Friday, November 25, 2011

The Problems of Evil and Free Will

Guest-post today from Todd Furman at McNeese State:

A plausible theodicy must accomplish at least two tasks. First, it must clear God of bringing evil into the universe; and two it must absolve God from being culpable for any existent evils. The Fall, be it in the form of Satan’s fall, or Adam and Eve’s, is supposed to be the starting point of the ever popular free will defense -– God didn’t bring evil into the world, Satan and/or Mankind brought evil into existence by abuse of their free will. But John Hick finds both of these falls to be nonsensical: God’s original creations must be wholly good; else God is responsible for the introduction of evil into the universe and if Satan and Adam and Eve were created wholly good, then they would have no motive to ever actually do evil, even though they possess free will; hence, any resulting evil must actually be due to a non-culpable act of ignorance or to an already fallen nature provided by God, a nature that admits to envy and disobedience.

This much seems on target until one begins to think about J.L. Mackie’s classic paper on the logical problem of evil. At one point, Mackie claims that God should have made persons that freely always do the good; and if God can’t, then He isn’t omnipotent; if He won’t, then God isn’t all good. The classic, and accepted, rejoinder to Mackie is to claim that a creature that always freely chooses the good is a logical impossibility. Hence, not even an omnipotent God could make such a being.

But isn’t this sort of being just the sort of beings that Hick supposes Satan and Adam and Eve to be pre-fall? I believe so. In this case, who is right; those that assert or deny the possibility of a being that always freely chooses the good?

I have always been tempted to side with those that argue that such a being is a logical impossibility, but consider the following: being free entails that X could have done other than she did (in identical circumstances). So, suppose that X has three choices A, B, and C. Suppose too that A and B are morally permissible but C is not. If X were all good and chose A, but could have chosen B, and would never choose an option like C, doesn’t X count as a free creature that would always do good? Perhaps we believe that a free creature that always does good is a logical impossibility because we incorrectly assume that choices are always between good and evil, in which case a free creature that always chooses the good might be nonsensical.