St. Augustine created a theodicy that tried to explain the evil in the world by searching for an alternate source for this evil than God.
The first premiss of this argument is that evil is not itself an entity. Instead it is the state in which there is a lack, or perversion (a "privation") of good. This is necessary, because as all things come from God if evil were an entity then God must have originally created it, and this would be inconsistent with his benevolence.
Secondly, humans were created by God with free will. This gives them the potential to do good, but does not enforce it. This is backed up by two points. Man is described as being created in "His own image" (Genesis 1v26). As God is aphysical it is argued that this must refer to the state of consciousness and free will. In addition to this, it is argued that free will is a higher state of good than no free will, because if we were forced to act as "moral automata" then there were be no true good to arise from our actions, as it would be preordained.
With these considerations in place, the source of evil is revealed as originating in the fall. Fallen angels caused the fall of man, resulting in original sin. From that point on the perfection of the world was impaired, and what we percieve as evil began to exist.
This argument has been very influential to Christian theology, and continues to be a dominating theme in Roman Catholic thought. Aquinas developed a theology resulting from this in the Middle Ages.
The consequences of this are that since we have fallen from a state of perfection it is the duty of a moral Christian to do good, and attempt to redeem this position. By suffering, and taking the evils of the world upon himself this is the primary way in which Jesus acted as a saviour.
Of course, as with many religous arguments there are numerous issues with this argument. Perhaps the most compelling is that an omniscient God would have forseen the fall, and thus created in some other manner. The doctrine of the fall is also controversial, as it conflicts with modern theories of evolution.
- www.balbycarr.doncaster.sch.uk/subjects/rs/philosophy_A_level/ augustinian_theodicy.htm
Reason and Religious Belief - Michael Peterson
- The Question of God - Michael Palmer