Saturday, March 24, 2018

Did God will the Fall?

It's common for freewill theists to deny that God willed the Fall. More generally, it's common for freewill theists to deny that God wills moral and natural evils, viz. war, famine, murder, disease, natural disaster, fatal accidents. Bad events lie outside God's will. Bad events are antithetical to God's will. They think it's blasphemous to attribute bad things to God's will. They think Calvinism is wicked for attributing natural and moral evils to God's will. 

I'd like to consider one aspect of that denial. Take the Fall. If Adam hadn't sinned, world history would turn out very differently. You and I exist in a fallen world. You and I wouldn't exist in an unfallen world. You and I are the end-product of a complex chain of events which includes natural and moral evils at various turns. Procreation is about men and women meeting and mating at a particular time and place. Even slight changes in the past ramify into the future so that our would-be ancestors will miss connections. For instance, WWII killed millions of people, but by the same token, millions of people exist as a result of the dislocation caused by WWII–who wouldn't be conceived absent that massive disruption.

So that raises a question: if you're the end-product of an evil event that's inimical to God's will, then doesn't this imply that your existence is inimical to God's will? If you exist as the result of some past evil, and if the historical cause of your existence is antithetical to God's will, then isn't the effect antithetical to God's will? 

To put it another way, if you could step into a time machine and erase the results of a past evil, would do so–even if that meant erasing resultant future generations from the space-time continuum? Would you erase your own parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, children, and grandchildren? If the precipitating event that led to their existence was diametrically opposed to God's will, then doesn't that implicate all the consequences? 


  1. " if you're the end-product of an evil event that's inimical to God's will, then doesn't this imply that your existence is inimical to God's will?"

    Just for the record, my answer wd. be no, it doesn't imply that.

  2. We can see that much more simply. Lots of babies are the result of sin. Sin is rebellion against the will of God. Hence, a baby who results from adultery or fornication or rape is a result of an evil act that is (by definition, in virtue of being evil) a defiance of God. But it doesn't follow that the baby's existence is inimical to the will of God or intrinsically an evil or anything of the kind. "Being inimical to the will of God" doesn't "transfer" like that.

    1. Why would it not transfer like that? If the precipitating event is contrary to God's will, then it's God's will that the precipitating event not have happened in the first place, right? But how can God disapprove of the past evil without divine disapproval extending to the outcome? An internal relation where they're inseparable. Can't have one without the other.

      Or course, one could view the outcome as a compensatory good, offsetting the past evil. But in that case, one wouldn't be considering the past evil in isolation, but as a package in which God wills the overall event, with a view to the second-order good that transpires from the past evil.

    2. A problem with that comparison is that humans are born into an ongoing situation. We didn't initiate the process. We don't start where the process starts, but where we come onto the scene. We pick up from there. We take it from there. The effects of a past evil aren't contrary to *my* will since I'm downstream from the precipitating events. I didn't exist when that chain of events got underway.

      But if I were upstream, and the precipitating event was inimical to my will, then from my viewpoint, it would be better that it never happen. Yet that can't be logically compartmentalized from the consequences, for if it never transpired, the consequences would never ensue. If it's better that it not have happened, then that evaluation must be taking the end-result into consideration. *Despite* the end-result, it's remains the case that it was better for it not to happen at all.

      Which brings me back to the proverbial time-machine. If the precipitating event is inimical to God's will, then why would it not be preferable to erase that segment of the timeline and restart without the past evil?

      The alternative is a felix culpa assessment. But that's inconsistent with supposing, without due qualification, that the precipitating event was contrary to God's will.

  3. Presumably if you were on the scene and could physically protect a woman and prevent her from being raped, you'd do so, right? In that sense you see the rape as a bad thing. But if you aren't on the scene, or you are unable to prevent it (the bad guy overpowers you), or for whatever reason the rape takes place, and then she is pregnant, you'd also be able to see the child's existence as a good thing in and of itself. It's not like the child would be "demon seed" or you'd be telling the child, "Bro, you're disgusting. You shouldn't even exist."

    1. But as I anticipated, that's a felix culpa appeal. So that complicates the claim that it was or wasn't contrary to God's will. Now we have to make a more qualified attribution. God doesn't will evil for evil's sake. Narrowly considering the evil event without regard to any compensatory goods. But when the larger context is taken into account, God wills the evil event with a view to otherwise unobtainable second order goods.

    2. If horrendous evil exists, then once that line is crossed, that severely limits our explanatory options regarding God's relation to evil. All of the remaining explanations will be wince-inducing. We can only work with what we've got.

  4. But no one would say that a human being (in appreciating the goodness of the child) was retrospectively "willing (seeing the goodness of, accepting, choose your own word) the rape with a view to otherwise unobtainable second order goods."

    I mean, that's the kind of thing that pro-aborts try to pin on pro-lifers who say that children conceived in rape are a gift: Oh, you mean, evil pro-lifers, you are not truly rejecting the evil of rape because you see the baby as a good that came about as a result. They try to tell us that we must either demonize the child or else somehow mentally acquiesce in the rape or see the rape itself as a good thing. We tell them they are wrong, that is a simplistic way of thinking, etc.

    Why shouldn't something similar apply to God's way of thinking of a sin that brings about a baby?

    1. There are lots of permutations to this issue. For instance:

      i) The paradoxical fact that humans have duties to prevent evils that God has no duty to prevent. Situations where we'd be culpable for failing to prevent an evil that God isn't culpable for failing to prevent.

      ii) We also act from a sense of empathy/compassion for innocent/defenseless fellow human beings. That's psychological as well as ethical. As social creatures who can project ourselves into the plight of our fellow man (woman, and child).

      iii) It's possible to contrive hypothetical dilemmas for which there's no answer, no acceptable course of action. Some hypotheticals rob the respondent of morally or emotionally tolerable options.

      iv) As a rule, I think we have a greater duty to protect those within our immediate purview.

      However, that's in part because, unlike God, we're comparatively simpleminded agents who lack foreknowledge or counterfactual knowledge of what intervention or nonintervention triggers down the line.

      v) In addition, I generally have a greater duty to protect my own family that I have to protect an innocent, deserving stranger at the expense of my own family.

      vi) Is the event good or evil? Depends on where we say the event ends. Evil causes sometimes have beneficial effects. If by the event, we mean the cause, then it's evil. If by the event we mean both cause and effect, then it's morally complex: both good and evil. If the event begins with the evil cause but ends with good outcome, then our moral classification must be more discriminating. We can say the outcome was good even though the precipitating cause was evil.

      vii) Even in freewill theism, when God permits evil, he wills evil to occur. Now, it may be that he wills evil in the roundabout sense that he wills a general policy where evil is the inevitable side-effect of some morally justifiable priority. But by letting it happen, he wills it to happen more strongly than he wills it not to happen. There's not getting around that.

      viii) And God doesn't suffer from the same limitations as human agents. So any comparison makes God more willing than human agents in the face of evil.

    2. Once you have a real world with evil, that boxes us into a very restricted range of conceptual options vis-a-vis God's will.