Date of Award

Spring 1991

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 1991 Alexander F. Vishio. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Religion Department


This paper examines various approaches to theodicy—the attempt to justify the goodness of God with the reality of evil—in Christian religious thought and attempts to provide a theodicy which speaks to contemporary society. It critiques the speculative theodicies of Alvin Plantinga and John Hick and finds their free will defense and soul-making theodicy, respectively, to be insensitive to the needs of the victims of suffering and somewhat unChristian formulations of God's activity and presence in human affairs.

Next, it examines the practical theodicies of John Roth and Mark Wallace, theodicies which are indicative of praxis-oriented responses to evil. Both embody purgative, cathartic, and even therapeutic practices that speak to the existential plight of the victim of radical suffering. While Roth pulls from the work of post-Holocaust Jewish theologians in formulating practical responses to suffering which seek to 'dissolve' the problem of evil, Wallace employs the wisdom discourse of biblical literature as an age-old repository of healing and healthy responses to timeless limit situations.

But Roth and Wallace differ in their understanding of the responsibility of God for permitting evil to exist and even thrive in the world. Roth affirms that a properly-informed praxis-theodicy will protest to and against a guilty God. Wallace rightly does not go so far as to render a guilty verdict on God, for he realizes the implications of such a claim are damaging and ultimately deadly to a theodicy which seeks to speak to a viable and living community of theistic believers. Accordingly, he suspends judgment on the guilt of God in human affairs.

Appropriating the praxis-oriented theodicies of both Wallace and Roth, I then seek a theological 'grammar' that can speak of hope in a benevolent deity. By combining these two approaches, I formulate the thesis of my paper: the most efficacious way to 'solve' the problem of evil is to dissolve it with first-order praxis-engendering responses. Only after this has been done can we begin to map out second-ordered theological responses which affirm the goodness of the world and of God in the face of radical negation. One such response which I outline is a Christocentric-oriented approach based on the mysteries of the incarnation and Trinitarian Godhead, an approach which bespeaks the benevolence of God in God's and our struggle with evil. God can be professed as good because God participates in the struggles and sufferings of God's creaturely creations.

This paper, accordingly, is a constructive effort to realize a viable and living theodicy for our day and age. In so doing, it focuses on addressing the concrete problem of evil in the world—how do we confront evil and how do we cope with it—to answer the immediate and existential problem of suffering. In so doing, it sides with the immediate concerns and problems of the sufferer. Indeed, I conclude that focusing on what we can do in the face of evil seems more practical and important than attempting to intellectually solve the unsolvable riddle of the existence of God and evil.