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Title: The Problem of Evil:

The Problem of Evil
Theodicy and Modern Science
Dr. Gary A. Stilwell
Optional Reading for Week 3 Christianity 5000
Years of History and Development
83 - 87 92 - 111 153 - 159 160 - 161 169 -
178 181 - 183 About 49 pages
Third Interlude - Ten Billion Years Before Present
And God said, 'Let there be lights in the dome of
the sky to separate the day from the night and
let them be for signs and for seasons and for
days and years, and let them be lights in the
dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.'
And it was so. God made the two great lights-the
greater light to rule the day and the lesser
light to rule the night-and the stars. God set
them in the dome of the sky to give light upon
the earth, to rule over the day and over the
night, and to separate the light from the
darkness. And God saw that it was good. And
there was evening and there was morning, the
fourth day. (Gen 114) The stars were born of
the condensed clouds of primordial gas and began
their process of evolution from their birth in
the fusion of hydrogen atoms to their death when
atoms ceased to fuse any further. . .
A reading . . .
Time Frame - Age of Cosmos - cont.
Human Civilization 12,000 Years

Homo Sapiens

1M 0.8M 0.6M
0.4M 0.2M Now
Plants Land Animals
Mammals Primates

500M 400M 300M 200M
100M Now
Earth Formed Life

500 Million
5B 4B 3B
2B 1B Now
4.6 Billion Years Earth Formed
Galaxies Formed

15 B 10B
5B Now
The Star Cycle
Cognitive Dissonance and Logic Tight Compartments
The psychological explanation for holding on to
an idea that obviously doesn't work is called
cognitive dissonance. Contradictions between
cognitions (thoughts, beliefs, values, etc.)
will drive a person to seek to minimize the
resulting discomfort by seeking consonance
between the opposing cognitions. Over the
centuries, it would become apparent that the
promises of Deuteronomy were not ringing true.
When deeply held beliefs are challenged by the
facts, something has to give. It is not
usually the beliefs of true believers.
Cognitive Dissonance
Why religion can sometimes be so bad. Because
it can be so good for the individual holding to
it. Yearning to find meaning and purpose in
our lives Create a bulwark against our mortality
gives rise to mythologies that we are able
to maintain together with our awareness of
the cause and effect natural world that we
perceive sensually. This can be bad in that
the conflict between our perceptions and our
myths may cause severe psychological distress.
True belief can lead to dogmatic ignorance and
Logic Tight Compartments
The human mind can hold two completely
conflicting beliefs without one affecting the
other and there is simply no leakage from one
compartment into the other. Even great
scientists can think critically with one part of
their mind yet hold to the most fantastic
superstitions in another. It is only when
leakage begins that cognitive dissonance sets in
and causes them discomfort.
Reducing Cognitive Dissonance
To summarize in the chronological order that the
Israelites attempted to reduce their cognitive
dissonance (1) Reduce the importance of the
dissonant beliefs. (2) Change the dissonant
beliefs so that they are no longer
inconsistent. (3) Add more consonant beliefs
that outweigh the dissonant beliefs.
Reducing Cognitive Dissonance - cont.
Dissonance exists between the Israelites beliefs
that they have in God's promise in Deuteronomy
and the raw fact that it isn't happening that
way. (1- Job) it does not matter since God is
sovereign and can do what he will.
Reduce the importance (2- Prophets) we have all
sinned and are being rightly collectively
punished. Change the dissonant beliefs (3-
Maccabees) we will eventually get our just reward
in some future state. Add more consonant
Cognitive Dissonance and Logic Tight Compartments
- examples?
A good definition of insanity is an inability to
reject beliefs that are incompatible with the
perceived facts. In some cases where
dissonance is extreme or the logic-tight
compartments blur into one another, the mind can
no longer handle the reality that the rest of us
see and becomes insane.
Cognitive Dissonance and Logic Tight Compartments
- examples?
Post-Galilean science tells us that the world is
round, old and revolves around the sun. The
cosmology of the Old Testament tells us that it
is flat, young and fixed in place never to be
moved. Post-Darwinian science tells us that
the creation story in Genesis is incompatible
with the known facts of modern evolutionary
biology, yet many reject modern biology or,
alternately, hold both ideas in their minds
together. Holding to these conflicting
cognitions literally are perfect examples of
cognitive dissonance, logic-tight compartments
and, indeed, insanity.
Cognitive Dissonance and Logic Tight Compartments
- examples?
Both scientific ideas violently contradict
scripture, yet - An old, round, revolving
earth is all right, but - Modern biology is
more difficult to handle. Why do you suppose
that is?
Fourth Interlude Five Billion Years before the
And God said, 'Let there be a dome in the midst
of the waters, and let it separate the waters
from the waters.' So God made the dome and
separated the waters that were under the dome
from the waters that were above the dome. And it
was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was
evening and there was morning, the second day.
(Gen 16) In the outskirts of a medium sized
galaxy, the ancient process is repeating itself
once again. A fairly small amount of gas and
star dust begins the long fall into a condensed
rotating disk . . . A reading . . .
The Eye of God - Planetary Nebula
The remains of a supernova explosion Part of the
Star Cycle
Persian Worldview and Religion -- Zoroastrianism
"With a clear mind look upon the two sides
between which each man must choose for himself. .
. . Now at the beginning the twin spirits have
declared their nature, the better and the evil .
. . and between the two the wise ones choose
well, not so the foolish." (Gatha Yasna 30.2-3)
Zoroaster 1200 BCE Early solution to the Theodicy
Zoroastrian Scriptures
The main scripture of the Zoroastrians is the
Avesta The Avesta contains the main liturgical
texts called the Yasna The Yasna contains
the Gathas, which are hymns composed by
Zoroaster and immediate followers (Yasna
chapters 28-34, 43-51 and 53)
The Persian Empire ca. 529-330 BCE
The Religion of the Persians
Founder was Zarathushtra (Zoroaster), ca. 1200
BCE. who was conceived by a shaft of light and
born of a virgin. Reformed the Persian religion
from polytheism to monotheism. God is Ahura
Mazda (Wise Lord), but he is opposed by the
creator of the evil daivas, Angra Mainyu
(Destructive Spirit). God is the sole creator
of our spiritual and material world which
he made completely good.
