Fall 2002

The Concept of God After Theodicy

Olivier Boulnois

“It is the Son himself who is the Providence of the Father.”

If, by “Providence,” we mean the manner in which God governs the world in view of the good, this notion today seems untenable or even scandalous. The idea that the world has a rational order, willed by God, for the good of humanity, and which is guiding history towards an end, hardly seems likely. After the horrors of the twentieth century, the notion of Providence has become the primary argument our contemporaries offer against the existence of God: if God existed, he would not have allowed the massacre of so many innocent victims. But in the name of what concept of God is this objection formulated? When we say something of this sort, are we thinking of God in a manner appropriate to the reality? In order to respond to this objection, certain thinkers hope to save God by giving up the notion of Providence. They thus affirm that God, far from being all-powerful as the Creed proclaims, stands impotent before human history. A notable example of this view appears in Hans Jonas’ The Concept of God After Auschwitz.1 Is there a way out of these alternatives?


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1. Hans Jonas, Le Concept de Dieu après Auschwitz, Une voix juive (Paris, 1995) [French translation of Der Gottesbegriff nach Auschwitz: Eine jüdische Stimme (Frankfurt am Main, 1984)].