Q&A: Follow Up On Objections To The Free Will Defense Against The Problem Of Evil

Q&A: Follow Up On Objections To The Free Will Defense Against The Problem Of Evil

 

Since as I have explained before, the email I last sent was incomplete I shall give a better one now with my responses and some additional arguments presented. I also wish to explain my purpose here. My goal is not to expound upon the power of the problem of evil or to refute the greater good theodicy (although I plan to try my hand at that in the end) my goal only to refute the idea that the free will theodicy/defense (I shall use those words interchangeably, I mean theodicy to be clear.)

Just to get the love issue out of the way.

I. Hate may be the opposite of love, but indifference/apathy is an option as well. You say that “If love can be defined at a minimum as “Seeking the well-being of others”, hatred can be defined at a minimum as “Seeking the harm of others.'” I can choose to seek the wellbeing of someone else or ignore it. You don’t have to have the option of going against the well being in order to have the option of seeking it. You can have the option of doing nothing. If I have the option to donate blood or not, refusing to do so doesn’t mean I am “seeking the harm” of people in need of blood. (Although it would very selfish to not do so) In order to give an example not requiring suffering, I could show affection to a loved one or not do so without necessarily causing suffering much less seeking harm.

II. This is the Bible’s full description of Love you mention:  “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8.)

This is a great passage and I certainly rank it as one of my favorite passages in the Bible however the relevance here is that you argue that love cannot work without us having the temptation to do the opposite: “If God is to allow genuine freedom to love my neighbor as myself, he must allow me the freedom to hate my neighbor, and to flip 1 Corinthians 13 on its head; i.e to be impatient, cruel, envious, boastful, proud, easily angered, keeping a record of wrongs, rejoicing in deception.” But if love is a behavior, we wouldn’t have the temptation to do any of these things in Heaven and thus the behavior of love will cease there!! And further God doesn’t have any of those temptations thus rendering him not loving according to your standard.

The “No Free Will in Heaven” objection is incredibly powerful against your view. For the view that love is more of an emotion (and yes we can choose our emotions to a great degree-I do it all the time) we can choose to love God on earth and then we will have thus have freely made a commitment to him thus eliminating our need for the relevant freedom. However your view requires not only the perpetual freedom, but the perpetual temptation to sin in order for us to continue to perform the action of love by resisting them. But presumably temptation implies suffering which is to be abolished in the end times (Revelation 21:4).  And it also requires according to your thesis, that the other people in Heaven possibly be harmed. (Or are they displaying love only to the people in Hell?) So a reasonable way of interpreting the text is to say that the evil related forms of love are simply how it is displayed in a fallen world thus meaning love does NOT inherently require the ability to impose suffering on others.

To respond:

I. As I have argued before, in a previous discussion, we may not know the exact amount of moral evil us having a better nature would prevent, but we observe that the better people’s nature are, the less they do evil and the more good they do. You can appeal to mystery, however the more the mysteries pile up the worse things look for the free will defense. (And I hope to have piled up quite a few of them by the end of this.) Feel free to throw it on the greater goods theodicy, which will be dealt with later.

II. “What matters to God isn’t the number of free choices we make in this life, but that, when faced with good and evil, loving God or spurning God, being kind to our neighbor or being cruel to him, we genuinely possess the ability to do either one.” What? God doesn’t care about the fact that a elementary school child was robbed of many chances to do good to their neighbors or choose to love God? Hopefully not.

III-IV. These objections seem to have blended together to some level. The point is that according to you it is more important that criminals be able to “choose between good and bad” and “show genuine love” a few times then it is that little kids not be raped and traumatised for life, school children be murdered in cold blood while they are no doubt screaming for their moms, that it is more important that people be able to choose to donate to charity then for children to not be left to starve to death, etc. To merely speak it aloud, is to reveal it’s utter absurdity.

And not only that the criminals could have been offered less harmful moral choices that would allow them to “show love.” The fact that I cannot give you an exact, objective standard as to when the line should be drawn is irrelevant. I know that it is somewhere in between allowing an obnoxious internet troll to call people morons online and allowing children to be raped. A distinction between God’s duties and our duties is irrelevant, the point remains why should the government try to stop crimes from being commited if it is more important that criminals be able to “choose between good and bad” and “show genuine love” a few times then to avoid the suffering that attends those crimes? The answer is because we all know that it isn’t more important.

Just to really ram the point home I recently developed a new parable to illustrate the absurdity of the free will defense. I call it The Parable Of the Negligent Governor:

“There once was a Governor who on trial for gross neglect of duty. He had deliberately and intentionally refused to stop crimes no matter how severe, despite the fact that it was easily within his power to do so. Children were hacked to death with machetes, raped, tortured, etc and the governor didn’t lift a finger to help. Hundreds of angry or sobbing people who had just lost their children or had their children’s lives ruined testified against this governor and his conviction seemed certain. However, his lawyer came up in order to give the FREE WILL DEFENSE for the governor’s actions or lack thereof. After giving an eloquent speech on how having free will is required for love and for our actions to have genuine moral worth he argued this:

‘You see it is more important that these criminals have the free will to show genuine love by resisting anger and choose between good and evil a few times then it is for children to not be hacked to death with machetes, or raped, tortured, etc. If the governor prevented them from having the free will to torture, murder, and rape children then where do we draw the line? If you took this principle to its logical conclusion we would have to use electric helmets in order to stop people from even thinking thoughts that go against the government’s purpose. So the governors allowing the criminals to choose to show love by restraining their anger by not committing those horrible crimes and choose between good and evil a few times is more important than not letting children be tortured and murdered. Therefore you should not punish the governor but instead decorate him with awards and praise.’