The Religion of the Persians - cont.
Main Doctrines Eschatology - judgment of soul
at death (a later concept)
resurrection at the end times (Z's
original) Dualism - principle of evil vs. good
Freewill - created humans have a choice to
fight evil Cosmology - the four ages of the
Zoroastrian Theodicy and Eschatology
The eschatology explains the creation of the
material world (cosmology) including
humans And the theodicy explains the
eschatology World created to fight evil god
(Cosmology) Humans created to freely help fight
evil god (Theodicy) Humans rewarded with
immortality (Eschatology) The term was
introduced by Leibniz in 1710 "best of all
possible worlds"
Zoroastrian Cosmology
The Four Ages of the World 1. Spiritual
creation - (separation of the 2) Angels -
(Amesha Spentas) are the beneficent immortals,
evil starts struggle 2. Material creation -
(created perfect, mingling of the 2) Six
stages of creation sky, water, earth, plants,
animals, humans humans asked to take part in
battle of their own free will Their eternal fate
will depend on their choice 3. Struggle between
good and evil - evil attacked the good
creation each will last 3000 years
Zoroastrian Cosmology - cont.
4. Zoroaster appears (in the 9,000th year) -
proclaims the good religion In the final
1000 years (millennium) the Savior will come to
usher in The transfiguration, renewal of all,
and the Kingdom of God will be established
on Earth - World renewal Resurrection of the
Dead Last Judgment - all will be judged and
cleansed at the end times
Zoroaster's Two Solutions to the Theodicy Problem
Zoroaster's solution was to posit 2 nearly equal
Gods. The evil God lacked foresight and was thus
vulnerable. Dualism and Diminished attributes
Zoroaster's Solutions to the Theodicy Problem -
Primary solution was to posit two nearly equal
Gods however, if they were totally
equal, there would be an infinite impasse.
Angra Mainyu lacked one of the attributes of
Ahura Mazda namely foresight. It was foresight
that enabled him to see that he would win the
battle by following his plan of creation
and challenging Angra Mainyu to wage a
war with him. This dualism was between good
and evil and not, as later religions would
have it, between flesh and spirit. "Truly
there are two primal spirits, twins renowned to
be in conflict. In thought and word, in act they
are two the better and the bad." "Neither our
thoughts nor teachings nor wills, neither our
choices nor words nor acts, nor our inner selves
nor our souls agree." (In the Avesta Gathas,
Yasnas 30.3, 45.2)
Zoroaster's Solutions to the Theodicy Problem -
Limitations on God.
Second solution was to deny some attributes of
God. The good God could not be all-powerful.
The evil god also had to lack some capability,
namely foresight. Diminished attributes in both
Gods explained the problem of evil yet,
still allowed for a totally good creator of the
world and humankind. Zoroaster's theodicy and
many other concepts would make its way into
later religions and form the basis of their
solutions to the problem of evil in the world
Eschatology Freewill Satan Resurrection of the
dead Last Judgment Savior Apocalyptic Angels,
Devils, Hell Six days of creation Garden of Eden
(paradise from pairidaiza Persian kings
enclosed forest/garden
End of Zoroastrian
Fifth Interlude Four Billion Years Before the
And God said, 'Let the waters under the sky be
gathered together into one place, and let the
dry land appear.' And it was so. God called the
dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered
together he called Seas. And God saw that it was
good. (Gen 19-10) The earth had gradually
cooled and had been in a stable orbit around a
constant star for around a billion years.
Physics and chemistry were to give way to
biology. The elemental atoms that had been
forged in the heart of earlier suns . . . A
reading . . .
Constant Sun and Stable Orbit - Necessary for Life

Constant Sun Stable Orbit
Legacy of the Greeks
Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not
willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both
able and willing? Whence then is evil?
Epicurus (341-270
BCE) Epicurus is probably the first in the West
to ask the theodicy question and the first Greek
of note to use the answer to suggest the
non-existence of God and his logically
contradictory assertions have been used by
atheists ever since. He comes late in the
Greek scheme of things - well into the third
phase of Greek religions.
Greek Religion
Bi/oj Qa/natoj Bi/oj 'alh/qeia . . . 'Orfixo/i

Olympic vs. Mystery Religions
Ancient Greece
Ionian Philosophers c. 600 BCE
Homer - 750 BCE Hesiod - 700 BCE Plato - 385
From Zeus to the Mysteries
Evolution of the Greek Religions
(and key figures)
Three major phases 1- Pre -conquest chthonic
religion 2- Olympian religion - a syncretism
of pre-conquest and
Aryan gods 3-
Mystery religions - birth of the soul
Aryan s - 2000 BCE syncretized chthonic and
Aryan gods Homer - 750 Olympian gods, fates
Hesiod - 700 cosmogony and the ages of man
Evolution of the Greek Religions
(and key figures)
- cont.
Orphic poetry - 550 immortality and divinity of
the soul (inscriptions) Pythagoras -
585-497 immortal soul, reincarnation Heraclitus
- 540-475 all is flux - becoming Parmenides -
510-? all is One - being an Eleatic Democritus
- 460-370 atoms - determinism Plato -
427-347 soul (Myth of Er) , Forms (Allegory of
the Cave),
- 384-322 countered Idealism of Plato, teacher
of Alexander Zeno/Stoic - 333-264 fate
rules Epicurus - 341-270 swerve of atoms - fate
does not rule Aristarchus - 310-230 the sun is
the center (science)
Evolution of the Greek Religions
Olympian religion - no afterlife Homer -
750 Olympian gods, fates Hades Hesiod -
700 the ages of man Mystery religions - birth
of the soul Orphic poetry - 550 immortality and
divinity of the soul Pythagoras - 540 immortal
soul, reincarnation Plato - 365 immortal
soul (Myth of Er)
Science - a Lost Opportunity
Why did Aristarchus lose? 1. If earth spins why
don't objects fly off? 2. If earth moves why
aren't the birds in the air left
behind? 3. If the earth orbits the sun why isn't
a parallax effect noticed? 4. Surely
"we" are at the center of the universe. 5. The
authority of Aristotle.
