The Problem of Infant Suffering
Chignell (Andrew)
Source: Religious Studies, Vol. 34, No. 2 (May, 1998), pp. 205-217
Paper - Abstract

Paper StatisticsNotes Citing this PaperColour-ConventionsDisclaimer


Author’s Abstract

  1. The problem of infant suffering and death is one of the most difficult versions of the problem of evil, especially when we consider how God can be thought good to the infant victims by the infant victims. In the first portion of this paper, I examine two theodicies that aim to solve this problem but fail. In the final section, I argue that the problem can be better dealt with by maintaining not that God must redeem the suffering of such children, but that such children are not the sort of beings whose suffering God can or must redeem.
      God is good, God is just, God is almighty: only a madman doubts this ... Doubtless when their elders suffer these afflictions we are wont to say either that their goodness is being tested ... or that their sins are being punished. But these are older people. Tell me what we are to answer about children!
      … St Augustine, in a letter to Jerome
  2. The problem of infant suffering is one of the more intractable versions of the problem of evil. Since St Matthew wrote of Herod's massacre of the innocents, people in the Christian tradition have wondered how cases of extreme suffering, torture and death on the part of infants can exist in a world governed by an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good God. The problem becomes knottier when we consider not how such a world can be good or well-governed on the whole, but how God can be considered good to the infant victims by the infant victims.
  3. In this paper, I examine two species of solution to this version of the problem: the Aesthetic solution and the Free Will solution. Augustine articulates both of these theodicies in rudimentary form; my focus here is on their best contemporary formulations by Marilyn McCord Adams and Eleonore Stump, respectively. I contend that neither approach handles the suffering death of infants in a way that is sufficient for theodicy - even on these theodicists' own definition of sufficiency.
  4. I conclude that the problem might be solved by arguing not that God must redeem the suffering of such children by making it meaningful for them, but rather that such children are not the sort of entities whose suffering God can or should redeem.

JSTOR Abstract
  1. The problem of infant suffering and death is one of the most difficult versions of the problem of evil, especially when we consider how God can be thought good to the infant victims by the infant victims.
  2. In the first portion of this paper, I examine two theodicies that aim to solve this problem but fail. In the final section, I argue that the problem can be better dealt with by maintaining not that God must redeem the suffering of such children, but that such children are not the sort of beings whose suffering God can or must redeem.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



© Theo Todman, June 2007 - Nov 2018. Please address any comments on this page to theo@theotodman.com. File output:
Website Maintenance Dashboard
Return to Top of this Page Return to Theo Todman's Philosophy Page Return to Theo Todman's Home Page