Free will and evil


#1

Someone in an atheist thread (now closed) talked about free will and evil…

He said: This free will and evil argument always seems to come up in these conversations and it seems obvious to me that if gods exist, evil is their construct and if they had not created evil, obstructing free will to do evil would not be an issue.

I wrote to him the following, and if it is helpful to anyone else, I thought I’d post it here:

What you don’t realize is that evil is a privation. It takes a while to get that concept, but trust me, it’s worth the work to understand it. Evil is not a thing. It’s a lack of goodness. It’s a non-thing. In the same way, to get more specific, justice is something substantive, something that is true, good and beautiful. So, what is injustice, then? It is a lack of justice. It is a privation of something that should be there, but isn’t. Once you see evil as a privation, you will start to understand.

In order to love, we must be given the choice NOT to love. If God forced us to love Him (Who is all truth, goodness and beauty), then we would not be free, we would be robots. That is not the nature of love. We have to be free to choose God or to choose “not God.” Giving us that choice means, necessarily, that God allows evil.

For more on all of this, try Peter Kreeft’s Handbook of Christian Apologetics. He employes Aristotle’s methods of logic in answering all manner of probing questions.


#2

[quote=ohca]If God forced us to love Him (Who is all truth, goodness and beauty), then we would not be free, we would be robots. That is not the nature of love. We have to be free to choose God or to choose “not God.” Giving us that choice means, necessarily, that God allows evil.

[/quote]

Kidnapper: “Give me a million bucks or I kill your daughter, it is your choice, and you are responsible if I kill her.”

Xian God: “Love me or go hell, it is your choice, and you are responsible if I torture you in hell.”

Blackmail is not forcing?

And, btw, you are already a robot, because an omniscient god already and exactly knows what you will do in every second of your life. As predictable for him as a robot, you program yourself.


#3

[quote=AnAtheist]Kidnapper: “Give me a million bucks or I kill your daughter, it is your choice, and you are responsible if I kill her.”

Xian God: “Love me or go hell, it is your choice, and you are responsible if I torture you in hell.”

Blackmail is not forcing?

And, btw, you are already a robot, because an omniscient god already and exactly knows what you will do in every second of your life. As predictable for him as a robot, you program yourself.
[/quote]

I do not quite get your analogy; if the person had a million bucks to give but wouldnt give it up even to save the life of the daughter then that is evil; putting monetary value over human life.

The person is given (by God) the freedom to choose to do good (saving a life) or to do evil (not saving a life).

Do you somehow think that this proves there is no God?

Christian God: “Come to me freely, or live eternally without me, its your choice!”

Take my word on one thing, you will never understand the designs of God. Time, space, and eternity are beyone your limited capacity, no matter how badly you wish to believe otherwise.


#4

Here are some thoughts on this. It is called theodicy. If God is good why is there evil.

Here are a couple of Atheists stating the problem.

David Hume:
Why is there any misery at all in the world? Not by chance, surely. From some cause then. Is it from the intention of the Deity? But he is perfectly benevolent. Is it contrary to his intention? But he is almighty. Nothing can shake the solidity of this reasoning, so short, so clear, so decisive.

Antony Flew:
We cannot say that [God] would like to help but cannot: God is omnipotent. We cannot say that he would help if he only knew: God is omniscient. We cannot say that he is not responsible for the wickedness of others: God creates those others. Indeed an omnipotent, omniscient God must be an accessory before (and during) the fact to every human misdeed; as well as being responsible for every non-moral defect in the universe.

I am again indebted to others for much of what is below.

In philosophy seldom is something heralded as new. For thousands of years thousands of minds have wrestled most problems to solutions or standoffs. Alvin Plantinga (a protestant) has been heralded by many as solving the theodicy issue. This is really pretty amazing. I will try to summarize what he says (it is not too far from some of Ocha’s words).

Alvin Plantinga :

1.) God is omnipotent
2.) God is omniscient
3.) God is wholly good (omnibenevolent)
4.) Evil exists
5.) Evil exists in order to achieve the highest good.

Let us think about 4 worlds:

A = Eden with innocent, freewill, contingent, beings.
B = Eden with innocent, non-freewill, contingent beings.
C = Our world.
D = A future world which has informed (have experienced the effects of sin), freewill, contingent beings, who no longer choose to sin.

Now, to get from A to D one must go through C. However, if one starts with B, one will never arrive at D. I think it can be argued that world A is a better world than the B because world D is the greatest good even though world A leads to world C on the way to world D.

This is about as simple as I can express Plantinga.

Charity, TOm


#5

[quote=martino]I do not quite get your analogy; if the person had a million bucks to give but wouldnt give it up even to save the life of the daughter then that is evil; putting monetary value over human life.
[/quote]

Yes, but who’s the criminal here?

No, not at all. It just shows, that God forces you into loving him indirectly, if he existed and threatened us with hell for not loving him. The fire and brimstone interpretation of hell that is.


