I have been claiming that any theodicy worth the name must abandon three common features of most 'answers to the problem of evil':
(a) the belief that explanation is solution. We need more than a conceptual reshuffling of divine attributes. Any solution to evil must not be simply re-interpretation, but transformation.
(b) the belief that we are the ones to solve the problem. The answer to the problem of evil is found in God's decisive action through and in Jesus.
(c) the belief that the solution must be completed now. Either as an a-temporal (or at least synchronic) account of God's present providential rule, or as an over-realised eschatology in which there is nothing more to happen other than the unveiling of what is already the case.
Instead, any specifically Christian theodicy must be evangelical and eschatological. Evangelical: it must be focused on the good news of what God has done in Christ. And eschatological: it must leave room for more to come, for the ultimate solution to still be in the future.
I have already discussed the evangelical necessity. Jesus on the cross defeats evil through refusing to fight fire with fire, and the cycle of violence is buried with him. The resurrection is a demonstration that God will not abandon his perishing creation. Easter is a promise, a first down payment, of God’s intention to remove evil, root and branch, from his entire world, to hand it over to eternal destruction, to ultimate and irreversible exclusion. The gospel, the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection, is God's solution to the problem of evil. In short, the gospel is theodicy. (To borrow a phrase from my good friend Matheson).
But we find ourselves in the midst of the gospel narrative, not yet at its ultimate conclusion. There is more to come. My contention from the start has been that only an eschatological theodicy will do. As long as evil continues to have the dominant hand, any attempt to account for its presence and influence is mere reinterpretation. As Marx famously said, philosophers have hitherto interpreted the world, the point is to change it. Or rather, the point is that God will change it. That change began with Jesus’ death and resurrection; there is now one piece of the world that is an evil-free zone, namely, Jesus’ resurrected body. Death no longer has dominion over him (Romans 6.16).
But it does over us. Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28.18), including authority over the evil forces and powers and multinational corporations and corrupt governments and globalisation and the capitalist system and disease and decay and death. But we do not yet see all things in subjection to him (Hebrews 2.8).
There is more to come: the resurrection of the dead, the final triumph over the last enemy. This is not to add something to the achievement of Jesus or replace it with something else, because it is Jesus’ own future that we are looking forward to. But Jesus’ final victory over death – that great last enemy of God and humanity (1 Corinthians 15:20-28) – is not simply the unveiling of what is already the case. For Jesus’ resurrection is only the first fruits (1 Corinthians 15:20), and while he is the firstborn (Rev 1:5), the harvest, the great family, is not yet here. ‘The Christ event cannot then itself be understood as fulfilling all promises, so that after this event there remains only the sequel of its being unveiled for all to see.’* Therefore, the believer’s present experience of an unredeemed groaning world is not to be downplayed as mere appearance awaiting the exposure of its hidden redemption.
* Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 214.Series: I; II; III; IV; V; VI.