Mackie , and to which the free-will defense responds, is an argument against the existence of the Christian God based on the idea that a logical contradiction exists between four theological tenets in orthodox Christian theology. Specifically, the argument from evil asserts that the following set of propositions are, by themselves, logically inconsistent or contradictory: God is omniscient all-knowing God is omnibenevolent morally perfect There is evil in the world Most orthodox Christian theologians agree with the first three propositions describing God as all-knowing 1 , all-powerful 2 , and morally perfect 3 , and agree with the proposition that there is evil in the world, as described in proposition 4. The logical argument from evil asserts that a God with the attributes 1—3 , must know about all evil, would be capable of preventing it, and as morally perfect would be motivated to do so. With an explicit contradiction ruled out, an atheologian must add premises to the argument for it to succeed.

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In God, Freedom, and Evil Alvin Plantinga AP attempts to rebut the logical problem of evil [i], which posits that the following two propositions [i] are inconsistent: 1 God an omnipotent and perfectly good being exists 2 Evil exists Where is the Inconsistency?

AP spends the first section of the book attempting to demonstrate an inconsistency between the two premises. He argues that 1 and 2 are neither explicitly nor formally [ii] contradictory, and following J.

Mackie decides that the most promising course for the atheologian [iii] is that the propositions are implicitly contradictory. A set of premises is implicitly contradictory if one or more of the terms violates a logically necessary truth. What the atheologian is looking for, then, in pressing the logical problem of evil is a necessary truth which, when added to 1 and 2 above, yields a contradiction.

The Inconsistency Stated Eventually AP settles on the following formulation: 1 God an omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.

Conclusion: Therefore, God does not exist. To put it more simply, God could and would create a world with no evil. But the world has evil. So, there must be no God. The claim is much more ambitious than that. The claim is that, given the existence of evil, it is impossible that God exist.

The argument, if successful, is devastating. On the other hand, rebutting the argument requires showing only that it is possible that God and evil coexist.

And that is what AP aims to show. The purportedly logically necessary truths added were premises 2 and 3. All AP has to show, therefore, is that these added premises are not necessarily true, therefore rebutting the argument. AP addresses 3 briefly, but spends the most of his time on 2. In addressing 3 , AP notes that some goods entail evils.

Consider, for example, the situation in which a person endures pain with patience and gratitude towards God. In arguing that 2 is not logically necessary, AP notes two things. Surely, Voltaire judged, the world we see is not the best world there is.

The basic idea here is that, like numbers, there may simply be no logical maxima. Put differently, any world we imagine might be made better by adding more people, or more planets, or…. So, just as there is no highest number, there may be no best possible world.

AP notes that moral good agents doing the morally right thing seems to imply libertarian freedom—the ability to do good or to do evil. And this surely seems logically possible. Given their contradictory natures, one and only one of the following two propositions is true: Proposition 1 : Curley takes the bribe. Now, both PW1 and PW2 are possible worlds — they contain no contradictions.

So God should be able to create either of the two possible worlds. It is thus up to Curley which proposition is true, and therefore up to Curley which of the two possible worlds God can create.

In constructing the logical problem of evil, the atheologian is implicitly arguing that God cannot do the logically impossible.

If the atheologian is not arguing that, then how on earth is the logical problem of evil supposed to get off the ground? What AP is pressing here is the argument that it is logically impossible to make someone freely do something. And this leads us to our next term: feasible worlds. Return to the Curley example. And it may be that Curley would commit at least one morally wrong act in any possible world in which he was placed.

If so, then there is no feasible world in which God can place Curley and Curley not commit evil. This property AP has dubbed transworld depravity. Further, it may be the case that not only Curley but all persons actual or possible suffer from transworld depravity.

If this is the case, then it is possible that God could not create a world with no moral evil in it. That is, God could have created a world with a better balance of good over evil than this one. Once again, naturally enough, the distinction between possible and feasible worlds comes into play.

In essence, Planting argues that, yes, there are possible worlds with a better balance of moral good over moral evil than the actual world. But it is possible that there are no feasible worlds with a better balance of good over evil. Summary God, Freedom, and Evil is a fascinating book, and one that anyone interested in the problem of evil should read.

As far as I can tell, it does successfully undermine the logical problem of evil. On the other hand, it is a testimony to how fallible human reasoning can be. Once one grasps the logic of the free will defense, it is a bit hard to see how so many generations of admittedly brilliant atheistic thinkers put such confidence in the logical problem of evil.

He is especially interested in epistemology and natural theology. Footnotes [i] Defusing the logical problem of evil is the core but not the whole of the book. AP also takes a very cursory look at three theistic proofs from natural theology the cosmological, teleological, and ontological arguments.

AP judges that the cosmological and teleological arguments are failures, but that the ontological argument holds some promise. If the reader wants to think of the book summary as a scoreboard, it was Atheism logical problem of evil and Theism the ontological argument going toe-to-toe.

The final score was Theism wins over Atheism, 1 to 0. Explicitly contradictory would require that one of the premises is a straight forward denial of the other. AP gives the following example: 5 All men are mortal. This set of premises does not contain an explicit contradiction, but it does contain a formal one. Namely, 5 and 6 entail 8 Socrates is mortal, which contradicts 7.

In one sense, as AP notes, a theodicy is going beyond what is required for rebutting the logical problem of evil. In this case, the greater good is the Atonement. Faith and Philosophy 6.

The discussion would take us too far afield, but I would urge the reader to take a look at the role that libertarian freedom plays not only in moral accountability but also rationality. Libertarian freedom can thus be contrasted with compatibilist views of freedom, which are propounded both by many atheists and some theists e. This should not give even the most orthodox theist pause, as this is simply a self-imposed constraint.

If God gave human beings libertarian freedom, then he chose to accept such a constraint. AP extends the free will defense to embrace fallen angels and points out that they might be responsible for natural disasters.

AP is well aware that this will strike skeptics as absurd, but he points out that as a person mounting a defense all that is needed is that it be possible not even plausible, much less true. Where evil is taken as evidence against, but not a logical, irrefutable disproof of, theism. Apologetics is a non-profit ministry. You can support our work here.


Alvin Plantinga's free-will defense

Shelves: owned At only pages of normal paperback format, God,Freedom, and Evil is a small book, but still fairly heavy reading. This was my first Plantinga book, but it appears to be a condensing and refocusing of some of his larger works as he points readers in search of fuller explanation to these other works in various footnotes. In that regard, this seemed like a good intro to his works, and a guidepost to future research. Therefore, this line of reasoning fails.


God, Freedom, and Evil




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