Neither the judge nor the crowd was impressed with this line of argumentation. The crowd was outraged and was calling for the highest punishment the law could give. The prosecutor didn’t even bother to make his case saying the defense lawyer had already done more damage to his clients cause then he ever could. The judge sentenced the governor to death by hanging without a moment’s hesitation. And the lawyer had his law degree revoked by the university he got it from.”

Although this isn’t fully a fair comparison. After all, the governor wasn’t responsible for the fact of the criminal’s freedom, and he didn’t in his middle knowledge set up the circumstances in which he knew that the criminals would freely choose do those horrible crimes. (All for “the greater good.”) And he didn’t get to choose which temptations could/would be provided to the criminals, with the possibility of them having equal temptation to do far less evil-and therefore not having their free will to make moral/loving decisions infringed at all!! So I conclude that the God of the free will defense is more immoral and more unjust then the negligent governor who didn’t lift a finger to stop little children from being raped, tortured and hacked to death with machetes because he didn’t want to infringe upon the criminal’s free will by doing so. If this argument succeeds this drastically reduces the “raw material” of suffering that is alleged to come from the free will defense, thus making the greater goods theodicy even less plausible.

V. For the demons having no need for free will argument, I am not blame shifting at all. As I have said before I am not excusing the demons an inch. They had the full and adequate ability to not sin so hence moral responsibility is present. However, God is responsible for the fact of their having freedom. You have argued in another conversation that the demons need to have free will for the same reasons we do. However, the 3 reasons you gave don’t apply to them having the morally relevant free will. If they are doomed to Hell, and cannot be saved what is the point of allowing them to do good works, to love, etc? It wouldn’t help them and it will be swept aside in Hell if they do it. (If they can do those at all.) And even if free will is required for rationality (which it isn’t) that requires only an irrelevant type of free will that has nothing to do with causing suffering to others or doing any evil actions.) All it does is allow them to doom themselves to more torture.

You write that: “I don’t think any of the fallen angels will escape judgment. I don’t know why and The Bible never gives us an answer. We can only speculate. Perhaps God provided no means of atonement for the demons because He knew they all would reject it even if escape were offered. Perhaps they are so far absorbed in their own selves, their hearts are so hard, their hatred of The Almighty so intense, that any attempts on God’s part to get them to repent with the exception of coercion would be in vain.”

(Notice that: “Perhaps God provided no means of atonement for the demons because He knew they all would reject it even if escape were offered.” Contradicts your thesis that that it is a good thing for God to offer opportunities to escape even if it only means that people/devils will only sin more and earn more eternal pain.) The second reason you offer is that: “Perhaps they are so far absorbed in their own selves, their hearts are so hard, their hatred of The Almighty so intense, that any attempts on God’s part to get them to repent with the exception of coercion would be in vain.” Ah, but couldn’t God remove the mental self-absorption and hatred without violating their libertarian free will and allow them to freely choose to accept or reject him again? So it looks like your stuck with the first option.

For the question of the ripple effect feel free to throw the mystery on the greater goods theodicy. For the temptation levels, God could simply have one or more of his angels give people any amount of temptation he wants in order to test them.

VI. You misunderstood this objection. I am not discussing the issue of God’s omniscience and our free will that is 100% irrelevant. I am arguing that: “The fact that God foreordains (see Psalm 139:16, Job 14:5 and Deuteronomy 32:39) people to die young, permits brainwashing, allows certain types of (mental) illness, etc proves that God has no problem infringing upon our free will or with allowing it to be infringed upon.” You seem to have focused on the foreordain part and assumed I was talking about God’s omniscience vs our free will. I was not. I was simply pointing out that if a person dies young they lose free will decisions. I wasn’t even talking about cases of murder, I was talking about people dying young of diseases and such natural occurrences that takes away countless chances for them to make free decisions to choose between good and evil and show genuine love.

And what of the others: “permits brainwashing, allows certain types of (mental) illness, etc?” I would also add the issue of why he allows people to be knocked unconscious and thus stopped from making free decisions as well. After all if free will is so important, then why let people become knocked unconscious? Heck, why allow sleep at all? Why not make us not need it at all? We can design computers that can run 24’7 why can’t God design brains/souls that can do the same giving us far more opportunities to choose between good and evil and show genuine love. Feel free to throw yet another mystery on the greater goods theodicy.

This shows exactly how much God cares about humans being able to make a few free decisions to “show genuine love” and “choose between good and evil” a few times, when it is inconvenient to his goals… NONE!! (Or at least very little). If the world we observe around us is so utterly inconsistent with God caring about our free will, what happens to the argument that God cares so much about our free will that he just has to allow children to be raped, tortured, murdered, etc all so that people can have the free will to choose love/choose between good and evil?

VII. I will deal with the Adam and Eve/transworld depravity issue below.

For the animal pain issue, I was specifically aiming at your argument that animal pain is necessary in order to prepare the world for a “super sinful predator” which presupposes that animals must feel pain in order to avoid danger. However I responded to this already:

“Animals could be put in paradise or on another planet without suffering and death with humans being fed with non-living food, or plants. Or he could just not have created animals at all if their not even going to Heaven at all. (What is your position on that issue?)  And finally animal pain is unnecessary-even in this world because God could make sure that animals avoid dangerous things by giving them a strong sense of joy in trying to escape dangerous things with no need for any suffering involved to motivate them.”

VIII. I now have to refute the view that it is moral to give wicked people ways to escape-who you know for 100% sure will abuse this privilege and in fact only condemn themselves to more torment because of it. Assuming that explicitly and clearly saying this hasn’t already refuted it, I answer that if this is the case then it is a great act of mercy and goodness for the government to give second chances to people who they know for 100% sure they will abuse the privilege and will have to be put in jail for even longer. How loving is that? Would you like to have your tax dollars used for that purpose? Would that be a worthy cause to donate charity for?

