Evil and Free Will

The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.

An atheist and a Christian waiting for a play to start.

Tara: Crud. I can’t get cell reception in here. I wanted to show you some stuff I tagged on Facebook.

Vanessa: We’re way early. It’s not going to start for more than half an hour. What are we going to do? Do you want to go back in the lobby and see if you can get a signal?

Tara: No, that’s a pain. Well, you bugged me all the way here about wanting to talk about God, so we might as well get it over with. So tell me, what’s God like?

Vanessa: Well, God is all good, all knowing, and all powerful.

Tara: That’s a lot to start with. How can God be all those things when they don’t work together? Either God doesn’t want to do away with evil so He’s not good; God can’t find all evil so He’s not all knowing; or God’s unable to get rid of evil in which case He’s not omnipotent.

Vanessa: That would be true if those were the only possibilities, but they aren’t. In order for God to get rid of all evil, He would have to stop people from sinning. The only way to do that would be to take away people’s free will, but taking away free will would be an even greater evil than stopping people from sinning, so God must allow the lesser evil in order to do the greater good.

Tara: I don’t know if I buy that, but even if I did, it only explains human evils. What about things like diseases and earthquakes? If God is good, loving, and omnipotent, he’d do away with those.

Vanessa: Those aren’t things God created. We’re living in a fallen world. Earth was a perfect paradise without disease or natural disasters until it was corrupted by Adam and Eve’s sin. To prevent that corruption, God would have had to make Adam and Eve without free will, and that would have been evil.

Tara: Does it seem just to you that the punishment for two people eating an apple would be thousands of years of disasters and disease?

Vanessa: First of all, their sin wasn’t eating an apple, it was disobeying God in a world where nobody had ever disobeyed God before. That’s an enormous sin, and it’s only just that the punishment for such a massive sin should itself be massive. Secondly, the punishment wasn’t thousands of years of disaster and disease — it was something that happened immediately after the sin. It isn’t God’s fault that there were repercussions after that.

Tara: It still doesn’t seem right that we should be suffering now for the sins of someone so long ago.

Vanessa: But a lot of current suffering is because people misuse their free will. For example, they build homes where there are earthquake faults and don’t make structures that are strong enough to withstand an earthquake. The majority of people in the world who get seriously ill do so because they aren’t eating right or they live in unhealthy conditions.

Tara: Are you saying that people deserve to be harmed by natural evils because they are poor?

Vanessa: It’s not about having money; it’s about making the right decisions. People can build a better life for themselves or move to a safer, healthier location if they want to. If they don’t, that’s their choice, they’re committing the sin of sloth or pride, and they deserve to be punished for it.

Tara: That sounds pretty heartless.

Vanessa: It’s the opposite of heartless! If there were no free will, then there could be no love. Eliminating disasters would mean eliminating love, so it’s the kindest, most loving thing possible that God does not take that away from us.

Tara: I’m going to have to take your word for that. It still sounds messed up to me.


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Posted on July 19, 2013 at 9:02 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Conversations

One Response

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  1. Written by Bahb
    on July 20, 2013 at 5:17 am
    Reply · Permalink

    If I’m understanding correctly, Vanessa asserts here that the enormity of Adam and Eve’s sin (and thus the severity of God’s punishment) was inversely proportional to the number of people who had done it before. That’s actually an argument I’ve never heard before, so kudos there. Setting aside the seeming capriciousness of meting out punishments on such a seemingly arbitrary basis as the NOVELTY of the sin, wouldn’t this hypothesis mean that God would then be more lenient toward sinners who disobeyed him going forward because by then that particular sin would be ‘old hat’ as it were? Silliness aside, I’ve always thought that ‘free will’ theology is ad-hoc, unbiblical malarkey. Where is it written that God values free will above preventing sin or even suffering? For that matter, what about the many people whose free will he abrogates in the Bible, such as Pharoah?

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