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Theodicies and the Problem of Evil

2. Free Will Theodicies

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In this module we look at the first major strategy which theologians use to justify God in light of evil: free will theodicy. In particular we focus on (i) St Augustine of Hippo’s free will theodicy, told through the Fall narrative and human beings’ choice to originally sin (ii) the atheist philosophers’ objection to God bestowing childlike humanity free will (iii) the religious case for balancing freedom with divine intervention (iv) the atheist philosophers’ argument from natural evil (i.e. evil which is not caused by human choices and actions) (v) Augustine’s explanation for natural evil (vi) Alvin Plantinga’s reorientation of the goal of religious philosophers: instead of coming up with the actual reasons as to why God does not prevent evil, the theological defence needs only to give logically coherent possible reasons as to why God might allow evil.


In this course Dr Bethany Sollereder (University of Oxford) takes us on a theological journey into theodicies: attempts to justify God’s existence in light of the problems of evil and suffering. We begin by asking the question: what is theodicy? In examining theodicy, we look at the religious and philosophical background to issues of evil and suffering, and set up the ‘game’ between religious philosophers and their atheist opponents. Then, we move on to look at free will theodicies, exploring arguments concerning freedom and responsibility on both sides of the debate. In the third module, we look at soul-building theodicies, whilst considering John Hick’s universalism and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s protest thought. We also look at the best possible worlds theodicy, and consider whether this model stands up to variou challenges from contemporary debates. Finally, in the fifth module we reexamine the entire project of theodicy by listening to the anti-theodicist perspective; which claims that in the fight to win the problem of evil, we might have lost sight of the true meaning of theodicy.


Dr Bethany Sollereder is a Research Fellow at the Laudato Si’ Research Institute at Campion Hall, as well as the Ian Ramset Centre for Science & Religion. She specialises in theology concerning evolution and the problem of suffering and is currently working on the theological aspects of our changing climate. She has recently published Why Is There Suffering?: Pick Your Own Theological Expedition (2021)

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Sollereder, B. (2022, March 09). Theodicies and the Problem of Evil - Free Will Theodicies [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Sollereder, Bethany. "Theodicies and the Problem of Evil – Free Will Theodicies." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 09 Mar 2022,

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