No Ontological Argument Against God’s Existence

Pollock want to show that the being described by the proposition (Eg ⊃ □Eg) cannot exist (E in all of the following means “exists,” and P means “perfect”). The ontological argument is used as fodder for Pollock’s project throughout. He considers two versions of it, the second one being seemingly somewhat more Kant-proof:

(1) g =Df (the x such that Px);
(2) therefore, Pg;
(3′) □(x)(Px ⊃ □Ex);
(4′) therefore, □(Pg ⊃ □Eg);
(5′) therefore, □Eg.

Our author says that the move from (1) to (2) is illegitimate. For what if we let ‘Ax’ in the definition of g as =Df (the x such that Ax) be ‘Bx & ~Bx’? Then ‘Bg & ~ Bg’ will be true, which is absurd. The most we can get from (1) is

(2′) □(Eg ⊃ Pg), from which we can derive with the help of (4′)
(5”) □(Eg ⊃ □Eg) or “it is a necessary truth that if God exists, then He exists necessarily.”

Now assuming that God exists necessarily if and only if the meaning of “God” requires that He exists,

(8) □Eg ≡ [(g =Df the x such that Px) → Eg].

But Eg does not follow, because the argument (1) – (5′) is compromised at (2); hence

(9) ~□Eg and, by contraposition from (5”),
(10) ~Eg.

Therefore God does not exist; moreover, “it is necessarily true that God does not exist” (because if God existed in some non-actual possible world, then He would again exist necessarily, which we have proven He does not). (32-3)

Evaluation. There are two problems here. First, (2′) does follow from (1), but it is far too weak. God would be perfect (in the understanding, which is all we need) even if He did not exist or rather existed only as a concept. Thus, we have

(2”) (Eg ⊃ Pg) & (~Eg ⊃ Pg) which is equivalent to Pg.

Further, (2) does not follow from (1) logically, but it does follow from it given the interpretation of (1) as “g is a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.” The stronger inference is valid due to the nature of the predicate P, because P understood as “perfection” is surely not a self-contradiction, unlike ‘Bx & ~Bx’.

If (2) follows from (1) after all, then either the OA works, or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, then it’s because (3′) is false.

If OA works, then (9) is false. If it doesn’t work, then (5”) does not obtain. In either case, (10) stands undefended.

Second, (8) should rather be

(8′) [(g =Df the x such that Px) → Eg] → □Eg

in order to accommodate other possible definitions of necessary existence. So, even if the antecedent is false, we can conclude nothing about the consequent.

Pollock should have realized that proving that God does not exist “by logical means” is perilous business.

Whether God Has Virtues?

Douglas Walton proposes the following atheistic argument:

1. God is (by definition) a being than which no greater being can be thought.
2. Greatness includes greatness of virtue.
3. Therefore, God is a being than which no being could be more virtuous.
4. But virtue involves overcoming pains and danger.
5. Indeed, a being can only be properly said to be virtuous if it can suffer pain or be destroyed.
6. A God that can suffer pain or is destructible is not one than which no greater being can be thought.
7. For you can think of a greater being, that is, one that is nonsuffering and indestructible.
8. Therefore, God does not exist. (38)

But if virtue is understood as a disposition toward using a power well, then since God is pure act, and all His faculties, such as His intellect, are fully and 100% engaged, and whose operation is God’s very nature, God does not have virtues at all. Thus, St. Thomas points out: “if there is a being whose nature is not composed of potentiality and act, and whose substance is its own operation, which itself is for itself, there we can find no room for habit and disposition, as is clearly the case in God.” (ST, II-I, 49, 4)

Further, God’s power can be exercised only in a single way, namely, the way it is as a matter of fact in act.

Finally, God by His nature cannot act in a self-destructive ways, so His powers-in-act are always perfectly well used. Hence God has no need for virtues.

For example, none of the following virtues are in God ad intra:

  1. fear of the law as the foundation of all virtues;
  2. (cardinal) moral virtues: temperance, courage or fortitude, justice, and prudence;
  3. intellectual virtues: knowledge, understanding, and wisdom; and
  4. theological virtues: faith, hope, charity.

