Why I don’t find keiths’s critique of Plantinga’s Free Will Defense convincing

In a recent post, keiths criticizes Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will theodicy, which (very briefly) goes as follows:

…[S]ome 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, Alvin (1967). God and Other Minds. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. Pages 166-167.)

Keiths responds:

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.

There are several things wrong with this reply.

What traditional Christians believe about human souls

First, according to traditional Christian theology, God doesn’t create each person. Rather, God creates each person’s soul, which is spiritual and immortal, and which animates that person’s body. The only human persons created by God were those whose bodies were formed by God – i.e. Adam and Eve, according to the Biblical account.

Second, there are no inherent differences between individual human souls, as such. To say otherwise is tantamount to saying that there are different types of souls – which is what racists and sexists implicitly assume when they declare that people come in different types, and that some types are superior to others. The soul that God infused into me at my conception was in no way distinct from the one He infused into keiths, at his conception. Had there been any inherent differences between our souls at conception, then we would no longer be the same kind of being – namely, a human being. Individuals sharing the same kind of form are only distinguishable because they are composed of different matter. Hence the differences between human individuals are only made possible by the fact that they have distinct bodies. That doesn’t mean that the only differences between us are physical differences; rather, what it means is that human souls, per se, are not distinct from one another.

Third, souls do not pre-exist the bodies they animate; for if they did, then they could not be the forms of those bodies: at best, their mode of union with the body would be merely an external one, as in Cartesian dualism, which envisages the human soul as moving the body, whenever someone performs a voluntary movement, in a manner similar to the way in which a pilot moves the controls of an airplane. In fact, given that the soul is the form of the human body, we cannot speak of it being even logically (let alone temporally) prior to the body it animates. Even to speak of a soul as being “infused” into a body is a little misleading, as it conjures up the image of God inserting a soul which He has already made into a body which is waiting for it. The human soul is created by God simultaneously with the generation of the human body.

Thus it makes no sense to imagine that soul X, which God is about to create and “infuse” into Tom’s body at his conception, would choose to commit evil acts (such as acts of rape) under certain circumstances, whereas soul Y, which God is about to create and “infuse” into Sam’s body, would never choose to harm anyone. At conception, there is nothing to distinguish soul X from soul Y, apart from the fact that they inform different bodies.

Real me and possible me

Additionally, Keiths’s thought experiment assumes that it is meaningful to speak of God knowing what choices an uncreated person would make. Certainly, there have indeed been some theologians (notably, the Molinists in the sixteenth century) who would have agreed with keiths on this point. On the Molinist account, God’s knowledge of my free choices is not only temporally, but logically prior to my existence as a human being, and hence, logically prior to God’s act of creating my soul. To which I reply: it makes no sense to speak of what I would do in a given situation (e.g. what I would do if I were presented with an opportunity to steal), unless I actually exist in the first place. There is no “possible me,” waiting to be created; there is just “real me.”

Perhaps keiths might respond as follows. On the traditional Christian view, God made the first human beings: not just their souls but their bodies, as well. (This could still be the case even if their bodies were formed via an evolutionary process, provided that this evolution was God-guided: this would suffice to make God responsible for the formation of their bodies.) Now, let’s consider the first two human beings, Adam and Eve. (It makes no difference, for the purposes of this illustration, whether there were only two human beings in the beginning, as traditionally supposed, or more than 1,000, as human geneticists currently maintain.) Then if God is omniscient, presumably He must know everything that Adam and Eve will do – including which future sperm cells of Adam’s will fertilize which future ova of Eve’s. Since each human’s individuality is grounded in his/her body’s having been generated from this sperm cell and that ovum, then God, in creating Adam and Eve, automatically knows who their descendants will be. Moreover, He must know what each of these descendants will choose to do. All of this knowledge is available to God, simply by virtue of His deciding to create Adam and Eve. Thus it seems that God’s knowledge of my choices is logically prior to His act of creating my soul, after all.