Science - a Lost Opportunity - cont.
1. If earth spins why don't objects fly off? 2.
If earth moves why aren't the birds in the air
left behind? 3. If the earth orbits the sun why
isn't a parallax effect noticed? 4. Surely "we"
are at the center of the universe. 5. The
authority of Aristotle. s 12 not valid physics
of motion, which would not be adequately
understood until the 17th century. 3 is valid
but the stars are so distant that the effect is
too small to see without precision
instruments which happened only in 1838!
4 is an appeal to ego-centric
anthropocentrism. 5 is an appeal to authority
and is deadly to scientific investigation.
The Orphics (ca. 550)
A Greek religion of individual salvation. As
opposed to the Olympic religion of Homer and
Hesiod God created the entire cosmos. Humans
have a dual nature and contain a spark of
divinity. the body is the tomb of the soul our
real home is elsewhere Life - Death - True Life .
. . Orpheus Bi/oj Qa/natoj Bi/oj 'alh/qeia . . .
Common Themes of the Greek Mystery Religions
Religions like Orphic, Dionysian, Mithric, etc.
all were the opposite of Olympic - All held
these concepts in common The suspension of fate
or determinism Ritual bath or baptism Ritual
meal Godman who died and was raised Goddess in
attendance Miraculous birth Ascendance into
heaven of godman The Olympics and later Stoics
believed we are at the mercy of a predetermined
fate. The Mysteries' gods ruled over the stars
so one's fate was no longer "in the stars".
Plato (ca. 365 BCE)
Why do we care so much about Plato? Religion
never the same after Plato Afterlife as
Described in Plato's Myth of Er He epitomizes
the philosophies of his forerunners and develops
the concept of the immortal soul that will
influence late Judaism and early
Christianity. Reading excerpt Myth of Er
Plato - The Myth of Er (Republic 614b-621b).
Once upon a time he Er, son of Armenius died in
war and . . . as he was lying on the pyre, he
came back to life, and . . . told what he saw in
the other world (614b). Plato's Er describes
the site of the judgment. Two openings side by
side in the earth, and two in the heaven - a
judging of the newly dead. The just are sent
right and up - unjust to the left and down. All
are wearing tokens, presumably to indicate their
degree of goodness or badness. Souls
coming back from reward in heaven, or under the
earth where punished ten-fold. Except for
the incurably wicked - all brought back to be
reborn. Allowed to choose a new lot in life and
are reincarnated. Choice is almost entirely
based on one's previous existence.
Reincarnation is now a continuous cycle.
Plato (ca. 365 BCE) - His Influencers
In the Meno 81b, Plato is supposed to have
summarized the Orphic eschatology, where he
writes a reading . . . MENO What was it,
and who were they? SOCRATES Those who tell it
are priests and priestesses of the sort who make
it their business to be able to account for the
functions which they perform. Pindar speaks of
it too, and many another of the poets who are
divinely inspired. What they say is this-see
whether you think they are speaking the truth.
They say that the soul of man is immortal. At
one time it comes to an end-that which is called
death-and at another is born again, but is never
finally exterminated. On these grounds a man
must live all his days as righteously as
possible. For those from whom Persephone
receives requital for ancient doom, In the ninth
year she restores again their souls to the sun
above. From whom rise noble kings and the swift
in strength and greatest in wisdom, And for the
rest of time they are called heroes and
sanctified by men. Thus the soul, since it is
immortal and has been born many times, and has
seen all things both here and in the other world,
has learned everything that is.
Plato (ca. 365 BCE) - Idealism
Plato's, as opposed to subsequent philosophies,
was not materialistic. He needed something to
refute the epistemological relativism and
skepticism of the earlier Sophists and Skeptics.
The latter had denied the possibility of
objective knowledge Calling on Pythagorean and
Orphic traditions, he used their concepts of
metempsychosis, immortality, and recollection to
explain how we are able to know reality. The
body is the tomb of the soul and the soul's real
home is in the celestial realm where it knows the
Ideal Forms. The material world of Becoming is
opposed to the unchanging Ideal world of Being
in an irreconcilable dualism. "The pure soul
once freed from the corporeal world "goes away
to a place that is . . . unseen world . . . into
the presence of the good and wise God"
Hellenistic World ca. 300 BCE The
time of the Jewish Maccabees
The Empire of Alexander the Great
Stoics, Epicureans (ca. 310) and a Foretaste of
Classical Science
Stoics - Determinism Built on the atomism of
Democritus, the cosmos was fated to repeat
cyclically The world is a monistic living
organism, made of matter. All is
reabsorbed back into God at the end of a
cycle Epicureans - Indeterminism Denied the
Stoics claim of fate Swerve of atoms -
anticipates quantum physics
A Summary of Greek Philosophies
For Plato, the world was a dualism of the
material and the Ideal Forms the god(s) exist
both as the highest Good and in the world of
human beings the afterlife contains reward,
punishment, and rebirth for the masses. For
Epicurus, the world was all eternal material
atoms in the void the gods were aloof from
humans and dwelt blissfully between the worlds
the afterlife was not possible since all souls
disintegrated at death, so the threats of
post-mortem punishments were false.
A Summary of Greek Philosophies - cont.
For the Stoics, the world was a monistic living
organism made of matter that cyclically was
destroyed and re-created. The one God (although
there were lesser others) was responsible for
strictly determining the fate of all, which was
repeated identically in all cycles the afterlife
was non-personal with the soul reabsorbed into
the Logos to be reborn in subsequent world
cycles. Christianity, especially the early
Fathers, would embrace much of Stoicism's
immanent and providential God, its rationally
created order, and its anthropology and ethics,
but would reject the philosophy of Epicurus.
