A theodicy is an attempt to reconcile the apparent evil in the world with the alleged goodness of God, often by showing that the very goodness of God makes some evil necessary; or by arguing that the goodness of God is amplified by a certain amount of evil. In other words, the evil we experience and witness is, in the end, made to serve goodness.
|Roman tombs in southern Crete.|
There's also the very real danger that theodicies will isolate us from one another. Sometimes some perversity in us makes us inclined to tell someone who is experiencing fresh grief that "it's all for the good," or "it will all work out well in the end," or "your loved one is now in a better place." I would guess we do this because we do not know what else to say, and because we want the discomfort of grief banished from our presence. In which case we speak those words like an incantation, using magic to make the unpleasantness disappear. But the grief is not detachable from the griever, so to will the banishment of the mourning is to will the death of the mourner. In simpler terms, when we invoke thoughtless theodicies, sometimes we are committing human sacrifice - throwing out the mourner - in order to comfort ourselves.
In spite of this, I think there is still a place for theodicies - just as there is a place for ontological arguments - provided they originate with the believer and are not forced upon her. The mourner who chooses to believe that the dearly departed have gone to well-earned rest may believe that. That belief may be the germination of the seeds of honor and love, or the expression of grief combined with commitment to the flourishing of the memory of the beloved - it may be the fruit of the idea that the cosmos has no right to bring this love to an end. You may destroy the body, but the soul you shall not take from me.
|My great aunt and great uncle. Here lie their bodies.|