Monday, August 21, 2006

theodicy revisited

Lee of the always-interesting Verbum Ipsum has written a very good post on theodicy and divine omnipotence. The post discusses theologian Keith Ward's point of view on the subject of ontological necessity and possible worlds, concepts that have more relevance for philosophers than for most theologians, I think.* I've reproduced my reply to Lee's thoughtful post below. I invite you to read his post first to give my reply some context. Not being a classical theist, I'm not too vexed by the problem of theodicy, so it's pretty easy for me to find God guilty of the ultimate sin.

Very interesting post.

If God chooses to actualize one of his possible worlds, and that world of necessity contains both good and evil, then God is ultimately responsible for bringing evil into existence, because (on the assumption God is absolutely free) God could have chosen not to actualize such a world.

Many, if not most, theodicies are about absolving God of his responsibility for all evil. In my opinion, no theodicy succeeds at this. Given that evil exists, and assuming that God created the universe, then at the very least we know God created a universe that contains the potential for evil. Therein lies God's responsibility.

If I scatter mines on the surface of a field and then tell a group of children to go play in the field, "But don't touch the mines," there's a chance those children will come out of the field unscathed.

Should a child decide to handle a mine and perish, we could argue that the child is at fault for having ignored my order... or we could admit that I should never had scattered mines over the field to begin with. Ultimately, I am responsible for that child's death.


PS: I watched Robert Wright's interview with Keith Ward over at, and found Ward quite intelligent and affable.

*The term "ontological necessity" doesn't appear in Lee's post, but the concept is there.


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