The Problem of Evil and Free Will

June 8, 2009

There are many objections to the claims of existence of God, but out of all of them I’ve come across, there is only one that seems to have real intellectual and psychological weight behind it. This objection is the problem of Evil. Most Christians will answer this objection with Free Will, that a universe must by necessity contain evil if it is to also contain Free Will. After all, how can someone choose evil, if there is no evil to choose from? This is a very sound argument, but only on the premise that Free Will is defined as an ability to carry out a choice. This assumption would then only show the necessities of the material evils of this world and not the spiritual evils. To better account for these far greater evils, I think the definition of Will must be made less constrictive, if we are to continue using it in defense against the problem of evil. Let me elaborate.

This notion of Free Will as consisting of an ability to carry out a choice, does not seem entirely accurate. For if this were so, then merely having evil thoughts would not be sin. But this is what Jesus teaches. Even having evil intent is sin; in fact even perceiving something in a certain manner can be sin. Not only is it evil to hate your neighbors, but it’s also a sin to look at a woman / man lustfully. Similarly, Paul states in Romans that those who have no ability to live righteously are still held accountable for their sins. So in this sense, our Will does not need to have the ability to carry out its desires for it to be held responsible.

Was the original sin that Adam reached out his hands to grasp the fruit and ate it? Or that he performed it in his mind and re-enacted it as he was doing it? Surely both were evil and of the same sin; but one gave birth to the other, was the cause of the other. Free Will, then, seems to be more about perception and subjective experience than about the ability to carry out the choice. It is more about the mind than the matter, more about the Soul than the Body. This may be why CS Lewis says that sins of character are worse than sins of the flesh. This may be why satan is father of lies and not father of lust.

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