Therefore, premise (2) is false, and the argument is unsound.

Whether Worship of God Ruins Human Moral Autonomy?

The argument in this paper is that worshiping God entails abdicating one’s moral autonomy and judgment. “In saying that a being is worthy of worship, we would be recognizing him as having an unqualified claim on our obedience.” (53) Is it true, therefore, that there is “a conflict between the role of worshiper, which by its very nature commits one to total subservience to God, and the role of moral agent, which necessarily involves autonomous decision making”? The formal argument is this:

1. If any being is God, he must be a fitting object of worship.
2. No being could possibly be a fitting object of worship, since worship requires the abandonment of one’s role as an autonomous moral agent.
3. Therefore, there cannot be any being who is God. (54)

In other words, Rachels thinks that worshiping God entails obeying His decrees blindly. There is a certain weak connection here; e.g., here is St. Thomas on what we owe to God as our Father:

1. Honor.

  1. In reference to Him, we should honor God by giving Him praise.
  2. In reference to ourselves, we should honor God by purity of body.
  3. In reference to our neighbor, we should honor God by judging him justly.

2. Imitation.

  1. by loving Him, and this must be in the heart;
  2. by showing mercy, because mercy is bound to accompany love, and this must be in deed;
  3. by being perfect, since love and mercy should be perfect.

3. Obedience.

  1. because of His dominion, for He is the Lord;
  2. because of His example, since His true Son was made obedient to the Father unto death;
  3. because obedience is good for us.

4. Patience.

We own God patience under His chastening: “The discipline of the Lord, my son, do not spurn; do not disdain his reproof; For whom the Lord loves he reproves, as a father, the son he favors.” (Prov 3:11-12) (Aquinas Catechism, 2.II.B)

But this loving Father-child relationship of Christianity is not at all the master-slave relationship in which the slave’s fear is predominant.

Note that the Rachels’ argument has nothing to do with the divine command theory of ethics which says that whatever God commands morally ought to be done. Rather, it suggests that robotically following God’s commands, regardless of their moral status, is inhuman. And I agree that there is a grain of truth to this observation.

But what if it’s contrary to God’s explicit design of the universe for Him to bark orders at people? The nature of this world precludes God’s commanding us to do things. Matters might be different in a different world, but in this world they must be this way and are therefore not contingent. It may be the very essence of God’s human project to make us good not by God’s goodness but by our own that we earn in part by learning and acting on moral truths. That’s why God has laid down natural law to interpose between Himself and creatures. God is then the author of the operation of nature not of any individual. It is not God but nature that is the source of morality. Some knowledge of the law or duty may be innate; some learned through moral reasoning; and some infused through grace.

I admit that a divine command might seem to undermine human nature by turning a man into a machine that obeys God’s decrees mindlessly. But it is not God’s aim to destroy our nature but to build it up. This goal would be frustrated if God retained any intention of issuing divine commands as copiously as the US Congress issues its outrageous “regulations.” Just as Socrates is necessarily rational, so the universe necessarily requires God to adopt a laissez-faire attitude toward us.

It may be objected that worshiping God involves conceding that if for whatever reason God asked Smith to do X, then Smith would have to do X. It’s a change in Smith’s character, as he becomes the sort of person who stands ready at any moment to “abandon his role as an autonomous moral agent” upon divine demand. Isn’t this an unfitting self-abasement?

First, perhaps worshiping God involves nothing of the sort; but on the contrary devotion to wisdom and virtue obtained usually through a massive heroic personal effort. The best way to worship God may be to imitate His glory within one’s own self, including by becoming an expert at moral reasoning and a saint in living a moral life.

Second, consider miracles which apparently happen from time to time. If we take miracles to be some sort of “violations of laws of nature,” then too many miracles will probably destroy the law-bound nature of the world and therefore God’s own creation. In particular, humans might no longer be able survive in such a chaotic world. But an occasional miracle might serve a useful purpose, such as to remind the people that God “lives,” that would outweigh the threat to the integrity and autonomy of nature.

