The definition of Theodicy is:

"the vindication of divine goodness and providence in view of the existence of evil. ("the question of theodicy")

My question is: What is the Reformed Protestant view of Theodicy? Or in other words, according to Reformed Protestants who believe in the sovereignty of God, how does theodicy assume a realistic biblical reflection in reality?

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    This is rather vague. I am not clear what you are asking for. I believe that God is righteous and I see evidence for this everywhere I look. That his creatures have rebelled against him does not make him to be un-right.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 20:09
  • @NigelJ It usually isn’t a vague concept though, for many atheist thinkers they see this as a problem, while us Christians may not see this as in issue. I would agree that the fall doesn’t make God evil, but in His permitting evil to continue … some free-thinkers think that God is somehow also evil… again, we Christians know better. I’m trying to understand the apologetic aspect of theodicy better.
    – Cork88
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 20:22
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    God has made righteous provision for the first creation to continue whilst his purposes (in salvation of his own) unfold and continue. He is not unjust, according to his own righteousness, for he has made righteous provision in his Christ. Finally, all shall be resolved in judgment. All of this is contained within the gospel and humanity needs to study that gospel if they would perceive of God's righteousness. I have no need to 'apologise' for God's unfolding revelation : the world needs to take note of his own revelation of himself.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 20:39
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    @NigelJ To that I agree, I am a deep thinker, as a Christian, I always desire more depth; hence my question. I do study the scriptures. I appreciate the comment Nigel, “God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:25-26‬
    – Cork88
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 21:02
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    Yes, agreed. Very much so. I shall ponder an answer to your question . . . . . . Up-voted +1 in recognition of your further, clarifying comments.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 26, 2022 at 21:16

3 Answers 3


The author below is of the Reformed Protestant school and referred to theodicy in this way:

"Shifting the focus from our own sin to God (ontology and metaphysics) is one of the sources of dualism, ancient and modern. We must shift the ground back to our covenantal transgression rather than ontological fault. Romans chapters 1 to 3 show that in Adam we have all become false witnesses – which is a form of evil, even if we are unaware that we are false witnesses." Pilgrim Theology M Horton, pp 144-5 (Zondervan, 2011)

If God, in his foreknowledge, had been intimidated by the realisation that some of his creatures would abuse his good gifts and thus give rise to evil, then would that have prevented him from providing those good gifts? If so, then God would not be God, for the very possibility of evil would have stopped him! But because God is God, not even the vilest evil of any of his creatures will thwart his purpose to provide good gifts. God will overcome all evil, and the victory of the cross and the resurrection show that evil has already been judged; the execution of God's righteous judgment on evil is inevitable. Meanwhile, evil creatures do even more evil, but God has a timetable and he will be proven right by the end of it all. Evil is an attempted negation of God's good.

Epicurus was an Athenian philosopher who died in 270 B.C. and he raised the question of evil and God. He is attributed as the one who formed this question, called the problem of theodicy. Upon examination, however, it constitutes a double non-sequitur.

A – Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. That is not a sufficient basis for identifying God (or anyone else) as malevolent. He doesn't account for God having a higher purpose or reason to allow evil. He seems to presume that a benevolent God would swoop down and stop ALL evil, or render us unable to do anything bad. Thus Epicurus presumes God's function is to stop evil. But human beings don't know everything, thus our ability to judge whether or not the evil is justifiable is suspect. In the end, we can’t rule out that God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing some evil to exist.

B – Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? That’s a different sort of non-sequitur. There is no obvious relationship between the first question and the second. That is: assuming that evil has an origin, there is no reason to believe that origin is different for each of these cases. Yet Epicurus fails to define what evil is. He needs to clarify that before he can say anything!

The answer is simple: God is both able and willing, but that has no relevance regarding the origin or the continuation of evil. God has, on occasions, demonstrated his ability to stamp on persistent evil but has always waited a long time first, to allow people to repent and to be spared his wrath. But guess what – people who hate God then accuse him of being unjust in stamping out persistent evil!

It is God’s will that all evil will, eventually, be removed from the cosmos, but in his way, at his time, to settle issues of good and evil once and for all. Evil was triumphed over at the cross, and by the empty tomb, but those who walk in darkness cannot see that. The issue has actually already been settled.

Theodicy fails to take on board what God has revealed of himself and his dealings with the evil that is displayed by both humans and demons. Theodicy picks and chooses from the Bible without taking it as a whole. It looks at the problem of evil purely from the human point of view, which is that of sinful, fallen humanity that is guilty of evil itself. As Horton points out:

"...there is now, because of sin, only the expectation of death and judgment. [God's] law announces this to everyone who is under it, whether in its written form or as it has been inscribed on the conscience, "so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God" (Ro 3:19).