#6

[quote=TOmNossor] In philosophy seldom is something heralded as new. For thousands of years thousands of minds have wrestled most problems to solutions or standoffs. Alvin Plantinga (a protestant) has been heralded by many as solving the theodicy issue. This is really pretty amazing. I will try to summarize what he says (it is not too far from some of Ocha’s words).

Alvin Plantinga :

1.) God is omnipotent
2.) God is omniscient
3.) God is wholly good (omnibenevolent)
4.) Evil exists
5.) Evil exists in order to achieve the highest good.

Let us think about 4 worlds:

A = Eden with innocent, freewill, contingent, beings.
B = Eden with innocent, non-freewill, contingent beings.
C = Our world.
D = A future world which has informed (have experienced the effects of sin), freewill, contingent beings, who no longer choose to sin.

Now, to get from A to D one must go through C. However, if one starts with B, one will never arrive at D. I think it can be argued that world A is a better world than the B because world D is the greatest good even though world A leads to world C on the way to world D.

This is about as simple as I can express Plantinga.

Charity, TOm
[/quote]

Sorry, but an omnipotent god need not have invented evil in the first place. Your argument refutes itself, because it places limits on an unlimited being. God can get to "d’ from anywhere.

Your argument also fails because it uses backwards logic. It presumes that what is, must be. But this is not true if there is an omnipotent creator.

The facts of existence speak against such a creator, and you pretty much have to torture logic to avoid this reality.


#7

this is literally non sense. Evil is a moral evaluation of an act. Acts exist. claiming that evil is “not a thing” but an absence of thing also fails to solve the problem of evil, because god is ultimately responsible for all things, including privatations… so your argument is both wrong on both counts, and nothing more than semantic trickery.

In short, your trying to sweep the problem of evil under the rug, but it’s still there.

These desparate attempts to avoid the problems of evil all end up torturing logic


#8

That makes some sense.
If D is heaven, will it be possible for the freewill beings to sin? If not, where is the difference to B? Or do they all volutarily and unisono refrain from sinning? What if someone changes his mind?


#9

[quote=Hannibal]Sorry, but an omnipotent god need not have invented evil in the first place. Your argument refutes itself, because it places limits on an unlimited being. God can get to "d’ from anywhere.

[/quote]

And how can an omnipresent (a trait often ascribed to God) be absent?


#10

[quote=AnAtheist]And how can an omnipresent (a trait often ascribed to God) be absent?
[/quote]

precisely… this argument claims that god is everywhere… uh… expect where he is not!


#11

[quote=AnAtheist]That makes some sense.
If D is heaven, will it be possible for the freewill beings to sin? If not, where is the difference to B? Or do they all volutarily and unisono refrain from sinning? What if someone changes his mind?
[/quote]

what an interesting point. In “b” it is claimed that evil is necessary, i.e. because of the supposed value of free will, it must exist

but look! In D, we invalidate this claim, by putting forth a world with free will and no evil

comes off like doublethink…


#12

[quote=Hannibal]precisely… this argument claims that god is everywhere… uh… expect where he is not!
[/quote]

I think you are taking an overly narrow view. God did not create evil but he did give us freewill which is not inherently evil in of itself. Freewill enables us to create evil if we so choose.

God is omnipresent but we can choose to move away from His graces by not following the moral laws laid down by Him through his prophets and Son. Catholics believe that if everyone were to abide by thses codes of conduct then the world would reach the highest possible state of perfection. Why did God create freewill? My guess would be precisely because He did not want robots. Like I wouldn’t want my girlfriend to love me because she HAD to but because she WANTS to.

Now if God knows everything then do we really have freewill? I would say yes since God lives outside of time which He also created. Like when I look at the night sky I can see the light from millions of stars representing different time periods all at the same time but I do not interfere in their development. I think this analogy could be applied to God except on a infinitely larger scale since he conceivably lives outside of time.

I think the missing component in this discussion is Grace. When I pray to God I don’t ask Him to accomplish things for me, which would be putting him to the test, but that I should receive enough Grace to be able to accomplish it myself.

I know its not a perfect response as I’ve been rushing because of work but I hope it atleast leads to some good discussions.


#13

[quote=Hannibal]Sorry, but an omnipotent god need not have invented evil in the first place. Your argument refutes itself, because it places limits on an unlimited being. God can get to "d’ from anywhere.

Your argument also fails because it uses backwards logic. It presumes that what is, must be. But this is not true if there is an omnipotent creator.

The facts of existence speak against such a creator, and you pretty much have to torture logic to avoid this reality.
[/quote]

First, it is either Mackie or Hume who have seen in Plantinga a solution to the logical problem of evil.

Now, I tend to agree there is an ever so subtle limitation on the omnipotence of God, but it is not much beyond the universally accepted logical limitation. The logical limitation is what prevents the following silliness from being damning:

Can God create an immovable rock? Can He then move it?

