The Free Will Defense


The free will defense can be viewed as an attempt to show that there some kinds of good that even an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing God can't bring about without permitting evil. The version below is modeled (loosely) on what Alvin Plantinga says.
  1. Creatures who are significantly free cannot be causally determined to do only what is right.
  2. Thus, if God creates creatures who are significantly free, He cannot causally determine them to do only what is right. (from 1)
  3. Thus, if God creates creatures who are significantly free, he must create creatures who are capable of moral evil. (from 2)
  4. Thus, if God creates a world containing creatures who are significantly free, it will contain creatures who are capable of moral evil. (from 3)
  5. If God creates a world containing creatures who are capable of moral evil, He cannot guarantee that there will not be evil in that world.
  6. Thus, if God creates a world containing creatures who are significantly free, He cannot guarantee that there will not be evil in that world. (from 4 and 5)
  7. A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more morally good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all.
  8. Thus, God has good reason to create a world containing creatures who are significantly free. (from 7)
  9. Thus, God has good reason to create a world, which He cannot guarantee will not contain evil. (from 6 and 8)
Here's a slightly looser way of putting the basic idea: free will and causal determinism are incompatible. Because of this, not even an omnipotent God can causally determine creatures, if they are free, to always do what is right. ("God causally determined Tim to help his sister" might be possible, but "God causally determined Tim to freely choose to help his sister" would be contradictory. And even an omnipotent being can't make contradictions true.) And so, if God creates a world where there are beings with free will, even He can't guarantee that those beings won't sometimes choose to act badly, so that even God can't guarantee that that world won't contain evil. But a good God still has good reason to create that world, since--even though it may well contain evil--it will also contain the great good of creatures with free will.

For the sake of brevity, I've left out a few (I think obvious) premises, which you can supply if you wish to make the argument deductively valid. Objections can be brought up against many of the steps here:


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