Providence and the Problem of Evil

Eleonore Stump

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195326093
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Providence and the Problem of Evil

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  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Religion



Aquinas argued that a human being's life is divided into two unequal portions, one very small portion before death and another, infinitely enduring, after death. Aquinas held that the state of a person at the end of the smaller portion of his life determines his state in the infinitely extended portion of his life after death. Aquinas's views of the best thing and the worst thing for human beings mark out a scale of value on which human suffering and the benefits that might be thought to redeem it can be measured. Aquinas himself thinks that acceptance of the view that there is an afterlife and that true happiness consists in union with God in that afterlife is essential to his theodicy. It is also important to recognize that the best thing, the upper limit of Aquinas's scale of value for human lives, comes in degrees. Aquinas argued that human beings differ greatly in what constitutes for them the peak human condition of union with God. Aquinas took the justification and sanctification of postlapsarian human beings to be the means by which a person becomes healed of the disease in the will. Justification occurs when a human person recognizes and rejects the moral evil in him and yearns for the goodness of God.

Keywords: justification; faith; human suffering; simpliciter; sanctification; Aquinas's theodicy; consolation

Article.  8724 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Religion

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