The MAJOR pieces on Theodicy are in the Hall
of Questions (Subject Area Index), under the categories of "Theological"
The other day I had an interesting experience. A young friend of mine went to take his test for his drivers license. We had prayed together for success, but the young man had NOT studied for the written exam!
Needless to say, he failed the test...and I am told that when he left the examination site, he 'cursed God' for causing him to fail!
As I heard this, my mind turned to Proverbs 19:3...
A person's folly ruins his life,I have, of course, experienced this myself often in my own life, as I have blamed God (for a while at least) for some of the consequences of my own stubbornness, laziness, or otherwise inappropriate attitudes.
but his heart rages against the Lord.
But as I continued reflecting on this, I thought again of the problem of evil, with its implicit 'linkage' of evil with a good God. And I wondered if that wasn't just the ultimate case of Proverbs 19:3, in which WE produce the vast destruction and racism and violence and avarice of human history...and then argue 'how can a good God let that happen?'... As we make ourselves the ethical judge of God in this process!...and implicitly blame Him for this evil!
We, the human race, produce the Hitlers and the Torquemadas, the Mansons
and the Neros...when will WE begin to accept responsibility for what WE
have done?...and when will WE begin to develop a justification for OUR
human character--an anthropodicy instead of theodicy?
One of the insights of Sartre, in my opinion, was that he saw clearly the relationship between a transcendent, conscious, volitional deity and the reality of "pre-built" values (and subsequently, ethics) in the universe:
"About 1880, some French teachers tried to set up a secular ethics which went something like this: God is a useless and costly hypothesis; we are discarding it; but, meanwhile, in order for here to be an ethics, a society, a civilization, it is essential that certain values be taken seriously and that they be considered as having an a priori existence. It must be obligatory, a priori, to be honest, not to lie, not to beat your wife, to have children, etc., etc. So we're going to try a little device which will make it possible to show that values exist all the same, inscribed in a heaven of ideas, though otherwise God does not exist. In other words nothing will be changed if God does not exist. We shall find ourselves with the same norms of honesty, progress, and humanism, and we shall have made of God an outdated hypothesis which will peacefully die off by itself.Depending on whether one can construct a system of ethics WITHOUT some ultimate, transcendental "Something", the argument against the existence of God, on the basis of the existence of evil, MAY be self-defeating.
The existentialist, on the contrary, thinks it very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer be an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. Nowhere is it written that the Good exists, that we must be honest, that we must not lie; because the fact is we are on a plane where there are only men."
"...but if I've discarded God the Father, there has to be someone to invent values. You've got to take things as they are. Moreover, to say that we invent values means nothing else but this: life has no meaning a priori." Sartre, Existentialism and Human Emotions, pp 21-22,49
The stream goes like this:
Now the problem with this should be obvious. If we use evil (which is dependent on God for its existence, in this argument) to disprove God's existence, then we pull the rug out from under 'evil' at the same time. In other words (if we work within the notion of transcendentally-defined 'good') we cannot disprove God, without losing the reality of evil.
This is not a dualism type thing at all, though. The old "you can't have good without evil" is barely true conceptually, and certainly not true 'ontologically'.
And, to be very pragmatic about this, I would find it much more difficult to believe that genocide, child abuse, kidnapping, vandalism, crimes against the elderly, racial violence were NOT truly evil, than to believe that a God existed who might someday be able to explain it to me and/or 'fix it with justice and mercy'...
Needless to say, this is very simplified...The argument above is highly collapsed, and most of the theodicy work is done on the assumption. Most ethics work is done on the 2nd statement, largely centered around alternative ways to 'ground' values (I will discuss this later.)