Hookflash has an answer to my reply in his comments section.

This is a continuation of this discussion. Click “more” below to read the entire entry. It’s a bit long for a full post on the front page.

Every will is, by necessity, not entirely free.

Bearing in mind that making a choice does not necessarily entail successfully acting on it, why is it necessary for free will to be constrained? Pragmatic, perhaps, but necessary?

That’s an interesting question. My reply? Unless we are infinite, omnipotent and omniscient beings, just like God is, we cannot help but be constrained by the limits we have.

Are you really, asking, perhaps, why we are not infinite beings, like God is?

Within those circumstances, we have the ability to choose our own course of action, to the extent to which we are able.

A person can choose any course of action that they can comprehend, but they won’t necessarily be able to carry it out. Note that “free” will is, therefore, limited by our intellectual capacity. Why, then, couldn’t it be limited by some other God-given attribute as well; one that would preclude evil will?

You are correct that we can choose any action – that is why the question of sin is one of intent, not action, per Jesus. It is not only limited by our intellectual capacity, but by every other limit on every other capacity. We are finite beings, yes; however, within those limits, we are free to choose to do good, to do evil, to do whatever we wish. Even within those limits, we have so many choices at hand, every second that ticks by, that it truly boggles the mind.

Without an alternative to doing good, we are not making a true choice. If we have no choice but to do good – wherein lies the choice? A choice of one course of “good”, among many other “goods”? If we have no choice to rebel, are we really anything other than adoring syncophants?

God is the master, not the ‘watcher’. If evil exists, it is because He allows it to exist. He may, even, will the continuation of evil.

The statement was “IF God is WILLING but not ABLE to prevent evil.” I agree that it is logically possible for God to will the continuation of evil, but I am not arguing against such a repugnant monstrosity. Also, note that, for an omnipotent, omniscient being, “allow” and “will” are functionally equivalent.

You skipped the two other points, which, actually, were the bulk of the argument. And yes, that was the point of the logical continuity between the two points – if He does allow, He actually also wills it to exist. So, yes, that’s a given. Which was why I stated it that way.

However, you skipped the rest of the points, as I said.

I’m taking issue with the very fact that you make this a “this must follow this, and the conclusion derived must be directly related, and dependent upon choosing one or the other. As I said, this is a fallacious argument.

I understand what you said – I dispute the validity of it, as it incorrectly reduces the available choices to a set which creates a false dilemna.

The 3-part argument I used demonstrates why “willing, but not able” does NOT equal a lack of omnipotence, and the follow-up demonstrates why it’s opposite does not mean a lack of benevolence. I dispute your “either-or” statement – which is why you don’t receive a direct answer. Reasserting your original question doesn’t answer my disputation of your question, nor does resorting to an ad hominem (against God, no less :D) do it, either.

Please defend the validity of your original logical progresion. It is severely limited, and does not account for a myriad of objections.

Why? I propose that it is a consequence of His decision to allow our choices to be freely made.

As I have pointed out, our choices are not freely made. They are constrained by our intellectual capacity, and our actions are even further constrained by nature and such.

Yes, and I said the same thing, by the definition statement, concentrating on “unconstrained by Divine will”. Yes, we have constraints on our will – we are not talking aobut entirely free will – I defined that to begin with. When I define something at the beginning, that means that any usage of the term to follow will be within that definition – you know what I mean?

God does not constrain our choices by allowing us only to choose what He considers acceptable, morally. He allows us to choose our own course (again, remember the definition) and the consequences of that course.

If those choices are evil, the results/consequences will be evil. Those choices, as they, in turn, impinge upon others, will result in evil to them, as well. That is the nature of evil.

Yes, that is PART of the nature of evil, but there are also natural evils that have nothing to do with free will (eg., tsunamis). Furthermore, you have not shown that God’s desire for our will to be free is justifiable in light of the resulting evil.

The Christian worldview is that all imperfection is a side-effect, and caused by, our sin. Yes, even tsunamis, natural disasters and the like. I’ll advance a hypothesis, completely unsupported, that the worldwide flood, although promised to never happen again, involved a catastrophic change in natural dynamics. But anyway.

Justifiable? The actions of man result in consequences. The default state of man is sin. The wages of sin, the Bible says, is death. The physical death, as a temporal consequence of physical sin, and eternal death, as an eternal consequence of eternal, moral sin. God, if He were to cease tempering His Justice with Mercy, could, out of Justice, wipe us all from the face of the earth, and be completely justified in doing so. So, to wrap that up tighter – it looks to me like you agree that free will is the source of evil – correct?