Similarly, suppose that on some unique occasion, God did ask Smith to do X. Smith, being a religious person, does X blindly. Perhaps he trusts that some important good will come out of it. (It may even be that if God explained His purposes to Smith, then Smith would obtain an adequate reason to do X willingly and autonomously; it’s just that the divine providence is too complex to be grasped by a mere mortal. In other words, the human power of prudential judgment is very limited; e.g., we may try to be good utilitarians, but our ability to calculate the consequences of our actions is depressingly poor; God, however, is omniscient. Perhaps obeying God, when He does talk to us in our most private moments, is rational.) If such commands are exceedingly rare, then that does not entail that Smith can from then on rely on God to tell him what to eat for dinner. Smith’s nature as an autonomous moral agent is not destroyed as a result of a once-in-a-lifetime divine command. The benefit of a lone divine command can outweigh its negative influence on Smith’s character. So the commitment to obey need not be vicious at all.

Finally, the divine command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22) was a sacrament of the unique future event: the incarnation of God the Son; further commands to the nation of Israel can be interpreted as continued preparation for this, as well. Hence, they cannot be used to demonstrate God’s normal everyday modus operandi.

Soul-Making As Solution to the Problem of Evil

In this marvelous and beautifully argued paper Mackie gives an excellent presentation of the soul-making solution to the problem of evil. Of course, he is not entirely happy with it, but I will try to remedy that here. Let’s see what he has for us.

Let us call pain and misery “first-order evil” or “evil (1).” What contrasts with this, namely, pleasure and happiness, will be called “first-order good” or “good (1).”

Distinct from this is “second-order good” or “good (2),” which somehow emerges in a complex situation in which evil (1) is a necessary component — logically, not merely causally, necessary.

(Exactly how it emerges does not matter: … in other versions it includes sympathy with suffering, heroism in facing danger, and the gradual decrease of first-order evil and increase of first-order good.)

It is also being assumed that second-order good is more important than first-order good or evil, in particular that it more than outweighs the first-order evil it involves. (67)

The first objection to this that Mackie advances is that goods of the 2nd order may be mere means to the goods of the 1st order. This is true when rightly understood. Human beings have nature, personality, and narrow happiness, the latter understood as satisfaction of desires, whatever they are. Improvement in nature (in charity, wisdom, and their fruit of fear of the law) is man’s first end; in personal virtue, his second end; and in narrow happiness, his third and last end, to be sought and achieved in this precise order. “Each of these ends is also an essential constitutive part of true happiness which consists in an appropriate union of the three.” Therefore, the 2nd-order good of sympathy, heroism, etc. is a stepping stone to 1st-order pleasure, but an essential one without which true happiness cannot be had. There is no human happiness without pure nature and virtuous character. Mackie is right to refuse to “press this objection.” (68)

Let us now call 1st-order goods (evils) physical goods (evils); 2nd-order goods, moral goods. Mackie continues that the human response to 1st-order evils can itself be evil (in which case it will be a moral evil of the 2nd order). “This would include malevolence, cruelty, callousness, cowardice, and states in which good (1) is decreasing and evil (1) increasing.” (68) And the same reasoning would apply to discredit the notion that the purpose of the (n)th-order evil is to promote (n + 1)th-order good.

Fortunately, Mackie is not done with the solutions to the problem of evil. For we can now say that 2nd-order evil is due to 3rd-order metaphysical good of human free will:

To explain why a wholly good God gave men free will although it would lead to some important evils, it must be argued that it is better on the whole that men should act freely, and sometimes err, than that they should be innocent automata, acting rightly in a wholly determined way.