Because of this original covenantal relation and revelation, there is, as in Aldo Gargani's vivid expression, 'the nostalgia for God of every living person.' And this nostalgia drives us to idolatry and suppression of the truth - to a theology of glory that judges by appearances, rather than to the arms of God through the revelation of his Son... Thinking that their problem was merely shame rather than guilt, Adam and Eve covered themselves with loincloths, and ever since then we have found ourselves incapable of accepting - or rather, unwilling to accept - the radical diagnosis of our own depravity. We can talk about evil outside of us - the 'others', whoever they may be; evil places, structures, forces, and principles. But, like the religious leaders whom Jesus challenged, we refuse to locate evil within ourselves (Mt 12:33-37; 15:10-20; 23:25-28)." (Ibid. pp146-7)

Those last 3 sentences sum up the problem of the Epicurean philosophy of theodicy.


Here follows a short extract from a sermon on the subject of evil, given by R.C. Sproul, who I believe was a Reformed, Protestant minister and author. He points out that “the problem of evil” is a far greater problem to atheists than it is to Christians.

The "problem of evil" presupposes objective moral values, which requires a transcendent source. So using "evil" as an argument against God presupposes him. Without God, there can be no evil, only a material world governed by un-designed chance or blind fate. So the atheist worldview has the real "problem with evil". If evil is purely subjective, then it really doesn't exist. You cannot make an objective moral judgement on a materialistic universe, even in the face of the most tragic events like the starvation of little children or genocide.

He then goes on to address the challenge that if God allows evil then he is malevolent and impotent:

In many instances God reveals a good purpose behind the evil that God ordains. The Bible shows us many clues. The kidnapping and enslavement of Joseph was a direct act of God (Genesis 45:7), yet while Joseph's brothers meant it for evil, "...God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive...". (Genesis 50:20).

Sproul then turns the tables on those who accuse God of being responsible for evil:

The most evil act in history was the death of God's own Son, delivered into the hand of wicked men according to the "determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23), for all these did nothing but "what the hand and counsel of God had decreed" (Acts 4:27-28). Yet the good that has come about by the evil act is wondrous indeed, the redemption of poor, deformed sinners, deserving of God's wrath, into adopted sons who have the promise of an inheritance. (Covenant Theology) Source: https://www.monergism.com/topics/evil

I found a related question I asked in May 2019 on the subject of God’s permissive will and his efficient will. This may be helpful (or not) but I reckon this section of a very good answer I received is worth contemplating:

Theodicy: voluntas efficiens (efficient will) VS. voluntas permittens (permitted will)

• If God’s will must account for all creation, what about evil, Satan, and hell?

• Voluntas efficiens: the “efficient will” refers to those aspects of His will who receive His full affirmation. Efficiens also means to create, cause, or produce. So this is the product of His creation which obeys Him perfectly and gets his affirmation.

• Voluntas permittens: the “permitted will” refers to the part of creation which doesn’t get His affirmation. He still has willed its existence, but He isn’t pleased with it. He permits it to exist because it serves His purposes (e.g., Satan).

Source: What is the Reformed Protestant understanding of God's Permissive Will, His Sovereign or Decretive Will and Efficacious Will?


The question has two false presumptions.

  1. That there is a general view on this topic in reformed protestantism like a dogma.
  2. That there is a general answer to this question.

Suffering is very individual. A thing, that might cause suffering in one person, might leave another person unaffected. So, if you ask the question, why others are suffering, it is much more difficult to answer, than if you ask, why you are suffering yourself. There is no absolute scale of suffering, at least I don't know.

Furthermore, you can't answer this question in general, as the answer to "why does God let happen an earthquake" can look differently than "why does John get cancer".

There can be a general answer to this question, but it is far from being sure, that it exists and very likely it doesn't. Though humans would like to have a simple plain answer in most cases. The last point is also the reason, why people prefer a wrong explanation over none.

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    The question asked specifically for the Reformed Protestant view so citations from such sources would be expected, not just a personal opinion. If there is disagreement with the question itself, that should be expressed in comment, not as an adversarial answer. Please see the Tour and the Help (below, bottom left) where these points are made in full.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 27, 2022 at 13:18
  • @MaestroGlanz There can be natural evil (like earthquake) or moral evil (like lying) for example. I didn’t necessarily mean just suffering. Your answer of assuming there is no general answer to this question is perplexing, since books have been written on theodicy (some of which I haven’t even bought yet.)
    – Cork88
    Commented May 27, 2022 at 15:35
  • @NigelJ Indeed. Your answer is much better. Commented May 27, 2022 at 15:47
  • @Cork88 To me, your question is too broad and makes many assumptions. Like that there is a specifically reformed protestant view. Even that requires some consent among reformed protestants. When it comes to this question, I have never seen any consent within any (bigger) denomination. The requirements for the question are not given. Therefore it can't be answered. You can prove me wrong of course. Commented May 27, 2022 at 15:52
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    @MaestroGlanz Usually C.S.E. (According to what I’ve experienced) desires a narrow or concise question. Like for example “According to Roman Catholics” or “according to trinitarians”, etc. the Reformed position generally has a bigger emphasis on God’s sovereignty than some other denominations, hence the question. One does not need to be reformed to believe and trust the “doctrine” of the sovereignty of God though. So I believe the requirements can be answered within the question itself. Could my question lack depth? Certainly, but I currently can’t see how.
    – Cork88
    Commented May 27, 2022 at 18:34

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