An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


A defense of the existence of God despite the presence of evil and suffering in the world. The term was coined by Gottfried W. Leibniz (1646-1716). It is drawn from Greek words meaning God and justice, and it justifies God's omnipotence, omniscience, and benevolence in the face of evil. Theodicies often emphasize the importance of human free will and moral responsibility, which allow the possibility of evil through destructive choices. Human virtue can also be understood to have meaning in terms of a choice for virtue despite possible failure and painful consequences-i.e., in the face of and in opposition to real evil. Human moral and spiritual development would be deprived of meaning if moral choices or favorable outcomes were somehow predetermined by God. The reality of free will allows us to choose to accept the offer of God's saving love. This response to the invitation of God's love would be meaningless if it were forced or unfree. Thomas Aquinas has been associated with the free will defense to the problem of evil. Leibniz believed this world to be the best of all possible worlds and held that evil provides a necessary contrast to disclose beauty and harmony. The term has also been applied to natural theology, which is the knowledge of God that can be attained by human reason.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.