Free will defense

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The free will defense is a apologetic argument posited by Alvin Plantinga as a solution for the problem of evil. The argument holds that "it is possible that God, even being omnipotent, could not create a world with free creatures who never choose evil. Furthermore, it is possible that God, even being omnibenevolent, would desire to create a world which contains evil if moral goodness requires free moral creatures." Even with the below objections, the argument is considered to solve the problem of evil by the majority of philosophers.

Problem of evil

The problem being addressed by Plantinga's argument is the problem of evil:

  1. An all-powerful (omnipotent) God could prevent evil from existing in the world.
  2. An all-knowing (omniscient) God would know that there was evil in the world.
  3. An all-good (omnibenevolent) God would wish to prevent evil from existing in the world.

Since evil does exist, God must lack one of those three qualities.

Counter-apologetics

The argument can be re-formulated thus ('Problem of deprivation of cognitive faculty necessary for free will') :

1. An all-powerful (omnipotent) God could prevent deprivation of cognitive faculty necessary for free will from existing in the world.

2. An all-knowing (omniscient) God would know that there was deprivation of cognitive faculty necessary for free will in the world.

3. An all-good (omnibenevolent) God would wish to prevent deprivation of cognitive faculty necessary for free will from existing in the world. Since deprivation of cognitive faculty necessary for free will (Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, etc.) manifestly does exist, God must lack one of those three qualities.


A different approach is to simply defend the logical validity and reasonableness of the original argument, as follows.


As omnipotence is the ability to do anything, surely he could create a world in which creatures had free will yet never chose evil. A good question to show this problem is asking freewill in Heaven. Since Heaven is said to be perfect, the inhabitants of heaven would never choose evil and yet are not said to be 'robots'. If God could not create a world such as the one described, then surely a greater God could be conceived. Free will could be accomplished if the creatures had the ability to choose what they were doing, just not in the sense of being able to choose evil.

Omnibenevolence is being all-good, and as evil is not good, an all-good should not want evil or not be able to create evil. since evil exists, God does not meet the criterion - God is not wholly good, a more benevolent being can be conceived. For this reason the argument is flawed, he would be considered perhaps good, until other factors like the bible are included (but they are not the subject), but not wholly good.

Another area of criticism in the argument is the type of evil addressed. The argument does not account for natural evil, natural evil being evil that is not caused by choices of creatures or beings. Plantinga's argument suggests that natural evil is caused by non-human beings (spirits or fallen angels, etc).

Also, an error exists in the wording of the last sentence. Moral goodness does not require creatures that are able to commit acts of evil. Moral goodness would still be moral goodness if humans did not exist, because god is said to exist, therefore the moral goodness should still be.

Divine guidance could prevent some evil without compromising free will

Some evil is hard to explain through the free will defence. Paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church is an example. Many pious Catholics pray sincerely for guidance as to how they can serve God and the church better, such people can be guided as to how to prevent paedophilia without compromising free will. Similarly people in many sectors of government in many parts of the world pray for guidance and can be guided, for example to ensure sufficient security to prevent 9/11, to improve hurricane defences round New Orleans before hurricane Katrina, etc etc the list is endless.

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