Keiths might also urge that if God’s knowledge of my free choices is logically prior to His act of creating my soul, then there is no good reason why His knowledge of Adam and Eve’s free choices could not be logically prior to His decision to create them. That being the case, God could then compare different possible scenarios: He knows that if He creates Adam and Eve, then some of their descendants would turn out to be rapists; whereas if He creates possible individuals Albert and Elizabeth instead, then none of their descendants will be rapists. Thus God is perfectly able to prevent rape (or any other kind of sin), without violating human freedom, simply by choosing to create the right people in the first place.

The flaw in the above argument is that it assumes that God’s knowledge of our choices (and of Adam and Eve’s choices) is logically prior to those choices. I see absolutely no reason why a believer in Divine omniscience should make this assumption. On the Boethian view of Divine foreknowledge, for instance, God is like a watcher on a high hill: He timelessly knows everything that we choose to do, but His knowledge is logically subsequent to the choices we make. In other words, God is timelessly informed by His human creatures, because He freely and timelessly chooses to rely on His creatures for His knowledge of what they do. On this account, God’s knowledge of my choices is not automatically available to Him, simply by virtue of His deciding to create Adam and Eve; rather, it is derived from my choices themselves – choices which God knows about only because I make them.

What’s wrong with Molinism

Keiths may respond that I have not discredited Molinism; all I have shown is that it may not hold, as there is a rival account of Divine foreknowledge (the Boethian account) which preserves libertarian free will (which predestinationism does not). However, I would argue that if Molinism is true, people are no freer than they would be under Universal Predestination. For if (as Molinism maintains) it is true that for any choice that I actually make in a given situation, that was the choice I would have made in that situation, then there is no meaningful sense in which I could have chosen otherwise in that situation. The Molinist may reply that God does not cause my choice; but I would argue that in fact, by knowingly choosing to create a world, whose built-in specifications include the fact that I will make that choice, then He does in fact cause my choice. And if God, in choosing which possible world He should actualize, selects one in which He knows certain individuals will be damned because of decisions that they would make (including acts of rape), then God has already ensured the damnation of those individuals, simply by deciding to create that world. Consequently, if these people are damned for their bad choices in this world, then it seems to me that they are no more responsible for their own damnation than they would be if Universal Predestination were true.

Back to Boethius

What I am suggesting, then, is that if all (or most) human beings have libertarian free will, then God’s foreknowledge of their past, present and future choices must be logically subsequent to their making those choices. That means we must embrace either a Boethian account, in which God is timelessly made aware of our choices, or an omnitemporal account, in which God is not outside time but present at all points in space and time, and is thereby able to keep tabs on everything that happens in the cosmos.

And that brings me to my final criticism of keiths’s thought experiment: I would argue that it ascribes an exaggerated (and I would say, logically absurd) form of omniscience to God. There is no good theological reason why we should ascribe to God a knowledge not only of all of the choices that every actual individual would make, but also all of the choices that every possible individual would make. And there is no good reason why God’s knowledge of our choices should be logically prior to those choices.

I wrote a little essay exploring the difficulties associated with the rival explanations of Divine foreknowledge and human free will, back in 2008. Readers may view it here. In my essay, I discuss (and answer) several objections to the Boethian view.

Postscript

Before I conclude this post, I’d just like to make a few quick observations.

First, it turns out (oddly enough) that Plantinga himself is a Molinist. If I am right, then he is inconsistent in adopting this view of Divine foreknowledge: he should be a Boethian, instead. Had keiths chosen to attack him on this point, his criticism would have been a very telling one.