Perhaps I should make another parable? A government deciding to give criminals who are in jail for 5 years more and more chances to get out early that they know for 100% sure the criminals will abuse (in prison but they also know that the prisoners will won’t be a threat outside it) until the criminal become worthy of capital punishment? Is that a loving action? I hope this isn’t seen as rude or mocking, that isn’t my intention, my goal is to illustrate a point.

You write that: “If God removed free will in Hell, then it would be entirely His fault that the damned continue in their rebellion against Him.” That couldn’t be more wrong. This is how it should be written instead: “If God removed free will in Hell, then it would be entirely from his abundant mercy and kindness-but consistent with his perfect justice- that the damned serve their time and then be allowed to cease to exist. (Or be put into a sleeplike state where they are not conscious at all. Or they could be put into a conscious state where neither pain or pleasure are felt.)” Or if some of them will eventually repent then God could continue offering them chances until they accept it. If that would be all people universalism would be true. Either way, the doctrine of Eternal Conscious Torment seems incompatible with the goodness and love of God.

IX.  “Love me and obey me or I will burn you in eternal conscious pain or obliterate you from existence” is coercion. Even the strongest compatibilist would consider this an invasion of free will. How is this consistent with your thesis that free will is required for love and morality? You yourself give an example in “Why no one should worship God if Calvinism is true” of a case of compulsion not being free:

“Let’s suppose you had cancer or something but that your dirt poor and couldn’t afford treatment. A stranger comes to up you on the street with 5 billion dollars in their hand and says “I saw your video blog on Youtube about your problem. I recently won the lottery and won 5 billion dollars in cash. I thought you could use the money more than I could. So here, take it.” And you take the money. You start weeping tears of joy because you know that you now have a fighting chance at making it out of this alive. You thank the person for his abundant generosity, and find yourself incredibly impressed at this person’s love for a person he had never even met! The reason you’re happy is because you got money needed for expensive treatment (and most likely much more). But the reason you’re impressed  is because this person gave up money that most people never have in their possession, and yet he didn’t have to.  He doesn’t know you from Adam and yet he gives up his fortune to help you get treatment. This is why you consider him a man of great love and generosity.

“Now, let’s flip the story around a little bit. Let’s say that you had a relative who personally knew this lottery winner and one day, he went to this lottery winner’s house. He puts a gun up to the lottery winner’s head and explains the situation. He tells him that if he doesn’t give you all of his winnings, he would shoot this lottery winner in the head. So, despite the fact that this person doesn’t want to give up his money, he goes ahead and does it anyway in order to save his own life. Now what is your impression? Is your impression that this man is a really good person? No. You’re not impressed. You don’t feel any love or affection from this person at all. You don’t consider him to be a kind and generous person as you would in the other story. Now you know that he just gave the money to you out of obligation. Because he was forced to. He didn’t give freely, and that’s why it doesn’t mean anything to you.”

Simply replace the gun with the threat of being burned alive, and you have an excellent analogy for the coercion Hell represents. (Although Hell is eternal and never ends on your view so this is only a proper analogy for annihilationism, your view is in even worse shape.)

Now I promised a rebuttal to the greater goods theodicy. I will first quote you on it:

“William Lane Craig explains that “Alvin Plantinga was the first contemporary philosopher to apply this scheme to the problem of evil. In response to J. L. Mackie’s claim that since a world in which everyone always chooses to do the morally right thing is intrinsically possible, an omnipotent God should be able to create it, Plantinga pointed out that for all we know such a world may not be feasible for God. Indeed, for all we know, all the worlds which are feasible for God and which involve as much good as the actual world also involve as much evil. Hence, although a world with as much good as the actual world but with less or no evil in it may be intrinsically possible, it may not be within God’s power to create such a world. Hence, God cannot be indicted for not having created such a world. The atheist who pushes the problem of evil would have to show that worlds with as much good but less evil are feasible for God, which is beyond anyone’s power to prove; it is sheer speculation. Thus, the atheist has failed to bear his burden of proof.”5

What Plantinga and Craig argue is that, for all we know, ANY world God could create that has billions of libertarian free creatures, some would cooperate with God’s will while others would freely choose to disobey. Thus, although a world where everyone always does the right thing is logically possible (hence God knows about it in His natural knowledge), it’s not feasible for God to actualize (and hence, He knows not of this world in His middle knowledge), and therefore cannot make it actual. In any world of free creatures, there would always be some who go wrong. I’ve applied this possible/feasible worlds distinction not only to the problem of evil, but to The Problem Of Hell as well (see my book “A Hellacious Doctrine: A Defense Of The Biblical Doctrine Of Hell”).

I think it’s actually quite plausible to think that a world where this much good without also this much evil is infeasible for God. When you consider that our actions and circumstances influence those around us, and that there are trillions and trillions of things going on right now, both big thing and little things, and billions of people all influencing each other in an unfathomably complex web of interactions, there may very well indeed be no world available for God to create in which no one ends up doing evil. I think this is quite plausible.”

This is an absurd and weak argument against the evidential problem of evil even if it succeeds against the logical one. In the first place, we observe that when people have a great deal of power to create things they want and want something really badly it is very rare that they so drastically fail. The more the result fails to conform to what a powerful person supposedly wants to happen the stronger the evidence that the person doesn’t really want it. The more a very powerful and very intelligent government fails at a simple task of reducing a certain type of drug use, for example, the more evidence we have that the government doesn’t really want it.

I can totally see William Lane Craig responding to this: “You have no way of knowing that, it is just sheer speculation. You don’t know the exact range of options the government had. The drug war skeptic has failed to bear his burden of proof.” (This is not about the real drug war let’s not get into that!! It is about a hypothetical one by a government that is great a reducing crime and fails miserably to do so in this case.) The fact that chaos theory is involved helps to some degree sure. However God could create an infinite amount of people each in an infinite amount of circumstances and you think that God couldn’t create a world where people don’t freely choose to sin, or even one where if they did sin they would do so, far less and one where those who do sin all come to repentance. Or maybe even one where the majority of them don’t end up in Hell (Matthew 7:13-14.).