That free will, also, is the conduit to salvation. Our acceptance of His mercy. If we can choose to do evil, we can also choose to accept His mercy upon us, in spite of our evil. This is the mysterious part. Noone can pretend to completely understand it – since we only “see through a glass, darkly”, as Paul so poetically puts it. However, we can see a glimmer. Without free will, there is no voluntary choice of His Mercy, and of His Love. The only ones to blame – as we have a choice, our entire lives, to do good; and do evil anyway – is ourselves, for doing that evil.

Are you blaming God for the choices you make? It sounds like it to me.

God, instead of intervening to buffer, or negate, the consequences of evil actions, allows them to exist – because they were freely chosen.

I have never found this to be a very compelling argument, mostly for reasons outlined above. First of all, it makes the assumption that our will is somehow “free” in a strange, absolute sense, and that this freedom would be inhibited if we were not able to have evil will. Secondly, it assumes that free will, in and of itself, even if it does exist, justifies evil.

First – I addressed that above. It’s not absolute. I defined it quite clearly in the beginning of my reply.

Secondly – you just reiterated your last point. Free will does not justify evil. It allows evil to exist, in order that God may also show His mercy, in sparing us as long as long as He wills, so that we may choose to come to Him later. Evil has no justification. There is a balance between Justice and Mercy in God’s scales. He tempers evil with Mercy, and Mercy with Justice. The tempering is time, I’ll propose. God WILL exact His Justice on all sin – at the time of His choosing. Allowing time to elapse before He judges gives us a grace period (Mercy) in order that we may choose His Mercy, rather than His Justice.

We can clearly see, all around us, the consequences of evil. We still choose to do it ourselves. Who are we to attempt to judge God when we ourselves cannot even go a day without doing something evil in His sight? It’s a silly concept. “God allows evil, so it’s His fault I can’t (and that my fellow men can’t) choose what is right”? Preposterous!

If God removes all consequences to evil – what matter does it make if we continually commit the evil acts?

I am arguing against the allowance of evil will, and, by corollary, evil acts.

If God wants beings which, of their own accord, choose to love Him – there has to be a choice not to. All sin stems from one central problem: pride. If you love yourself more than God, this is pride. If you love yourself more than God, you “do whatever is right in your own eyes”.

I’m arguing that the allowance of evil is necessary for human existence as anything but mindless syncophants of the Divine Will. Without evil, there is nothing but God’s will. Evil is action contrary to the will of God. Thus, if there is no evil, there is no self- just obedience.

God wants us to obey Him, yes – but, He wants us to obey Him because we choose to – not because we have to.

In my humble opinion, your logical progression in “The Argument from Evil” is flawed, fatally. When you narrow the choices down to 2, give only one definition of what each choice means, and then call the whole thing a wrap – you create nothing of substance – just a false dilemna.

A false dilemna is where a limited number of options (usually two) is given, while in reality there are more options. The example above is a compounded, progressive false dilemna, which hides the nature of the argument.

How is keeping someone from exercising their free will, or from experiencing the consequences of his own actions, specifically benevolent?

Again (and I can’t stress this enough), our will is limited by our intellectual capacity, and our actions are limited even further by natural laws and such.

I know. I gave the definition in my first comment.

Your argument rests on the specious notion that we are completely free agents, and that limiting our ability to will or perform certain acts would inhibit this freedom.

No, like I said in the first comment: Circumstances impinge, and always will. Within those circumstances, we have the ability to choose our own course of action, to the extent to which we are able.

I specifically addressed this, in order to delineate that “free” will is a limited sort: but freer than the alternative.

My point is that, since this freedom does not exist anyway, why not place further limits to prevent evil will & action?
In other words, since the range of choices we are able to make are limited to begin with, why not limit them further to include only “good” choices (ie, ones that do not result in evil)?

Because, HF, the only good choices are those which conform to the will of God. If there is no choice as to whether we obey the will of God – we are not children of God – we are slaves of God. God does not want slaves – He wants children.

Well, that’s about all I really feel inclined to say for now. One thing I’ve learned since starting my blog is that conversations in these comment sections get confusing very quickly. It becomes difficult to scroll through the quotes to determine context and such. I do appreciate your comments, however, and I will be keeping an eye on your blog. One final note: You might want to have a look at a book called, “Nonbelief and Evil”, by Theodore Drange. He presents a book-length Argument from Evil that (of course) FAR surpasses anything I could ever hope to achieve. If anyone, whether theist or atheist, wants to understand the Argument from Evil in its most sophisticated form, that would be the book to read.

I agree about comment discourses. That’s why this is on my blog!

I’ll take a look at that book.

In closing: I want to hear a couple things.

1. Why the Argument from Evil is NOT a false dilemma.
2. Why adding more limits to will does anything but enslave us to God.
3. Why, if He gives us a choice to do good, or to do evil – your choice to do evil is anyone’s fault but your own.

(Italics are his selections from my comments – blockquotes are quotes of his statement from the link I posted first in this entry.)