Second, many Christians believe that at least some human individuals are genuinely free to choose between various goods, but are infallibly prevented by God’s grace from choosing moral evil, or at least, from choosing to damn themselves. Thus Catholics believe that by God’s grace, the Virgin Mary was preserved from sin; and some Protestants believe that the individuals who are “born again” are infallibly elected by God. If they are right, then the question arises: why didn’t God make all of us like that? My reply is that this objection assumes that God’s act of predestining someone to eternal salvation does not in any way determine who that person is. If God’s act of specially electing a saint to glory also determines that individual’s personal identity, then I cannot wish myself to have been elected like that, without wishing myself to have been someone else, which is metaphysically incoherent. My personal identity as a human being is the result of my having had the parents I had; but for Jesus’ mother Mary, it is different. Being the daughter of Joachim and Anne is not what constitutes her personal identity; on a Catholic view, what makes her who she is is the fact of her being the Mother of God. That is who she is. God planned it that way. God did not plan me that way, but I have no right to complain. I am who I am, and I am glad to be alive.

Third, I would like to conclude by noting that on the Judeo-Christian view, each and every human person is a being of infinite and irreplaceable value. Thus it would be enough for a defender of Divine goodness, when asked why God tolerates evil acts (such as acts of rape) to point out that there are some human individuals who would never have come into existence, were it not for these evil acts having been performed. Of course, God is under no obligation to create these individuals (or rather, their souls); but equally, He is under no obligation to create some other individuals, instead of them. The mere fact that allowing evil acts to happen enables certain persons to come into existence who would not exist otherwise seems (to my mind) to be a sufficient justification for God’s allowing those acts. Or is it?

What do readers think?

131 Replies to “Why I don’t find keiths’s critique of Plantinga’s Free Will Defense convincing”

  1. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: You have some jacked up ideas about God.
    No wonder you have such trouble acknowledging him as God

    quote:

    Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
    (1Co 12:27)

    end quote:

    then there is this

    quote:

    “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
    Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.
    Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
    Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.
    Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body.
    Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

    end quote

    Teresa of Ávila

    peace

    Fwiw, fifth, if you’re looking for a tennis player, on me, you shouldn’t depend.

  2. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    All,

    Please take some time to watch this. It does a good job of explaining the Christian position on evil and suffering and God.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h5yjhVX8sic

    it’s a little long but stick with it there is a reward at the end

    peace

  3. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    walto: Me and Murray?

    While you and Murray are exceptions ,just not in that way.

  4. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: All humans are evil doers.

    Little babies can’t even hold up their heads, it is hard to see what evil they could do.

  5. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: Could God create a person who is just like God? So why didn’t He?

    He did,Jesus

  6. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: Think about it,

    If humans are not God and if they live forever then eventually if left to their own own devices at some point we would expect them to do something that God would not do.

    We call things that God would not do evil

    Not sure God would ride a bicycle listening to His iPod wishing his knees didn’t hurt , is that a thing we call evil?

  7. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Woodbine:

    I’d never heard of this particular Teresa [of Avila] before. Had a look at her Wiki entry….

    I know by frequent experience that there is nothing which puts the devils to flight like holy water.

    Yeah, she’s clearly firing on all cylinders.

    Freud would have had a field day with her. She wrote:

    I would see beside me, on my left hand, an angel in bodily form … He was not tall, but short, and very beautiful, his face so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest types of angel who seem to be all afire … In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with it and he left me completely afire with a great love for God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by the intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one’s soul be content with anything less than God. It is not bodily pain, but spiritual, though the body has a share in it — indeed, a great share.

  8. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths, to newton:

    No, his claim is stronger than that. He actually disputes my claim that God could create people who would freely abstain from evil.

    fifth:

    Where in the world did you get that idea?

    From what you wrote, of course.

    I said:

    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.

    You disagreed, stating:

    If God chose not to create anyone inclined to do evil no one other than God would ever exist.

  9. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    fifth:

    We call things that God would not do evil

    Woodbine:

    Tennis = EVIL

    fifth:

    Why exactly would God not do tennis?

    That’s sig-worthy. If only we had sigs here. 🙁

  10. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung,

    All humans are evil doers.

    keiths likes to focus on individual acts, while the Biblical view is that the act is merely an outward manifestation of something else.

    I had that in mind when I wrote this:

    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.

    [Emphasis added]

    The same idea applies more generally, of course.