Plato, however, is the most important figure for
the understanding of later Christianity
The Stoics
The Stoics were exemplars of determinism. Built
on the atomism of Democritus, their cosmos was
fated to repeat cyclically. Since one's fate was
determined, the Stoics prized the attributes of
indifference (things are neither good nor bad in
themselves) and apathy (reason dominates
emotion). Therefore, one must "go with the
flow". These attributes would also be prized by
the early Church Fathers, until Platonic
philosophy came to dominate Christian thinking
and free choice trumped fate. Their concept of
the Logos (the overall plan of all things and
events as contained in the divine mind - the
pattern for all creation and history) would
greatly influence later Gospel of John,
neo-Platonism and the Christian Fathers.
Plato's Later Influence
When Christianity needed a philosophical basis
for its Hebraic thinking in a Hellenistic world,
it would turn to Plato. It would be Plato's
eschatology that reigned supreme for over a
thousand years, displacing or modifying original
Christian concepts, such as the millennial
Kingdom, in which all of the righteous
resurrected dead would participate on the earth.
An Answer to Epicurus POE
Can we reject his atheism based on his
riddle? Yes, by adding something new to the
assumptions -- the reward of the Mysteries and
End of Greek
Sixth Interlude 3.5 Billion Years Before Present
Then God said, 'Let the earth put forth
vegetation plants yielding seed, and fruit
trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with
the seed in it.' And it was so. The earth
brought forth vegetation plants yielding seed
of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing
fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it
was good. And there was evening and there was
morning, the third day. (Gen 111)
Living organisms begin their long journey into
complexity. One of the first major
breakthroughs toward that complexity was the
development of the single cell. Now life was
recognizable as a complex factory contained in a
wall to guard it against the outside environment.
. . A reading . . .
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Optional Reading for Weeks 1 2 in
-- Christianity 5000 Years of History and
Pages 3-7 9-14 35-38 47-50 63-64 75-76 23
pages! 114-124 129-131 145-151 69-74 76-82 34
Week 4 184-193 202 212-221 230-250 42 pages
Week 3 83 - 87 92 - 111 153 - 159 160 - 161 169
- 178 181 - 183 49 pages
Week 5 203-207 286-295 15 pages
Week 6 300-319 319-323 24 pages
Do Brief Review and Go To 3rd Week Lecture
Course Outline
Introductory Comments Religion as an Object of
Critical Analysis The Academic Study of
Religion Ways of Relating Science and
Religion Some Important Definitions Orientation
in Ancient Times First Interlude of 12
(Prelude) story and some science Evil and the
Bible General Solutions to the Problem of
Evil The Consistency Problem Various Historical
Solutions The Problem of Evil in Ancient Israel
Course Outline - cont.
Cognitive Dissonance and Logic-Tight
Compartments The First Theodicy
Zoroaster Legacy of the Greeks A summary of
three Greek philosophies The Greek Mystery
Religions The Development of Early
Christianities Theodicies of the Three Christian
Sects Additional Heretical Christian
Theodicies St. Augustine (354-430), Doctor of
the Church Theodicy of St. Augustine Problems
with Augustine's Theodicy. The Philosophy of
Religion The Arguments for the Existence of
God Philosophy's Effect on Christian
Theology Theodicy of John Calvin (1509-1664)
Course Outline - cont.
Newtonian Science and Determinism The Theodicy
of Leibniz -vs- Voltaire Darwin's
Theodicy Emergence Evolution and Intelligent
Design The New Physics and Indeterminism Recent
Orthodox Theodicies John Hick's
Theodicy Theodicy of Alvin Plantinga A Break
with Orthodoxy The Evolutionary Theology of
Teilhard de Chardin Open Theism of the
Evangelicals Whitehead's Process Theology A
Rational Theodicy Built on Modern
Science Twelfth Interlude (Postlude)
Theodicy in Ancient Israel
As long as they were polytheistic, there was no
problem. When Yahweh became the only God, then
it became an obvious problem. Apparent as the
centuries passed that God's people were not
getting their promised just desserts. The
beautiful assurances of God's protection in the
91st Psalm was more hope than fact. The evil
were prospering and the good were plagued with
evil. So, how is the justice of God explained?
Throughout the Bible, the problem of evil keeps
coming to the fore and there were at least three
successive major attempts to explain the justice
of God as illustrated by the 1 - Book of Job,
God is sovereign 2 - the Prophets,
Punishment for breaking Covenant 3 - the
Maccabean stories. Evil people - but reward in
Theodicy Based on Eschatology
Apocalyptic eschatology would provide the best
theodicy Until . . . It was rejected by the
Christian Fathers within a few centuries of the
founding of Pauline Christianity.
Millennial Kingdom at End Times Resurrection Judgm
ent Reign on Earth in Afterlife
Zoroaster's Two Solutions to the Theodicy Problem
Zoroaster's solution was to posit 2 nearly equal
Gods. The evil God lacked foresight and was thus
vulnerable. The good God lacked
omnipotence Dualism and Diminished attributes
Legacy of the Greeks
Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not
willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both
able and willing? Whence then is evil?
Epicurus (341-270
BCE) Epicurus is probably the first in the West
to ask the theodicy question and the first Greek
of note to use the answer to suggest the
non-existence of God and his logically
contradictory assertions have been used by
atheists ever since. He comes late in the
Greek scheme of things - well into the third
phase of Greek religions.
An Answer to Epicurus POE
Can we reject his atheism based on his
riddle? Yes, by adding something new to his
assumptions -- the post-mortem reward of the
Zoroastrians (ca. 1200 BCE) and Mysteries (ca
550 BCE) and Plato (ca 365 BCE) and the
Intertestamental Maccabees (ca. 165 BCE)
Life Gets More Complex
Cell Nucleus Chromosomes DNA Genes Molecules Atoms
The program of life Shared by ALL living things
Early Christianities - Jesus
"The Kingdom of God is not coming with signs to
be observed . . . for behold, the Kingdom of God
is in the midst of you." Luke 1720-21
Jesus Movement - rejected the hypocrisy of many
of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Preached the
imminent Kingdom of God.
