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Theodicies and the Problem of Evil

1. What is Theodicy?

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In this module, we ask the question: what is theodicy? In particular we focus on (i) the theological background to our understanding of pain and suffering in the world (ii) the development of theological narratives into philosophical arguments, such as Epicurus’ syllogism for the so-called ‘problem of evil’ (iii) some historical responses to Epicurus’ problem, which weaken at least one of the components of the inconsistent triad (iv) the origins of the term ‘theodicy’ from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, as a way to defend the justice of God in light of the evil in the world (v) setting up the ‘game’ of theodicy, which takes place between two teams: religious philosophers who want to defend the plausibility of God’s existence, and atheist philosophers who want to demonstrate that the reality of evil renders God’s existence untenable.


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)

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APA style

Sollereder, B. (2022, March 09). Theodicies and the Problem of Evil - What is Theodicy? [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Sollereder, Bethany. "Theodicies and the Problem of Evil – What is Theodicy?." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 09 Mar 2022,

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