Freedom, that is to say, is now treated as a third-order good and as being more valuable than second-order goods (such as sympathy and heroism) would be if they were deterministically produced, and it is being assumed that second-order evils, such as cruelty, are logically necessary accompaniments of freedom, just as pain is a logically necessary precondition of sympathy. (68-9)

Inspired, isn’t it? Mackie immediately objects that an omnipotent God would have been able to create humans who, though possessing free will, always chose the good. “If there is no logical impossibility in a man’s freely choosing the good on one, or on several, occasions, there cannot be a logical impossibility in his freely choosing the good on every occasion.” (69) Well, there is indeed no logical impossibility of never committing a sin, but given that humans live, on average, for something like 80 years and start out as infants with only minuscule amounts of love, knowledge, and power, having to acquire those by growing up in a tremendously complex world and to become highly complex human beings, mistakes (which include morally evil deeds) are practically inevitable.

Even St. Thomas noted that “our knowledge is so imperfect that no philosopher has ever been able to discover perfectly the nature of a single fly.” (AC, 1.I.A.5.a) Of course, now we know that even a fly exhibits incredible specified complexity and is an engineering marvel.

A more serious objection consists in asking whether there are (3rd-order) metaphysical evils and if so, then what justifies them. My reply will consist in 3 steps.

First, it seems that examples of metaphysical evils abound:

  1. scarcity of consumer goods and factors of production;
  2. the inevitability of death;
  3. temporal as opposed to eternal existence combined with the weakness of both memory and foresight;
  4. practical unavoidability of errors in life, including those from which one cannot recover;
  5. natural poverty;
  6. unlimited wants coupled with the paucity of power to satisfy them;
  7. proneness to moral corruption (being corrupt, e.g., having a vicious character, is, indeed, a moral evil, but proneness to corruption is part of human nature and so is a metaphysical evil);
  8. to take complementary examples from physics and moral theology, entropy that wears on the body and temptations that wear on the soul;

and suchlike. In other words,

  1. a particular instance of pain is a physical evil;
  2. if that physical evil is unjustly inflicted on one person by another, then this crime itself is an instance of moral evil;
  3. finally, the “existential” fact that pain is unavoidable in the life of a human being is a metaphysical evil, a fundamental and inescapable limitation of the world.

Again, when a given lion kills a given antelope, the latter’s suffering is a physical evil of some sort. But that nature as a whole is designed in such a way that the two are natural enemies and that one of them must die, either the antelope to feed the lion or the lion from starvation, is a metaphysical evil. That a certain factory pollutes the air and harms my health is a physical evil (suffered by me). But the fact that there cannot be 100% efficient machines, and some pollution is inevitable is a metaphysical evil.

Yet, and second, we can counter this by noticing that metaphysical evil would seem to take the form of apparent (1) evil per se or defects of created nature and (2) evil per accidens or the fate of human beings to suffer. However, everything likes being what it is (if it did not, then it would not live for long). I enjoy being human, for example, and would want to turn into neither a frog below the level of perfection of my nature nor an angel above. The alleged metaphysical evil per se is nothing of the sort but is actually good!

That a person is able to feel pain and anguish seems bad, too, until one realizes that this again is part of the design of the world and a good thing. Without the duality of suffering and pleasure, there would be no thinking, no action, and no soul-making. The evil per accidens, then, is also only apparent, and to a novice in philosophy.

Third, as a response to this suggestion that metaphysical evil is an illusion, we can still further object that nature is often exceedingly brutal and cruel and dark. It is hardly paradise, so the puzzle is the sheer amount of metaphysical evil in the world. Christianity attributes this strange and seemingly scandalous corruption of nature to the human “original sin.” But the Genesis story seems like a set-up. Why? Well, it is part of the Christian understanding that God the Father created nature within the Garden of Eden without a blemish and rested thereupon. Metaphysical evil came into the world later. This happened in order to facilitate the mission of the second person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, that commenced immediately upon the original creation. See, e.g.,

Goodness: Creator and Destroyer;
Sins Against the Holy Spirit.

