I’m working on a social science writing question and need an explanation to help me learn.
After reading E-Lectures, answer the following question: What is the source of the human problem according to Plato, Marx, and Freud?
Provide examples from the e-lecture. Reflection needs to be at least 1 page
E-Lecture: Theodicy: Encountering Evil
Theodicy comes from the Greek words “theos” and “dike” and menas “justifying the ways of God” in the face
of the chaos and evil in the world. In this text, theodicy will be used in a broad sense to describe a wide range
of religious and ideological explanations of the chaotic and evil experiences faced by individuals and societies.
Theodicies come from the fact that evil and chaos must be endured and explained if a sense of fatedness,
meaninglessness and despair are to be held at bay. The world’s religions offer different explanations for evil
and give people assurance that life has meaning and purpose.
The Persistent Demand for Theodicy
Suffering and evil have always been present in human life. A theodicy places our own life, which may have
suffering, in a larger framework of meaning that gives the suffering a sense of purpose or order. Peter Berger
claims that some rites of passage help “normalize” suffering for people so that they see suffering as a normal
part of life, thus they can tolerate their suffering and chaos “correctly”, which may minimize the unpleasantness
and make it more tolerable.
Using religion to legitimate suffering and evil is often unconscious. Even though theodicies entail complex
doctrines, many people unknowingly engage in unsophisticated explanations of theodicy. For example, when
someone says that a drought is a judgment of God, this is someone engaging in theodicy. Sometimes, people
see their personal suffering as fulfilling justice and are able to accept it more readily.
Theodicy of “Mystical Participation”
A common way of justifying suffering is to see one’s suffering as common. This can happen through rites of
passage or through the loss of self, due to one’s participation with and identification with a group, tribe, clan or
society. For example, a soldier dying in war but knowing that he will live on in his nation.
This type of theodicy is especially common in primal societies where a strong sense of individual identity is
usually not developed. Lucien Levy-Bruhl claimed that the merging of the self with others, or the “law of
participation,” helped individuals suffer less because of their “mystical participation” in the ongoing life of the
tribe or of nature. The continuity of individual-society-nature tends to minimize individual suffering because it
is viewed within the larger context of the perpetuation of the family or society.
Theodicies of particpation are common among mysticism when individuality is seen as absorbed by the divine.
A Future, This-Worldly Theodicy
In early Israel, there wasn’t a belief in a future life, Israel’s hope was in the promise that their God, Yahweh,
would redeem Israel from injustice and would establish prosperity in the future. This hope was tested through
the centuries. From their suffering a this-worldly eschatology emerged (discussed in the next chapter).
Israel began to look to the coming of a supernatural figure called “the Son of Man” who would put down the
power of Satan and establish a kingdom for his saints.
What is distinct about this form of theodicy is that reward for the suffering of the present time is postponed into
the future, but a future realized on this earth, not in some other-worldy heaven. The coming of justice is
imminent; it will come soon and be total. In other words, there will be a revolutionary transformation in which
the just will be rewarded and the unjust will be put down. This is called a millenarian form of theodicy.
This type of this-worldly theodicy is likely to attract followers during times of great upheaval and disaster, as
was the case in Europe between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries. Review this phenomenon on page 253-
254.This-worldy theodicies are also found in certain parts of Islam at times, particularly peasant movements. The
Shi’ite tradition of Islam today still has some this-worldy theodicies.
Cargo Cults, which usually exist in the Third World, arise in a climate of rapid social change and
deprivation. In these cults, a prophet declares the end of the world will result in disasters and that people must
prepare for the Golden Age by building storehouses and depots to receive the goods (the “cargo”). While the
cults are waiting, there is a complete break with the old order- pigs are killed, savings are spent, and work
stops. There is often dancing and celebratory revelries. Review the John Frum Cargo Cult on page 254-255.
One of the weakness of a future, this-worldly theodicy is that it can be disproved. When the predictions do not
occur, the group can fall apart, although not all do, some readjust.
This form of theodicy is the most common among Christianity, Islam and Mahayana Buddhism- three
missionary religions. This theodicy looks to reward one for the evil and injustice of this life in a life after death
in a blessed Heaven or Paradise.
Shi’ite Islam is a good example of this type of theodicy. Shi’ite is a branch of Islam that believes that only male
relatives of Muhammad should be legitimate successors and thus in the years after Mohammad’s death, two
branches of Islam formed, the Sunni’s and Shi’ites, over a complex dispute regarding who should be the next
leader of Islam.
