Theodicies Don't Work!
|I wanted to put an example of suffering, but they are so horrible, I chose this instead.|
For those who don't know what a theodicy is, it is a
Definition of THEODICY. : defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil.
Why would I make such a bold statement as the one I have in the title of this post. Quite simply theodicies don't do what many apologists think they do, and that especially counts for amateur internet apologists. As an example I will look at the free will theodicy. It is said roughly that without yahweh permitting some amount of evil, free will could not exist. This theodicy itself is very much up for debate. What is meant by free will for example can be annoying and lengthy as a discussion itself.
What this theodicy and most others attempt to do is to respond to the logical problem of evil, which is a position that it is logically impossible that evil could exist with a perfectly good god. Logical possibility is a strong term of exclusion. In philosophical terms logical impossibility means that the idea is not even worth considering, usually because it implies contradictions. Such is the logical problem of evil, and all that seems necessary to refute it is to show that there is some logical possibility under which both evil and the perfectly good deity can co-exist.
Once again, very debatable, but the idea is that if you can make a theodicy coherent you have defeated the basic problem of evil. I understand that.
However what a theodicy does not come close to doing is establishing that it is true. There is no evidence, physical or otherwise, that any theodicy is the actual explanation for the existence of evil. So even a working theodicy that establishes logical possibility still fails to be the actual explanation of why the apparent contradiction between a perfectly good god and evil exists. Even some apologists understand this problem, and they consequently adopt a position called sceptical theism.
Sceptical theism entails the rejection of theodicies and the acceptance of the idea that even though we don't have the actual explanation for the apparent contradiction, that's totally okay. We can just say we don't know. It's the "god works in mysterious ways" approach. Sceptical theists are great at demolishing theodicies. Don't find it surprising if you see a sceptical theist putting forward the same ideas I am here. I may have even borrowed the idea from them.
So even though a theodicy can present a logical possibility in its best form, it remains problematic because it doesn't address the actual reason why the apparent contradiction should not be resolved by rejecting theism. It operates in the same way as someone making excuses for someone else who has apparently done something atrocious but is not present to answer to their own atrocities. "Jack would never do that, he is a good man". The apparent contradiction of the perceived character of the absent individual, in this case god, is resolved by making up excuses that may be plausible, but are not demonstrated as being actual.
So where to now? You can still discuss theodicies with christian apologists, but I personally feel weary of doing that. What's the use in a hypothetical excuse that reconciles an apparent contradiction in the character of a being who does not consider humankind worthy of the real answers. Yahweh doesn't come down to explain and dissolve the problem, so why should we lend ourselves to speculation about it? The easier way to resolve the apparent contradiction is agnosticism. Either agnosticism on the goodness of god, which would create a whole new set of contradictions or agnosticism toward christian theism in the first place, which is harmonious and without the same problem.
 Sceptical theists aren't good sceptics. Good sceptics don't pick a side, so don't confuse the title. A good sceptic will admit that because of the apparent contradiction one cannot make the conclusion that a good god exists while evil exists, but that it may be possible. A good sceptic will likely end up becoming an agnostic.