Jesus This generation will not pass away until
all these things have taken place. Matt 24 34
Ancient Israel and Judah
Jesus Paul
David Josiah
David (1000 BCE) Josiah (620 BCE) Jesus (30 CE)
Paul (55 CE)
The First Christians
The Movement was not called Christian until the
40s where it got that name at
Antioch Earlier it was called the Way or
Nazarenes The original focus was on the Jewish
homeland in Galilee, then
Jerusalem Peter was the original head of the
Jerusalem church then replaced by James,
the brother of Jesus Scholars designate them as
Jewish-Christians (later called Ebionites
and branded as heretics)
Three Early Christianities
There are three main branches of early
Christianity Jewish Christian sect created by
Jesus' disciples. Pauline churches that were to
develop into mainline Christianity by the end of
the Third Century. Gnostic Christian sects who
stressed the wisdom of Jesus as against the
redeeming resurrection of Paul.
Jewish Christians - The Ebionites
A generation after the fall of Jerusalem the
Ebionites were making these claims about
Jesus Not divine. A religious Jew. Taught
within framework of Yahwism. Had a social
agenda. Was liberal on Torah Laws. Was a reformer
for return to purity of Yahwism. Called for
acceptance of the reign of God and to live as
though it were already here. Attempted to bring
this Kingdom about by righteousness and
loving kindness.
The Ebionites - cont.
The proto-orthodox condemned them as
heretics. They continued as small enclaves in
Galilee and the Trans Jordan (Peraea,
Decapolis) They ceased to exist after 450 CE.
Jewish Christian Theodicy
By the end of the second century there were
three distinct major Christian factions. The
Jewish-Christians were small and isolated by now
and would eventually be lost to history. The
Gnostics were at the height of their influence
and the Pauline Christians were the most catholic
of them all. Their theodicy was the simplest of
all. God would rule the new Jewish Kingdom in
the New Jerusalem and all evil would be banished
from existence.
St. Paul

Spread the Movement to the Gentiles - the
Hellenistic World
Paul in Brief
Paul was born Saul of Tarsus in present day
Turkey. A Jew of the Diaspora, therefore from a
Hellenized Culture. A Pharisee who studied under
the famous Gamaliel. Persecuted Jewish
Christians. Was converted and started teaching
his version of Christ to Hellenized Jews
and Greeks. Went about it without consulting
Jerusalem (Gal 18ff). Attempted eventually to
reconcile with Jerusalem (Gal 118-210).
The First Church Conflict
It is impossible to discuss Paul apart from
The Greco-Roman Empire The Jewish Diaspora
The Jewish Christians because the they are so
entangled, so . . .
The Greco-Roman Empire of Paul
Jewish Diaspora 1st Century CE
Jewish Christians (The Original Church) and Paul
Some key dates before 30 - Jesus' ministry 1
year in Galilee (Synoptic Gospels)
3 years in Judea (John). ca. 30
- Jesus crucified and disciples go to Galilee
then Jerusalem. 32 - Paul starts his
ministry. 35 - Paul 1st trip to Jerusalem,
sees Peter and James. 49 - Paul 2nd trip, sees
James now head of Jewish-Christians
(Jerusalem Council - 1st one held
- 'remember poor') 49 - Paul condemns Peter at
Antioch (Gal 211ff). 51 - Paul writes 1st
Thessalonians (earliest NT work). 57 - Paul's
last visit, collection refused,
breakup. 62 - Death of James, brother of
Jesus. 65 CE - Death of Paul. 70 CE - Romans
attack Jerusalem and Judaism forever
splits into Christianity and
Rabbinic Judaism. after 70 - Gospels
written. 132 CE - Bar Kochba revolt - all Jews
driven out of Jerusalem.
Pauline Christian Theodicy
A Pharisee but lived within the Hellenistic
culture. Took the religion of Jesus and made it
a religion about Jesus. Could not understand
why Jesus was hung on a tree, since that
was the most shameful thing that could happen
(Dt. 2122-23). Necessary that Jesus die in
such a way in order to absolve our sinful
nature in the eyes of God. Jesus became the
lamb that was sacrificed for the good of all
people who would believe and have faith in that
sacrifice. Also expected the imminent end of
the world and the resurrection of all the
righteous dead, but in the meantime, he had to
explain the continuing evils in the world of his
present day.
Pauline Christian Theodicy
St. Paul - Five responses to natural and moral
evil (innocent suffering) "Shall we say that God
is unjust?" . . . "By no means!" (Rom
914) There is suffering because 1 -
Wickedness "since all have sinned and fallen
short . . . . . . of the glory of God they are
now justified by his grace as a gift, through
the redemption that is Crist Jesus, whom God put
forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood
effective through faith." and "The wages of sin
is death" (Rom 323-25, 623)
Pauline Christian Theodicy - cont.
2 - Guilt of ancestors Sin of Adam shows human
tendency to evil. "Therefore, just as sin came
into the world through one man, and death came
through sin, and so death spread to all because
all have sinned" Rom 512 3 - It is
educational Suffering shows need for God. "And
not only that, but we also boast in our
sufferings, knowing that suffering produces
endurance, and endurance produces character, and
character produces hope, and hope does not
disappoint us, because God's love has been
poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit
that has been given to us." Rom 53-5
Pauline Christian Theodicy - cont.
4 - The creator himself suffers We must share
his suffering When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is
that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit
that we are children of God, and if children,
then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with
Christ-if, in fact, we suffer with him so that
we may also be glorified with him. (Rom
Pauline Christian Theodicy - cont.
5 - It is only temporary If you have faith, a
gift from God, you can be saved and have
eternal life. . . . we ourselves, who have the
first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while
we wait for adoption, the redemption of our
bodies. For in hope we were saved. . . We know
that all things work together for good for those
who love God, who are called according to his
purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also
predestined to be conformed to the image of his
Son, in order that he might be the firstborn
within a large family. And those whom he
predestined he also called and those whom he
called he also justified and those whom he
justified he also glorified.

