Can God Stop Evil without Ending our Freewill?

The problem of evil is ubiquitous. However, this argument only works against certain definitions of a god. If you believe in a particular God that is incompatible with the nature of suffering then you should throw out the definition of God. Normally this is not what happens. People either cut their definitions of God or redefine their terms and then argue with the same vehemence that they have always believed in their new adaptation.

But it is not the nature of the argument I am here to critique; I am here to discuss whether freewill necessarily permits suffering and whether God could stop our suffering without infringing on our freewill. I want also to extend the question: if ending our suffering does mean removing our freewill, should He do it? To all these I want to answer that not only could God end our suffering, but to protect our freewill He must end our suffering.

Consider, first, an analogy. At an advertising firm the Executive Director, Graham (or “G” for short and ingenious hipster irony), permits sexual harassment in the workplace because it is necessary for his employees’ creativity. G believes, and the shareholders agree, that ending sexual harassment will ruin creativity. “Sexual harassment is a part of our expression…” G explained to an incredulous collection of 12 of his peers, “… thus it feeds our creativity”. Occasionally when employees finishes working at G-Advertising the police punish the offenders, but there are no consequences during their employment.

The problem is that Jethro disagrees. Jethro is an ex-psychologist who started to work at G-Advertising 8 months ago. Holly is sexually harassing Jethro and Jethro has noticed a decline in his own psychological wellbeing and that has changed his ability to think clearly and to be creative. Although Jethro recognises G’s argument that sexual harassment appears as a spin-off from creativity, he cannot understand why G favours the creativity of those who are willing to sexually harass others over people like himself, whose creativity depends on not being sexually harassed.

To protect the creativity of Jethro and others like him, G necessary must create and enforce a policy that forbids sexual harassment. He may even consider only hiring people he believes will not sexually harass others in the office as a part of a new team development policy.

I hope the analogy stands on its own with explanation. This is how it is with God. Children will not to be abused and beaten. People will not to be kidnapped and killed. Citizens will not to be oppressed. Property owners will not to be stolen from. If our freewill were really being protected, these wills would matter. However, it is the will of the child abuser, kidnapper, oppressive government and thieves that God favours (else, none of this could happen). The world we really see is not one where we have freewill, but one where our wills are realised in proportion to our force. Sometimes this is good; the joint will of people has generated charities. However, human caused suffering appears when ill-will has more brute force or deception behind it than the strong opposing will.

One of the options for doing this is increasing our empathy so that we don’t want to cause other people harm. We already have some empathy (each of us at different levels). That empathy stops us pushing new-mothers with their babies in their pram into the road so we can walk past. If you disagree that it is empathy that stops us doing that, we can at least agree something is stopping us from committing infanticide? And whatever that is, no one has complained that has interfered with our freewill. So, more of that, please. God, if you read this, I will that all people have more of whatever this is. That should end intentional human-caused suffering.

The idea that force is what turns will into reality appears very natural. To an atheist, this is the unfortunate way of things. But it is also the pitiless indifference of nature and certainly no sign of a benevolent overseer. We have will that is recognised according to our physical strength and chance. If our freewill is to be protected, it must be realised according to a democratic system. It should not exclude the weak and the vulnerable. No matter how much one person wills to hurt me, my will and the will of those who care about me would be enough to prohibit that behaviour. Suffering would end. Because that is what we do will.

Not only could God end human-caused suffering and protect our freewill, but to protect our freewill He must end our suffering.

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42 thoughts on “Can God Stop Evil without Ending our Freewill?”

  1. I keep coming up with a problem accepting the “in order for there to be good, there must be evil” claim. This is possibly not totally false but I suspect it is. This is like saying you must have cold to have heat. This is clearly not true, ask anybody who lives in the tropics. Just because two words are opposite of one another, one does not enable the other. One does not need an extreme opposite to validate something. (Do we really need “bad” chocolate to enable us to tell what “good” chocolate is?)
    Consider a person, you probably know someone like this, who is basically a good person, is considerate and sensitive to others around him. He also donates part of his wealth to help those less fortunate and volunteers time at local charities. In his entire life he never deliberately tried to hurt anyone or anything.
    So, is this person not “good”? Must we have an evil counterpart to compare with him so we can tell he is good? Could we not compare this “good” person to another “good” person who is less or more generous, less or more kind? This is like saying all people have a height. Some are taller than others but no one has a height that is negative.
    Why could we not have been created like this guy? Sure we could do evil things, but doing so is not our nature. How would that diminish us or remove our free will?
    This “must have evil to have good” is typical apologetic nonsense, that sounds as if it might be true, but is not.

