Sunday, June 05, 2005

Freedom and Evil

In 'Why be Free?' I concluded that freedom, genuine freedom, should not be desired and indeed is not real.

But if this is so, I think it likely that theodicy becomes impossible. Theodicy is the attempt to explain why a God that is both all-good and all-powerful allows evil to exist. One such attempt begins with the claim that we human beings (and perhaps other kinds of being too) are free and have moreover misused that freedom in such a way as to introduce evil into a world that before was perfect. This has seemed to me for some time the best kind of theodicy to pursue. But if freedom is an illusion, any free-will theodicy is doomed to failure. Indeed, if freedom is an illusion, God could have made a world with the perfect assurance that none of its inhabitants would ever sin.

But if the best of the theodicy strategies fails, belief in God becomes impossible, for His existence will come to seem plainly incompatible with the existence of evil.

So, then, we have this dilemma. We should not wish that we are free. But we should wish that we are free, for we should not wish to be forced to deny God's existence. I do not at present see a sure way out of this dilemma.

Should we say that our freedom is temporary, and that it comes about as a result of sin? This has promise. To be free is to be able to sin. But to be able to sin is to fall short of perfection. Thus we should not expect that humans were free before the Fall, when they existed in the full perfection bestowed on them by God, and that their Fall made them free.

But this response flounders. How do we explain the Fall if we do not presuppose that humans before the Fall were free? It seems we cannot. Thus we must presuppose that pre-Fall humans were free. But this is to assume that they were created in a state far short of perfect. But how can we say such a thing of God? How can we say that God brought a thing into existence in an imperfect state?

One last thought: perhaps we should say that God created us not in an imperfect state but in an immature state and that He will, in time, bring us to perfection. This does not seem absurd to me. If this can be made to work, freedom is a sign of, or perhaps constitutive of, immaturity. Do I have reason, then, to accept that freedom is real?


C Grace said...

How about this. God created mankind free because his nature is to love and be loved. Obviously love is a choice and requires freedom to act. Also if you read Job, one of Satan's accusations here seems to be that God can only maintain his Kingdom through power not through loyalty inspired by love. Satan says that given a choice humans would abandon God. In both stories (Creation and Job)Satan is challenging God's goodness.

In a sense I believe you are right in saying we are immature and God will eventually bring us to maturity. - but not a maturity lacking freedom - instead it will be a freedom of perfect love.

If you like books you might want to check out John Eldredge's The Sacred Romance. It deals with this issue.

C Grace said...

I didn't have a chance to get back to this before but after reading your other post on freedom I realized that we were using different definitions for the word. So maybe according to you perfect love isn't "free".

You talk about love in your other post but you say that adult love does not arise from free choice. How so?
I would say that freedom to sin gives us the choice not to sin. When we choose not to sin (harm someone for our own selfish desires) we are choosing love and it is a higher and better love then a child's need love. It is a rational and spiritual love not just an emotional love.
Yes freedom brings greater problems and plenty of sorrow but allows for greater accomplishments and greater joy. Take your pick a nice safe easy life or a wild ride that goes from the hights to the depths of human experience. I choose the latter.

James Fletcher Baxter said...

Human knowledge is a fraction of the whole universe. The
balance is a vast void of human ignorance. Human reason
cannot fully function in such a void; thus, the intellect
can rise no higher than the criteria by which it perceives
and measures values.

Humanism makes man his own standard of measure. However,
as with all measuring systems, a standard must be greater
than the value measured. Based on preponderant ignorance
and an egocentric carnal nature, humanism demotes reason
to the simpleton task of excuse-making in behalf of the
rule of appetites, desires, feelings, emotions, and glands.

Because man, hobbled in an ego-centric predicament, cannot
invent criteria greater than himself, the humanist lacks
a predictive capability. Without instinct or transcendent
criteria, humanism cannot evaluate options with foresight
and vision for progression and survival. Lacking foresight,
man is blind to potential consequence and is unwittingly
committed to mediocrity, averages, and regression - and
worse. Humanism is an unworthy worship.

The void of human ignorance can easily be filled with a
functional faith while not-so-patiently awaiting the foot-
dragging growth of human knowledge and behavior. Faith,
initiated by the Creator and revealed and validated in His
Word, the Bible, brings a transcendent standard to man the
choice-maker. Other philosophies and religions are man-
made, humanism, and thereby lack what only the Bible has:

1.Transcendent Criteria and
2.Fulfilled Prophetic Validation.

The vision of faith in God and His Word is survival equip-
ment for today and the future.

Tom Gilson said...

Franklin, these are the right questions.

Freedom must be real, or everything is meaningless. That preserves the theodicy, as you pointed out here.

I commented earlier that whether we "should wish to be free" or not is moot. We simply are.

