The vindication of the divine attributes, esp. justice and holiness, in respect to the existence of evil; a writing, doctrine, or theory intended to ‘justify the ways of God to men’. from F. théodicée, the title of a work of Leibniz (1710), f. Gr. - God + justice.
- 1797 D. STEWART in Encycl. Brit. (ed. 3) XI. 481/2 Metaphysical theology, which Leibnitz and some others call 'theodicy'.
- 1825 COLERIDGE Aids Refl. (1848) I. 120 All the theodices ever framed by human ingenuity, before and since the attempt of the celebrated Leibnitz.
- 1875 WHITE Life in Christ V. xxix. (1878) 500 Their theodicy is based on the belief that out of all evil God will bring eternal good.
Origin of the term
The term theodicy comes from the Greek θεός (theós, "god") and δίκη (díkē, "justice"), meaning literally "the justice of God," although a more appropriate phrase may be "to justify God" or "the justification of God". The term was coined in 1710 by the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz in a work entitled Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal ("Theodicic Essays on the Benevolence of God, the Free will of man, and the Origin of Evil").
The purpose of the essay was to show that the evil in the world does not conflict with the goodness of God, and that notwithstanding its many evils, the world is the best of all possible worlds. Leibniz wrote his Théodicée as a criticism of Pierre Bayle's Dictionnaire Historique et Critique, which had been written not long before; in this, Bayle, a well-known sceptic, had argued that the sufferings experienced in this earthly life prove that God could not be good and omnipotent.
Throughout the universe, every unit is regarded as a part of the whole. Survival of the part is dependent on co-operation with the plan and purpose of the whole, the wholehearted desire and perfect willingness to do the Father's divine will. The only evolutionary world without error (the possibility of unwise judgment) would be a world without free intelligence... evolving man must be fallible if he is to be free. Free and inexperienced intelligence cannot possibly at first be uniformly wise. The possibility of mistaken judgment (evil) becomes sin only when the human will consciously endorses and knowingly embraces a deliberate immoral judgment.