One of the most controversial topics in the philosophy of religion is certainly the problem of evil. Evil as a philosophical problem emerges out of two conflicting propositions: 1) the alleged existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent god, and 2) the presence of evil in the world. Propositions 1) and 2) appear to be inconsistent because it would seem that an omnipotent and omniscient god, who loves his creatures unconditionally, could, and should, prevent evil in the world. Yet, evil is present in the world in many forms. Theists try to reconcile the presence of evil in the world in concomitance with God by proposing various justifications. Such justifications are known as “theodicies.”
In this paper, my concern is to call attention to some specific aspects of one of the most celebrated theodicies, Augustine’s Free Will Defense, which has received wide acceptance even among contemporary philosophers. Augustine’s theodicy, in my view, can be challenged on at least three different grounds, which I briefly list here, and subsequently illustrate in great detail in the course of my discussion.
1: My first contention is that it would seem that a perfect entity like Augustine’s God does not have reason to create anything at all.
2: Secondly, granted that there might be a reason to create the world, it would seem logical to assume that God could have created a compatibilist world, calculating exactly the way in which to give humans the possibility to act freely in an evil-free world or at least in a world where evil is limited. And,
3: But God allegedly did create a world with no evil populated by free-willed beings—and that is, Heaven. This third contention also has several sub-points presented as questions arising out of an apparent conflict in concomitance with the concepts of freedom and that of joy, the idea of total absence of evil in heaven, and God’s ultimate purpose, and the existence of heaven.
But before I proceed to an exposition of my challenges, I find it important to describe Augustine’s conception of the will and his view of evil. Augustine, to be sure, is a clever philosopher who presented very elegant arguments to try to show that evil is not a flaw in God’s system, but rather the consequence of human beings discounting God’s system. That is to say, Augustine argues that evil is not an entity per se that exists separately or in opposition to goodness. Evil for Augustine is, so to speak, the absence of good. In other words, for Augustine, evil occurs when one turns away from goodness. By relying upon this notion of evil being a non-entity, or rather that evil is absence of goodness, or the turning away from goodness, Augustine tries to resolve two issues: the first is, naturally, to take the blame off God for the existence of evil in the world, and the second is to avoid the problem of natural evil, i.e., evil arising out of natural causes. Thus, the central question in On the Free Choice of the Will is whether God is the author of evil. This is a question that has “hounded” Augustine in his youth and, indeed, that has always given Christian theologians a great deal of trouble.
Namely, it would appear that God, being the creator of the world—that is, the creator of every object and every concept in the world—must consequently be the creator of evil. This expectation is granted by the important notion in Christianity that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. By definition, a creature that is omnipotent is able to do anything that that creature wants, including, arguably, the ability to eliminate evil. A creature that is omniscient, by definition, knows the way to prevent or eliminate evil. And furthermore, also by definition, a creature that is omnibenevolent ought to use its powers to prevent his creation from being harmed or afflicted by evil and suffering. Therefore, it would seem reasonable to assume that God should have created an evil-fee world. But on the contrary, the world contains a great many evils, both caused by the voluntary acts of humans and natural evils caused by natural factors.
The abovementioned is a fair description of the problem of evil, though modern theologians often present it with more logical and ontological distinctions. Nonetheless, we are left with this important question, “How can God’s existence be reconciled with the presence of evil in the world?” Augustine’s answer to this question is what I refer to in this paper as “free-will theodicy.” He argues that God is not to be blamed for the existence of evil in the world. Augustine claims that we humans are the only ones responsible for the evils in the world because we commit evil acts by virtue of our free choice of the will. Augustine holds that every human being was given free choice of the will by God. This will is given to all because it is a necessary condition for the ascription of moral responsibility. That is to say, it is alleged that without freedom of the will, it would not be possible to produce moral goodness. The will is absolutely free and there is no vice that could prevail upon it. And what follows is, therefore, that every individual has the freedom to obtain a good will and exercise his or her freedom; and moreover, every individual who has not attained a good will is responsible for not obtaining one. But the foregoing certainly prompts an immediate question, that is, “Why did God give us free will since free will allows us to do evil?”, a question with which Augustine deals later.