  11. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Vincent,

    What I am suggesting, then, is that if all (or most) human beings have libertarian free will, then God’s foreknowledge of their past, present and future choices must be logically subsequent to their making those choices. That means we must embrace either a Boethian account, in which God is timelessly made aware of our choices, or an omnitemporal account, in which God is not outside time but present at all points in space and time, and is thereby able to keep tabs on everything that happens in the cosmos.

    A related issue came up four years ago:

    Mung has apparently given up on trying to defend his God, but vjtorley addresses one aspect of the problem of evil in his latest post at UD (which clocks in at an amazing, record-setting 20,350 words):

    One big advantage of the Boethian account over is that it acquits God of all responsibility for the damnation of any human being. If some people are damned because of the choices they have made, then God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking (not temporally, as God is outside time). All He does is reluctantly acquiesce in the decisions that wicked people make at the end of their lives, to eternally separate ourselves from him. God doesn’t force Himself on people; if people want to be left alone, then in the end, He’ll grant them their wish.

    I don’t see why vjtorley thinks this solves the problem. Here’s the key sentence:

    If some people are damned because of the choices they have made, then God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking (not temporally, as God is outside time).

    If God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking, then he doesn’t know it beforehand, logically speaking. If so, then God is not omniscient, logically speaking. Is vjtorley willing to concede that?

    If not, then the problem of evil remains. God knows that certain people will be damned before he creates them, logically speaking. He could prevent this by choosing not to create them, yet he forges ahead. He is thus responsible for their damnation.

  12. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: Little babies can’t even hold up their heads, it is hard to see what evil they could do.

    1) Is physical strength necessary to do evil in your opinion?
    2) It’s not always about the evil we can do today it’s sometimes it’s about the evil we will do if we get the chance. ISIS must be stopped not just it has done bad things but because it will do much worse if nobody does anything to prevent it

    peace

  13. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: He did,Jesus

    God did not create Jesus

    Jesus was God

    peace

  14. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: Not sure God would ride a bicycle listening to His iPod wishing his knees didn’t hurt

    why not??

    quote:

    Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
    (Heb 2:14-17)

    end quote:

    peace

  15. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: God did not create Jesus

    Jesus was God

    peace

    Created the body, no?

  16. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: why not??

    quote:

    Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
    (Heb 2:14-17)

    end quote:

    peace

    He’s like us. He’s not like us. Whatever works.

  17. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: why not??

    Lack of body might be a hindrance. Though the thought of God suffering because of His design is a bit comforting.

  18. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    Hi keiths,

    Got to head off to work in about 4 hours, but before I get some shut-eye, I’d just like to address your question:

    If God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking, then he doesn’t know it beforehand, logically speaking. If so, then God is not omniscient, logically speaking. Is vjtorley willing to concede that?

    Short answer: no. There never is a time t at which God does not know who is damned. God is of course outside time, and He knows timelessly who is saved and who is damned. My statement that God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking, simply means that He is timelessly informed by the choices we make. He does not determine them: rather, they make Him (timelessly) aware of what we have chosen. The fact that God is dependent on creatures for this information does not negate His omniscience or His sovereignty: after all, it is God who chooses to make Himself dependent on His free creatures for His knowledge of their free choices. So I see no problem here.

  19. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: 1) Is physical strength necessary to do evil in your opinion?
    2) It’s not always about the evil we can do today it’s sometimes it’s about the evil we will do if we get the chance. ISIS must be stopped not just it has done bad things but because it will do much worse if nobody does anything to prevent it

    1)Yes fifth little babies are incapable of evil. Go ahead give me two examples of week old babies committing evil.

    2) agree, mung said, “all men are evil doers “, week old babies have done no evil.

    I agree religious fanatics are dangerous, true believers are capable of horrific acts , they value obedience over reason, are you willing to do evil things for the greater good?

  20. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    Hi keiths,

    You also write: “a perfectly good God will prefer a world that is better to one that is worse.” I’ll quickly respond to this.