(Romans 823-30)
Skip to Heretics
The Start of Christianity
Jesus of Nazareth (30 CE) His message was
repent for the Kingdom is at hand (Mark
115). This was a refinement of the Messianic
kingdom expected in late Jewish apocalyptic
- of Daniel and 2nd Isaiah. Background
influences Jewish via Persian/Greek
eschatology. Jewish Apocalyptic due to Greek
(Hellenistic) rule. Greek Mystery religions. At
first a sect of Judaism Paul would open it up to
the Gentiles (Hellenistic World). The new sect
and the established Jewish religion
separated. Christianity would be established by
the Greek Fathers between 100 and 500
CE, further separating Jewish and
Gentile Christianity.
John the Baptist - the Forerunner
John's message God will very soon, at any
moment, descend to eradicate the evil of this
world in a sort of apocalyptic consummation. (He
was an apocalyptic eschatologist) Jesus was
baptized by John, called him the greatest person
ever, but said that the least in the Kingdom of
God would exceed him. John said the Kingdom was
coming in cataclysm. Jesus claimed the Kingdom
was coming in the converted hearts of people.
Jesus' later followers would mostly choose
John. Contestable, since the New Testament is
ambiguous on this. Could make argument for
Jesus being an apocalyptic eschatologist also.
Paul and the Jewish Christians - a Comparison
We've looked at early Church conflict. What were
the problems? Opinions had hardened into
factions. Conflicts are still apparent in the
canonical books of Acts and the Pauline
epistles Who was Jesus? Who were his spokesmen
(apostles)? What was his message? How could one
become a member of the Movement?
Who was Jesus?
The monotheistic Jewish-Christians would not
have more than one God.
-vs- Paul claimed that Jesus was also
somehow divine. This would lead to the great
Christological Debates of the 4th century.
Who Were Jesus' Spokesmen?
At first Peter then James, the brother of Jesus,
led the Jerusalem church. We don't hear of
most of the Twelve in Paul's letters or
Acts. Paul laid claim to Apostleship, but the
Jerusalem church never recognized him
as such. The Seven of Acts started churches
throughout the Diaspora. By the time of the
Apostolic Council (ca. 49), there were
other "pillars" speaking for the church. After
the Antioch incident, the church split.
What was the Message?
The Jerusalem church continued to be a sect of
Judaism and had only the intention to reform.
The Kingdom had arrived (Matt and Luke).
-vs- Paul
made the good news that of Jesus' death and
resurrection and claimed that works were of
no value and that we are saved by grace and
faith alone. The Kingdom was still to come (John,
Mark and epistles).
How Could One Join?
The Jewish Christians insisted that one follow
the Law before being accepted.
-vs- Paul insisted
that the Law was of no need for Gentiles to
join. The Council, in the interest of unity,
compromised. They allowed that Gentiles follow
only the Noachide minimal law (no meat
sacrificed to idols fornication meat of
strangled animals blood). This compromise did
not last long. Splinter Jewish-Christian sects
would evolve and eventually be declared
Incident at Antioch (Gal 1and 2) also see - 2 Cor
10-13, Acts 15 and 21
Some resolution at Jerusalem council (ca.
49) James is head of the Jewish Christians Paul
is the messenger to the Hellenistic World - Jews
outside Judea and, later, just - Gentiles "False
Brethren" from Jerusalem interfere at
Antioch Paul condemns Peter and Barnabus Spilt
becomes irreconcilable (as indicated by the
epistle of James, esp. 214-26)
Paul's Letters
Galatians Opposes Christian missionaries from
James who believe that Gentiles need to follow
the Law. (Judaizers) 1 Corinthians Opposes
Christian leaders who taught that they had
already experienced a spiritual resurrection.
(proto-Gnostics) Other divisive factions.
Spiritual gifts (charismata) Romans Explains
his theology the Death and Resurrection of
The Heretics
next Marcion The Gnostics later Manichaeans Pelag
ianists All affected Christian theodicy . . .
Marcion (d. 160 CE)
Arrived in Rome ca. 140, excommunicated 144. A
radical Paulinist. Claims Jesus rejected Law and
Prophets. Claims God of OT is creator of this
miserable world and cannot be the God of Jesus.
Rejects OT. Creates the first canon (which
forced the need for a proto-orthodox one) 10
letters of Paul an edited Luke his
Antitheses Very similar to the Gnostics, which
follow --
The Gnostics
Were many sects with various beliefs two most
important were Basilides (ca. 130) Valentinus
(ca.140). Valentinus traveled to Rome ca. 140
CE. Extreme dualists, agreeing with the Greek
Orphics about the soul being trapped in the
body. The Gnostics believed that the material
world is evil -- the goal is to set free the
spirit that is entrapped in a physical existence.
They believed this was possible through the
reception of secret teachings by which one
obtained Gnosis (knowledge).
The Gnostics - cont.
Salvation come from knowing who you are, where
you come from and where you are going. Caused
much grief for the proto-orthodox church. Some
earliest mentions in the NT Simon Magus Acts
89-24 Matt 48-9 Jesus offered world by Devil
(a Gnostic belief) 1 Tim 620 is first certain
reference to them by name Carpocrates ca. 140,
condemned as "certain
intruders" in Jude 4-19
The Gnostics - cont.
Both Marcion and the Gnostics had great hostility
to Judaism and claimed that its God is
evil or, at the very least, ignorant and
imperfect. Part of the reason for their short
existence was their exclusivity. Most humans
are ignorant of the divine spark (dualism of
material and spiritual). Most do not even have
it Pnuematics (spiritual) do - they are
spiritual have spark of the Divine Hyletics or
Choics (fleshy) do not - only physical Psychics
(reasoning) mistake the Demiurge for the True
God Some Gnostics allowed that even the
reasoning Psychics could achieve salvation
through Christian faith and good works. The
physical Choics were dammed from the start.
