Theodicy is identified as the study of the issue of evil’s existence in the world. It is an argument through which God’s justice is questioned in the context of evil and suffering. The term was derived from the Greek words “theos” which means “god” and “dike” which pertains to “justice.” Theodicy was first used during early 18th century by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a philosopher (“Theodicy,” 2009).
Commonly, theodicy or the issue of evil has been the subject of various debates. It created tension especially in monotheistic religions because of two definitive concepts; that the world is created by the “omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good” God, yet despite such sovereignty of the deity, immense suffering and evil in the world exist (“Theodicy,” 2009, n.p.). In actuality, the existence of evil has been a great concern for many religions (“Theodicy,” 2009). In this respect, this paper seeks to analyze how four world religions, namely, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam perceive theodicy.
Christian Views on Theodicy
It is within Christian history that God has been regarded as the good-natured deity, which pretty much shaped Christianity as a whole. The existence of evil in Christianity is seen as the lacking of goodness that God bestowed upon his creation. This implies that all beings were created with the ability to lose the goodness in them which paves way for the entry of evil. Such concept was believed to have been explicitly introduced by Augustine, saying that evil is a lack of good that corrupts God’s creation which started off completely good (Jones, 2007).
Another view held by Christians about evil is that it cannot be found metaphysically; rather, it is a volitional thing. Evil as a whole is the lack of moral goodness as the end result of man’s willful disobedience to God. Evil is contemplated to be a part of the human thinking and will, thereby reinforcing him or her to turn away from God’s laws. Christianity considers evil as a sin, and John the apostle describes such perspective as “the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4 cited in Jones, 2007). Alongside this is the idea that evil is the contradiction of God’s nature. As God is pure, morally perfect, and good, evil pertains to action that does not adhere to the good nature that reflects God (Jones, 2007). As such, it has been consistently presented in the bible that sin is another definitive term that commonly connotes evil.
Jewish Views on Theodicy
Prior to the medieval period, the Jewish tradition does not have any systematic accounts that concern evil. The apparent injustices of humans are deemed as either the end result of both the past and foreign sins that will be redressed in the world to come. The main point is that God, who embraced Israel despite of its flaws, is perfect and perfectly in charge of everything (“The Problem of Evil,” 2009). This can be seen on the passage: “The Lord has made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of the evil” (Proverbs 16:4 cited in “The Problem of Evil,” 2009)
Jewish teaching also points out that whether there are evil powers or not, human nature itself has an evil inclination which an individual is free to resist. For the most part, evil inclination is also viewed as part of God’s creation that in Genesis is contemplated to be very good. However, such entity should not be rejected, likewise assimilated. To quote the common rabbinic view “had it not been for the evil inclination, no man would build a house or marry a woman or procreate children” (“The Problem of Evil,” 2009). Whether evil comes from God or is the outcome of the flaws in the design of creation, Jewish tradition stresses that the power of freedom granted to humans to create good deeds is something that would repair the world (“The Problem of Evil,” 2009)
Islamic Views on Theodicy
In the tradition of Islam, a strong emphasis is given on the omnipotence of God or Allah. Such belief applies to tradition of divine predestination but is also observed in the belief that human beings should obey and surrender themselves to God and that God should not be held accountable for the moral judgment of humans (“Theodicy,” 2009). Islam also held the notion that if humans reject God and the ubiquitous signs that he presented, then he will eventually forget them, and such divine forgetfulness implies suffering even in the concept of eternal spiritual death (Netton, 2006).
Buddhist Views on Theodicy
Unlike in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam where the divine justice and its association with evil and suffering are highly apprehended, Buddhism does not give much concern about such perspective. The Buddhist tradition is centered on understanding why people suffer and how humans can be released from the sufferings of the world. Buddhists attempt to craft solutions to the issue of evil through the notion of karma and reincarnation or rebirth. For Buddhists, the sufferings experienced by individuals are the consequence of karma, wherein every action, condition, and disposition has its own consequences. Other than this, Buddhists believe that sufferings should not be blamed to gods, as gods are also subject to experience karma. Buddhism also holds to the retributive aspect of karma, which means that it can extend from one lifetime to another, that evil and suffering are experienced by good people, and they are just being punished for the misdeeds that they did in their previous life which they cannot remember (“Theodicy,” 2009).
Generally, each of the given religion has varying ways of understanding and coping with the existence of evil in the world. Each of the perspectives given by the said religion somehow provides comfort for those who believe. However, it is still within an individual to decide on which views to believe as theodicy still varies and is not fully capable of truly explaining evil in respect with human experience and reasoning. In this regard, it is therefore crucial to fully understand that the views given by the said religions still vary from one another, and they do not provide a definite answer to the host of questions asked by humans.
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