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This article draws from Ivan Karamazov a two-fold challenge to the goodness of God: that no one can forgive the infliction of suffering upon the innocent and that, even when forgiven, this suffering costs more than any good brought out of it. It then looks to Alyosha for a response to these challenges, suggesting that Christ can forgive because of the cross and that his doing so puts the innocent to a choice: either to join their suffering to his – and so maintain God’s goodness – or to lose their innocence. This response helps supply another defect of theodicies that appeal to the compensatory goods that God brings out of innocent suffering, namely that it seems to make some kind of salvation necessary and not gratuitous. For here all innocent suffering is joined to the cross and so part of the economy of redemption, not something prior to redemption that renders it necessary.


Originally published in Modern Theology, Volume 34, Issue 2, 2018.

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