But first he distinguishes 2 kinds of evil: 1) evil that is done and 2) evil that is suffered. But because God is good by definition, he cannot be the author of evils of type 1) but only the author of type 2). An example of type 2) evil is when God punishes evildoers, perhaps in hell, for having sinned. Evil of the first kind, Augustine argues, has no single author but many authors—namely, those individuals who freely choose to do evil by virtue of their freedom of choice. But then, one may ask, as Evodius does in Augustine’s dialogue, “From whom did we learn how to sin?” (3) Augustine replies that evildoing is not taught because teaching is associated with goodness. He establishes that all good things come from God and therefore evil cannot be learned from God or taught by God. Knowledge is good and it is acquired through teaching. Thus, evil things are neither taught nor learned. Evil things, Augustine writes, are done when we “turn aside and away from teaching, that is, from learning.” (4) When good people find out about evil things, they do so only in order to avoid them.
After having established that evil is neither taught nor learned and having established that every individual is able to obtain a good will, and also having established that not having obtained a good will leads to evil, Augustine tries to explain why God gave humans free will. I think it is fair to say that Augustine’s argument, in a nutshell, is that without free will there cannot be any moral goodness. Thus, God is required to give humans free will in order to create the possibility for them to have moral responsibility and to allow them to undergo a moral growth necessary for their souls to eventually ascend and unite with God in a hereafter. But God, despite being omnipotent, cannot create a world of free-willed beings that never choose evil because if he did, he would deprive these beings from freely choose between good and evil, and therefore they would not have the possibility to grow morally. Consequently, evil exists because certain humans freely choose to turn away from goodness, and embrace lust, which leads to the path of evil.
Augustine’s argument that God must give humans free will is illustrated in the following statements, which are taken from his three-pronged response to Evodius:
If a person is something good and could act rightly only because he willed to, then he ought to have free will, without which he could not act rightly. If anyone uses [free will] in order to sin, the divinity redresses him. This would happen unjustly if free will had been given not only for living rightly but also for sinning. If human beings lacked free choice of the will, how could there be the good in accordance with which justice itself is praised in condemning sins and honoring right deeds? Hence God ought to have given free will to human beings. (31-32)
Let us now try to exemplify Augustine’s propositions. I believe the following is an accurate interpretation of the same. According to Augustine’s reasoning, a world that contains creatures that are significantly free and freely perform more good than evil actions is more valuable than a world that does not contain free-willed creatures. Thus, God decided to create free creatures and chose to give them free will; but God cannot cause or determine these creatures to do only what is right, that is, he cannot create them without the possibility of committing evil actions. For if God prevents evil from occurring as a consequence of turning away from goodness, then humans are not significantly free after all—they do not do what is right freely, but rather do it because they are determined to do what is right. Therefore, in order to create creatures capable of moral good, God must create creatures capable of moral evil. God cannot give humans the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so.
Unfortunately, not all humans strive to obtain a good will, and many free-willed creatures that God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom, which is the source of moral evil. The fact that humans sometimes go wrong in the exercise of their freedom, however, Augustine would argue, does not undermine God’s omnipotence or God’s goodness. God gave humans free will for a good reason; if they use it to do evil deeds it is not God’s fault. God could have avoided the occurrence of moral evil only by not giving humans the possibility of moral good, but this would have resulted in the creation of automata incapable of producing moral goodness—in which case, humans would have been God’s pets. But God did not want obedient pets, but rather creatures that are free and freely chose the right path. Now, if the reader is dissatisfied with the brevity of this treatment of Augustine’s concepts of the will and of evil, I can only say that I am sorry. But I think that the foregoing is a fair summary of the most relevant points that Augustine has in mind. Thus let us now move onto some preliminary observations.
