The Problem of Evil: Ancient Answers and Modern Discontents





Document Type



theodicy, suffering, problem of evil, Stoic philosophy, church fathers


This essay contrasts the beliefs and existential attitudes that shaped the approach to the problem of evil in antiquity with those of our own time. In early Christian theology, the patristic authors affirmed that evil is caused by the misuse of creaturely free will, and that God does not cause evil but permits and draws good out of suffering, seen especially in the narrative context of salvation history. A number of significant changes of beliefs and attitudes have taken place in modernity, such as a shift of focus to the dilemma of undeserved suffering rather than metaphysical accounts of the origin of evil, and a willingness to explain evil by modifying classical theism, even by accepting the possibility of a limited or even nonexistent God. The problem of evil will never be completely free of mystery, but modern conversation is illuminated when seen in its wider context.

Published in

International Journal of Orthodox Theology

Citation/Other Information

Gavrilyuk, Paul L. “The Problem of Evil: Ancient Answers and Modern Discontents.” International Journal of Orthodox Theology 9, no. 4 (2018): 9-31.

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