God may have felt that we needed to be softened up so that grace may rebuild us both by healing nature and by building on nature. Artificial metaphysical evil introduced upon the “original sin” resulted in the fact that we are not fully human. This is a great metaphysical evil from the point of view of God the Father but perhaps is somehow useful to God the Holy Spirit in His unique mission. God needed us to have a greater potential which was bought at the expense of lower integrity and perfection of our nature and actuality.

Given these arguments, let’s evaluate the following. “As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.'” (Jn 9:1-3)

The blindness of the man is a physical evil; the works of God (by which works of mercy by man assisted by the Holy Spirit’s grace are meant) are moral goods; that nature is such as occasionally to cause blind children to be born is a metaphysical evil. But the divine project requires even this latter evil in order to unify the world which, when all is accomplished, will be vastly metaphysically superior to the original creation even with the latter’s pristine and unspoiled nature which lacked obvious flaws.

Regarding that project, both God and humans are all in and full speed ahead; all the bridges are burned; there is no going back into any natural happiness either here or in the hereafter; you are either with God in His astonishing enterprise or against God. He who is not ascending to heaven is by that very fact descending into hell.

Finally, Mackie asks, “Why… should God refrain from controlling evil wills? Why should he not leave men free to will rightly, but intervene when he sees them beginning to will wrongly?” (70)

First, controlling evil wills would seem to entail destruction of the natural laws, according to which human nature operates on its own. In such a case, man would be good by divine goodness not by his own, which is contrary to divine purpose.

Second, God does exercise providence by bestowing grace. St. Thomas enumerates “five effects of grace in us: of these, the first is, to heal the soul; the second, to desire good; the third, to carry into effect the good proposed; the fourth, to persevere in good; the fifth, to reach glory.” (ST, II-I, 111, 3) This interaction is very subtle: “a man may, of himself, know something, and with certainty; and in this way no one can know that he has grace.” (112, 5)

Third, God cannot unilaterally decide what sort of person one wants to be. One has to make his own identity. That’s why God cannot crudely interfere with the process of self-making. Mackie argues that “there would be a loss of value if God took away the wrongness and freedom together. But this is utterly opposed to what theists say about sin in other contexts.” (70) What is he talking about? Who would want his own freedom to be taken away so long as he no longer sins? The key is to learn not to make mistakes in life while retaining one’s freedom, to become a human saint, not to turn into a machine.

Soul-Making Is an Exceedingly Complex Affair

The next paper continues the discussion. Here are some highlights. Mackie suggests that “children can develop into responsible self-governing adults only by being allowed to make mistakes and to learn from them.” Pain can be usefully endured if part of a medical treatment. Moreover, pain “performs a useful warning function: it directs the animal away from what would cause greater injury or death.” Mackie’s problem with such observations is that they presuppose definite causal relationships. But for God, “if omnipotence means anything at all, it means power over causal laws.” (75) I am sure that God chose the causal laws carefully, but some causality is essential to our very existence; and the good of man’s ability to act, of the ends-means connections, outweighs the evils that might occur because of the general character of these rules. In other words, the universal goodness of the presence of causality itself in the world precisely absorbs, to use Mackie’s terminology, those evils that come from the particular and unfortunate working out of those rules. Thus, the general good of having abundant water for drinking, swimming in, etc. may lead to a particular evil of drowning. But that evil would nevertheless be absorbed. The question then comes down to, “Why aren’t we already in paradise where, for example, our bodies would be immortal and impassible?” Well, because God is not done with us, and we aren’t done with ourselves, either.

Mackie then considers the “paradox of omnipotence”: “Are men supposed to be free in the sense merely that God does not control their choosing, or in the sense that he cannot do so? … can an omnipotent being make things which he cannot control?” (81) Now this concerns the ad extra power of God as goodness to create a world; not God ad intra power to “achieve” eternal, perfect, and infinite happiness. The paradox is easy to solve. Having created Socrates, for example, God cannot at the same time keep him and take away his rationality. This follows from the truth of the proposition, “Socrates is necessarily rational,” not from any genuine limitation on divine omnipotence.

