Theodicy, in its most common form, is the attempt to answer the question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil. Theodicy attempts to resolve the evidential problem of evil by reconciling the traditional divine characteristics of omnibenevolence,omnipotence, and omniscience, in either their absolute or relative form, with the occurrence of evil or suffering in the world. Unlike a defence, which tries to demonstrate that God’s existence is logically possible in the light of evil, a theodicy provides a framework which claims to make God’s existence probable. The term was coined in 1710 by German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz in his work, Théodicée, though various responses to the problem of evil had been previously proposed. The British philosopher John Hicktraced the history of moral theodicy in his work, Evil and the God of Love, identifying three major traditions: the Plotinian theodicy, named after Plotinus; the Augustinian theodicy, which Hick based on the writings of Augustine of Hippo; and the Irenaean theodicy, which Hick developed, based on the thinking of St. Irenaeus. Other philosophers have suggested that theodicy is a modern discipline because deities in the ancient world were often imperfect.
German philosopher Max Weber saw theodicy as a social problem, based on the human need to explain puzzling aspects of the world; sociologist Peter L. Berger argued that religion arose out of a need for social order, and theodicy developed to sustain it. Following theHolocaust, a number of Jewish theologians developed a new response to the problem of evil, sometimes called anti-theodicy, which maintains that God cannot be meaningfully justified. As an alternative to theodicy, a defence may be proposed, which is limited to showing the logical possibility of God’s existence. American philosopher Alvin Plantinga presented a version of the free will defencewhich argued that the coexistence of God and evil is not logically impossible, and that free will further explains the existence of evil without threatening the existence of God. Similar to a theodicy, a cosmodicy attempts to justify the fundamental goodness of the universe, and an anthropodicy attempts to justify the goodness of humanity.