Reconciling God & the Problem of Evil

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  • 0:01 God & Evil
  • 0:58 The Problem
  • 1:38 Augustine
  • 2:29 Irenaeus & Hick
  • 3:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explore the philosophical process of rectifying God with evil. In doing so, it will define theodicy while explaining the works of Augustine, Irenaeus, and Hick.

God & Evil

It's a theme that's played out in books and on the big screen. Man's life is going well; man believes in God. Same man faces horrible tragedy; same man rejects God. Like I said, it's a refrain that's played out for generations, and it stems from one question, 'How can there be a God when there's so much evil in the world?'

Today's lesson will explore this age-old conundrum of reconciling God and the problem of evil. It's a problem that some atheists, or those who refute the existence of God, use to validate their disbelief.

Now, before we go any further, there is one thing we must admit. Today's lesson will not even come close to solving this problem. Coming to an answer requires self-study and reflection. Instead, we're going to lay out the parameters of the problem as it pertains to philosophy. Then we'll go over a few answers postulated by some rather famous scholars.

The Problem

First, let's start with the problem. Stating it very simply, it goes like this: How does one rectify the existence of God with the obvious existence of evil? In other words, if there really is an all-powerful God, why wouldn't he wipe out things like evil and disease? Also, if he is supposed to be good, why doesn't his compassion stop the world's suffering?

Now that we've laid out the problem, let's look at some answers. For starters, the practice of trying to rectify God and evil is known as theodicy. With this in mind, let's look at three rather famous philosophers who practiced it. They are Augustine, Irenaeus, and John Hick.


As probably the most famous, we'll start with Augustine. To sum up his views, Augustine believed evil was a product of man, not God. Linking his ideas back to the Garden of Eden, Augustine asserted that God created perfection, but the free will of man, of Adam and Eve, messed it up. Putting it in modern terms, Augustine might say evil is a work of the children and not the parent.

Think of it this way. A mom and dad might build a beautiful home with pristine walls and snow colored floors. However, when the kids come in with their muddy feet, the perfection is tarnished and dirt abounds. Despite this, the parents are still good and loving parents; they just have messy kids. In the same way God is still good despite the presence of evil. It's humans, not God who messed things up.

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