Between Man and God: Issues in Judaic Thought

By Martin Sicker | Go to book overview

13

Theodicy in Judaic Thought

Judaic theologians and philosophers throughout the ages have taken a variety of approaches to dealing with the daunting problem of reconciling the existence of evil with divine omnipotence and justice. These have tended for the most part to focus on at least one of five common thematic arguments, some of which have a number of variants and some of which are mutually exclusive. The first of these thematic arguments is that the central problem of theodicy is insoluble because of our basic inability to comprehend the true nature of divine engagement with the universe. The second is that the apparently insoluble dilemma is essentially a semantic problem. The third is that God’s presumed omnipotence is less than absolute. The fourth is that the evils that befall man are acts of divine retribution. The fifth is that the evils that afflict man are a consequence of the withdrawal or absence of the divine presence from the affairs of men.

As will be seen, none of these arguments is free of flaws that effectively limit their general acceptability. Perhaps because the stakes for faith and morals are even greater with regard to the question of divine omnipotence than for divine omniscience, particularly in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the concern of Judaic thinkers with the problem of theodicy remains profound and unrelenting.


GOD’S WAYS ARE INCOMPREHENSIBLE

The incomprehensibility argument reflects the conviction that a satisfactory resolution of the problem of theodicy lies beyond the bounds of man’s intellectual reach. It is predicated on the proposition that man is not mentally equipped to truly comprehend the ways of God, and that he is therefore also

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Between Man and God: Issues in Judaic Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • 1 - The Judaic Conception of God 1
  • 2 - The Temporal or Prophetic Paradigm 21
  • 3 - The Experience of the Divine 41
  • 4 - Man, the Universe, and the Creator 57
  • 5 - The Meaning of Human Existence 75
  • 6 - Man in the Image 89
  • 7 - Man and Providence 97
  • 8 - Man’s Moral Autonomy 109
  • 9 - The Good and Evil Impulses 129
  • 10 - Divine Omniscience and Moral Autonomy 149
  • 11 - Resolving Rabbi Akiba’s Paradox 165
  • 12 - The Question of Divine Justice 189
  • 13 - Theodicy in Judaic Thought 201
  • 14 - Divine Justice and Human Justice 229
  • Bibliography 239
  • Index 255
  • About the Author 261
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