Reading Time: 3 minutes By Dean Hochman from Overland Park, Kansas, U.S. (arrows) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Free Will Theodicy is a defensive tactic used by apologists to at least partly rebut the problem of Evil issue: why is there so much suffering in the world given an OmniGod? The theodicy states that the corollary of giving humans the wonderful gift of free will is that they will, necessarily so (given human nature), make bad decisions. They will choose badly, and this results in pain and suffering. The suffering is a necessary by-product of the good of free will.

But is this the case?

Well, there are two points to make in reply to this claim.

1. Heaven

If heaven exists, then, it is normally argued, there is no pain of suffering therein, and yet, it is also argued, humans must live with the usage of free will. If there is no free will in heaven, and heaven is supposed to be the place where humans exist in some kind of perfection, then free will can’t be all that and a bag of chips. For free will to be used as a theodicy, it is consequential in its application: the overriding benefit of free will is used to outweigh the evil and suffering that comes with it (i.e., the bad choices resultant from the free will). If it is such a beneficial and great-making thing, then it must exist in heaven. It can be argued that God must have it, too. But if God has free will, and he is perfect, he can only choose the most perfect, most loving things; and so, I have argued, God cannot have free will! But I digress.

Essentially, heaven must exist with both free will and a lack of suffering and evil. If it can up there, why can it not be done down here?

Furthermore, as I have argued here and in my book The Problem with “God”: Skeptical Theism under the Spotlight, it is surely remiss of God not, then, to create only heaven. God should create only those who he knows (in advance as he knows counterfactuals) will freely come to love him, and create earth as it is in heaven, to quote, you know, a prayer about his will.

Which leads me on to:

2. Logical Necessity

The Free Will Theodicy seems to want to argue that free will logically necessitates evil decisions being made, but this does not appear to be the case. It is not logically necessary that humans will choose badly every single time. It is very probable that they will. But you could envisage a group of people who could possibly choose benignly every single time. The flipside would be that choosing morally positively every time is a logical impossibility, not just an inductive probability. What kind of creation is that whereby God has designed us to fail no matter what? There seems to be  two-horned dilemma here for the believer. Either we are designed and created such that it is logically impossible for us to choose well every time, or God has chosen those of us when creating who would just happen to choose badly. Thus God chooses to select people who will cause pain and suffering to come about due to their own free will, and stopping it would perhaps go against his will.

The main point is to say, though, that there is nothing logically in the way of such human benign behaviour, as incredibly unlikely as it may be. God could create a set of humans who (given the existence of libertarian free will, which I contest) would just so happen to choose correctly every single time, thus minimising evil and suffering that might come about from poor freely willed choices.TheProblemWithGod

Here endeth the lesson.

For more on this kind of thing, please grab my reasonably priced ebook!

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...