This is relevant to solving the next puzzle, whether God could have “made men such that they always freely choose the good.” (85) If “always choosing the good” is an aspect of human nature, then man is necessarily holy, cannot choose evil, and is by that very fact unfree.

But perhaps choosing the good could be not an essential property of a human being but a common one, i.e., a proper accident, like being risible or being less than 20 feet tall. All men would remain free but would in fact always and without fail choose the good. Well, if “choosing the good” were an exceedingly trivial affair, it might have been possible for God to create a serviceable world in which humans always chose it. But it is obvious that the enormous complexity of the world including of man’s moral life is not a bug but the world’s explicit and essential feature. Hence, in practice, God could not create humans this way. Increasing human powers to deal with this complexity would not work; as St. Thomas writes, “God’s power is His goodness: hence He cannot use His power otherwise than well. But it is not so with men. Consequently it is not enough for man’s happiness, that he become like God in power, unless he become like Him in goodness also.” (ST, II-I, 2, 4, reply 1) In other words, with greater power, man would be able to do both greater goods and greater evils. Perhaps it is just as well that we are spared this possibility.

Regarding Mackie’s rejection of Plantinga’s free will defense based on everyone’s transworld depravity, again, it may be logically possible for every person not to sin, but it is not practically possible, given God’s aim of having a world populated by creatures who, little by little, by trial and error, with fear and trembling, make and build up themselves.

Evil As “Contrast” to Good

Mackie writes that one way in which particular evil may be required for the universal good is through sheer contrast: “in a musical work, for example, there may occur discords which somehow add to the beauty of the work as a whole.” (76) As an illustration, consider again the following speech from the movie Troy by Achilles:

I’ll tell you a secret… something they don’t teach you in your temple. The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed.

You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.

Perhaps this is yet another lesson we are supposed to take to heart not only in this life but especially in the next. For an everlasting life may, in an unprepared person, ruin the beauty, poignancy, and indeed importance of the present, of each moment. That would be wildly unfitting.

Plantinga’s Free Will Defense

Hugh LaFollette considers Plantinga’s arguments and finds them lacking. The argument being responded to is this:

Consider, [Plantinga] says, some human, Maurice, who will, at some time t in the near future, be free with respect to some insignificant action — like having oatmeal for breakfast. That is, at time t, he will be free to take oatmeal, but also free to take something else, say, shredded wheat. “Next suppose we consider S’ a state of affairs that is included in the actual world and includes Maurice’s being free at time t to take oatmeal and free to reject it.” This S’, Plantinga tell us, includes neither Maurice’s taking nor rejecting the oatmeal. … God knows that one of the following conditionals is true:

(8) If S’ were to obtain, Maurice will freely take the oatmeal.


(9) If S’ were to obtain, Maurice will freely reject the oatmeal. (99)

Suppose that S’ obtains and (God knows that) (8) is true there. Then the world W’ in which Maurice will freely reject the oatmeal, though possible, is “unfeasible” for God. For if God leaves things be, then Maurice will freely take the oatmeal and W’ will not be actualized; if God forces Maurice to reject the oatmeal, then our hero’s decision will no longer be free, and once again W’ will not be actualized.

LaFollette argues that to say that S’ obtains, (8) is true, and Maurice freely rejects the oatmeal is to utter a logical contradiction. And contradictions indicate impossible not merely unfeasible worlds. The issue here turns on how best to reconcile God’s foreknowledge and contingent events. If we say that God knowledge depends on or is determined by creaturely actions, then LaFollette’s complaint cannot be sustained: it could have happened that W’ occurred and then God would have known something different, namely that Maurice would freely not take the oatmeal.

In other words, (8) is true because W’ does not occur; but if it were to occur, then (8) would be false and God would have known that. It is certainly true that the conjunction of S’, (8) and W’ is impossible, but that is irrelevant, because (8) and W’ will never occur together; the truth value v of (8) is a variable that is counterfactually dependent on the occurrence or non-occurrence of W’. By knowing v first through simple intelligence and ultimately by vision, God foreknows what Maurice will as a matter of fact do. But if that is so, then it is not within God’s power to cause Maurice to freely choose not to have oatmeal, yet the world in which this happens is clearly a possible one.