And to make matters even worse I do know that according to the Bible transworld depravity is false. If Transworld Depravity is true what about all of the angels who freely choose not to fall? (2/3 of them to be specific). And further, why would God create a world where Billions of people interact? Why not create however many worlds he wants with each one containing only 10 people who interact together? He could only create the ones who will behave properly and freely choose to never sin. And even if he couldn’t do that he could dramatically reduce the number of sins committed and make sure all of those who sin come to repentance.

So I think The Evidential Problem Of Evil is in good shape. None of your attempts to demolish it have succeeded.

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Freedom To Love 

I. You write “You say that ‘If love can be defined at a minimum as ‘Seeking the well-being of others’, hatred can be defined at a minimum as ‘Seeking the harm of others.” I can choose to seek the wellbeing of someone else or ignore it. You don’t have to have the option of going against the well being in order to have the option of seeking it. You can have the option of doing nothing.” — It’s true that apathy is an option as well, but as I have said in other articles on this site, apathy is the opposite of love, albeit in a different sense than hatred is. Hatred is the opposite of love in that hatred seeks the opposite of what love seeks. Love is patient. Hate is impatient. Love is kind. Hate is cruel. Love is not self-seeking. Hate is. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Hate keeps a record of wrongs. Hate is the opposite passion and opposite seeking-of-choices. Whereas love, at a minimum, seeks the well-being of an individual, hatred, at a minimum, seeks the harm of an individual.

But apathy is the opposite of love in that apathy doesn’t care. While love and hate are opposite passions, apathy is completely impassionate. Clearly, impassionate is the opposite of passionate. Inaction is the opposite of action.

I don’t see how this is relevant. For apathy, while different from hate in-and-of-itself, manifests much of same negative effects in the external world as hate. If you refuse to come to the aid of someone who is under attack, you might as well have killed him yourself. Or to use your example, if you chose to show no affection towards, say, your wife, she would become just as lonely (and miserable) as if you divorced her. In fact, The Bible even says that you show hatred towards your children through the inaction of refusing to discipline them (see Proverbs 13:24), because in not disciplining them they grow up to be spoiled, self-entitled, disrespectful pricks. The inaction in this case not only negatively affects your children, but those who will have the misfortune of interacting with them. Thus, not raising them to be good citizens has the same outward effect is if you purposefully taught them to be bad. Your option of donating blood is irrelevant unless you’re in a rare circumstance in which the person has an unusual blood type, you have that same blood type, the doctors ran out of it and can’t get more for another 24 hours, and the patient that needs it has lost a lot of blood and needs a transfusion within an hour or he’ll die, and the doctors ask you to give. Then I would argue that you would indeed have a moral obligation to that person, and your inaction would be just as destructive as if you walked into the emergency room and drove a dagger through his heart.

True, not all apathy will have negative outcomes as the above examples. We can think of many examples in which neither positive nor negative effect would come about. For example, my not giving money to a particular ministry wouldn’t make them go bankrupt if a lot of other Christians gave. But, I can also think of many examples in which apathy would be just as negative as hatred, as in the above examples.

So, suppose God gave us free will to be either loving or apathetic, but not hateful. You would still have evil in the world come about if people choose the latter.

II. You wrote “But if love is a behavior, we wouldn’t have the temptation to do any of these things in Heaven and thus the behavior of love will cease there!! And further God doesn’t have any of those temptations thus rendering him not loving according to your standard.” — What do you mean by behavior? If you mean external actions resulting from a choice, then love is a behavior. If what you mean by behavior is that love is a certain tendency to be a certain way, such how as psychology defines certain “behaviors” resulting from mental disorders, then love is not necessarily a behavior in that sense, though it certainly can be (and should be), especially for followers of Christ. I suspect you’re using the term “behavior” in a psychiatric sense given that you say that if we love, we wouldn’t have the temptation to do anything opposite of that.

But love is not a behavior in the sense of having a tendency to be loving. To love someone, all you need to do is to choose to seek out their well-being. You can make that exercise of the will even if you’re characteristically selfish, strongly dislike the individual, or are totally apathetic towards them. You can volitionally make yourself be kind to them, not show irritation at their flaws, you can make yourself hold back your temper, you can make yourself protect that individual, and so on. If you have a tendency to do these things, that’s good! But you can have the tendency to do the opposite and still, through an act of volition, make yourself love.

As for free will in Heaven, who says we won’t have it there? Inspiring Philosophy made a video called “What Is Heaven?” in which Michael Jones argued that we will still have the freedom to sin, but because the redeemed will have known how awful sin is, and how gross it is in the full, unadulterated presence of God, we just won’t sin. We still can sin, we just won’t. In Michael’s words, we’ll find it as appalling as eating feces.

In my blog post “Will We Be Able To Sin In Heaven?” I wrote “Another possibility is that even if we could make the free choice to sin, we wouldn’t want to sin. There would be a complete lack of motivation to sin. Frank Turek argued this in a lecture I heard a while back on YouTube, in which he was asked this same question in the Q and A segment. Sin is often a shortcut to try to get what we want. But in Heaven, we won’t be lacking in anything. We won’t need to steal. There won’t be any sex 1)because there will be no marriage, see Matthew 22:23-30 , so there won’t be any desire to have sex, and therefore there won’t be any sexual sin. Because there won’t be any marriage, there will also be no divorce between couples (so we know the sin of divorce will be impossible) and there won’t be any adultery, and so on. We’ll have everything we need. Taking this line of thought further, when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, they thought they were lacking something. They believed the serpent that they had something to gain by eating the fruit.

