Let me now introduce some particular theodicies, in this post according to its title. Again we define evil as an absence of good that ought to be there.
1. Some suffering, like punishment of a man by the authorities with prison for crimes or inflicted by God for inner sins, may be deserved and thus is not evil; suffering from punishment for all 4 reasons positively ought to be.
Note that Christianity holds that “justice” will eventually and definitely be served if not here than in the next life. Surely, God may have a reason to punish a man in this life if only to reform him and lessen his punishment in the next.
2. There is suffering that is inevitable and which everyone accepts as part of being a finite creature, i.e., in the process of choice. For one feels sorrow from realizing that one’s second most valuable option must be set aside for the sake of the most pleasant choice.
Thus, my limited income will allow me buy either a TV or a computer; as a consequence of buying the TV, I may feel a slight wistful discomfort from the fact that I have thus deprived myself of the computer.
3. There is physical suffering that (a) builds character and (b) discovers the self. Call such suffering “optimal frustration,” and the theodicy that absorbs and justifies it, “soul-making.”
4. Much suffering may be simply one’s own fault, as a natural consequence of imprudence, incompetence, or stupidity. Or, if that suffering really ought not to be, either, than it clearly is absorbed by soul-making, since the need to learn and practice and master one’s environment and tools is a crucial aspect of building oneself up.
Again, many illnesses happen because people do not take proper care of themselves. Such an illness, too, is one’s own fault, and the law according to which neglecting one’s own health leads to sickness is also absorbed by soul-making, as caring for one’s health is key to any kind of self-actualization and to developing an identity.
5. The final theodicy of this post will require an assumption not just of theism (which the atheist makes during his critique) but specifically of Christianity and its doctrine of grace.
First, increasing the charity for neighbor in one’s heart is possible through holy works of mercy. (The exact connection is complex.) But in the beginning, a man may feel little charity and resort to “forcing” himself to do good deeds. This suffering from spiritual dryness is absorbed by the growth of his theological virtues (faith, hope, charity).
Second, we know that God the Son died 3 times for the sake of the world. And thus He tells His creatures: “As I died for the sake of those I love, so you, too, will know what it is like to suffer for your people.” Marilyn McCord Adams thus suggests (in a new to me theodicy) that “temporal suffering itself is a vision into the inner life of God.” I don’t think that means that suffering is inflicted for its own sake, as though to make us simply taste or experience it, but it may be a condition of imitating God most faithfully.
Since the first death and rebirth of God in a perfected state was for the sake of His free knowledge before creating, even angels benefited from it.
The good angels, too, suffered greatly by watching so many of their brethren fall with Lucifer. (And yet it cannot be said that angels are “ashamed of their race,” because unlike humans who are one race or species, angels are not multiplied by bodies but each are a subsisting form. Each angel is therefore as if its own species.)
In that case, it may be that suffering is necessarily a feature of any and all life.