Michael J. Murray

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199596539
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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From Leibniz's time until the mid-1970s, the word ‘theodicy’ was used to describe attempts to explain God's permission of evil. Since the mid-1970s, however, it has taken on a more refined sense among philosophers of religion – a change that can be attributed to Alvin Plantinga's book God, Freedom and Evil (1974). In this work, Plantinga distinguishes between two types of explanations of evil that theists might construct. The first type is offered in response to arguments that the coexistence of God and evil is impossible. Explanations of this sort, which Plantinga calls ‘defences’, need only show the logical compatibility of God and evil. The second type aims to provide plausible and perhaps even likely-to-be-true explanations of evil, explanations which show that the existence of evil is not unlikely given the existence of God (or perhaps given the existence of God and some additional plausible and/or likely-to-be-true claims). Plantinga labelled explanations of this latter sort ‘theodicies’. His distinction has left a lasting mark on the field, and in the contemporary literature philosophers of religion use the term ‘theodicy’ in this narrower sense, and it is in this sense that it will be addressed in this article. The article discusses the punishment theodicy, the natural consequence theodicy, the free-will theodicy, the natural-law theodicy, soul-making theodicies, and theodicies of animal suffering.

Keywords: God; evil; Alvin Plantinga; theodicies; punishment; natural consequence; free will; natural law; soul making; animal suffering

Article.  11057 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Philosophy of Religion ; Religious Studies

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