God created us in His image, which has to do with intellect, emotion, will, and freedom of will. This is all within the limits of creatures who are by no means God. We were created in a state "far short of perfect" if perfection is measured by God's omniscience, omnipotence, and other transcendent qualities. Mankind was, however, once perfect in moral qualities; nothing separated him morally from God before the fall.

Will God someday bring us to perfection? There are those who have submitted freely to God, and as it says in I John, 'we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. This is a return to moral perfection; it is the fulfillment of God's promise to those who 'hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Others will find that their freedom has brought them, by their choice, to be separated from God forever (this is what hell is about).

So freedom is not a sign of immaturity. It is a sign of being in God's image, and ultimately we will receive the results of our free choices.


I'm certainly hoping I'm on track with the kinds of things you're working through. Sometimes, even in my own blog and the conversations that flow from it, I really wish I could carry out these dialogues face to face. I'm more confident that what I've written here is true, than I am confident that it really meets the question that was raised...

Franklin Mason said...

I certainly do feel the tug of the view that the best, the highest kind of love is a love that is freely bewtowed.

But what do we mean by freedom here? Some take genuine freedom to imply that we could have done otherwise than we did. If this is right, then it seems that, so long as I am free, a very real possibility exists that I will sin yet again. This will hold even after God has healed the breach of the Fall and raised us to the perfection that pre-Fall man possessed.

But this seems to imply that the Fall could happen again. I resist this conclusion.

So it seems to me that genuine freedom does not imply the ability to have done otherwise. I don't want to be able to not love my wife and children. I don't want to be able to not love God. Rather, what I want is this: a perfected nature and a perfect communion with God and neighbor that will quite inevitably lead me to love as I ought.

I know that it sounds a bit strange to inject talk of what I want here. But I believe that where there is a genuine desire or need, there exists that which will fulfill it. I believe that desire as it were points to higher truths.

C Grace said...

It seems to me that you are equating the ability to do something with the necessity that someday you will do it.

Is this valid? As I see it Because a possibility exists does not mean it will come to pass.

"If this is right, then it seems that, so long as I am free, a very real possibility exists that I will sin yet again."

I never thought of this but it seems to me to be quite true. But if God is willing to take this chance then we should not shrink away in fear.

What do you love more? The security of knowing absolutely that your desires will be fulfilled or God himself? Do we love what He gives us or do we love Him? He gives no guarentees but asks us to trust because this too is the nature of love. We should trust that in our new nature the beauty of God will be clear enough and our love strong enough to keep us choosing to love Him forever.
In Adam's innocence in the garden he was morally pure but his love was not perfect because it had never been tested. Jesus on the other hand did demonstrate a perfect love because being able to choose sin he did not. What was the agony of Gethsemane if not the agony of choice? He knew what was coming. When I watched the Passion of the Christ I was moved to a feeling of worship that I had never experienced before because I realized exactly how hard that choice was - yet the strength of his love was enough. And the Bible says when we are perfected we will be like Him! In this he models for us the love we will have when we are perfected. But maybe you can not take encouragement from Jesus's death. I believe from the previous posts I have read that you do not believe in it quite this way.

"But I believe that where there is a genuine desire or need, there exists that which will fulfill it. I believe that desire as it were points to higher truths."

YES! and it is in coming to fully know Christ that these desires will be completely revealed and met. He is calling to you.

Oh, may you come to see the love of Christ in it's entirety.

Tom Gilson said...

I think you're closer than you think here. There is genuine freedom without fear of a second fall.

Today our freedom consists of the ability to choose good or evil (the tree Adam and Eve ate from was "the knowledge of good and evil"). For those who choose life, who choose to follow God, he will give them what they have freely asked, which is righteousness. This will be in the future state ("heaven").

Then, yes, some of our "freedom" will no longer remain; the option to sin will no longer be there. But this is not a loss of freedom; it is the fulfillment of a free choice. And there will be plenty of freedom within the realm of righteous choices then, as is the case also now.

Freedom and righteousness are thus both preserved.

C Grace said...

Just one more comment here before I get off this subject. I have been thinking about the problem we have with the definition of freedom and I think i see where it occurs. It seems to me some words have to be defined experiencially rather than propositionally (my language of the heart ve language of the head in the previous post) to have a complete understanding.

Let me give an example - Say there is a man who has never experienced or seen a single caring or loving act in his life. No matter what propostional definition of love you give him, he has no reference for understanding what you are talking about. However if you give him an experiencial definition - a story, an example - he can start to understand. Then you can work backwards to the propostional definition. But any propositional definition you come up with will leave out elements that were in the experiencial definition and so be less complete.

I think we have a similar case with the word freedom. Freedom is basically an experience and any propositional definition is going to miss important aspects of it.

It's like drawing a three dimensional object. you can't just draw a square to represent a cube, you have to add extra lines and distort it to get it to be most accurate. For experiencial words you have to have multiple definitions working simultaneously and each individual definition will be slightly distorted.