    First, as Aquinas pointed out, there is no best possible world, because for any possible world, you can always think of a way to add more bells and whistles to it. (See http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1025.htm#article6 .)

    Second, you might have a better case if you were to argue that God should at least make a world free from moral evil, provided that this world contains rational creatures. I have argued that even if He did so, these creatures would not possess the power to choose between good and evil. In that respect, they would lack libertarian freedom.

    Third, I should also point out that there are certain perfections of God (e.g. mercy) which are better manifested in a world in which at some stage, rational creatures are free to choose between good and evil. God might want to create such a world, despite all its possible moral evils, simply because that world reveals more of God’s character.

  21. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    newton: are you willing to do evil things for the greater good?

    No, it’s not evil if it results in a greater good.

    It’s evil to give a child a painful vaccination to satisfy some sick fantasy
    It’s not evil to give a child a painful vaccination to prevent him from getting polio.

    peace

  22. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Vincent,

    Got to head off to work in about 4 hours, but before I get some shut-eye…

    I hope that’s not a typical sleep budget for you!

    …I’d just like to address your question:

    If God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking, then he doesn’t know it beforehand, logically speaking. If so, then God is not omniscient, logically speaking. Is vjtorley willing to concede that?

    Short answer: no. There never is a time t at which God does not know who is damned.

    We aren’t talking about time. Here’s what you wrote, again:

    If some people are damned because of the choices they have made, then God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking (not temporally, as God is outside time).

    If God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking, as you claim, then he doesn’t know it before the fact, logically speaking. Therefore he is not omnsicient before the fact, logically speaking.

    Just to make your mistake clear, you are taking the position that God both timelessly knows and timelessly doesn’t know who is damned. That’s incoherent.

    If knowledge changes “after the fact, logically speaking”, then it isn’t timeless knowledge. You have inadvertently imported time into God’s timeless realm.

  23. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths: He could prevent this by choosing not to create them, yet he forges ahead. He is thus responsible for their damnation.

    Yet not all are damned and perhaps none are damned. This is good news, even for atheists. 🙂

  24. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths: If God only knows this after the fact, logically speaking, as you claim, then he doesn’t know it before the fact, logically speaking. Therefore he is not omnsicient before the fact, logically speaking.

    It sounds like you’re saying God ought to be able to peer into the future. Omniscience only requires knowing all that can be known. It doesn’t demand knowing what can’t be known, that would be absurd.

    Do you have a problem with a God that can’t know what can’t be known?

  25. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: It sounds like you’re saying God ought to be able to peer into the future. Omniscience only requires knowing all that can be known. It doesn’t demand knowing what can’t be known, that would be absurd.

    You are dealing with an entity outside of time, He could know everything that could ever be known by however omniscience works. Ad hockey,ad hockey, ad infinitum hockey

  26. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: Yet not all are damned and perhaps none are damned. This is good news, even for atheists.

    In heaven there is no beer.
    That’s why we drink it here (Right Here!)
    and when we’re gone from here,
    our friends will be drinking all our beer!

  27. newton
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: No, it’s not evil if it results in a greater good.

    Isn’t that one of the 8 beautitudes?

    Blessed is he who commits evil for the greater good, for he can justify any deed

    once again apologies, I am deplorable in my inability to stay on whatever the topic of this thread is.

  28. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Vincent:

    You also write: “a perfectly good God will prefer a world that is better to one that is worse.” I’ll quickly respond to this.

    First, as Aquinas pointed out, there is no best possible world, because for any possible world, you can always think of a way to add more bells and whistles to it. (See http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1025.htm#article6 .)

    If true, that creates more problems for the theist than it solves. It implies that God should be happy with any world, no matter how crappy. The amount of good or evil should make no difference whatsoever to him — there will always be a better world than the one he is creating. He’s always falling short.

    Second, you might have a better case if you were to argue that God should at least make a world free from moral evil, provided that this world contains rational creatures.

    That is what I’m arguing. I’m saying that God, by taking advantage of his omniscience, could create those who would freely refrain from evil while avoiding the creation of those who would go on to commit it.

