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St Augustine and Ireneus Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

1. St Augustine’s Theodicy

In the beginning, God created a wholly good creation that was mutable meaning that it had the potential to change. The creation was rich and diverse and there was harmony and balance in it.

However, God gave the angels and mankind freewill, which brought sin and decay into the world. Sin is the absence of good and those who sin will be punished. They will be punished in hell. [Augustine’s theodicy 5th century]

He wrote it in a book called the confessions of St Augustine.


Therefore, God is not responsible for evil the angels and mankind are, since God gave them freewill. A question that could be asked is why, if creation was wholly good, would the angels choose to rebel. This could be responded to that since the creation was rich and diverse there must be grades of morality as well. I.e. greater and lesser goods.

It can be said that Augustine’s clarity on evil merely being a lack of good is successful. Augustine said that evil is a ‘privation’, merely a lack of goodness. Like a bird without a wing or as St Basil said an eye without sight.

Many point out that if God is all loving then why would He plan hell as part of His creation. Scholars respond that since God is all knowing and, knowing that man would rebel he planned for His only son Jesus to give people a second chance. That is why in John 9 sin is said to be a ‘happ

y event’. The theodicy is strong since it follows biblical

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teaching. From God’s standpoint [aesthetic theme] the whole of creation is good. Like an analogy of a painting. There might be shadows and light yet the whole painting is good.

There must be punishment for sin in order to restore the harmony and balance.

2. Ireneus – Irenean Theodicy

Ireneus in the second century said that God made the best possible world for its purpose. He said that we are all immature beings and that this world is a vale of soul making.

Evil is presented to us as a stimulus, risk or challenge in order that we all obtain moral and spiritual growth as we are all children of God and as such must achieve an afterlife.


Ireneus writing in the 2nd century traced evil back to human freewill but unlike Augustine, did not deny that God was somehow responsible.

There are various strengths and weaknesses to the theodicy. These include the concept of heaven for all, which seems unjust. What is the point if at the end; we are all going to achieve the goal?

Religious people object the theodicy since it contradicts the Bible and the Qu’ran, which promise punishment for the unrighteous. The Bible promises Hell.

The gravity of suffering is unacceptable. Is there not too much suffering? What about those who cannot cope? Does the extent of suffering such as the Holocaust have to be so great?

D.Z. Philip makes an extremely valid point when he argues that it would never be justifiable to hurt someone in order to help them. Love can never be expressed by the point of suffering.

On the other hand, John Hick makes a strong point when he agrees that goodness that has already been developed by freewill is better than ready made ‘goodness of robots’.

Hick points out that we are created at a distance which he calls an ‘epistemic’ distance with regards to dimension of knowledge from God and he points out that man would be overwhelmed if he knew of God’s expectations of him. We are created in God’s image and must grow to his likeness. Therefore it is seen as a modern theory.

The theodicy is also strong as the evolution theory can be accommodated with it.

However it is viewed as an elitist theory, what about those who cannot cope? It is however, a much more positive theodicy than that of Augustine.

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