As an analogy, you could steal food from somebody. It’s entirely possible for you to do so. But if you have cabinets full of food, you most likely would not make that free decision because there’d be no reason to. You’d have no reason to steal food if you have an abundance of food already. People with pockets full of cash would just buy the big screen TV instead of stealing it in the dead of night.”

 
Inspiring Philosophy’s somewhat purgatorial view of Heaven weakens your argument even more, as on IP’s view, we’re not miraculously stripped of the sin nature in Heaven and thus automatically do good all the time. On his view, sanctification is a process of continually yielding (by our own libertarian free will mind you) to The Holy Spirit until all of the sinful tendencies within us are completely gone.
 
Moreover, I certainly think God has the freedom to love or not love us, despite love being an essential aspect of His character. For this to be unpacked, I recommend checking out my blog post “God’s Freedom To Love Revisited”. 
 
Rebuttals To The Previous Post
 
I. You wrote “As I have argued before, in a previous discussion, we may not know the exact amount of moral evil us having a better nature would prevent, but we observe that the better people’s nature are, the less they do evil and the more good they do. You can appeal to mystery, however the more the mysteries pile up the worse things look for the free will defense. ” 
 
I wasn’t appealing to mystery in my previous post, Sam. I was appealing to our cognitive inability to know what a feasible world God could create in which we didn’t have the sin nature would be like. Maybe you’re right. Maybe evil in the world wouldn’t exist. But how do you know that? Whether you’re using the objection against the logical or the probabilistic version, this objection is weak. In the former, you have to prove that God can actualize the world you describe, that it the statement “If God removed our sinful nature, we would never choose to sin” is necessarily true. In the latter, you have to show that it’s probable that sin would not exist or would either be greatly diminished if God actualized a world in which we had no sinful nature.
 
I am skeptical that it would be in either case. If the fallen angels are still running amuck, then even though we wouldn’t have the sinful nature to deal with, we would still have the demons to deal with. They would still be tempting humanity, and humanity would probably still be listening to them, as Eve did in the garden of Eden. Now, given that we would have no sinful nature in this scenario, they’d have a double workload on their shoulders, but the demons are legion (pun intended). They could probably pull it off. In this scenario, we wouldn’t be dealing with “The world, the flesh, and the devil”, but we’d still have to deal with “The world and the devil”. I don’t think the world would be removed from the list. Why? Because let us not forget that not only did Satan tempt Eve, but Eve went on to tempt Adam.
 
II. ‘What matters to God isn’t the number of free choices we make in this life, but that, when faced with good and evil, loving God or spurning God, being kind to our neighbor or being cruel to him, we genuinely possess the ability to do either one.’ 
 
What? God doesn’t care about the fact that a elementary school child was robbed of many chances to do good to their neighbors or choose to love God? Hopefully not.” — 
 
Loaded question fallacy. Of course, God cares about that. But it doesn’t matter with respect to having free will. It may matter in a grander scheme of things. After all, read the book of Exodus. God protected Moses from the wrath of Pharoah because He planned on raising him up to lead His chosen people Israel out of bondage from slavery. But if Moses had died at 5 years old, he still would have had the choice to love God or spurn him, to love his neighbor or hate him. And that’s what God cares about with respect to free will.
 
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III. Once again, you’re considering The Free Will Defense in isolation from Greater Good Theodicy (What I like to call The Argument From The Butterfly Effect), the point about moral character development, that the arguments for God’s existence outweigh any improbability evil might be said to throw upon His existence, etc. With respect to the evidential version of the problem of evil, I would argue the latter are far more important than The Free Will Defense, though free will is presupposed in all of them.
 
The problem with your “Parable Of The Negligent Governor” is that the governor in this illustration is a human being, bound within time and space, and is therefore of limited insight and wisdom and knowledge. No, that God’s duties and our duties aren’t the same isn’t an irrelevant point. I made this argument in the context that God knows all things; everything that could happen, everything that would happen, and everything that will happen. God, unlike human governors, knows what would happen if he either stopped or prevented a certain evil from coming about. Let’s say that God desires greater good D to come into existence. If God exercises His omnipotent power to stop evil A from occurring, then greater good D would not come about. In order to get A to come about God has to allow B to come about. If Event A doesn’t occur, then Event B won’t come about. If Event B doesn’t come about, then Event C won’t come about. And if Event C doesn’t come about, then D won’t come about. Event A may be a free will decision of immense evil, but only if God allows that to happen, will greater good D come to pass.
 
Suppose Greater Good D is “Coming into a saving faith relationship with Christ”. Suppose that one of the hypothetical children in your example gets raped, and when older, he gets into heavy drugs and alcohol as a means to try to shove the pain down. This, in turn, leads to more suffering. Eventually, he comes to the end of his rope and cries out to Jesus. He is delivered from drug addiction, alcohol addiction, and he becomes a counselor in a local church to help other kids who have had the same experiences he had. Now, surely salvation is the greatest good in this scenario. What would be worse, for this person to suffer a finite amount of time in this world or for an infinite amount of time in the next? By permitting suffering for a finite amount of time, God prevented him from suffering for an infinite amount of time. Not to mention that God brought about other goods, such as this person ministering to those like him, preventing them from going down the same road he did and presenting them with the gospel of salvation.
 
Many people, including myself, have come to Christ through a hard road of incredible suffering. In fact, 9 out of 10 of the testimonies I hear involve a road of suffering that ends at Christ. If you were to ask these people if they would have preferred if their suffering not occurred, they would tell you no. Not if it meant continuing to live without Jesus.
 
Think of the story of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37-50. Joseph was the son of Jacob who was the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham. Joseph was one of Jacob’s 12 sons. Joseph’s brothers hated him because he was Jacob’s favorite child and this was obvious from the fact that Jacob constantly showered Joseph with far more affection than his other children. One day Joseph’s brothers finally had enough, and they sold him into slavery.
 