Here is a key concept to understand were Plantinga is going:

A good being eliminates every evil E that it knows about and that it can eliminate without either bringing about a greater evil or eliminating a good state of affairs that outweighs E.[font=Verdana][/font]

This makes as much sense on the surface as much of the other things postulated but Hume.

So what the Atheist must prove to show contradiction is one of the following:

  1.  Free will is real without both good and not good.
    
  2.  Total absence of “not good” is superior to free will.
    

I suggest that it is impossible for the atheist to logically prove one of the above.

Charity, TOm


#14

[quote=DuMaurier]God did not create evil but he did give us freewill which is not inherently evil in of itself. Freewill enables us to create evil if we so choose.
[/quote]

How does that fit to Iesaia 45:6-7 ?

If you phrase it that way, it actually makes sense.


#15

:rolleyes: This talk about free will and forcing and choosing good or evil reminds me of Picard in Star Trek saying to the Borg Queen:

“It wasn’t enough that you assimilated me. I had to give myself freely to the Borg.”

Star Trek geeks will know, what I mean.


#16

[quote=AnAtheist]That makes some sense.
[/quote]

If D is heaven, will it be possible for the freewill beings to sin? If not, where is the difference to B? Or do they all volutarily and unisono refrain from sinning? What if someone changes his mind?

[quote=
[/quote]

Hannibal]what an interesting point. In “b” it is claimed that evil is necessary, i.e. because of the supposed value of free will, it must exist

but look! In D, we invalidate this claim, by putting forth a world with free will and no evil

comes off like doublethink…

Those in world D are those who have moved from grace to grace. They have learned to choose good continually. They are more than they once were because they have experienced (in virtually all instances, but not in all instances, have chosen) evil. Had they not known evil they would not have known good and embraced grace. So in world D there are only those free will beings that have experienced evil, but would no longer choose evil.

Charity, TOm


#17

From the National Catholic Reporter (!!!):

Nominalism, Di Noia argued, “let loose a catastrophe on the human race” by separating morality from anthropology. To explain his point, he offered the students a rather homespun analogy. Imagine, he said, a mother cooking dinner who spots her child eating cookies. The mother could say, “eating cookies is forbidden in this house,” appealing to her authority. Or she could say, “if you eat those cookies, you’ll spoil your appetite,” appealing to a truth about human nature. Nominalism proposes the first kind of morality, Di Noia said, while Thomism proposes the second.
Compare this with AnAtheist’s example:Xian God: "Love me or go hell, it is your choice, and you are responsible if I torture you in hell."
Nominalist or Thomist? You decide.


#18

Ok, I can buy that. I’d be convinced at once, the theodicy problem solved for good, if God was not omni-X. A higher, righteous power putting humans to the test without knowing whether they pass it or not, makes perfect sense. (Norse neopaganism just received some bonus points.)

It simply evades me, why an omnipotent being should bother with all that. He surrounds himself with a bunch of by processes of suffering (sic!) well selected non-sinners, instead of putting them non-sinning in heaven in the first place. Additionally, if that being is omniscient as well, “selected” can be replaced by “pre-selected”.


#19

[quote=AnAtheist]Ok, I can buy that. I’d be convinced at once, the theodicy problem solved for good, if God was not omni-X. A higher, righteous power putting humans to the test without knowing whether they pass it or not, makes perfect sense. (Norse neopaganism just received some bonus points.)

It simply evades me, why an omnipotent being should bother with all that. He surrounds himself with a bunch of by processes of suffering (sic!) well selected non-sinners, instead of putting them non-sinning in heaven in the first place. Additionally, if that being is omniscient as well, “selected” can be replaced by “pre-selected”.
[/quote]

The God I know is omnibenevolent.

God is omnipotent in that He can bring to pass any logical thing not in contradiction with that which is eternal. It is sufficient for me to know that He has power to ensure that His purposes are fulfilled.

God is omniscient in that he knows the past present and future such that He can ensure that His purposes are fulfilled. My favorite way of conceptualizing God’s omniscience is that he is outside of time and thus he sees past, present, and future as one eternal now. If you have ever read Flatland by Edwin Abbott you might be able to envision God rising above the 4 dimensional world we occupy by transcending time.

Charity, TOm


#20

If you say 4 dimensional world, I suppose you refer to it like H.G. Wells wrote it down in The Time Machine. What Wells did not take into account: Treating time like a spatial dimension is just a mathematical trick to make calculations easier. If one wants to use the Euclidean scalar product, the time axis has to be imaginary (mathematically - a space/time point = (ict,x,y,z) with i = sqrt(-1), c lightspeed, t time) for the space/time-vectors to be Lorentz-invariant. That’s special relativity.
Time has some intriguing properties, which are not fully understood yet. (Yet! We will in time.) Entropy and CPT-symmetry violation comes into my mind.
If we take gravity into account, our 3-dimensional space is folded into the 4th dimension, that makes at least another axis. Some unified theories postulate space to have 11 (or more) dimensions, but they are no way proven yet.

So God must be at least 6-dimensional by your analogy. Ok, you won’t have a problem with that ;).


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.