Can Free Will Exist Without Evil?

The most common defense to the problem of evil is to argue that evil must be allowed to allow for the existence of free will. The world was perfect, when God created it, but then he made us and it was downhill from there. God gave us free will and we choose to misbehave, and our sin corrupted the world, or so the apologetic goes. This does little and less to explain the existence of “natural evil”, but I’ll set that argument aside for the moment, and just focus on “moral evil”.

On the surface, this sounds like a decent argument to reconcile the existence of evil in a world created by an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God. This explanation certainly satisfies most theists who believe in an all good God. However, when we examine the concept of free will a little further, this defense doesn’t hold up so well.

First, the idea of free will has its own share of philosophical baggage. The very existence of free will has been debated throughout the ages, and recent advances in neuroscience have not settled the matter. Assuming, for the sake of this argument, that we do in fact have free will, the question becomes: would an inability to sin truly be incompatible with free will?

We are constrained in many ways throughout our existence. We are bound by the laws of physics, for example. I cannot choose to walk through walls, or leap tall buildings in a single bound. Do these limitations mean I don’t have free will? We are also bound by our own carnal needs. I can choose not to eat, but sticking to that decision is very difficult. Most people’s “free will” will collapse under the weight of starvation. If I choose to stop breathing, when I slip off to the land of nod and my body starts breathing on its own, is my body violating my free will?

Imagine a world in which raping someone were as difficult for a human to do as it is for us to quit breathing. Imagine a world in which murder would bring on the same sense of revulsion one might experience trying to drink raw sewage. How would these limitations be any different than the limitations we have in this world? Clearly, as long as we have choices available to us, we can be said to have free will. Free will, therefore, does not reconcile the existence of moral evil with an all good God.

Related Arguments:

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