      1. Yes. Let us say you have some mediocre chocolate. Pretty good, right? Your first exposure sets a “standard”. As long as you continue with that chocolate, that is “good”. If you later experience better chocolate or worse chocolate, you know it, and either raise your standard to the level of the better chocolate or try to avoid the worse chocolate.

        1. You are lucky then – I have.

          Can you honestly say that every orgasm you’ve had has been the same? Hopefully some have been better than others. If not, then maybe you are not so lucky then.

        2. To be honest, applying “bad” to orgasm is a challenge. More accurate than “bad” in my case is “waste of time and effort”.

          I don’t know that you need “bad” to understand “good”, at least from a personal view. They are binary, and fairly easy to apply to one’s self. As the view is applied to a greater and greater population, it becomes more and more difficult to evaluate.

          However, almost always, there is an analog spread of better to worse, for which a reference point is needed in order to be able to evaluate it. Concerning any level of population. In other words, it is impossible to evaluate whether something is better or worse than something else, unless there is a discernible difference.

        3. So, everyone could know that they wouldn’t like being stabbed in the face with a unicorn horn, and relate things as better or worse (in principle) without the bad thing actually happening?

        4. People can extrapolate (well, some can). I’ve never been stabbed in the face with a unicorn horn, so I can’t say for SURE it would be “bad”. But I have had enough experiences with things which were bad as far as I was concerned and were similar enough that I can be ALMOST certain it would be bad (for me).

          Keeping in mind that “bad” is often largely personal and situational. A rock falls from the sky and kills a man. Probably bad for him, unless he is a Christian and we are right about what happens after we die. Fairly bad for his wife, unless they are not getting along and she has sufficient resources. Probably not bad at all for a fellow who is lusting after the wife, unless the guy owed him money and there is not enough in the estate to pay it off.

        5. In other words, if a person has never been stabbed with anything, anywhere, or even suffered a blow anywhere, and has not experienced the face being more sensitive than other areas of the body, and has not heard anyone else describing any of these, then how is he going to make an evaluation of “bad”? Of course, very few people meet these criteria, so most people will be able to extrapolate the potential of bad. Unless, of course, the unicorn horn has properties to reduce pain and provide measurable benefit (such as, cures all diseases and rejuvenates)

        6. I don’t have any knowledge or experience which would allow me to evaluate or extrapolate the goodness or badness of unicorn horn goring. 🙂

        7. Right. My experience leads me to believe that unicorn horns are likely not to exist, and even if they do, being stabbed in the face with one would be “bad”. So you would have to be able to overcome that extrapolation.

  2. First of all, we need to separate “evil” into three “flavors”. There is

    – the evil which man does deliberately (a car is stolen),

    – the evil which man does “accidentally” (a car is smashed into by a drunk driver), and

    – the “evil” not done by man (a car is thrown through a block wall by a tornado)

    Most views of God give Him the power to increase everyone’s empathy to the point where the evil done deliberately by man is eliminated, and that done by man “accidently” is reduced somewhat. But that is only half of all evil addressed.

    What would be the benefit (to mankind as a whole) if only “half” the evil were eliminated? We’d still have things which we would consider evil, just get used to a lower level.

    Not only that, but what would be the “cost” to mankind to be blessed/cursed with that level of empathy? Would man be able to survive as a species?

    If we decide that God CAN do something, and see that He does NOT do it, then it is possible (and in our nature) to assume that He “doesn’t care” or “is evil”. Is it not equally possible that He knows that better results for Him and possibly for us will be realized by not doing it?

    1. Sorry, Evil does not exist because we have free will, and Jesus never said that.

      We choose to do Evil in the world, because Evil exists and we have free will.

      Evil does not exist in heaven, so we can’t do Evil in heaven, not because we don’t have free will there, but because there is no Evil there to do.

      1. Yes there is. Lucifer performed evil in heaven, which is why Yhwh created hell. By the chronology of your own cosmogony, Creation had already failed before Yhwh create man… and that would make the creation of man (after Creation itself had failed) an act of evil.

