Answer the skeptic: Free will isn’t so valuable for God to permit so much suffering.

Short Answer: Life as we know it is all about free will and good is only possible if evil is possible as well.

It is impossible to even conceive of a world where free will doesn’t exist. The objection is often made that suffering outweighs free will because we have failed to understand the value of free will. We may not see the consequence of destroying free will in order to do away with suffering because all we know is a world in which free will exits. Doing away with hate would also do away with love. Love would not be true love if there was no other option but to love. It would be impossible to learn forgiveness if no one ever did anything wrong against you. What would you need to forgive? It is because of free will that we learn selflessness and choose to help others. All of this good, and more, would be gone if there was no free will.

The question that you need to think long and hard about is this, is it better to live in a world where there is no suffering and no good, or one where there is suffering but also much good? “If we abuse our free will, that isn’t God’s fault, and the possibility of abusing free will is worth it in view of the possibility of using free will for good.”[1] Even without suffering, the world would be worse off if there wasn’t the possibility of anyone using free will for good. Rather than weighing out free will and suffering, we need to ask, is free will really valuable? “If the choice is between being a robot and being free (in the libertarian sense), most, if not all, of us would opt for freedom.”[2] No one wants their every action, thought, and word to be controlled. A robot world without suffering is far worse that a world where suffering exist yet there is the possibility of much good.

It is also fascinating to think that in order to make this objection you need to have free will. Without free will, you cannot make the choice to object. Your objection, rather than being based in reason and logic, would only be a result of previous events affecting your brain. Atheist Richard Dawkins claims that every action has been “determined by antecedent events” and that “When I think I have free will I’m deluding myself” (See the video here). Therefore, it is only because of free will that the skeptic is able to object to the fact that free will isn’t so valuable for God to permit so much suffering.

This is one part in a series of posts on why God allows evil.  Look below to read previous posts that you missed and see what is coming up. Each section will be posted weekly in the order they appear below.

  1. Why do people suffer for a sin Adam committed long ago?
  2. Why does God let a child die?
  3. How might it be fair that God ordered the killing of Canaanite children?
  4. Why do bad things happen to good people?
  5. Why is eternal punishment fair?
  6. If conscious belief in Jesus is required for salvation, how is that fair to those who have never heard the gospel?
  7. Free will isn’t so valuable for God to permit so much suffering.
  8. What good is the suffering I endure?
  9. How will Heaven mitigate our suffering on earth?
  10. Why does God allow evil?

[1] Feinberg, The Many Faces of Evil, 70.

[2] Feinberg, The Many Faces of Evil, 121.