Iranaeus’ theodicy – essay mark scheme

1 (a) Explain the Irenaean theodicy. [25] A01 June 2011

Candidates may begin by expressing the idea that, for Irenaeus, evil is meant to serve a purpose. It is key to understanding Irenaeus that his theodicy can be described as ‘soul-making’ rather than the ‘soul-deciding’ theodicy of Augustine. Some may point to Irenaeus’ use of Genesis 1:26 where God is described as wanting to make man in his own ‘image and likeness’. This means that we may be born in the image of God but we must grow, throughout history, into his likeness. Irenaeus would argue that God intended man to mature over a lengthy time, sending His own Son as a part of this learning process.

Evil is therefore sent as part of this maturing of humanity; without evils such as death and other pains we would not learn the need for goodness and repentance. For Irenaeus humanity needs to be patient much like the clay in the hand of a potter, one of his favourite images. However the clay that is humanity needs to work with the potter and not harden to the work and be discarded. The idea that everyone will          eventually be saved seems to be a later interpretation which is not found in Irenaeus’ own writings; indeed Irenaeus suggests that those who harden themselves will go to hell.

Candidates are likely to use the interpretations of these writings used by Hick. They may say that for Hick something’s goodness may depend very much on its purpose. He argues that a world without pain or the possibility of pain might be a very good world in itself, but it would not be a good world for the purpose of soul-making. If God made this to be a world in which we could develop, then this creation, Hick argues, suits that purpose well.

(b) To what extent can evil be said to be simply a test? [10] A02

Candidates may begin by exploring the issue that, while some may believe that this life is simply a test to achieve eternal life, this is not what the theodicies are actually saying.

Some may address the issue as to whether or not there is any justification for suffering such as the death of a child which would help a parent to “mature”. This may lead to the often expressed view that there is simply too much evil present in the world, both moral and natural, for any argument to justify its existence.

Others may make use of stories such as the man described in the Christian gospels as being born blind so the power of God may be shown through Christ’s cure of him.

 

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