Friday, August 30, 2019

Freewill theism and evil

The problem of evil is often locked into two-sided debate between Calvinists and freewill theists. The freewill theists are confident that evil is a particular, indeed intractable problem for Calvinism–from which freewill theism is luckily exempt. There are, however, outside observers who think freewill theism operates within the same flawed framework:

One thing I noticed that many of the contributors had in common is a dissatisfaction with the very structure of typical defenses or theodicies, because (the thought goes) the very idea that God allows evil for the sake of some good (even one, as the skeptical theists might say, that we should not expect to be able to identify) would put God into an immoral relationship with those who suffer, because he'd be trading off their suffering for some other good, which would be an immoral way to treat someone. Those who endorsed some version of this line of thought reacted to it in a variety of ways: some wanted to rethink the personality of God in order to deny that he is part of our moral community, while others wanted to rethink the perfection of God so that we can think of him as an imperfect parent. I do think that this line of thought reflects a general turn in the literature on the problem of evil, from arguing about whether we can identify goods that outweigh and require evils, to discussing the ethical principles that would apply to God himself. I myself have most often encountered this turn in some critiques leveled by Abrahamic theists against other Abrahamic theists: the common argument against theological determinism, namely, that it entails that God bears some morally objectionable relation to evil and suffering, even if there is a great good that requires him to allow the evil.[3] The fact that so many in this volume see the problem as applying not just to theological determinists but to any standard theist is striking, and seems to me correct: everyone needs to address the question of God's own ethics. Unfortunately, none of the contribution addresses that question in any real depth, certainly not coming even close to the depth of Mark Murphy's God's Own Ethics.[4] So one useful lesson of this book is that we should try to explore the issue of what ethical principles should apply to God. However, we'll need to look elsewhere for a deep and thorough exploration of that subject.

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