The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

The Free Will Defense Provides Adequate Justification for the Existence Of Evil.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/11/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 381 times Debate No: 100829
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (3)
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The problem of evil, which attempts to disprove the existence of an omnipotent, benevolent creator, typically follows this line of reasoning:

(1) God, if he exists, is all-powerful, and therefore could eliminate evil.
(2) God is all-good, and therefore would want to eliminate evil.
(3) Evil exists.
(4) Therefore, an all-powerful, all-loving God cannot exist.

I, Pro, will argue that the existence of evil is due to human action, and therefore is not inconsistent with the existence of a benevolent, omnipotent creator. Con will defend the problem of evil.

For the sake of brevity, this debate will focus solely on agent or moral evil. Natural evil (i.e. hurricanes, disease, earthquakes, and other natural disasters), while a valid component of the problem of evil, will not be addressed in this debate. The free will defense, which is the subject of our debate, focuses primarily on moral evil.


(1) Con may choose to go either first or second. If Con wishes to go second, simply use the first round for acceptance. If Con wishes to go first, they may begin their arguments in round one. In the interest of fairness, if Con begins their arguments in the first round, they must waive their turn in round four. This way, each person gets three turns to argue.
(2) First turn is for opening arguments, second for rebuttals, and third for closing statements. Third round is to be used for rebuttals and conclusions only; no new arguments.
(3) No ad hominem attacks, swearing, or trolling.

Thank you in advance, and good luck.


I'll accept this debate.
Debate Round No. 1


The problem of evil is a reductio ad absurdum, meaning that the first three premises are logically inconsistent. Atheists such as J.L. Mackie attempt to solve this problem by arguing that one of the first two premises must be false: either God is not all-powerful, or he is not all-good. And, assuming the first two premises are true, there is a logical consistency.

But are they true? The assumption given in premise (2) does not seem false in and of itself; surely eliminating evil would be a good thing. However, it is overly simplistic. The assumption is that the prevention of evil is the greatest possible good; nothing is better than that. If this were the case, we could fairly assume that God would want to eliminate evil above all else. But if there is some greater good that might come about by allowing evil, God would have a legitimate reason to allow evil. Premise (2) should be revised to say, "God is benevolent, and therefore would want to eliminate evil unless he has a morally sufficient reason to not do so."

This morally significant reason to allow evil is free will. God could eliminate evil, but He wants creatures capable of rational choice, which includes the ability to make wrong decisions. God has gave humans the ability to choose our own paths. Based on our choices, the world could be a sinless paradise, or a place filled with evil and strife. Our condition is due to our own actions. The gift of free will comes with the ability to make choices that harm ourselves or others. I will attempt to demonstrate that God"s endowment of humans with free will is not inconsistent with either his goodness or his power.

If God were to create us without the ability to sin, we would never do bad, but the good we did would be meaningless. Humans would be reduced to automata. Which is more meaningful, a child who loves his parents voluntarily, but often misbehaves, or a robot who will always behave itself?

Thus, it may be seen as better in God"s eyes to have humans who can voluntarily choose either good or evil than to force us to always choose good. In this case, the existence of evil seems to be perfectly consistent with God"s goodness.

This is not to say that God could not force us to love and obey him, and make it so that we had no choice but to be good. All I claim is that, if this were the case, we would not be free.

Opponents of the free will defense may challenge the idea that free choice is indeed more desireable than the elimination of evil. But think of it this way. In Aldous Huxley"s book, Brave New World, "Deltas" and "Epsilons" are idiotic slaves, conditioned from conception to love the menial tasks they perform. They want but one thing: to serve their masters. No other option is open to them. They may be happy, but they are not free. Are they better off than they would be if they were given free choice? Most would find this treatment incredibly twisted and cruel. Likewise, forced love and obedience have little meaning. It does not seem unreasonable that God should see free will as desirable as or more desirable than the elimination of all evil. If this is the case, he cannot be indicted for wrongdoing in allowing us to choose evil.

I want to emphasize that I do not claim that evil is a logically necessary accompaniment of free choice. It is not logically impossible that humans could always freely choose good. However, ability to choose evil is necessary for freedom. Logically speaking, we could consistently choose good. We could also choose evil all the time, or good some of the time and bad others. To be free means that no choice is restricted. However, if our choices were preordained by God, we would be restricted from making any other choice, and therefore not free. As such, we could logically live in a world free of evil. We do not, because we have chosen not to. The blame for our condition rests on our shoulders, not God"s. If the world were free of evil, and humans always chose good, and did so freely, man would still have the ability to choose evil, but would eschew the bad of his own free will. Since he would be free, he would not have been made to do so by God. No one can be forced to freely choose anything. Morality is not logically incompatible with free will, but determinism is.

