Religious thinkers in the Christian theistic tradition have tried to resolve the problem of evil-how a wholly good and omnipotent God could allow there to be evil-by offering a theodicy. This book considers three traditional theodicies and the objections they have elicited: Leibniz's best of all possible worlds theodicy, the free will theodicy, and an Irenaean type of theodicy. It also considers metatheodicies and limited theodicies. However, this book departs from traditional religious thinking by presenting and treating religious approaches to evil that do not confront evil through the religious problem of evil. Primary among the three religious approaches to evil that are presented is the approach of Job-like belief. Such an approach embodies Job's acceptance of evil as what God has given, expressed in his rhetorical "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2.10). The various elements of Job-like belief that are internally required for its approach to evil are critically examined, and it is seen how a Job-like approach to evil neither seeks nor requires a resolution to the problem of evil.
The other two religious approaches to evil, as opposed to the problem of evil, are the effort to lessen evil in the world and the practice of forgiveness, both of which are compatible with each other and with a Job-like acceptance of evil, with which they can be combined. Also treated in this book are mystery and God's goodness. Accompanying every theodicy is mystery (in its religious sense as that which is beyond human understanding), and the experience of the mystery of God's goodness shining through the world and through evil is embodied in Job-like belief.
James Kellenberger is emeritus professor of philosophy at California State University, Northridge.