Dangerous Assumptions: An Evaluation of the Free Will Defence to the Problem of Evil – Contents and Introduction

Contents

 

Post 2 – Part 1: The Form of the Arguments

Problem of Evil

The Free Will Defence

 

Post 3 – Part 2a: Objections to the Free Will Defence – Scriptural

Objections: Scriptural Objections to Free Will

Objection 1: God’s Omniscience

Objection 2: Verbal-Plenary Inspiration of Scripture

Objection 3: God’s Sovereign Providence, Perseverance, and Effectual Call

Objection 4: Total Depravity and Responsibility

 

Post 4 – Part 2b: Objections: Philosophical Objections to Free Will

Objection 1: Incompatibilism Results in Arbitrary Human Actions

Objection 2: Incompatibilism Cannot Explain How an Action Takes Place without a Sufficient Cause

Objection 3: Incompatibilism Undermines Human Responsibility

Objection 4: Edward’s Argument against the Possibility of an Indeterminate Will

Objection 5: Incompatibilism Undermines God’s Moral Goodness

 

Post 5 – Part 2c: Objections: Scientia Media?

Objection 1: Middle Knowledge Provides No Ground For How Can Know Future Contingent Choices

Objection 2: Middle Knowledge is Incompatible with Libertarian Freedom

Objection 3: Middle Knowledge Makes God’s Knowledge Dependent on Creation

Objection 4: God Can Be Disappointed By the Future

Objection 5: Their Scripture Evidence Does Not Prove It

 

Post 6 – Conclusion

Bibliography

Introduction

During World War II, it is estimated that Nazi Germany slaughtered over 11 million innocent men and women,[1] and under the communist reign of Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev, 66 million men and women were massacred.[2][3] These are just two examples of the horrific evil which humankind has encountered and inflicted on itself throughout its history. Even more horrific are the stories of the innocent whose lives are taken in horrific and excruciatingly slow ways; William Lane Craig recounts the story of a young child in Colombia who spent the last days of her life pinned up to her chin in muddy water, slowly declining and eventually dying in the cold waters.[4] [5]

Horrible evil[6] like this is a reality of life on earth, this reality has furnished Atheists and others who would desire to undermine the Christian faith with powerful ammunition for their attacks. In the hands of an atheologian or skeptic, the reality of evil becomes a weapon known as the Problem of Evil.

This supposed problem is presented before Christians in three different forms, together the forms of the Problem of Evil carry such virulent potential that the Problem[7] has been called by some the “Achilles’ heel” of Christianity.[8] The first form is the emotional Problem of Evil. This version of the Problem of Evil often arises when someone experiences the death of a friend or intense suffering, it is the form of the Problem that pastors find themselves addressing regularly. The emotional Problem of Evil asks how God can be good or exist in light of the intense suffering someone is experiencing; it cannot be addressed in the same way as the logical forms of the Problem,[9] to do so would be like offering “a cold stone when only warm bread [would] do.”[10]

More relevant to the task of an apologist are the logical forms of the Problem of Evil. These forms of the Problem are sometimes identified as the Deductive Problem and the Inductive Problem. The deductive form argues that the existence of the Christian God[11] is inconsistent with the existence of evil, that God’s attributes are inconsistent with the reality of evil. Since we all know that evil genuinely exists, an inconsistency would show that God does not exist. The inductive form is slightly less ambitious, the atheologian uses the inductive form of this problem to argue that in light of the existence of evil, especially of the quantity and quality we witness, God most probably does not exist.[12]

Theologians have wrestled throughout the history of the Church with reason and Scripture, seeking an answer to the challenge this Problem presents to the Christian faith. In doing so, theologians have formulated theodicies and defences[13] to show that this is not in fact a problem for the rationality of the Christian faith. The strength of the Problem is apparent in that it remains the strongest challenge to the Christian faith, despite almost 2000 years of thought given to answering it. This brings us to the subject of this paper; it has been said by both Atheists and Christian apologists that since the late 20th century, the Deductive or Logical Problem has been answered, that there is indeed an answer to the supposed logical inconsistency between the existence God and Evil.[14] This groundbreaking argument has been known as the Free Will Defence, a modern evolution of Augustine’s Free Will Theodicy.

Though it seems to be logically impeccable, the presuppositions of this argument have given rise to questions of its consistency with reality and with the Judeo-Christian worldview. Towards a resolution to these concerns, we will seek in this paper to answer the question, “Is the Free Will Defence a valid answer to the logical problem of evil?”

For the Free Will Defence[15] to qualify as a valid defence, a valid answer to the logical Problem, it must meet a few criteria. It must first be logically valid, this entails that its propositions are valid and that the form of argument is sound. It must then be true to reality, that is; its presuppositions are true to reality, and that neither its propositions nor presuppositions are contrary to the teaching of Scripture.[16] To evaluate the FWD, we will first look at the logical forms of the Problem and the FWD argument in Part 1, and then in Part 2 we will examine objections raised against the FWD.


[1]Russell Grigg, “Eugenics… Death of the Defenceless,” Creation, December 2005.

[2]Gregory Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2009), 177.

[3] I would like to thank my Apologetic’s Professor, Kerry Pretty, for the helpful feedback he provided to this paper after I submitted it.

[4]William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs, Colo.: David C. Cook, 2010), 151–152.

[5]

[6] Evil is sometimes used explicitly of actions undertaken with wicked intentions, but in the context of the Problem of Evil, it refers to any pointless, undeserved, and horrific suffering, such as that which men and women encounter daily across the globe. Daniel Howard-Snyder, “God, Evil, and Suffering,” in Reason for the Hope Within, ed. Michael J. Murray (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999), 82.

[7] As shorthand for the sake of brevity, the use of the capitalized “Problem” will refer “The Problem of Evil” throughout the remainder of this paper.

[8]K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 166.

[9]Ronald H Nash, Faith & Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Academie Books, 1988), 179–180.

[10]Howard-Snyder, “God, Evil, and Suffering,” 80.

[11] In this paper we will be looking at the Problem of Evil as it Relates to Christianity, so any reference to God with a capital G in this paper will refer to the God of the Bible.

[12]Nash, Faith & Reason, 179. Craig calls these forms the Emotional, Logical, and Evidential versions of the Problem of Evil. Craig, On Guard, 152–157.

[13] Though often used interchangeably, many apologists make a key differentiation between these two types of answers to the Problem of Evil. A Theodicy attempts to defend God by explaining why Evil exists in a world Created by God, it attempts to answer the problem by presenting a justification of God in in light of evil. A defence is not so ambitious, it aims not to give a definite answer but by presenting a plausible explanation, to show that there is not a contradiction between the existence of God and Evil.  Khaldoun A. Sweis and Chad V. Meister, eds., “The Problem of Evil,” in Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 415; John Hick, “Evil,The Problem of,” The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York, New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. & The Free Press, 1972), 136.

[14]Nash, Faith & Reason, 194; William Lane Craig, “The Problem of Evil,” Bethinking.org, accessed April 17, 2014, http://www.bethinking.org/suffering/the-problem-of-evil.

[15] From now on, the shorthand FWD will refer to the Free Will Defence.

[16] Of course, if they are, then they will necessarily also be inconsistent with the nature of reality, whether or not the atheologian acknowledges this.

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