        1. Did Lucifer perform evil in heaven, or was he repulsed out of heaven when he attempted to do evil in heaven?

          How does the “pride” of Lucifer have any relationship to the Creation of our environment? Did God “create” the angels (and Lucifer and his demons) or did he buy them off of a traveling supernatural creature salesman? We don’t know, and it is completely unconnected to our environment which did not even exist until Creation. “Creation” started with “let there be light” and followed until we get to where we are today. In our view, this progression may have aspects of failure but the only valid judge of Creation is God. So to say that “Creation had already failed” does not follow. And if that does not follow, then neither does “that would make the creation of man … an act of evil”.

        2. Attempting evil? LOL! Doesn’t that denote evil?

          Sorry, but “Creation had already failed” does follow… But I understand how tremendously awkward it is for you to admit that point.

          Lucifer, Yhwh’s most beautiful creation, failed, he “sinned” in heaven before the creation of man, and that is why, by the narrative, we have Hell.

          (Matthew 25:41) “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

          So, by the chronology of your cosmogony, the act of creating man was evil. Yhwh, consciously, cast man into an already failed Creation.

        3. I don’t see it following. “Creation” with a capital C started at the exact “time” that the time we perceive came into existence. It is a completely separate thing from whatever went on in the “non-time” that God exists in. Did God “create” the angels? I don’t know (and I doubt you do either). It is just as likely that they “always” existed, just like God. But whether or not that “creation” (with a small c) occurred or was considered a “failure” has nothing to do with the Creation of our environment.

          I kind of doubt God said “Well, I really screwed up that angel thing, let me try again and Create Man”. And even if He did say that, the “second” Creation was a completely separate occurrence, and succeeded or failed on its own merits. If you want to argue that it IS flawed, I can’t validly dispute that, but for you to claim that it was flawed BECAUSE some angels went bad is unsupportable.

        4. The angels were created, they are a part of Creation. It’s not non-time. Lucifer was Yhwh’s most beautiful creation

          Ezekiel 28:12-13 describes how beautiful Satan was. Yhwh created him to be perfect in wisdom and beauty, a spectacle of flawlessness and gave him special capabilities in music and voice.

          “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created till iniquity was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:15).

          And yet he failed… Yhwh’s greatest creation failed. Creation itself, therefore failed.

          Why then would Yhwh create man? The world was already corrupted, stained, diseased.

          That, my friend, is an act of pure evil.

        5. No, angels are not part of “Creation”. That is just our environment. Were angels created? It seems so. Did God create them? If you think so, please provide some support for that.
          .

        6. You just contradicted yourself, Cat.

          No, angels are not part of “Creation”.

          Swiftly followed by

          Were angels created? It seems so.

          You then ask

          Did God create them? If you think so, please provide some support for that.

          I already have. Do you not read?

          “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created till iniquity was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:15).

          “from the day you were created”

          So, unless you want to present the case for another Creator, some comparable spirit whom Yhwh shares His Creation with, then I’m afraid your religion’s chronology and cosmogony demonstrates that the act of creating man was an act of pure and unmitigated evil.

          Conscious evil.

          Premeditated.

          Creation had failed, it was corrupted and stained and diseased, and Yhwh cast man into this already burning pit where suffering and sin and pain existed.

          That, Cat, is evil.

        7. No, I did not contradict myself. Nobody (other than you) considers the creation of angels to be part of Creation. That’s like saying that the creation of the steam engine is “part of” the creation of a particular train. Is there a relationship? Perhaps, but these are distinct events.

          And the verse you quoted does provide support that angels were created, but this act of creation occurred “outside of time”, before the time which most people consider “Creation”. And does not address who did the creating. Probably God, but not definitely.

          So it was the creation of “man” which was evil? So sun, moon, planets, plants, fish, birds and cats are ok?

        8. What are you babbling on about?

          It’s there in black and white, in Yhwh’s own (supposed) words!

          “You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created till iniquity was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:15).

          “from the day you were created”

          Created.

          Created.

          Created.

          Yhwhcreated Lucifer and all the angels. It’s ALL Creation. Before Creation we only have an aseitic being.

          You do know aseity is Christian doctrine, don’t you?

          Perhaps you don’t?

          You don’t even seem to know what a theodicy is…

        9. And still you provide no evidence that YHWH created the angels. “… you were created …” does not equal “… I created you …” in anybody’s mind but yours.

  3. And the dog ate my homework is the excuse for not handing in homework. Hate to break it to you, but there is not a one to one relationship between “excuse” and “cause”.

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