In the first place, I wonder, is it true that a world containing free beings is more valuable than a world containing beings that have limited freedom or beings that have no freedom at all? To answer this question, it seems necessary to clarify what is meant by “valuable,” that is, valuable to whom? Then, it is necessary to explain why a world with free beings is more valuable than a world with, for example, limitedly free beings; to say that a certain world is more valuable than any other appears to be simply an arbitrary statement. Moreover, it is necessary to contemplate whether humans are indeed free, as Augustine argues. There is always a possibility that we are totally determined. After all, one may argue, humans do not freely decide to be born, do not freely decide to be the recipients of a free will, and do not freely decide to live in a world dominated by a God that in the end decides whether one receives punishment or reward. In other words, if one looks at the world this way, i.e., a place created and totally dominated by God who decides what is morally good, who ultimately decides the fate of every human being, it seems that humans are not significantly free after all, unless one considers freedom from God’s perspective.
As a matter of fact, Augustine does not realize that if it is as he argues that God foreknows every event in the world, then God created determined creatures that have no knowledge of being determined. Augustine points out that, “…although God foreknows our future wills, it does not follow from this that we do not will something by our own will.” (184.108.40.206). Augustine’s argument here supports my criticism. Namely, what follows from this argument is that humans in reality are not free because every action that they will is necessary, thus already pre-determined by God. What Augustine does not realize is that his argument actually proves that humans have no knowledge of being determined—but they are determined! Therefore, as I shall point out, God could have created a determined world, without evil, where beings act freely not knowing that they in fact are determined.
I would like now to turn to my first challenge as mentioned in my introduction; my first contention is the question of why God needs to create anything at all. To be sure, this is not my most telling criticism, but it nonetheless represents, in my view, an interesting point to be contemplated in relation to Augustine’s theodicy. In the Christian tradition, and indeed in many religious traditions, God is a perfect deity. The term “perfect”, however is very slippery to begin with. After all, what does it mean to say that a thing is perfect? Perfect in what respect? Worse, what does it mean to say that a metaphysical entity, which no human could ever experience, is perfect? But for the sake of argument, let us assume that we understand in some sense what perfection is. Then such a perfect entity, it would appear, cannot be divided or improved or terminated or bettered or interacted with, etc. And it follows that such a perfect entity has no needs or desires or regrets. Human beings, due to their finite nature and imperfections have many needs and desires, such as nourishment, interaction, learning, friendship, success, wealth, and so on.
Human beings need to create things such as school, tools, books, and need company, love, relationships etc. But a perfect entity, it seems granted by definition, does not have the necessity to create anything. It would be inconsistent to think, for example, that God created the world because he had an urge to create it or because he took joy in creating it or because he desired to share his love with his creation or because he was incomplete or because he felt lonely and needed company or because creating humans made him happier. Arguably, a perfect entity is complete and does not have desires, does not have the need to increase its joy, does not need company to be happier or does not need to create something to improve its conditions, and does not have urges. The need to create and to improve one’s conditions is characteristic of human beings and not of a perfect, infinite deity like God. If one argues that God too, despite being perfect, has desires and needs, it just seems tantamount to anthropomorphizing God. Therefore, my challenge to Augustine is not just, as Evodius wonders, why God gave us free will, but rather why did God “need” to create anything at all?
The next contention has to do with the idea of whether an omnipotent god cannot create a world inhabited by free-willed beings that never choose to do evil. It is necessary to make two preliminary observations: the first is that omnipotence, by definition, means that the deity in question is able to do anything that it chooses to do. The second point is that the idea that God cannot create a world with free beings that never choose to do evil is contradictory if we consider the existence of Heaven, which allegedly is an evil-free place where beings are free to exercise their will and apparently never choose to do evil. But I will address this issue later on. First of all, the definition of omnipotence that I provided, of course, might be rejected by theologians who object that “being able to do anything that one chooses to do,” for example, does not include “creating a world with free beings that never turn away from the good and never choose to do evil.” But the problem is that if God is omnipotent but there is one thing he cannot do, it follows that omnipotence is not one of God’s attributes or omnipotence in this case is a misnomer.