As if being a slave weren’t bad in and of itself, Joseph suffered in his slavery as well. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of trying to rape her (she did this out of spite because she came onto him and he refused to have sex with her). This resulted in Joseph being sent to prison. While Joseph was in prison, he was able to accurately interpret the dreams of two other prisoners who were there. One of those prisoners told the Pharaoh about Joseph’s amazing ability to accurately interpret dreams once they were released and Pharaoh was in need of having someone interpret his dreams. Pharaoh let Joseph out of prison and told him his dreams. Joseph told the Pharaoh that his two dreams meant that there would be 7 years of abundant food followed by 7 years of horrible famine and that to prevent widespread starvation he should store up food during the 7 years of abundance so that they could compensate for the lack of food the next 7 years. Pharaoh elected Joseph as governor and put him in charge of food storage.
 
As bad as Joseph’s experience was, God had a good reason for allowing it all to happen; If God hadn’t let Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery, Joseph would never have been able to interpret the Pharaoh’s dreams, and that would mean that Pharoah would not have known to save up food during the 7 years of abundance so that they would have food to eat during the 7 years of famine, and that would mean that thousands of people would have died of starvation. As Joseph was being carried off to Egypt, he was probably wondering why God didn’t intervene to stop his brothers from selling him into slavery. He might have been thinking “Why didn’t God stop my brothers from selling me into slavery? Now I’ll never see my father and younger brother Benjamin again!” If Joseph had reasoned like an atheist, he would have thought “I can’t see any good reason for God not to have intervened to stop my brothers from selling him into slavery. God must not exist.” But Joseph later realized God’s purpose for allowing his suffering (and Jacob’s suffering as well for that matter since Jacob was mourning because he believed a wild animal had killed Joseph). He himself said so when he saw his brothers again years later “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” – Genesis 50:20
 
God had a reason for not intervening when Joseph’s brothers were sinning against him, but from Joseph’s vantage point it was impossible to discern that reason. If Joseph had judged that it was improbable that God had a good reason for allowing him to be sold into slavery, he would have been wrong.
 
The crucifixion of Jesus is another example of greater good theodicy. From the perspective of the disciples, Jesus’ crucifixion made absolutely no sense. The 1st-century Jewish expectation of the Messiah would be that of a conquering warrior king. They had no expectation of a dying and rising messiah. So, when Jesus was being crucified, it likely bewildered the disciples. It’s only in hindsight, after the resurrection, that the disciples realized why God allowed Jesus to die. Jesus was being punished for our sins, He was experiencing the punishment we were supposed to experience (Romans 4:25, 1 Corinthians 15:3) and He did this not only for a few people but for the entire human race (John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:4-6). Because of the suffering of Christ on the cross, any wicked person who forsakes his wicked ways and turns to Christ will be forgiven by Him (see Isaiah 55:7). He will “forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
 
The worst evil in history: the torturous, slow death of the innocent incarnate God was permitted (actually, planned) to bring about the greatest good in history: the chance to be saved from the penalty and power of sin. If God had a good reason in allowing His son to be tortured, couldn’t he have good reasons for allowing other evils? If God could bring the greatest good (salvation) out of the greatest evil (the torture and mutilation of His Son), couldn’t he bring other goods from other evils? I think the burden of proof lies on anyone who says “No”.
 
In order for the evidential version of The Problem Of Evil To Succeed, you must show that it is improbable for God to have morally sufficient reasons for permitting any said evil from occurring. In order for the logical version of The Problem Of Evil to succeed, you have to show that is impossible for God to have a morally sufficient reason for permitting evil. You have no hope of the latter. The former doesn’t look good either. William Lane Craig, in chapter 7 of his book On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision, presents a good illustration to why;
 
The first illustration draws on the concept of Chaos Theory: that tiny disturbances in a system can set off a chain reaction that leads to catastrophic consequences. Craig makes reference to a butterfly fluttering its little wings on a tree branch. People looking just think “Aw, what a pretty butterfly”, but little do they know that the fluttering of this butterfly’s wings has set in motion a chain of events which eventually result in a hurricane blowing over the Atlantic Ocean. No one observing that little butterfly could possibly have predicted such an outcome.
 
The second illustration draws from the movie Sliding Doors which features a woman named Helen, portrayed by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The movie opens with Helen hurrying downstairs to catch a train. But as she nears the train, her life splits into two totally different timelines, two totally different lives Helen could live. In one life, she is enormously successful, prosperous, and happy. In the other life, she encounters failure, misery, and unhappiness. Whichever life she endures will all depend on a split second difference on whether or not she is able to pass through the subway doors. Dr. Craig then points out that that difference is due to whether a little girl playing with her dolly is either (A) snatched away by her father, or (B) momentarily blocks Helen’s path. Craig says that we have to wonder about the events that lead up to that event. Craig says that perhaps whether A or B occurs is due to whether the girl and her father were delayed leaving the house that morning because his daughter refused to eat her cereal, or whether the man just wasn’t paying attention to what his daughter was doing because he preoccupied with reading the newspaper. What led up to that event? We don’t have a clue.
 
The movie has a twist at the end. In the happy and successful life, Helen is killed. In the life that brought her so much misery, it turns around and she finds true love. Dr. William Lane Craig’s point is that given our cognitive limitations, we are in no position to judge whether or not God can have a morally sufficient reason for permitting any event. Given the dizzying complexity of life, and the incomprehensible way in which events are intertwined with one another, it is beyond the mental capacity of mere man to say that with any confidence whatsoever that, when some incident of suffering occurs, that it’s improbable that God has a good reason for permitting it.
 
