for God to create a triangle in the plane, the angle of which is not 180 °.

The problem of evil that good people suffer without an apparent cause is not directly addressed, but the issues of reincarnation and karma are addressed indirectly. God sees everyone as evolving. Through his free decisions, people inevitably have experiences that lead to suffering in themselves or in other sentient beings. In order to avoid this suffering, man automatically becomes good through experience, so to speak, and ultimately becomes an angel who returns to God. Unfortunately, to God's regret, this development process takes a very long time and there is nothing he can do about it.

See also



  • Barry L. Whitney: Theodicy. An Annotated Bibliography on the Problem of Evil, 1960–1990, New York 1993.

History of ideas


  • John Bowker: Problems of Suffering in Religions of the World. Cambridge 1970, ISBN 0-521-09903-X (Representation of religious studies with chapters on Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Marxism, Hinduism, Buddhism, “dualism” and the unity of experience).
  • Carsten Colpe , Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann (ed.): The evil. A historical phenomenology of the inexplicable, 2nd edition Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3-518-28678-1 . ( Table of contents )
  • Peter Gerlitz , Melanie Köhlmoos u. a .: Theodicy I.-VI. In: Theological Real Encyclopedia . 33 (2002), pp. 210-237 (very concise, material-rich presentation on theodicy in the history of religion, in the Old Testament, in Judaism, in Christian dogmatics, in practical theology and philosophy).
  • C.-F. Geyer: Conceptual history on theodicy. In: Archives for the History of Philosophy. 1 (1993).
  • Peter Hünermann , Adel Theodor Khoury (Ed.): Why suffer? The answer of the world religions. Freiburg u. a. 1987. (Basic information on religiously dealing with suffering in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity).
  • Mark Larrimore: The Problem of Evil. A reader . Oxford (UK) 2001 (anthology of primary texts from Plato to Levinas).
  • Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz: Theodicee, that is, attempt of the goodness of God, freedom of man, and of the origin of evil. After the fourth edition published in 1744, supplemented with additions and remarks by Johann Christoph Gottsched, edited, annotated and appended by Hubert Horstmann, Berlin 1996, ISBN 978-3-05-001960-4 .

Ancient Israel

  • Walter Groß, Karl-Josef Kuschel : I create darkness and disaster! Is God Responsible for Evil? Mainz 1992, ISBN 3-7867-1644-7 (material-rich study on atl., Literary and theological history texts; plea for keeping the theodicy question open for God's sake and for the sake of people, criticism of various established theological attempted answers [burden on people, suffering or powerlessness of God, etc.]. Review by David Blumenthal.)
  • Meik Gerhards : God and suffering. Answers from the Babylonian poetry Ludlul bēl nēmeqi and the biblical Book of Job. Frankfurt am Main 2017, ISBN 978-3-631-73270-0 (print); E- ISBN 978-3-631-73275-5 (e-book) (interpretation of the "Babylonian Job" and the Old Testament Book of Job, which, based on the philological-historical examination of both works, seeks discussion with current philosophical positions on theodicy problem).


  • Masao Abe: The Problem of Evil in Christianity and Buddhism. In: Paul O. Ingram, Frederick J. Streng (Eds.): Buddhist-Christian Dialogue. Honolulu 1986, pp. 139-154.
  • James W. Boyd: Satan and Mara. Christian and Buddhist Symbols of Evil. Brill, Leiden 1975.
  • Arthur Ludwig Herman: The Problem of Evil and Indian Thought. Diss. University of Minnesota, New Delhi 1976.
  • Trevor Oswald Ling: Buddhism and the Mythology of Evil. A Study in Theravada Buddhism, London 1997.
  • Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty : The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology. Berkeley / Los Angeles / London 1980.

Greek antiquity

  • C. Schäfer: The dilemma of the Neoplatonic theodicy. Attempt a solution. In: Archives for the History of Philosophy. 1 (2000).

