A critique of Plantinga’s ‘Free Will Defense’

The ‘problem of evil’ is a perpetual thorn in the side of the omnitheist — that is, someone who believes in an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God. For if God is perfectly good and all-powerful, why does he allow so much evil in the world? He’s powerful enough to eradicate it; and if he’s perfectly good, he should want to eradicate it. So why doesn’t he?

One response, known as the ‘Free Will Defense’, comes from Alvin Plantinga:

A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create free creatures, but He can’t cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren’t significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can’t give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough, some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God’s omnipotence nor against his goodness: for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.

Plantinga’s position has multiple problems and shortcomings, which we’ll no doubt end up discussing in the comment thread, but for now I want to present an argument against the Free Will Defense that is similar to an argument I’ve been making in the purpose of theistic evolution thread.

Let’s assume for the purposes of this OP that libertarian free will exists and that humans possess it. (It’s actually incoherent and therefore impossible, but that’s a separate topic.)

Here’s how I presented the argument back in 2012, in a comment addressed to Mung:

You haven’t thought this through. An omniscient and omnipotent God could prevent rapes from happening, and he could even prevent the desire to rape from happening, all without controlling anyone’s thoughts and desires.

Here’s how it would work. Suppose God creates each person with free will, so that everything he or she does during life is freely chosen. If God is omniscient, he knows what all of those choices will be before the person is even created. If God simply chooses not to create the people who will go on to commit rape (or even experience the desire to commit rape), then he has prevented those things from happening without depriving anyone of their free will.

If you object that selective creation would deprive the uncreated people of their free will, then you run into a big problem: There are already zillions of uncreated people for every person who is actually born. If leaving a person uncreated violates his or her free will, then God is already massively guilty of denying free will to zillions of uncreated people. The objection thus undermines the assumption that free will is important to God, which is the basis for the whole argument in the first place!

805 thoughts on “A critique of Plantinga’s ‘Free Will Defense’”

  1. fifthmonarchyman

    newton: So living is the opposite of what we are all doing from the minute we are born till we are mostly dead.

    The entire focus of our existence is our effort to be rid of the source of life (God). It’s what we want more than anything and we will do what ever it takes to achieve that goal.

    It’s called the doctrine of Total depravity,

    Death is simply God granting our twisted wish

    peace

  2. fifthmonarchyman

    newton: Why bring up the second law?

    Because we are talking about life and death

    life is nothing but God graciously compensating for the increase in entropy to grant us existence. And death is simply his letting nature take it’s natural course.

    peace

  3. waltowalto

    fifthmonarchyman: The entire focus of our existence is our effort to be rid of the source of life (God). It’s what we want more than anything and we will do what ever it takes to achieve that goal.

    It’s called the doctrine of Total depravity,

    Death is simply God granting our twisted wish

    peace

    How needy you are, FMM. You are certainly a lamb of god. A whinging child.

  4. fifthmonarchyman

    walto: Haha. All of the credit, none of the blame. Excellent.

    Yes, that is because he is all good. He offers life we refuse it
    The fault all ours

    walto: How needy you are, FMM. You are certainly a lamb of god. A whinging child.

    You need to expound on this a bit. I’m not whinging about anything I’m just stating the facts as I see it.

    I am needy, because I am a speck.
    I need God for everything, for life and breath and knowledge.

    For those things I’m grateful. To not be grateful would be pretty much the epitome of childishness,

    peace

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