The issue here is whether God could have taken certain actions such that he would bring about a world, inhabited by free-willed creatures, that contains moral good without the consequence of evil ensuing. Augustine’s rationale seems to imply that God cannot create a world containing moral good without the possibility of humans turning away from the good will and experiencing evil in the same world. I believe the following is a fair interpretation of what Augustine wants to argue: If God brings it about that I refrain from A, then I do not freely refrain from A. The trouble here is the definition of “freedom”. What I mean is that “freedom” is always relative and may change with respect to the particular world that a god can bring about.
A world without evil might even contain beings that are less free than they would in this world, but these being would nonetheless be free. In other words, the freedom of certain beings is relative to the particular world in which these beings exist. For example, let A stand for “being able to fly.” Now, if God does not bring about A, i.e., enabling humans to fly, we should not say that we do not freely refrain from A, but rather that God created the world such that A is impossible in the world as we know it, i.e., humans cannot fly. Or, if God brings about a world where cancer does not exist, we should not say that we do not freely refrain from getting cancer; To use another example, if God creates humans in such a way that they never commit adultery or murder or any other evil or lustful act, Augustine could say that perhaps these humans are deprived from their freedom of committing adultery or murder etc., but he could not argue that these humans would be deprived from all freedom. My point is that Augustine’s argument that God needs to give humans a free will because it is the only way to produce moral goodness, and the upshot is the possibility to produce evil, fails. In my view, God, being omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient is able precisely to calculate the effect of the removal of each evil and stop at precisely the point at which the world is such that human beings exercise their freedom of the will without ever turning away from the good and committing evil act.
In response to my challenge here, Augustine may reply the following: It is up to God whether to create free creatures at all; but if he aims to produce moral good, then he must create significantly free creatures upon whose cooperation he must depend. The problem in the above mentioned statement is to presuppose that if God aims to produce moral good, he must or wants to create the world such that humans have the freedom to turn away from evil and the turning away produces evil. But why must God do so? By Augustine’s same argument it is possible to demonstrate that God is not an all-benevolent God but rather an all-malevolent one who indeed aims at producing some moral good in order amplify suffering in order to satisfy his evil purposes and inflict evil upon his misfortunate creatures. Now if God is required by logical necessity to create free-willed creatures that can deviate from the good and do evil, it would be inconsistent with the notion of omnipotence. And in the case that God actually desires to achieve such a world, then what Augustine’s argument boils down to is that God is God and he creates the world in whichever way he wishes regardless of whether human beings may regard it as just or unjust by virtue of the same logical reasoning warranted by God. And, if God has total control over the universe, why argue that humans are significantly free when it would seem that humans are bound by God’s system, thus the word “freedom” here is a misnomer or is limited to what pleases God and does not necessarily please God’s creatures. Furthermore, there is an important implication to consider with regard to the proposition “If God brings it about that I refrain from A, then I do not freely refrain from A.” The implication is that either God brings it about that souls in Heaven refrain from A, which means that souls are not free, or God does not bring about that souls in Heaven refrain from A, which means that souls in Heaven are free to choose to do evil, and sin all over again, and the cycle will continue ad infinitum.
In my view, however, I do not in fact see any good reason not to accept that if an omnipotent and all-loving God created any world at all, it would have to be a world devoid of the possibility of humans turning away from the good will, and thus running the risk of producing evils. We must ask ourselves this question, “How does God create the world? Does he just magically create a world at random, and all the creatures and all concepts and all states of affairs follow accidentally? Or does he design things and thinks of states of affair and their consequences? It is clear that in the Christian tradition, the tradition from which standpoint Augustine writes, it is the latter. God wills the world and humans, and his foreknowledge allows him to know about evil and salvation and punishment and all the aspects of the world. Also, I believe it is fair to say that Augustine believes that our knowledge and logical understanding is the way in which God reasons and what God deems just represent moral goodness.
