Defining the problem

Classically, the problem of theodicy is this: how can the existence of evils be compatible with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God?

Some theodicy is aimed at the philosophical task of establishing the plausibility of the existence of God in the face of evils. But there is a different task, more theological, of exploring what is the relation of a God who is confessed in Christian thought to a world that contains evils. This latter task is the one pursued in our project.

What then are these ‘evils’ in respect of evolutionary theodicy? The most obvious answer is the suffering of creatures, through predation, parasitism, etc. But it should be noted that only creatures with complex sentience can be said to suffer.

The extent of biological extinction, perhaps 99% of all the species that have ever existed, might also seem to be a charge against the goodness of God. But it might be said that every species has its time, and new life-possibilities can only arise if others disappear.

More generally, perhaps, it is the relentless struggle, competition and violence of the Darwinian world that seems to make what John Schneider calls ‘theistic seeing’ – seeing the world as the good creation of a good God – so difficult.

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