The Freewill Defence

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  • Created by: Bridie
  • Created on: 18-04-11 12:49

One of the key themes in Augustine's theodicy is the idea that evil is the result of human free  will rathar than God's will. This theme has been developed into a theodicy in its own right called the free will defence.

The free will defence argues...

  • Free will is an essential part of humanity, without which we would be mere robots. This explains why free will is sufficiently important to be worth the risk of evil
  • Genuine free will requires the genuine possibility of evil, so that if God has removed this possibility he would have to have taken away out free will
  • Even the terrible extent of evil throughout history is in some way necessary to our free will, explaining why God does not simply step in and rescue us from the worst effects of our choices.
  • The free will defence centres on the idea that for humans to need to be allowed to respond freely to God, they must be able to make their own decisions and choose to love God of their own free will. This means that, ultimately, humans must have the choise to do good or to commit evil. When moral evil occurs, it is because humans have misused their God-given freedom.

The Freewill defence attempts to combat the problem of evil by rationalising that evil is a result of human action and therefore God is not to be held responsible.

Soren Kierkegaard's example of the King and the Peasant Girl to support the free will defence

The king represents God and the peasant girl represents humanity. A rich king feel in love with a peasant girl. He decided to draw up a royal decree that would force her to marry him. But the king realised that if he forced her to marry him, he would never really be sure of her love. Then he considered that if he appeared to her in his finest clothes and showed his great wealth and power she would agree to marry him. But he realised that he would never know if she married him for his siches and power. Finally the king decided that he would go and live and work with the villagers as a peasant and seek to win the girl as his wife. Only then, if she had fallen in love with him as himself, could he be sure that she really loved him.

Swinburne's support for free will

This leaves the question why God, if he is omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscient (all seeing), could not intervene to prevent at least the most serious effects of moral evil.

Richard Swinburne argues that...

  • The reason why God cannot intervene to stop suffering is that this would jeopardise human freedom and take away the need for responsibility and development
  • God cannot intervene even when such moral evil occurs as the death…


beth toms


really clear explanation! thank you!

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