They were also fatalistic in that they believed
that one cannot help oneself but is dependent on
outside help.
The Gnostics - cont.
Since salvation comes from knowing who you are,
where you come from, and where you are going,
they thought that Jesus had come from the
Supreme Father to provide the help necessary for
saving knowledge. Since they adhered to
Docetism, rejection of the flesh forbade the
Messiah to have a real body. His body only
"seemed" physical (from the Greek doke/o to
seem). The doctrines of predestination and the
need for outside help would continue through
subsequent sectarians, including the great St.
Augustine and the Protestant Reformers.
Philosophical Basis of Gnosticism
The philosophical basis of Gnosticism was the
problem of good and evil - Theodicy. Gnosticism
starts with the same premise as Marcionism,
stated briefly - The world is obviously full
of imperfection. - The perfect Supreme Being
could not be the author of such imperfection,
since imperfection cannot come from
perfection. - The Hebrew Bible (Christian Old
Testament) represents Yahweh as the Creator
of the world. - Hence, since his world is
imperfect, its Creator, Yahweh, must also be
imperfect. - Therefore, the religion of the Jews
(as found in the Old Testament) is, thus,
not the true religion and Yahweh is not the true
God. This conclusion allows the Gnostic to
account for the present world order, without
compromising the character of the Supreme Being.
Imperfection from Perfection
Indeed, the imperfect Yahweh? How could
Perfection bring forth Imperfection? In Greek
thought How did the One become the
many? Emanations - a series of emanations
produced aeons to mediate Supreme Being to the
Imperfection from Perfection - cont.
The Gnostics modeled their cosmology on
Egyptian/Platonic precursors to produce
subsequent beings of progressively lesser and
lesser perfection, as they receded from the
source of Perfection. Finally, a being comes
into existence that does not know the Perfection
and thinks of himself as all powerful. This
lesser being is the Creator God of the Old
Testament, Yahweh who creates the material world.
Thus, we have a dualism where matter is evil,
but spirit is good. The Gnostics believed that
the material world is evil - the goal is to set
free the spirit that is entrapped in a physical
existence. They believed this was possible
through the reception of secret teachings by
which one obtained gno/sij (Gnosis knowledge).
The Gnostics were extreme dualists, agreeing
with the Greek Orphics about the soul being
trapped in the body but greatly differing in
Gnostic vs. Marcion
He may be contrasted with the Gnostics on at
least 3 very important issues - Marcion offers
no secret doctrines concerning a divine spark
imprisoned in a fleshy body. Instead, he
emphasized belief in Jesus as the redeemer sent
by the true God to all people without secret
revelations or knowledge of esoteric rituals.
- Marcion has no complex cosmological theories
involving a number of heavenly spheres through
which the soul has to pass. Gnostic teachers,
such as Valentinus and Basilides taught that
salvation was the release of the divine "spark,"
or pneuma from the "prison" of the fleshly body.
After death the pneuma (spirit) has to pass
through a number of heavenly spheres each ruled
by a demonic "archon".
Gnostic vs. Marcion
- Marcion has no complex genealogies designed to
insulate the highest being from the material
world. The later Gnostics had multiple layers
of gods in order to separate the Supreme God
from any responsibility for the creation of this
evil world. - Whereas, Marcion would pare his
Gospel down to a bare minimum, using only Paul
and Luke, the Gnostics produced voluminous texts
for their scriptures.
Theodicy for the Gnostics
There is evil in the world because it was made
flawed by a flawed creator God. The true God
is thus not responsible for evil.
End Early Christianity
Seventh Interlude One Billion Years Before Present
And God said, 'Let the waters bring forth swarms
of living creatures, and let birds fly above the
earth across the dome of the sky.' So God created
the great sea monsters and every living creature
that moves, of every kind, with which the waters
swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. .
. And God said, 'Let the earth bring forth living
creatures of every kind cattle and creeping
things and wild animals of the earth of every
kind.' And it was so. God made the wild animals
of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of
every kind, and everything that creeps upon the
ground of every kind. Genesis 120-25
The forms of life were now very complex. To be
sure, many of the primitive species had
continued to survive, and many would still be
with us until the present. Most, however, had
failed to keep up with the growing competition
and succumbed to extinction. . . A reading . . .
Random Acts of Nature
The Permian Extinction Over 90 of All Species
Went Extinct 250 M Years Ago

The Trilobite had Lasted

from 540 MYA to
250 MYA -
then extinct
Meteor Impact is One Theory
Other Heresies and Church Councils
Since there was such diversity of doctrine in the
early Church, an attempt was made by the
proto-orthodox Fathers to stamp out what they
believed to be false teachings. The other
Christian sects, of course, were doing the same
thing. For some reason one group won out over
the others and became the mainline Christian
Church with primary bishoprics in Alexandria C
enter of Hellenistic Christianity Antioch Peter
was head of this church after split with
Paul Rome Pius I (142-155) was
1st Bishop of Rome Constantinople Late comer
after Constantine ca. 350 Jerusalem Reestablishe
d later
Christian Heresies
Other heresies arose in the evolving orthodox
church through the centuries and each one was
eventually declared by the winning side to be
non-orthodox. Most disappeared completely, but
several continued underground or re-emerged
later. The most important ones were (only two of
which directly affect theodicy)
Christian Heresies
Century Heresy Cryptic Summary 1st Judaize
rs Must be circumcised 1st 2nd Gnosticism Matt
er is evil, Jesus only appeared to be a man 2nd
(late) Montanism Charismatic, his teachings
above the church 3rd Sabellianism God is one,
Jesus and HS are modes 3rd ff Manichaeism Two
cosmic Kingdoms of Light and Darkness 3rd to
5th Donatists Baptism is invalid if priest is
not good 4th Arianism Jesus is created
subordinate to Father 5th Pelagianism No
original sin, can achieve salvation on
own 5th Nestorianism Mary is mother of Jesus -
not of God 5th Monophysitism Christ had only
one nature, a fusion of human and
elements 7th Iconoclasm Pictures of Jesus and
saints is sinful 11th Catharism Spirit is of
God, body is created by evil God
Two That Most Affect Theodicy
Manichaeism Mani (216-276), a Babylonian,
claimed the divine was trapped in the flesh of
men and that he had the secret knowledge to set
free the entrapped goodness of the spirit.
