Dr. Julien Smith
Angela of Foligno and Hadewijch of Antwerp are two mystics from the Middle Ages who could enhance the current theological understanding of the modern question of theodicy. Theodicy attempts to reconcile the existence of an omnibenevolent deity with the existence of evil. While modern theologians can conclude that God is not in control of evil, that evil actions can lead to a greater good, or that humans initiate evil through refusing to imitate God’s love, purely intellectual answers might have limited ability in explaining God’s infinite love. Perhaps humans need a faculty which, although human and finite, can experience the infinite God. Angela and Hadewijch’s mystical experiences of the infinite God in their finite souls lead them to innovations in describing the simultaneous experiences of God and evil. Although they experienced visions of God which led them indirectly and preemptively to address the theodicy question, their unique approach of understanding God as a love which is unlimited only because it is willing to undergo evil actions and suffering provides an effective response to the inquiries of modern theologians. Their visions can enhance the theodicy arguments of the past century without portraying the intellect as useless in understanding God because they themselves reason that trust in God allows them to experience divine love even when their experiences of evil limit them to viewing themselves as separate from it.
Canty, Noelle, "Medieval Women Mystics’ Visionary Answers to the Modern Theodicy Question: Angela of Foligno and Hadewijch of Antwerp On Understanding the Love of God" (2020). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 910.