The seemingly unavoidable contradiction between the existence of a personal God and the reality of evil provides a crucial point of entry not only for (1) argument for and against the existence of God and (2) discussion of the nature and character of such a God; but also, as Neiman suggests, the problem of evil is itself an organizing principle for history of philosophy.1 Thus the theologian will not be the only interlocutor on the subject, but rather in fact the philosopher must also dedicate significant energies to understanding and ultimately dealing with the problem. Perhaps if Neiman is correct, the problem has even less to do with philosophy of religion than with philosophy itself, or then again, as I would suggest the problem of evil affords an example of the unbreakable bond between religion and philosophy and the resultant necessity of interdisciplinarity between the two.
Noting the significance, then, of the issue, this present discussion will (1) identify major theorists and their statements of the problem within context, and (2) give attention to various attempts at resolution also within a chronological context. I will neither offer critiques of these various attempts nor propose a theodicy (explanation or defense of why God permits evil), nor will I attempt to offer a comprehensive discussion of pertinent thinkers and their views. The focus here will be an introductory survey intended to provide a working and historically informed definition of the problem of evil from theological and philosophical vantage points.