The Problem of Evil: (Part 2) Free Will

This is the second post in a series answering the question of how evil exists in a world that is ruled by an all powerful and all good God. If you have not read the first blog I suggest that you read it here.


 

A paradigm shift that I think all Christians need to make when dealing with the problem of evil is that God is not concerned with making us happy He wants to make us good. We usually have in our minds that Gods greatest goal is for our happiness and this is frankly not the case.

Gods greatest goal for us is to become good, not for us to be happy.

With that understood God gave us free will and the ability to do good. God did not want robots, He wanted beings that would freely choose to do good because their choosing would mean more than being programed to do good. Unfortunately, with free will came the possibility to do bad, and this is how evil can exist in a world that an all knowing and all powerful God rules and reigns.

Think of it like a mother who gives her teenage daughter the keys to a car and asks her to pick up her little brother from the mall. Now imagine that daughter, instead of picking up her brother heads to a party that ends with her in a drunk driving accident. Is the mother  responsible for the evil her daughter has done? No. Was the mother able to prevent the daughter from doing such evil by never giving her the keys? Yes. But even though the mother provided the possibility for the evil she is not responsible for it.

The same is true of us and God. God in essence gives us the keys of free will. We are able to do what we want, when we want, where we want. But when we choose to evil it does not reflect on God being evil, nor does it reflect on God not being all powerful or all good.

Furthermore, when we choose to do good it is a greater good then if we were simply programed to do so. If God had simply programed us to do good every time, it seems that there is little to praise our actions for. We don’t praise a computer for working and doing what it is supposed to do. We do praise a child for not lying after breaking the lamp. You don’t praise a child for cleaning his room because he would get spanked if he didn’t, you praise him for doing it on his own accord.

Some philosophers will now object that God could have, if he were all powerful, created a world in which everyone freely chose to do good. But this would be one that God is essentially choosing everything for us, though maybe indirectly. He is in fact rigging and changing the game until it fits his criteria. This assumes that once God sets the board there is only one way the the game could play out. It’s as if we are playing a board game that God invented and He wishes us to play a certain way. When we choose to play differently then the path He intended, God changes the rules or hits the restart button. But if God is constantly changing the rules in order that we ‘freely’ choose the way He desires,  we really are no longer choosing freely anymore. Free will is eliminated if God chooses to intervened in every moment that we choose evil.

Some may argue that it seems that God never intervenes, but this is assuming that we would know when He does. But there is no reason to think that we would know when God alters reality, and it is possible that God has intervened many times without us knowing.

In the end we are left with the frightful fact that evil exists because of our actions. God created a world in which was evil was possible and though that was not Gods will that evil come about, much like the mother giving her daughter the car keys, it has. God is not responsible for this evil. God is not also lacking in power or goodness because evil exists. Gods will has allowed it. . . for now.

 

4 thoughts on “The Problem of Evil: (Part 2) Free Will

  1. Pingback: The Problem of Evil: Objections (Part 3) |

  2. Bearded Disciple POE 2
    https://beardeddisciple.com/2016/10/11/the-problem-of-evil-part-2-free-will/#more-866The Problem of Evil: (Part 2) Free Will
    I think it is because your beard is awesome that I am taking the time to help correct the mistakes in your post.
    You say, “God is not concerned with making us happy”. This is not known to be true, i.e., false.
    Yes, a perfect being would want to make us good, and often that means happy. A perfect being, prima facie, would not want us to be sad, see us suffer, etc. Allowing us to suffer would only be justified by some greater good, like “making us good, better off”, etc.
    You say “God gave us free will”. There is no evidence for this. It is not true, as far as we know.
    We seem to have free will.
    A perfect being would, prima facie, prefer that we are not robots. In general, being free is better than not, it seems. Yes, having free will means that we might do bad. No, it doesn’t follow that god should never intervene, even if free will is prima facie good, valuable, etc. Your example of a mother and her daughter fails to consider other scenarios that show that the problem of evil has not been escaped. In your scenario, the mother is unaware that her daughter was going to go to a party. But a perfect being would be aware of that. A mother who knew that giving her daughter the keys would result in her daughter’s death is in fact not a perfect mother. Likewise, a god who knew that letting a human use her free will that led to her death is in fact not perfect either. No one says, and no one should say, when Hitler is about to kill you, well! I’d better not intervene on his free will and try to stop him! Rather, even though generally free will is great, there are times in which it would be better (for the greater good, more ideal…) if we did intervene on someone’s free will/choices. Likewise, if there were a perfect being, that being would sometimes intervene on someone’s free will/choices (probably, Prima Facie…).
    In your mother example, you say the mother was not responsible, but you don’t explain why. It seems that in your example, she is not responsible, because she is unaware of the looming catastrophe. If she was aware of the likely outcome, and did nothing to stop it, she would be (at least partly) responsible for not doing something to help. She would not be perfect. (The same holds for god).
    When we choose to do evil, it reflects poorly on us. But there is room for more than one being to be responsible in most situations. If I do evil, I am responsible. But if you let me do that evil and you could stop it, you are Also responsible. Likewise, if “god” could stop the evil (or mitigate it, etc.) but doesn’t, it looks like that being is not perfect. So yes, god’s inaction would indicate an imperfection on his part, in such situations.
    It is false that our only two options are: God never intervenes, or that he always intervenes. God should intervene if it is for the greater good. As far as we can tell, he shouldn’t intervene when Jimmy is learning to ride a bike. But, as far as we can tell, he should intervene when Hitler is killing millions.