    I have argued that even if He did so, these creatures would not possess the power to choose between good and evil. In that respect, they would lack libertarian freedom.

    If a person who always chooses the good necessarily lacks libertarian freedom, then so does God. Do you really want to go there?

    Third, I should also point out that there are certain perfections of God (e.g. mercy) which are better manifested in a world in which at some stage, rational creatures are free to choose between good and evil. God might want to create such a world, despite all its possible moral evils, simply because that world reveals more of God’s character.

    In which case he is not morally perfect, since he is willing to sacrifice morality in exchange for show.

  29. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    Hi keiths,

    Thank you for your responses. By the way, four hours is not my typical sleep budget, although a few years ago, it was.

    You wrote:

    If God only knows this [i.e. who is damned and who isn’t – VJT] after the fact, logically speaking, as you claim, then he doesn’t know it before the fact, logically speaking. Therefore he is not omnsicient before the fact, logically speaking.

    Just to make your mistake clear, you are taking the position that God both timelessly knows and timelessly doesn’t know who is damned. That’s incoherent.

    If knowledge changes “after the fact, logically speaking”, then it isn’t timeless knowledge.

    My reply: God’s knowledge is timeless knowledge, but it’s derived knowledge. It doesn’t change after the fact; it only seems that way from our time-bound perspective. But it is true that God’s knowledge after the fact is different from what it was before the fact. God is, as it were, simultaneously looking at the screen corresponding to time t-1 (before I make a choice), as well as the screen corresponding to time t, when I make it. God only knows my choice as a result of looking at the second screen. God cannot use that information to guide His decisions about what to do at times earlier than t. He could, if He wanted, communicate what He knows about time t to an individual at time t-1 (provided that what He communicates does not relate to that individual’s libertarian free choice at time t), but He cannot use information about people’s choices at time t to help him decide whether to create those individuals at an earlier time.

    You also wrote:

    If a person who always chooses the good necessarily lacks libertarian freedom, then so does God. Do you really want to go there?

    Such a person may possess libertarian freedom, but lack the freedom to choose between good and evil. As I’ve explained above, Catholics believe the Virgin Mary was one such person, being preserved from sin throughout her life by the grace of God. There may well have been other such individuals in history – e.g. Enoch, Melchizidek or perhaps Joseph.

    Finally, you write that a God who decides to create a world in which there are rational individuals who possess the freedom to choose between good and evil, simply because that world reveals more of God’s character, “is not morally perfect, since he is willing to sacrifice morality in exchange for show.” But let’s not forget: in the end, good triumphs in any cosmos God chooses to make.

    The question you raise of whether “God should be happy with any world, no matter how crappy” is a substantive one. It deserves a post in its own right, but I’ll have to think about that one for a while. Cheers.

  30. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Vincent,

    By the way, four hours is not my typical sleep budget, although a few years ago, it was.

    I’m relieved to hear that. 🙂

    keiths:

    If knowledge changes “after the fact, logically speaking”, then it isn’t timeless knowledge.

    Vincent:

    God’s knowledge is timeless knowledge, but it’s derived knowledge. It doesn’t change after the fact; it only seems that way from our time-bound perspective. But it is true that God’s knowledge after the fact is different from what it was before the fact. God is, as it were, simultaneously looking at the screen corresponding to time t-1 (before I make a choice), as well as the screen corresponding to time t, when I make it. God only knows my choice as a result of looking at the second screen. God cannot use that information to guide His decisions about what to do at times earlier than t.

    You’re still inadvertently sneaking time, or something very much like it, into God’s timeless realm. The giveaway is your use of the phrases “before the fact” and “after the fact”.

    Appending the words “logically speaking” doesn’t change that. There is still a definite sequence, and it’s tied to the sequence of events within time, as you describe it. You’re calling God “timeless”, but the restrictions you’re placing on him are exactly those that would apply if he were temporal.

    keiths:

    If a person who always chooses the good necessarily lacks libertarian freedom, then so does God. Do you really want to go there?