So, it seems that premise (2) of the problem of evil is incorrect in assuming that a loving God would want to eliminate evil at any cost. Because allowing the possibility of evil facilitates a greater good -- namely, free will -- a loving God may have a reason to tolerate evil. However, this raises another possible objection to the free will defense. If it is logically impossible for God to make creatures whose choices are both free and predetermined, does this limit his power, invalidating premise (1)? Closer examination will show us that this is not the case. Omnipotence is commonly understood as not including the ability to do the logically impossible. Logic, in addition to power and goodness, is a fundamental characteristic of God.

The very existence of good and evil requires a logical universe. Our notions of "good" and "bad," as much as they differ, all are prescriptive judgements on what people ought to do or not do. If God, and the universe he created, were not logical and consistent, there would be no consistent basis for choosing our actions. Good and evil would have no meaning, as we would have no consistent way of determining what actions are right and wrong. If God were not logical, good and evil could change from day to day based on his whims. Such a scenario would undermine God"s omnibenevolence. If good and evil could change from day to day, would God be consistently good? So, rather than being bound by the laws of logic, as though they were some outside force, he is essentially or inherently logical. God would not stop being logical any more than he would stop being good or powerful. Rather than undermining the nature of God, his unwillingness (or depending on how you look at it, inability) to break the laws of logic by making humans both free and predetermined for evil or good upholds his unchanging nature.

Because of this, it is evident that the gift of free choice is not inconsistent with God"s omnipotence or his goodness. The current human condition is due to our own choices, and completely consistent with the existence of an omnipotent, loving, creator.
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Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by ninjakitty97 1 year ago
3RU7AL, you make some good points.

You say that, in order for inaction in the face of injustice to be morally wrong, the following conditions must occur. (A) The individual detects an act that seems, from their perspective to (a) be an injustice or (b) could predictably lead to an injustice (in the case of an omniscient God, we could assume that he would know for sure whether an action would be or would lead to an injustice). (B) They can imagine that they could possibly intervene to prevent or significantly mitigate the injustice (again, assuming that God is omnipotent, he could do this). (C) They determine the foreseeable cost of that action to be proportional to the benefit of the injustice being (a) prevented or (b) sufficiently mitigated.

My debate focuses on condition (C), which I believe is not met. As I attempted to demonstrate, if God wanted creatures who had free will, and could make free choices, he would not be morally culpable in allowing them to make wrong choices and allowing the consequences of those choices to play out. The foreseeable cost of eliminating injustice (either not allowing humans to make choices, or not giving us free will in the first place) would be greater than the benefits of doing so.

This does not bind God"s power. If God wants to eliminate evil, but he wants even more that humans have free will, it is logical that he might allow his will to be violated, at least for a time, by allowing the less desirable good to not occur, in order to allow the greater good. If God did not have the ability to do this, would not that itself bind his power?
Posted by 3RU7AL 1 year ago
(ALSO) "Inaction in the face of injustice makes an individual morally culpable."

(IFF) an individual detects an act that seems, from their perspective to be an injustice (OR) may very soon lead to a perceived predictable injustice (AND) they can imagine that they could possibly intervene to prevent or significantly mitigate the injustice or the immediate consequences of such (AND) they determine the foreseeable cost of that action to be proportional to the benefit of the injustice being prevented (OR) the consequences of such an injustice significantly mitigated (THEN) they should take action or suffer the consequence of be held morally culpable only to themselves and only by themselves.

As individual citizens, we are not legally responsible for the health and safety of all members of our society. Our laws generally reflect the consensus moral viewpoint of our society. There are certain agents within our society like police and firefighters who are held to a higher standard of expectation to take action to prevent harm or potential harm.

An individual standard of moral culpability would not seem to be a strong enough standard to hold someone morally responsible for an action or inaction. I would propose that the standard should be rather a reasonable expectation that a jury of their peers would consider them to be morally culpable to be much more relevant.

On the other hand, this self prescribed moral standard would seem to carry a bit more substantial weight if we imagine that "god" is the inactive observer of an injustice.
Posted by 3RU7AL 1 year ago
It makes sense to me that (IFF) you assume that "god" is omnipotent, (THEN) "god's will" can never be violated by anyone or anything. (THEREFORE) everything is necessarily "going according to plan".

It also follows that it (CAN NOT BE) "god's will" to have "god's will" violated. This is an obvious logical contradiction. If "god" is self-defeating, then "god" is impotent. In other terms, "god" (CAN NOT) allow anything to violate "god's will" without fully rejecting all claims to omnipotence.
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