Early Christianity, Gnosticism, Patristicism

  • K. Gronau: The theodicy problem in the early Christian view. 1922.
  • P. Koslowski (Ed.): Gnosis and Theodicy. A Study of the Suffering God of Gnosticism. Vienna 1993.


  • Navid Kermani : The Terror of God . Attar, Job and the Metaphysical Revolt. C. H. Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-53524-0 .
  • Eric Ormsby: Theodicy in Islamic Thought. The Dispute over Al-Ghazali's "Best of All Possible Worlds". Princeton University Press, 1984.

Jewish philosophy

  • Oliver Leaman : Evil and Suffering in Jewish Philosophy. New York 1995.

Modern times

  • H. Busche: Leibniz 'theodicy - their goals and their arguments.
  • F. Hermanni: The last discharge. Completion and failure of the occidental theodicy project in Schelling's philosophy. Vienna 1994.
  • Hans-Gerd Janßen: God - freedom - suffering. The theodicy problem in modern philosophy . 2., unchanged. Ed. Wiss. Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1993, ISBN 3-534-02399-4 .
  • O. Lempp: The problem of theodices in philosophy and literature of the 18th century up to Kant and Schiller. Diss.Tübingen 1910, printed Leipzig 1910, reprint Hildesheim 1976.
  • H. Lindau: The theodicy in the 18th century. Stages of development of the problem from theoretical dogma to practical idealism. Leipzig 1911.
  • U. Steiner: Political Theodicy. Philosophy and Poetry in Eighteenth-Century Didactic Poetry. Munich 2000.
  • R. Wegener: The problem of theodicy in philosophy and literature of the 18th century . With special consideration for Kant and Schiller, Berlin 1909.
  • R. Freiberg: Moments which Murdered my God and my Soul. The theodicy discourse in the mirror of selected Holocaust literature. In: G. Bayer, R. Freiberg (Ed.): Literature and Holocaust. Wuerzburg 2008.
  • Walter Groß, Karl-Josef Kuschel: "I create darkness and calamity!" Is God responsible for evil? Mainz 1992.

Systematic representations

  • Marilyn McCord Adams: Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY 1999.
  • BJ Claret (Ed.): Theodizee. Evil in the World , Darmstadt 2nd A. 2008.
  • Walter Dietrich , Christian Link : The dark sides of God. Vol. 2: Omnipotence and powerlessness. Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag 2000.
  • Alexander Dietz: The meaning of the initial question for dealing with the theodicy problem , in: New Journal for Systematic Theology (NZSTh) 53 (2011), pp. 285-302.
  • David R. Griffin : God, Power and Evil. A Process Theodicy . Philadelphia, Pa. 1976.
  • Friedrich Hermanni : Evil and theodicy. A philosophical-theological foundation . Gütersloh: Kaiser; Gütersloher Verlagshaus 2002, ISBN 3-579-05391-4 (Habil. KH Bethel 2001).
  • John Hick : Evil and the God of Love. 1st edition. Harper and Row, New York 1966. (2nd edition. 1978)
  • Daniel Howard-Snyder (Ed.): The Evidential Argument from Evil. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis 1996.
  • Peter Koslowski (ed.): The suffering God: A philosophical and theological criticism. Fink, Munich 2001.
  • Armin Kreiner : God in suffering. On the validity of the theodicy arguments. 3rd edition Freiburg u. a. 2005.
  • Armin Kreiner : God and suffering. Paderborn 1994.
  • Willi Oelmüller (Ed.): What one cannot keep silent about. New discussions on the theodicy question. Fink, Munich 1992.
  • Dewi Z. Phillips: The Problem of Evil and the Problem of God. Fortress, Minneapolis 2005.
  • Karl Rahner : Why does God make us suffer? In: Writings on theology. XIV (1980), pp. 450-466 (also published in: Words from the Cross. Freiburg 1980; K. Lehmann, A. Raffelt (Ed.): Praxis des Glaubens, Geistliches Lesebuch. 1982, pp. 432-444; K . Rahner: Complete Works. Volume 30. Freiburg 2009, pp. 373–384).
  • William Rowe (Ed.): God and the Problem of Evil , Blackwell Readings in Philosophy. Malden, Mass. 2002.
  • Klaus von Stosch : Theodizee , Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2013.
  • Gerhard Streminger : God's goodness and the evils of the world. The theodicy problem. Mohr, Tübingen 1992 (Italian translation: EffeElle Editori 2006, 2nd edition (abridged), Rome: Aracne 2009).
  • Werner Thiede : The crucified sense. A trinitarian theodicy. Gütersloh 2007.
  • Peter van Inwagen : The Problem of Evil. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2006.
  • Harald Wagner u. a. (Ed.): Arguing with God. New approaches to the theodicy problem. Quaestiones disputatae 169. Herder, Freiburg i. Brsg. 1998, ISBN 3-451-02169-2 .
  • Paul Weingartner : Evil. Different Kinds of Evil in the Light of Modern Theodicy. Peter Lang, Bern 2003.
  • Paul Weingartner (Ed.): The problem of the evil in the world. From an interdisciplinary point of view. Peter Lang, Bern 2005.