Consequently, if God is involved in the creation and in every aspect of the world and contemplates every logical possibility, then it is perfectly legitimate to argue that God, given his attributes, is required to create a world with no evil. For example, it is reasonable to suppose that a perfectly loving god creates trees that grow through photosynthesis rather than by sucking blood from wild animals, and creates plants that absorb carbon monoxide and release oxygen rather than the other way around. Also, God, given his alleged attributes, should know and contemplate about slaves during colonial times; slaves were tortured and hanged, but why would an all-benevolent God allow humans to have freedom such that they could enslave other humans? Arguably, if God is omnipotent, he can create a world without slavery without taking away significant freedom from humans. If God does not allow the state of affair such that humans could turn away from the good and enslave other humans, and if God does not allow many other evils to occur, he would not totally affect human freedom.
On the other hand, we could argue that God’s attributes, i.e., Omni-everything are limited, for example, he cannot actualize a world that goes against our logic; namely, he cannot create a world without evil because evil arises out of nature’s complexity, so, a world without evil is illogical and what’s illogical to us is necessarily illogical to God. Also, God has the power only to start the process of creation of the world, and then has no power to guide or modify any states of affairs. Furthermore, he can create only the world, i.e., the physical world and not heaven or hell; consequently he does not reward specific individuals by granting their souls admission to heaven or punish them by sending them to hell. Only under these conditions, I argue, may we accept that God is not responsible for the existence of evil in the world. Let us assure that the theologian objects that God is limitedly omnipotent (which is an oxymoron) because is bound by logical necessity; but, if God has the power to actualize a best or a better world within the framework or logic, then we are entitled to accept that the world should not have the amount of evil that it has. For example, there are many evils in the world that could have been avoided without contradicting logic and without significantly affecting our freedom.
In any case, omnipotence intended as “a deity’s power to do whatever that deity wants to do except for creating a world in which free-willed humans never turn away from the good” is inconsistent because God allegedly did create a world with such characteristics—and that is Heaven.
With this in mind, I now want to turn to my third contention, that is, whether the concept of heaven undermines Augustine’s free will theodicy. The following may be found by some reader as an unduly extravagant point, but it is not. It is a reflection on the nature of heaven in concomitance with freedom of the will. We should ask ourselves, “Are souls free in heaven?” Consider a family composed of mother, father, and two children. Let us assume that only one of the two children goes to heaven along with his father, and the other child with his mother are sent to hell (or any other combination of the like). If the father and his son go to heaven, would they enjoy it knowing that mother and the other child are at the same time burning and suffering in hell? This may seem picturesque, but it is a problem that God must have thought out. It is clear that God does not want the father and his son, who attained a place in heaven, suffer thinking about their unfortunate family members who did not make it in heaven, and therefore God must “erase” in some way or other their memories. Nobody could enjoy heaven knowing that some family members are suffering in hell. By the same token, God may either decide to erase the mother’s and the child’s (who are in hell) memories or perhaps God may leave their memories, after all they have to suffer. This is however improbable because God has compassion and he would never inflict unnecessary pain.
Perhaps God must “erase” the memories of those who go to heaven and hell. However, two other problems arise. One is the ethical question that arises out of the decision to erase people’s memories, and the other is the question of identity. Namely, it is not so simple, I argue, to erase somebody’s memory without facing some moral concerns, even for God, who we have suggested earlier cannot defy logic. That is, God can erase one’s memory but the truth of the matter is that God separated a family and God himself (obviously) knows that they are living apart from each other without knowing what is happening. So if God loves his creations, will he not be suffering to see a father separated from his wife and two children? In fact, with very few exceptions, I do not believe that any father would want to see his children in hell regardless of what his children have done. And this leads to the second question, the question of identity. We have not, in fact, considered the implication for erasing one’s memory.
But what does it mean to erase the father’s memory of his wife and two children? Probably, it means to erase each and every idea that corresponds to his wife and two children, which is a hugely complicated task. In fact, every idea in our mind is interconnected with numerous other ideas. For example, I have an idea of my father, and I have an idea of fishing with my father. If I think of my father, sometimes I think of fishing and vice versa. God, then, would have a very complicated task to perform, and this task consists of removing my original idea of my father plus removing the idea of my father from every other idea that I have of him in various circumstances. God would have to remove my idea of my father changing my diaper, my father feeding me, my father teaching me things, and my father loving me, my father taking me to the movies or to the museum, and so forth. But in the end, I argue, I will lose my identity because what make “me” me is in fact a chain of ideas, memories, and experiences intertwined with ideas of my father as well as others. Therefore, as if this were not sufficiently complicated, God would have to resolve the problem of conserving my identity by changing my identity.