    Vincent:

    Such a person may possess libertarian freedom, but lack the freedom to choose between good and evil. As I’ve explained above, Catholics believe the Virgin Mary was one such person, being preserved from sin throughout her life by the grace of God. There may well have been other such individuals in history – e.g. Enoch, Melchizidek or perhaps Joseph.

    If Mary was “preserved from sin” by being denied the freedom to choose evil, then she is not the kind of person that I’m talking about in my scenario. The people in my scenario are people who have the freedom to choose evil but freely choose the good in all cases.

    If you want to assert that this isn’t possible, you’ll have to explain how God manages to do it. (Assuming that you think he has this freedom. If he doesn’t, is he really omnipotent? And if even he can’t have that kind of freedom, is it really so important that we do? Is he living vicariously through us?)

    Finally, you write that a God who decides to create a world in which there are rational individuals who possess the freedom to choose between good and evil, simply because that world reveals more of God’s character, “is not morally perfect, since he is willing to sacrifice morality in exchange for show.” But let’s not forget: in the end, good triumphs in any cosmos God chooses to make.

    Wouldn’t a cosmos in which good triumphs all the time be morally superior to one in which good only triumphs in the end? The latter might be more dramatic, but it isn’t morally superior.

    The question you raise of whether “God should be happy with any world, no matter how crappy” is a substantive one. It deserves a post in its own right, but I’ll have to think about that one for a while.

    I’ll look forward to hearing what you have to say.

  31. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    Hi keiths,

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    You’re calling God “timeless”, but the restrictions you’re placing on him are exactly those that would apply if he were temporal.

    Not quite. As I explained above, it’s still possible for God to transfer information which He knows about future events to the present or past. He could, for instance, record it all in a book and keep it sealed from the people whose choices He observes (as in the prophecies of Daniel). What is impossible, however, is that God use information which is logically subsequent to His act of creating to guide His choices in the act of creation: He can’t decide not to create Adam after all, because He sees that Adam would sin. As I explained earlier, such knowledge presupposes that Adam exists, and that God has decided to create him – which in this case He hasn’t.

    You also write:

    If Mary was “preserved from sin” by being denied the freedom to choose evil, then she is not the kind of person that I’m talking about in my scenario. The people in my scenario are people who have the freedom to choose evil but freely choose the good in all cases.

    If you want to assert that this isn’t possible, you’ll have to explain how God manages to do it. (Assuming that you think he has this freedom. If he doesn’t, is he really omnipotent? And if even he can’t have that kind of freedom, is it really so important that we do? Is he living vicariously through us?)

    There is nothing impossible about the existence of people who have the freedom to choose evil but freely choose the good in all cases. What is impossible is God making and guaranteeing the existence of such people. A divinely guaranteed choice of the good, as opposed to evil, is not a free choice between good and evil, because God makes it impossible that the person choose evil. The person may still have the freedom to choose between various goods, but he/she lacks the freedom to choose between good and evil.

    God does not possess the freedom to choose between good and evil, because such a freedom would mean that God is capable of doing wrong, which is incompatible with divine perfection. “In that case, why do we possess such freedom?” you may ask. In the first place, such a freedom is perfectly compatible with being human, although it is not a requirement for being human. In the second place, as I’ve argued previously, if I lacked such freedom, I wouldn’t be “me” anymore: I’d be someone else. I cannot coherently wish myself to be someone else. In the third place, while there is no need (as far as I can tell) for God to make a world in which human beings possess the freedom to choose between good and evil, such a world would (as I’ve argued) reveal more about God than a world in which moral evil was ruled out from the get-go.

    What I’m saying here is that although a world in which moral evil is ruled out from the start may be better than a world where it is permitted to exist, it may be better for God to make a world in which moral evil is permitted to exist than for God to make a world where it is ruled out. And that should suffice to answer your last question:

    Wouldn’t a cosmos in which good triumphs all the time be morally superior to one in which good only triumphs in the end?

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