Furthermore, the God of the Old Testament, YHWH
he argued, was an evil spirit who had entrapped
that goodness in creation. This is, of course,
a direct descendant of the Greek Orphics and was
essentially a later extremely dualistic
Two That Most Affect Theodicy - cont.
It countered the anthropomorphism of Old
Testament with intellectual philosophy and,
thus, appealed to the intellectuals of the day.
St. Augustine would be a Manichee for nine years
before converting to mainline Christianity.
Manichaeism itself would die out but its
philosophy would last through its successors
Priscillianism, Albigensianism (also known as
Catharism). All would be severely persecuted by
the mainline church.
Two That Most Affect Theodicy - cont.
Pelagianism Pelagius (d. 418) was a British monk
who came to Rome around 400 CE, then to North
Africa in 410 CE, where he and his followers
encountered the wrath of St. Augustine. Pelagius
argued that a person always has free will one
can always choose for God, which was contrary to
St. Augustine's doctrine of original sin.
Salvation is a human work and each person is
responsible for his own sin and working out his
own salvation. Man is unaffected by the fall of
Adam and is able to keep all of God's laws by
his own free will original sin is not inherited
by Adam's progeny. He claimed specifically Adam
was created mortal and would have died
regardless of his sin. Adam's sin affected only
himself and was not to be visited upon future
generations, although Adam did serve as a bad
example. Therefore, babies are born in a state of
perfection that existed before Adam's sin. Only
after people sin of their own free will are they
subject to the wages of sin. It was possible for
there to have been sinless people even before the
coming of Christ. People have the power not to
Two That Most Affect Theodicy - cont.
Pelagius claimed specifically Adam was created
mortal and would have died regardless of his
sin. Adam's sin affected only himself and was not
to be visited upon future generations,
although Adam did serve as a bad
example. Therefore, babies are born in a state of
perfection that existed before Adam's
sin. Only after people sin of their own free will
are they subject to the wages of sin. It was
possible for there to have been sinless people
even before the coming of Christ. People have
the power not to sin.
Two That Most Affect Theodicy - cont.
The Pelagians denied doctrines that held to
predestination, original sin, and that babies
are born with sin on their soul and, therefore,
subject to the fires of Hell. As a result,
Pelagius was excommunicated by Pope Innocent I
in 417 CE. St. Augustine feared for the
doctrine of Grace, in that, if we are born
free of sin, what is the need of Grace for
salvation. Augustine countered the arguments of
Pelagius by claiming that
Two That Most Affect Theodicy - cont.
Adam's sin was transmitted to the entire human
race. Therefore Man's depravity is total and all
people are born with the stain of original sin
on their soul and thus subject to the fires of
Hell. God chooses some for predestination to
salvation the rest are among the damned masses
(massa damnata). Infants not baptized are not
different from the massa damnata. Grace is
irresistible and is a gift of God. Free will is
sufficient to perform evil, but too little for
good unless aided by God. The number of the
elect is certain, neither increase nor decrease
is allowed.
Two That Most Affect Theodicy - cont.
Since God foreknew all that was to take place in
the future, He necessarily knew who was
predestined to salvation and who to damnation.
Logically, this would appear to necessitate two
things If God knew for all eternity who was
predestined to be saved, He also knew that He
had thus predestined the rest who were not to
be saved and, therefore, Free will could not
exist in any meaningful way.
Two That Most Affect Theodicy - cont.
Notwithstanding, Augustine continued to claim
that free will did exist in many of his
writings. He especially upheld free will in his
writings against the Manichees in On Free
Will. But, in his zeal to refute the Pelagian
error, he asserts that Man after the Fall does
not have the same liberty as held by Adam
because all of humankind is born dead to sin
without the liberty to choose not to sin. In
other words, Man now can make natural choices
but, when it comes to moral choices, he will
always fail to chose in a Godly manner unless
aided by the grace of God's election.
Two That Most Affect Theodicy - cont.
John Calvin would revive Augustine's arguments on
predestination centuries later and follow
Augustine's logic to its ultimate conclusion.
His concept was the predominant Reformed
Protestant belief for over 200 years and still
holds in some denominations. Nevertheless, in
fact, if not in doctrine, Pelagius would feel
right at home in most of today's churches.
Church Councils
Councils of Bishops were called to define
doctrine, usually as opposed to some
heresy. The seven great councils are called
Ecumenical because they were accepted by the
universal Church. Nicea 325 CE - defined
relationship Jesus/God Constantinople 381 Ephesus
431 Calcedon 451 - this established
orthodoxy . . . Orange II 529 (not
Ecumenical but were acepted as firm
Church Councils - Orange II
One of the Councils (a non-ecumenical one) was
held to oppose an idea of St. Augustine's that
he had invented to oppose Pelagius. The Council
of Orange II, in 529 CE promulgated 25
statements regarding grace and free will. These
statements are summarized
Church Councils - Orange II
- the sin of Adam injured both the body and the
soul - the sin of Adam brought sin and death upon
all humankind - Grace is not bestowed on us
because of prayer, rather Grace causes us
to pray - the beginning of faith is effected by
Grace - all good works are a gift of God - even
the saints continually need God's help - God
loves, not our merit, rather His own gift in us -
Free will was weakened in Adam, but can be
restored by Grace of baptism - All we have
is from God and no one should boast - Unmerited
Grace precedes meritorious works - when we sin,
it is of our own will - when we do good we
voluntarily do the will of God - no one is
predestined by God to sin
Church Councils - Orange II
For later Reformers, there are at least three
problems with these statements The
irresistability of grace is not affirmed. The
predestination to evil is denied. Free will
seems to be completely restored and one is now
able to perform good works This Council thus
reversed much of Augustine but the later
Protestant Reformers would renew
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