Theodicy and Deconstruction

  • David Jasper
Part of the Studies in Literature and Religion book series (SLR)


We come finally to a problem central and specific to Christian theology. In brief, how may we sustain a belief in a God of love in the face of evil and the inexplicable and apparently unjustified woes and sufferings imposed on creatures in a world supposedly created and sustained by this beneficent deity? Why do millions of children starve or die of disease; why terrible earthquake; why war and its cruelty? Why are we, in St Paul’s words, the slaves of sin? A theodicy might crudely be defined as a writing, doctrine or theory intended, in the Miltonic phrase, to ‘justify the ways of God to men’ and to uphold a sense of the justice of God before the fact of evil, human waywardness and disobedience. The Judaeo-Christian literary traditions abound in theodicies as diverse in form and time as the Book of Job, Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667), Leibniz’s Theodicy (1710) or Austin Farrer’s Love Almighty and Ills Unlimited (1962). Above all, perhaps, the early chapters of Genesis explore our awareness of humanity’s radical imperfection, of ‘original sin’. It has already been suggested in Chapter 5 (see above p. 113) that this awareness prompts the recognition that a theological criticism should determine the moral relationship between the imperfect reader and the text — a criticism alive not only to human imperfection but also to our innate ability to know and love the truth.


Fictional Character Christian Theology Paradise Lost Human Artist Metaphysical Tradition 
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  1. 6.
    Austin Farrer, Love Almighty and Ills Unlimited (Fontana, 1966) p. 62.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    See, Farrer, ‘The Prior Actuality of God’ (1966) repr. in Reflective Faith, pp. 179–80.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    See. John Hick, Evil and the God of Love (Fontana, 1968) pp. 160–66.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    Leibniz, Theodicy, trans. E. M. Huggard, ed. Farrer (London, 1951) para. 225.Google Scholar
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    Quoted in, John Butt, Introduction to Candide (Harmondsworth, 1947) p. 9.Google Scholar
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    See further, A. L. Loades, Kant and Job’s Comforters (Newcastle, 1985) p. 87.Google Scholar
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    See, Frank Kermode, The Genesis of Secrecy: on the Interpretation of Narrative (Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1979) pp. 125–45.Google Scholar
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    See also, Horace H. Underwood, ‘Derrida and the Christian Critics: a Response to Clarence Walhout,’ Christianity and Literature, XXXV, Spring 1986, 7–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© David Jasper 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Jasper
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for the Study of Literature and TheologyUniversity of GlasgowUK

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