Craig writes “Every event that occurs sends a ripple effect through history, such that God’s reason for permitting it might not emerge until centuries later and perhaps in another country. Only an all-knowing God could grasp the complexities of directing a world of free people toward His envisioned goals. Just think of the innumerable, incalculable events involved in arriving at a single historical event, say, the Allied victory at D-day! We have no idea of what suffering might be involved in order for God to achieve some intended purpose through the freely chosen actions of human persons. Nor should we expect to discern God’s reasons for permitting suffering. It’s hardly surprising that much suffering seems pointless and unnecessary to us, for we are overwhelmed by such complexity.”1
 
This is not an appeal to mystery, but to appeal to our cognitive limitations. Given our cognitive limitation, whenever we are faced with an instance of suffering, we cannot say with any degree of certainty that “God probably has no good reason for permitting it to occur.” To make a probability judgment on anything, you have to have all the data. We don’t in this case. We would have to know all, or at least 98% of counterfactuals to know that no good would come from a given evil. In other words, we’d either have to be omniscient or very, very close to it.
 
V. The Demons Having Free Will
 
The demons weren’t always demons. Isaiah 14:12-18 says that Satan was once one of God’s good angels, in His heavenly court. The same is true with the members of the divine council of which Satan was most likely a member, but Psalm 82 describes the fall of the gods who, as the book of Enoch says, later became The Watchers of the disinherited nations that copulated with humans and brought about the Nephilim and so on and so forth. This gets into the weeds of The Divine Council worldview of The Bible which space doesn’t permit me to get into. I recommend reading Michael Heiser’s book The Unseen Realm. But anyway, Isaiah 14 and Psalm 82 describe celestial beings that were once good, but fell. They had the freedom to love God or hate him. They chose the latter. They had the freedom to do good or to do evil. They chose the latter. They can still choose these things, but they continually choose not to.
 
I don’t think they will escape judgment, but only because The Bible says so de facto (see Psalm 82, Revelation 20:10). Whether they could or not is sheer speculation. The Bible doesn’t tell us whether he provided them with a means of atonement or not. I threw out a couple of possibilities for why He didn’t if in fact he didn’t (which no one but God and the devil are in a position to say). I don’t think you’re correct in my assessment of those possibilities. For consider that if some of the demons would repent if only a means of atonement were provided. Then it would be the case that God would provide it. But since God knows they won’t repent, he doesn’t. Your proposal that God “remove their self-absorption and hatred” would be an act of coercion.
 
VI: Middle Knowledge Infringes Upon Free Will
 
You wrote “You misunderstood this objection. I am not discussing the issue of God’s omniscience and our free will that is 100% irrelevant. I am arguing that: ‘The fact that God foreordains (see Psalm 139:16, Job 14:5 and Deuteronomy 32:39) people to die young, permits brainwashing, allows certain types of (mental) illness, etc proves that God has no problem infringing upon our free will or with allowing it to be infringed upon.’ You seem to have focused on the foredain part and assumed I was talking about God’s omniscience vs our free will. I was not. I was simply pointing out that if a person dies young they lose free will decisions. I wasn’t even talking about cases of murder, I was talking about people dying young of diseases and such natural occurrences that takes away countless chances for them to make free decisions to choose between good and evil and show genuine love.” 
 
To quote my previous post: “What matters to God isn’t the number of free choices we make in this life, but that, when faced with good and evil, loving God or spurning God, being kind to our neighbor or being cruel to him, we genuinely possess the ability to do either one.” You don’t have to live to 90 to be able to choose to love God or your neighbor. If you even live up to 8, you’ll have had this chance. Now, if you’re thinking of people who die in infancy, other Christian philosophers such as Jerry Walls and Tim Stratton have proposed that even they have this choice. See Tim Stratton’s post “What About Babies Who Die?” 
 
In the case of brainwashing and mental illness, you’re assuming that the PAP has to be constantly present for all people at all times and all places. But even mental illness is irrelevant in the moral factor. David Wood, who I like to call “The Apostle To The Muslims” is a sociopath.2  He literally does not feel for others. Despite this, he chooses to exercise his volition to be loving towards God and His neighbor. The latter, by preaching the gospel to them. He preaches the gospel and does apologetics in the face of people who threaten his life! If that’s not going the extra mile of love, I don’t know what is!
 
I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The fact that I can’t choose but to do a ton of bizarre rituals to ease my anxiety; I don’t see that as pertinent to God’s goal of giving me free will; which is loving Him and my neighbor or to do the opposite. That I have to exit the bathroom an X number of times is no infringement of my free will to obey or disobey the two greatest commandments.
 
I have a person in my family with Bi-Polar. She has the freedom to love God or not. What about Schizophrenia? I don’t see how this prevents someone from choosing between good or evil. Just take your meds to make the voices stop! What about clinical depression?
 
The only thing I can think of that would remove a person’s inability to choose is complete insanity.
 
Animal Pain
 
Given our cognitive limitations, can you really, with any degree of certainty, assess that God could not allow pre-fall animal death (or post-fall for that matter)? Maybe he has reasons no one has even thought of.
 
VII. On The Damned Accruing More Punishment 
 
Again, your objection presupposes the eternal conscious torment view of Hell. I’ve already told you to look into annihilationism. I’m willing to change my mind on this issue (though I would have to rewrite portions of my book “A Hellacious Doctrine” to reflect the mind-change), but I won’t get around to studying Hell for a while. My main area of focus for the next year is Ancient Near Eastern studies and Old Testament stuff. Perhaps I’ll find some reason to adhere to annihilationism in doing that, but I won’t specifically be on the lookout for it.
 
If your objection succeeds, it would, at most, give us reason to affirm annihilationism rather than a reason to reject Christianity. Here’s the book I recommended to you. Don’t reject Christ just because you find a certain theological viewpoint absurd. Look at the alternatives.
 
But assuming God has some reason for wanting to keep the damned in existence, then in removing their free will, he would be removing their ability to repent. At the very least, He would remove their ability to worship Him, which is also a sin (Exodus 20:3).
 