Web links

Wiktionary: Theodicy  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Introductory overview presentations
Leibniz editions

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz : Essais de théodicée . I. Troyel, Amsterdam 1710. Duden: Entry theodicy , origin
  2. In Judaism, YHWH is the creator of good and evil; B. there is no personification of evil , as in Christianity or in Persian dualism ( see also: Paulus of Tarsus ), next to him.
  3. Lactant : De ira dei. 13, 19 = Us. 374
  4. Reinhold F. Glei : Et invidus et inbecillus. The alleged epicurus fragment in lactance. De ira dei 13, 20-21, in: Vigiliae Christianae. 42 (1988), pp. 47-58, the latter conjecture p. 58 n. 38; Arthur Stanley Pease (Ed.): M. Tulli Ciceronis De natura deorum . Libri secundus et tertius. Cambridge (Mass.) 1958, p. 1232 f.
  5. Cf. Cicero: De natura deorum. 1, 123 and Laktanz: De ira dei. 4, 7; after Glei, 57 n.24
  6. ^ Pyrrhonic hypotyposes. 3.3.9-12; see. on the spot about Glei, 53
  7. Peter Knauer: Faith comes from hearing. Fundamental ecumenical theology. Graz, Vienna, Cologne 1978, p. 55 f.
  8. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: The best of all possible worlds. Quoted in: Norbert Hoerster (Hrsg.): Glaube und Vernunft. Texts on the philosophy of religion. dtv 4338, Munich 1979, p. 93 ff.
  9. a b Gerhard Streminger: God's goodness and the evils of the world. The theodicy problem. ISBN 3-16-145889-3 , p. 76
  10. Bertrand Russell: Why I am not a Christian. ISBN 3-499-16685-2 , p. 23.
  11. Norbert Hoerster: The question about God. ISBN 3-406-52805-8 , p. 96.
  12. Norbert Hoerster (ed.): Faith and reason. Texts on the philosophy of religion. Philipp Reclam jun., 1988 ISBN 3-15-008059 , p. 108.
  13. ^ GW Leibniz: Die Theodizee. 1710, Hamburg 1968, p. 188; quoted from Gerhard Streminger: God's goodness and the evils of the world. ISBN 3-16-145889-3 , p. 85.
  14. Gerhard Streminger: God's goodness and the evils of the world. ISBN 3-16-145889-3 , pp. 93, 94 and 103.
  15. Gerhard Streminger: God's goodness and the evils of the world. ISBN 3-16-145889-3 , pp. 96 and 98 f.
  16. ^ Charles Taliaferro: Philosophy of Religion. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  17. Armin Kreiner: God in suffering. ISBN 3-451-28624-6 , p. 236 ff.
  18. James R. Beebe: The Problem of Evil. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  19. Martin Luther: The beautiful Confitemini in the number of the 118th Psalm (1530). In: Kurt Aland: Luther German. Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, Berlin 1954, Volume 7, pp. 308-415 (323, 324), corresponds to pp. 4940, 4942 of the CD-ROM by Kurt Aland: Martin Luther. Collected works, Berlin 2002.
  20. ^ DBW 8 = Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke 8 (Volume WE = Resistance and Surrender), ed. by Martin Kuske and Ilse Tödt, p. 30 f.