The first three leaders of the Shi’ite tradition were assassinated and martyred and thus sacrificial death of
innocent men has profoundly shaped the theodicy within this religion. The Shi’ite tradition believes that
martyrdom assures a promise of heavenly bliss.
Dualist theodicy was common right before and after Christianity began in the form of Zoroastrianism,
Mithraism, Manichaeism and Gnosticism.
According to dualism, all evil and suffering are due to satanic forces that created and rule the world. The god of
light and truth did not crate this world and can’t be accountable for earthly suffering. The victory of order over
chaos and the defeat of evil will take place in a distant cosmic victory.
Earthly existence is radically devalued because the world is considered desolate, sinful and dark. This earthly
pessimism considers evil as the natural condition of earth life but does answer the question that confronts
monotheistic faiths: if God is good and ominipotent, why is there so much suffering and sorrow? For dualists,
since God didn’t create the earth, God is not responsible for suffering while on earth.
The Karma-Samsara Theodicy
Classical Indian theodicy is based on two related doctrines: samsara and karma. Samsara is the wheel of
rebirth, or reincarnation (the belief that each soul passes through a sequence of bodies). Karma is the law of
cause and effect. The Hindu rejects all excuses of “fate” “in God’s hands” etc. and claims that what happens to people is a result of their own actions, either in this life or a previous one. It is essential to fulfill the duties of our present state
because progress between stages of rebirth depend on fulfilling the dharma (or law appropriate to our present
condition or caste). Dharma is dutiful action without attachment to consequences.
The individual has no one to praise or blame for success or misfortune. It also acts to justify social and gender
The most radical form of karma-samsara theodicy is found in Theravada Buddhism, an offshoot of
Hinduism. There can be no excuses, you have made your bed, now you must life in it, sums up Buddhism’s
belief in theodicy.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all recognize the reality of both moral and natural evil and innocent
suffering. They also believe in the sovereignty, providence and benevolence of God. How can they hold all
these beliefs at once? The Book of Job is instructive to look at four different types of monotheistic theodicies
and how this dilemma is addressed.
Suffering as Recompense for Sin
One justification for suffering is to see it as a punishment for sin. Job’s friends take this view when they believe
that Job is suffering because he has sinned.
Suffering as a Test and as a Necessary Condition of “Soul Making”
Another explanation is that Job suffered as a “test” or a trial of faith. God is portrayed as allowing Satan to
entice Job in order to test Job’s faith.
The Qur’an also contains the idea that humans suffer in order to achieve a greater good.
Some monotheistic faiths tend to blame moral evil on the Fall of Adam and on the inevitability of human
sin. However, another view sees God’s purpose as including the creation of finite, imperfect creatures who,
through their own freedom, can develop personal spiritual insights and moral character. According to this type
of theodicy, in order for humans to grow, they must encounter pain and loss.
John Hick, a contemporary philosopher, developed this idea further. Hick proposes a “negative theodicy”
where he imagines that the world is a hedonistic paradise, free of all pain and suffering. Hick argues that
ultimately this would not be appealing because the good could not be known without the bad, moral strength
would not seem extraordinary if there wasn’t suffering and evil. Overall, this type of theodicy might not be
emotionally fulfilling but it does explain how God can be both omnipotent and perfect, while also allowing
suffering and evil to exist within the world.
A Theodicy of Submission: The Mystery of God’s Sovereignty
Ultimately, monotheists appeal to faith in God and God’s mystery as a way of solving the challenge of
ominoptence and the existence of evil. In the story of Job, he must repent for his ignorant charges against God
and his lack of faith. Suffering is dissolved as a problem before God’s sovereign majesty and mystery.
Islam believes that humans must submit to Allah, the Lord of the Universe. Submission to Allah teaches
patience and endurance. However, in orthodox Islam, this believe is balanced by the believe in human freedom
and divine compassion.
Faith in God provides a way for humans to believe that somehow pain and sorrow will be used by God for the
good of humankind.
Process theodicy argues that nothing, not even God, can wholly determine the being of others because all reality
is constituted by process and change, from the least to the greatest, God not excluded. This process is social,
and everything in the world has social power that is in continual flux. In this view, God cannot eliminate evil,
God can only minimize it while maximizing the possibilities for good.
A Theodicy of Protest
Some philosophers engage in an anti-theodicy, or a theodicy of protest. They refuse to approve any theodicy
that entails acceptance of the torturing to death of even one person. They believe that the cost in evil for human
freedom is too high- God allows far too much suffering and waste. They reject attempts to justify evil in the
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