The solutions are either to replenish the gaps produced by the removal of my idea of my father with other ideas—but which ideas?—or to change permanently my identity. Perhaps, God may decide to substitute the idea that my father is in a different place (hell or heaven) with a false idea that my father is with me, but that would not work for it would be a lie and God is not a liar. On the other hand, some theists said that the solution is clear: God will erase our memories and that is the end of the story. Perhaps this might well be the case, but will it be right? Consider a mother, for example, who has suffered for nine months of pregnancy. For nine months she carried her baby in her womb. She then nursed him, and washed him, and reared him—in other words, she was a good mother. Then, let us pretend that the mother is sent to hell and the son to heaven. Will it be moral of God to erase their memories of each other?
Furthermore, what is heaven like? Do souls quarrel there? If souls are not physical, how do they feel pleasure? According to theists heaven is a “perfect” place. Of course, religious literalists have a different idea of heaven than that of non-literalists, but clearly they both believe that there is an afterlife; that is, there is a place where only love and goodness and beauty and peace exist, and there is a complete absence of any evil or negative thing. Heaven, then, must be quite a remarkable place. But the problem is the following. In order to feel happiness, pleasure, and enjoy the beauty and the peace offered by the life in heaven, souls must have a system which presumably works like a brain, which I take the liberty to call “ethereal brain.” How can heaven’s inhabitants be completely happy having ideas of evil and pain in their brains? After all, if they do have such ideas, these ideas must be associated with evil or painful events. Perhaps, theists may argue, God will only give heaveners faint ideas of pain, fear, evil, death, and other “negative” things, in which case the inhabitants of heaven will not totally be self conscious; that is to say, heaveners will be some sort of celestial zombies.
On the other hand—and by accepting this solution I will have drawn a full circle and returned to the initial quarrel—God might remove the “negative” concepts from our ethereal brains so that we will only know the “good” concepts such as love, happiness, and so forth. However if we look back, we have established that according to Augustine’s theodicies, evil is the upshot of having free will; and also we established that the reason we suffer is that without sufferance we would not know joy or that without the possibility of doing evil we would not have the possibility to produce any moral goodness. Then, my contention is that if it is possible to live in heaven without the notion of evil, if it is possible for God to create such a place where evil does not exist and yet souls exercise their freedom of choice and apparently they never exercise it in such a way that they move away from goodness, which leads to evil, then why did God not decide to create heaven in the first place? Why did he need to put humans through so much sufferance creating such a complicated world with many evils in it, and why did he allow human nature to be “damaged and deformed” after the Fall, if in the end he will have a heaven populated by celestially lobotomized, blissful zombies?
As I am coming to the end of my discussion, I would like to make a few further remarks. In the first place, there is a sense in which criticizing such an old theodicy feels almost unfair. The free will theodicy that Augustine puts forth in On the Free Choice of The Will was written in 387-388. It is true that most of Augustine’s adroit argumentation is adopted by many modern theologians, but his theodicy as it is originally presented is typical of that age prior to modern scientific knowledge. Secondly, with regard to evils caused by humans, Augustine’s rationale that evil is merely the result of “Turning the will away from the unchangeable good and towards changeable goods.” is hard to swallow (70-71) What is hard to accept is that evil is according to Augustine merely the absence of good. But in order for there to be evil at all—even though according to Augustine is human’s fault—it seems logically necessary to assume that God, in creating the world, must contemplate states of affairs in which the possibility to “turn away from the good” and do evil is potential. In other words, it is facile a reasoning to claim that evil is merely the unfortunate upshot of the natural movement of the will. Evil is a fact. And evil often produces useless suffering. If an individual’s will turns away from the good, why is this movement turning to evil instead of turning to more good? It must be that God, in designing the world, contemplates that when one’s will turns away from the good the result is evil. By virtue of his power, it is reasonable to assume that God can create beings that are free to turn away from his teaching, but their turning away will not lead to the evil that we experience in the world.
