40.02 Irenaean Theodicy (pps.33-36)

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and others of the early Hellenistic fathers of the church in the second and third centuries—prior to Augustine-and it has flourished again in more complex forms during the last hundred years.

In contrast to Augustine, who regarded man as having been created by God in a finished state, and as then falling disastrously away from this, Irenaeus saw man as still in process of creation.136 The “minority report” “sees moral evil as an inevitable result of God’s creation of man as an incomplete creature, at the beginning of a long process of moral and spiritual development.”137 Labeled the “soul-making” theodicy, it is based on the assumption that there are certain very valuable human qualities which could not be fully developed without subjecting man to suffering and cha1lenge.138

The Irenaean theodicy is paralleled by a rabbinic interpretation/insight on Genesis 2:3: me-kol melachto asher bara Elokim laasot (“from all His work, which God created to make”). What is the meaning of the words “to make”? It is man who completes unfinished creation and achieves a closer state of perfection. Man, as a partner with the Divine, helps complete creation.139 (See also below in section 100.)

The kabbalists developed this general concept in their formulation of the nuhama di-kissufa (“bread of shame”) theodicy: If the good bestowed by God is not deserved (as in a world with no challenge), the recipient’s pleasure will be lessened, or even negated, by the feelings of shame which always accompany undeserved favors.

Hick encapsulates the Irenaean position:

The main features of the Irenaean theodicy stress the creation of man, through the processes of natural evolution, at an epistemic distance from God, giving him a basic freedom in relation to his Creator; and man’s consequent self-centredness as an animal organism seeking survival within a harsh and challenging world which is however an environment in which he can develop, as a morally and spiritually immature creature, towards his ultimate perfection; this development beginning in the present life and continuing far beyond it. Such a theodicy sees moral

——————- NOTES ——————-

136 Hick, “Faith and Knowledge,” in ibid., p. 515.

137 Hick, Evil and the God of Love, p. 369.

138 See Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I q. 22, art. 2. “. . . there would be no patience of martyrs if there were no tyrannical persecution.”

139 Cited by Hertz, Pentateuch and Haftorah (also cited by Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation, citing Hertz.)


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