“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” – Isaiah 45:7
This post is a followup to my last post “Evil in Eden”. In that post I attempted to use an example of evil to raise some challenging questions to Christian theists. Nobody has answered the questions. I was essentially presenting what’s known as the “Problem of Evil”. I did this to bring out the theist’s double moral standard.
The “Problem of Evil” is a philosophical proposition used to point out the contradiction of the existence of evil and the Christian concept of God. There are several variations of the argument, but I will give the basic argument below:
Premise 1: God exists.
Premise 2: God is omnipotent (all- powerful)
Premise 3: God is omniscient (all-knowing)
Premise 4: God is omnibenevolent (all-good)
Conclusion: Evil should not exist.
Let me explain it. If God is omniscient, he knows that evil will occur before it occurs. If God is omnipotent, he has the power to prevent the evil. If God is omnibenevolent, he should want evil to be prevented. Therefore, evil should not occur. I define evil as causing unnecessary suffering or pain. I find this argument to be valid. If any one of the premeses is dropped, the argument fails. This argument causes a dilemma for most Christians. To eliminate any of the premeses is to destroy their concept of God, but they cannot deny that evil exists.
The purpose of this post is not to argue the “Problem of Evil”, but to examine a common defense given for it. One of the most common responses to the “Problem of Evil” is the Free Will Defense (FWD).
The FWD responds by arguing that it is possible for a God (as described above) and evil to coexist if you take mankind’s free will into account. Free will is generally defined as the ability to choose. More specifically the FWD says in order to be truly free to commit moral good, you must also be free to commit moral evil. Thus God does not violate mankind’s free will and is not responsible for the moral evil of mankind.
There are usually a couple of reasons given by theists as to why God would create the world in this way. One reason is that we would not be able to experience love if we did not have free will. According to this argument, love is not genuine if hate is not an option also. Here is this argument given by Cold Case Christianity. Another line of thought says that God did not want us to be robots because we would not be able to experience happiness. He wants us to be free to choose him.
While the FWD sounds good on the surface (I used to believe it myself), it creates other problems for the theist. I want to note these failures or problems below:
I. The Problem of Heaven
If the FWD holds true, theists who believe in heaven encounter problems. Heaven is supposed to be the ultimate paradise. It is a place of perfect love and happiness completely free of evil. My question is…Will there be free will in heaven? If you answer “Yes” then how can it be that heaven is free of evil? If you answer “No”, then by your own argument, love and happiness cannot exist there. You may say, “We will have free will in heaven, but we will only be able able to choose moral good.”. How does this differ from not having free will? If it is possible for God to create heaven, free of evil, possessing only the possibility to choose good, and the ability to experience perfect love and happiness, why not create the earth in this manner? So, this all-knowing God could have created earth that way, but chose to create it in such a way that evil would exist. This makes him responsible for evil.
II. The Problem of Natural Disasters
Every year there are many natural disasters. These include tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Thousands of people die from these events. Homes are destroyed, businesses are ruined. Millions of dollars in damage plus hundreds of hours of clean up. These disasters cause tremendous amounts of pain and suffering. This cannot be attributed to mankind’s free will. You would think that a God as described above would want to prevent such things. Yet, they occur. How do you explain this?
III. The Problem of God’s Free Will
God, as the most supreme being, should possess the highest degree of free will. So, let’s apply the FWD’s logic to God’s free will and some Scriptures.
1 John 4:8
“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”
Here it is said that God is love. So, if God has free will and experiences love then by the logic of the FWD, he has to be able to experience hate as well.
“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:”
The FWD says that an action cannot be considered morally good without the potential to do moral evil. If this is true and “God cannot be tempted with evil” how can he be considered morally good?
In conclusion the FWD may seem to answer the Problem of Evil, but it creates other problems which need resolution. If you think I have misrepresented the FWD or you have a counter-argument, please comment below.
P.S. This is a short YouTube video presenting the FWD as given by philosopher Alvin Plantinga.