IX. “Love me and obey me or I will burn you in eternal conscious pain or obliterate you from existence” is coercion. 
 
Only if God causally determines you to worship Him. God doesn’t force anyone to love Him. Those who choose against Him are sent to Hell, which is eternal separation from Him (see 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). You’re free to make choices. You’re not free from the consequences of those choices.
 
The gun illustration in my post against Calvinism wasn’t very good in retrospect. I’ve since opted to use an illustration of a robot being reprogrammed or of having a mind control helmet put on you. In the gun illustration, you could say “Screw you!” and take the bullet.
 
Also, I don’t think the fires of Hell are literal. Hell is described in The Bible as both a place of fire and darkness. If the fire was literal, how could there be darkness? So, no, people are not “burned alive” even on the eternal conscious torment view.
 
Transworld Depravity 
 
This is where you make a mistake. You say “This is an absurd and weak argument against the evidential problem of evil” but it was never meant to take on the evidential version. This version is aimed at the logical version. You can’t take an argument to task for not succeeding in doing something it was never designed to succeed at. You might as well indict The Kalam Cosmological Argument for not establishing the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.
 

You wrote “In the first place we observe that when people have a great deal of power to create things they want and want something really badly it is very rare that they so drastically fail. The more the result fails to conform to what a powerful person supposedly wants to happen the stronger the evidence that the person doesn’t really want it. The more a very powerful and very intelligent government fails at a simple task of reducing a certain type of drug use for example, the more evidence we have that the government doesn’t really want it. “ — God cannot force someone to freely do something. That is a contradiction in terms and not even God can do the logically impossible.3 If all feasible worlds God has available to him, people would exercise their free will to do bad, then it is simply the case that God cannot, no matter how badly He wants to, actualize a world in which libertarian free creatures always freely choose to do the right thing. Now, of course, God could create a world in which everyone does the right thing, but only if He forces them or determines them to, which would rule out free will, which would rule out the possibility of love, moral accountability, and rationality.

If it is true that all feasible worlds of libertarian free creatures have some that go wrong, then God has a choice; either create one of these worlds and ensure that whenever something bad occurs, something good can come out of, or He can create a puppet world in which no one has any choice but to obey Him. If He chooses the latter, you have a world without sin, but you also have a world without love. If He chooses the former, you have a world with love, but you also have a world with sin. In either case, God is going to have to make a trade-off. Would it really be loving for God to create a world where love is impossible?

You said “And to make matters even worse I do know that according to the Bible transworld depravity is false. If transworld depravity is true what about all of the angels who freely choose not to fall? (2/3 of them to be specific).” — How does the fact that only some of the angels rebelled disprove Transworld Depravity? Are you under the impression that Transworld Depravity means that any feasible world God has available to him, every individual falls into sin? That’s not what TD is. It could still be the case that any world God could create, some of the angels would rebel and others would not.  Perhaps different angels would have partaken in the rebellion in different worlds.

You said “And further why would God create a world where Billions of people interact? Why not create however many worlds he wants with each one containing only 10 people who interact together? He could only create the ones who will behave properly and freely choose to never sin.” — Maybe he could. But perhaps these worlds would have overriding deficiencies that would make them less preferable to God. Maybe God wants a large family instead of a tiny one. Maybe that’s why he told Adam and Eve “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the Earth.” (Genesis 1:28).

Let me remind you that The Free Will Defense is aimed at the logical version, not the evidential version.

Conclusion

Neither the logical nor the evidential versions of the problem of evil are in good shape. There are a couple of major thinking missteps you’ve made in entire your critique. First of all, you’ve made the mistake of treating The Free Will Defense in isolation from the other defenses I’ve given against the evidential problem of evil, such as

(1) the fact that we are not in a position to make a judgment that God probably has no good reason for permitting the sufferings we observe given our cognitive limitations,

(2)  that the various arguments for God’s existence cause the scales of probability to tip overwhelmingly in God’s favor (particularly the Moral and Ontological Arguments), for The Moral Argument shows that there really is no such thing as The Problem Of Evil unless God exists, and the Modal Ontological Argument only requires that A Maximally Great Being be logically possible to succeed.

and (3) The Bible teaches certain doctrines that make God and suffering more probable (I. God’s primary purpose for us is not happiness in this life, but knowledge of Himself. God uses suffering to bring many people into the Kingdom. II. That suffering often times plays a crucial role in sanctification, III. that God will one day do away with evil and suffering).

I would argue that insofar as the evidential version is concerned, these responses are far more important and much stronger, especially when you consider them together rather than considering them in isolation. In your defense of the evidential version of the problem of evil, you hardly engaged with these points at all.

Secondly, apart from treating The Free Will Defense in isolation from other responses I have given in my published work on the Problem Of Evil, you’ve also made the mistake in taking The Free Will Defense to task for not refuting the evidential version of the problem of evil. It was never designed to do that. It was designed to take down the premise in the logical version of the argument which says “If God is all-powerful, He can create any kind of world He wants”.

 
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NOTES
 
1: William Lane Craig, “On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision”, Chapter 7, page 158, David C Cook.
 

2: Tim Stratton said this in his blog post “Does True Love Require Libertarian Free Will? A Response To Greg Koukl” — https://freethinkingministries.com/does-true-love-require-libertarian-free-will-a-response-to-greg-koukl/

3: “His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power. If you choose to say, ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it,’ you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words, ‘God can.’ It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain,

If you have any questions about Christian theology or apologetics, send Mr. Minton an E-mail at CerebralFaith@Gmail.com. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or Non-Christian, whether your question is about doubts you’re having or about something you read in The Bible that confused you. Send your question in, whatever it may be, and Mr. Minton will respond in a blog post just like this one. 

References

1. because there will be no marriage, see Matthew 22:23-30
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