    You contradict yourself when you say, if God made a world in which “everyone freely chose to do good”, then “God is essentially choosing everything for us”.
    If you are perfect, there is only one way the game can play out: perfectly!
    You say “Free will is eliminated if God chooses to intervene in every moment that we choose evil.” As I have shown, God could and should intervene sometimes. It is not all or nothing. But moreover, this statement of yours is false. If you tried to act, and choose to shoot a gun at your neighbor, and god intervened each time by turning your bullets to water (or wine), you would still have your free will. Perhaps you mean, but you wouldn’t have as many freedoms (you couldn’t accomplish as much). True, but we wouldn’t be robots in that scenario, and in that scenario, more good (less death) would be achieved (prima facie).
    Yes, we have virtually no idea if a god has ever altered reality. Yes it is possible that a god has intervened without us knowing it, and it is possible that god exists and has morally sufficient reasons for allowing the Holocaust. However, such things are not probable. (we don’t know them to be probable).
    Yes, evil (murders, etc.) exist. It is false to say that it is always better for god to not intervene. Since there is great evil (that is, much evil that looks like it is Not for the greater good), and no intervention, it looks like there is no perfect being.
    As always, I welcome your (polite and constructive) feedback.

    • Perhaps I could have stated it better as saying “God’s greatest goal is not our happiness”. Would you agree with that?

      “You say “God gave us free will”. There is no evidence for this. It is not true, as far as we know.
      We seem to have free will.”

      I feel you’re contradicting yourself here. Could you explain?

      “But if you let me do that evil and you could stop it, you are Also responsible.”
      I disagree, I don’t think we are ever responsible for the actions of others, even if we could have prevented their actions ourselves. In a court of Law if when a murderer is convicted they don’t also convict anyone that had a way to prevent the murderer.

      “Yes, we have virtually no idea if a god has ever altered reality. Yes it is possible that a god has intervened without us knowing it, and it is possible that god exists and has morally sufficient reasons for allowing the Holocaust. However, such things are not probable. (we don’t know them to be probable).”
      Here at the beginning you admit that we cannot know, but then you finish by trying to say you know it isn’t probable, you contradict yourself.

      In the end when it comes to factually saying that any evil could not be used for the the greater good you must know everything. Which you don’t so you cannot rule out that possibility.

  3. No, it is still false to say “God’s greatest goal is not our happiness”. We don’t know that god exists, nor do we know what such a being’s goals are. The closest thing we could say is something like, A perfect being’s goals are perfection.

    Where’s the contradiction? You don’t say. Can you explain?

    I said “we seem to have free will”. By that I mean, humans exist, they have brains, it seems possible for them to either drop the pen or not, and whether the pen is dropped or not seems to be the result of something within them, rather than something external. Hence we end up saying “X chose to drop the pen” or not…. There seems to be no contradiction here.

    After I said, “But if you let me do that evil and you could stop it, you are Also responsible.”

    You say, “I don’t think we are ever responsible for the actions of others.”

    Look again. I didn’t say that people are responsible for the actions of others. I said they are responsible for their own actions, or inactions. In this case, the guy (God?) chose NOT to stop evil. For that, he is responsible.

    Why do you think we are not responsible for our actions or inactions in such situations. I am not saying that your actions are responsible for his (another person’s) actions.

    We are talking about morality, not the law. Just because the law doesn’t convict people for letting other people die doesn’t show that it isn’t immoral. Additionally, there are places where they do have good Samaritan laws, where if you don’t help, you could be convicted (and are responsible).

    We are just talking about morality and a morally perfect god. A (prima facie) morally perfect god would, it seems, stop that murder if she could. If she doesn’t, she does something imperfect, not ideally nice, immoral, etc.

    I didn’t say that we cannot know what a perfect being is. I meant there is no god that we know of. Perhaps you are right: I should have said, as far as we know, no god exists, and no god has ever altered reality.

    We can know what a perfect being would likely do, if we define what we mean by perfection.

    Just as I can know what a perfect cop would do (or not allow), I can know what a perfect in all ways being would do (also not allow lots of murders).

    No I don’t know everything. No one does. That does not mean I can’t calculate the probability of lots of things. No, I am not ruling out the possibility of god or Morally sufficient reasons. I am saying, given what we know, it makes it improbable that there is a perfect cop/god, etc.

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