To be sure, Augustine does not presuppose the necessity of creating a world with evil. Moral evil for Augustine just arises out of human beings’ free choice; thus even natural evils such as famine, disease, earthquakes and so on, are the consequence of the Original Sin in the unfortunate events of the Eden story, which were not part of the original plan of creation. So, evils amount to human responsibility. Thus, when I suggest that God could have created a world as a Heaven in the first place, that is, a world devoid of natural evils, Augustine, may object that according to his theodicy this is exactly what God did and unfortunately human beings ruined it: Eden was such a place without natural evils until Adam and Eve sinned. In other words, Augustine might respond that God did create such a place with no evil, and that was Eden, but humans lost the opportunity by turning away from God’s teaching. My response in this case is that the very fact that humans were created such that they could “mess up”, they could sin, is evidence that Eden was not in fact a perfect, evil-free world after all. Augustine cannot rebut that God created a perfect world because something imperfect existed in that world that caused humans to sin in the first place. And in fact, Augustine would argue that Heaven is such a place as I describe: namely a place where the incident that occurred in Eden with Adam and Eve will never be possible. So, why not create this kind of world in the first place? On the other hand, if Augustine argues that this is just the way it is and God can only operate within logic and thus there can always be a glitch, so to speak, in God’s system, then I would submit that a) as I have already proposed, perhaps God is not omnipotent, and b) given that God’s system is fallible, we go back to my first contention: Why create anything at all?
My view is that God, if God indeed existed, would be a reasonable creature who contemplates in advance the problem of evil. There exist solutions to the problem of evil. For example, God could have created a compatibilist world, giving humans the possibility to act freely in a world without. But this example is meant only to show that it is false to argue that God needs to give humans a defective will that can move away from the good in order to create moral goodness. In fact, a greater challenge is a theodicy to justify why it is argued that God cannot create a world without evil if he wants to create creatures that exercise their freedom of the will when he allegedly did create a world without evil with free beings—that is, Heaven.
In conclusion, what I hope to have illustrated in this paper is that specific aspects of Augustine’s Free Will Defense can be challenged on at least three different grounds. My first contention, although not the most telling one, is to maintain that it would seem dubious that a perfect entity desires to create anything at all, especially in view of the fact that this creature, namely God, by virtue of his foreknowledge would contemplate in advance that human beings will sin and this will result in God’s creation of a world populated by free-willed beings who can choose to turn away from the good and produce evil. And despite the fact that Augustine argues that evil is entirely blamed on humans, God would nonetheless experience a world in which his creatures would suffer, which in its turn, will also make God suffer from the suffering of his creatures.
My second contention is that even if there might be a reason why a perfect creature would need to create the world, it would seem logical to assume that this creature, given its omni-everything attributes, could have and should have created a compatibilist world, calculating exactly the way in which to give humans the possibility to act freely in an evil-free world or at least in a world where evil is limited avoiding the Original Sin, the Fall, suffering on earth, Hell, and so forth.
My third contention is that God allegedly created a world with no evil populated by free-willed beings that never turn away from the good—and that is, Heaven. And as I hope to have shown, the concept of a Heaven is not uncontroversial either. In fact, it seems that there is an apparent conflict in concomitance with the concepts of freedom and that of joy in Heaven. Namely, my question is how can I be happy in Heaven knowing that my loved ones are not with me or worse that are suffering in Hell? Also, I find it problematic the supposed idea of total absence of evil in Heaven. If God’s ultimate purpose is to create free creatures that become, somehow, part of God and live in perfect joy and harmony, then it seems that God should have created such a state in the first place. However, if there is no evil in Heaven, would that not mean that there also is no freedom there either? If there is no freedom, then, as I have proposed, it would seem that God in the end obtains blissful zombies rather than free creatures. But if there is freedom, does it not follow from it that evil can ensue even in Heaven from the turning away of souls’ will?