December 27, 2010

Evil & Suffering XIII: A Further Free Will Defense: Alvin Plantinga

Some more tedious theological discussion to build my case concerning Evil & Suffering.

Alvin Plantinga’s views are a 20th century update that essentially piggyback Augustine’s in terms of free will in two previous posts Evil & Suffering X & XI. In a nutshell-Alvin Plantinga states the following:
“It is possible that God, even being omnipotent, could not create a world with free creatures who never choose evil. Furthermore, it is possible that God, even being Omni-benevolent, would desire to create a world which contains evil if moral goodness requires free moral creatures."
He went further in his preliminary form of his theory. Due to its nuanced and accurate response to accusations such as those from people like Mackie it is worth including in this paper in its totality (Meister 133-134).

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 30)
This is to say that mankind cannot truly love and obey God without having an opposite of different choice than loving or obeying God. The only way to be able to pick those choices is if we are absolutely free. It is a freedom that must allow for the existence of failures, evil or suffering. This description is rather trite when dealing with suffering and pain but it will do for the time being.

As for natural evils Plantinga (a Christian) suggests that natural evils such as earthquakes and Hurricanes are the product of demons and Satan and a byproduct of the Fall. Of course his defense of the free will argument is much more thorough than any explanation for natural evils in the world. His views of natural evils being based solely in the supernatural are of course totally disregarded by his secular counterparts and considered and implausible explanation. This is considered a weakness in his overall theodicy by the secular philosophical world but we must remember that Plantinga didn’t originally set out to create a theodicy with his Free Will Defense but rather create a defense to refute atheistic attacks on the compatibility of an omnipotent and all-loving God with the existence of evil, suffering and pain.


Anonymous said...

I have several difficulties with Plantiga's statements that you have quoted, but perhaps I'm only getting a skewed view because I am not aware of his context. But several of his statements make me cringe. (Your Neighbor)

Andy Pierson said...

I believe Plantinga's statements rub Calvinism wrong as he generally does not subscribe to the Calvinist "both" and "and" of God's sovereignty/omnipotence coincident with mankind's freewill but rather an "either" "or" view. Calvinist leaning folks can see how things can be predestination & free will where it is often the case the Arminian's view it was either/or not both.

While I do not hold strictly to Plantinga's views, he has presented sound rebukes to Methodological Naturalistic strawmen arguments. Please keep in mind these statements are defend against the hostile incursion of atheistic ad hominem attacks not to necessarily make doctrinal position statements.

Perhaps we can discuss further soon?

ArtWerx said...

lol, i don't find this subject tedious at all, but quite interesting! but it can't hurt to go look up what Jesus himself said about any subject. just springing to mind on these are the way he rebuked a storm, even walked on water, & indicated true faith can cause a natural feature (mountain) to be uprooted & placed elsewhere. God is in charge of nature, whether or not another spirit can interfere sometimes. and when i read The Lord's story about the wheat & tares, it really helps me make sense of people i encounter in life, who not only don't incline to seeking good, but seem really set in concrete against it. people i can't even find words for when i think i ought to pray for them. to me it doesn't negate the concept of each individual being given a choice, to imagine them having made it before they had an earthly body.

Anonymous said...

ArtWerx, you lost me on the last sentence. How can one make a decision before one exists? (Andy's neighbor)

Andy Pierson said...

You lost me to...You meant God making the choice, right?

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