  21. ^ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Lectures on the philosophy of history. Introduction. Project Gutenberg-DE
  22. ^ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Lectures on the philosophy of history. Chapter 51. Gutenberg-DE project
  24. Karsten Huhn: How can God allow that? In: Hartmut Jaeger , Joachim Pletsch: Suffering - Death - Mourning. A guide to hope. Idea (Evangelical Alliance), Dillenburg 2005, pp. 46–53.
  25. Immanuel Kant : About the failure of all philosophical attempts in theodicy. 1791.
  26. a b Klaus Kühlwein: Creation without meaning? P. 68
  27. Hans Küng : Being a Christian. P. 528
  28. a b Hans Küng: Being a Christian. P. 357
  29. Armin Kreiner: God in suffering. P. 77
  30. Norbert Hoerster: The question about God. Beck'sche Reihe Wissen 1635, Munich 2005, p. 88
  31. The 12th and 13th centuries attempted an artistic solution by pulling contradicting characteristics of God as his daughters out of him, so to speak, and allowing them to be discussed and agreed before his face. Cf. Udo Kindermann : Between Epic and Drama. An unknown quarrel of the daughters of God. Erlangen 1987, ISBN 3-7896-0079-2 .
  32. Bart D. Ehrman: God's Problem. How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question - Why We Suffer. HarperOne, New York 2008, ISBN 978-1-61-554230-7 , p. 55 (user translation).
  33. Norbert Hoerster: Unsolvability of the theodicy problem. Theologie und Philosophie, Vierteljahresschrift, Volume 60, Issue 3, 1985, ThPh 60 (1985), pp. 400–409.
  34. Bertrand Russell: Why I am not a Christian. P. 40
  35. John Leslie Mackie: The Miracle of Theism. ISBN 3-15-008075-4 , p. 278.
  36. ibid., P. 279
  37. Hans Jonas: The concept of God after Auschwitz. A Jewish voice. Suhrkamp paperback 1516, Frankfurt a. M. 1987, quoted in: Im Dialog , Volume 4: Church and Synagogue , compiled by Herbert Jochum. Kösel, Munich 1996, p. 69.
  38. Peter Knauer: Faith comes from hearing. Fundamental ecumenical theology. Styria, Graz, Vienna, Cologne 1978, p. 55 f.
  39. Norbert Hoerster: The question about God. ISBN 3-406-52805-8 , p. 113
  40. Joachim Kahl: The answer of atheism. On the website of the International Federation of Non-Denominational and Atheists e. V.
  41. The miracle of theism. Arguments for and against the existence of God. P. 280 (transl. Rudolf Ginters), Reclam 1985.
  42. The miracle of theism. Arguments for and against the existence of God. P. 402 (transl. Rudolf Ginters), Reclam 1985.
  43. Odo Marquard : The accused and the exonerated man in the philosophy of the 18th century. In: ders .: Farewell to the principle. Reclam, Stuttgart 1981, pp. 39-66, here p. 48
  44. ^ Raimund Smullyan: The Tao is Silence , ISBN 3-8105-1858-1 , 1977, p. 125
  45. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: The Theodicee . Leipzig 1879 (French: Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu . Translated by Julius Heinrich von Kirchmann).