However, I agree with LaFollette that Plantinga’s defense is inadequate. Plantinga’s argument is that

∀(x)(x has committed even a single moral evil ⊃ ◊(x has transworld depravity)) or, equivalently,

∀(x)(x has committed even a single moral evil ⊃ ◊□(x is depraved)) or, from the S5 system of modal logic,

∀(x)(x has committed even a single moral evil ⊃ □(x is depraved)) or, simply,

(a) ∀(x)(x is depraved ⊃ □(x is depraved)).

There is really no evidence either for (a) or against (a), but (a) is conceivable, and that, Plantinga seems to argue, is sufficient to demonstrate the compatibility of

(1) God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good; and
(5) The actual world contains moral evil.

In other words, we can say that based on our current knowledge of things, it is not appropriate to confidently affirm that (1) and (5) contradict each other.

We can even strengthen (a) to

(b) □∀(x)(x is depraved ≡ □(x is depraved)).

The problem is that it remains a possibility that there may be a world populated entirely by perfect saints, i.e., a world in which no one is depraved. This eventuality may be denied with a still stronger statement:

(c) □∀(x)(◊(x is depraved) ≡ □(x is depraved)),

but at the cost of making it false. For (c) has two unhappy implications. Now every possible human being is “possibly depraved”; that’s the essence of the human condition, free will, etc. First, if it follows from this that such a creature is depraved necessarily, then it means that sin is necessary and absolutely unavoidable. The Catholic Encyclopedia argues rather that “while of our own strength we cannot avoid sin, with God’s grace we can.” Perhaps in a world whose nature is less viciously corrupt than ours, a life of unwavering natural righteousness is occasionally possible even without grace. Plantinga bothers with no such distinctions. Second, it implies that no actual human being has ever lived a sinless life. But there is a counterexample: Mary the Mother of God. Hence, (c) is false and this particular counter to the problem of evil stands undermined.

Whether There Can Be a “Necessarily Good” Man?

Smith begins by considering three distinct concepts of freedom. The relevant one for our purposes is logical freedom: “A person is logically free with respect to an action A if and only if there is some possible world in which he performs A and there is another possible world in which he does not perform A.” (107) Smith then notes that God is logically determined toward good actions yet retains his freedom in other senses.

Incidentally, ad intra, God has a will but not free will, since He is perfectly happy and is under no necessity to make choices by picking one good while setting aside another.

Recall that Plantinga argues that it is conceivable that

(b) □∀(x)(x is depraved ≡ □(x is depraved)).

Our author’s argument quickly takes a bizarre turn. Why, he asks, couldn’t God have created men logically determined or “necessarily good” with respect to good acts? The obvious answer is: if God could not create beings who would be always actually righteous (because of their transworld depravity), then a fortiori, neither could He create beings who would be necessarily righteous. Smith argues

for the stronger claim that there is a different sort of creature, rational persons who are internally-externally free but logically determined to do what is right, and… there is a possible world containing only them and God.

This stronger claim is needed to withstand Plantinga’s criticism that it is possible that if God created the persons in question, they would choose to do some wrong acts, even though they might not have. (115)

Did Smith imagine that the stronger claim can better “withstand” criticism (it’s bigger and tougher, after all) if the weaker claim fails? Quentin, it’s the other way around!

In philosophy, a “strong” argument is one that’s ambitious and grand and affirms a great deal. Thus, “everything is made out of water” is an extremely strong statement and for that reason is easy to refute, such as by suggesting that there is no water in fire. A weak argument is one that affirms a modest claim which as a result is easier to defend.

But perhaps Smith raises the issue of whether there could be rational creatures who would have such a nature that they would be necessarily good for the following reason: if God is logically determined toward good, why couldn’t He make humans (or call them whatever) who would be exactly like Him in goodness?

If by goodness we understand God’s “3rd-level” goodness, such as His mode of causation, then it is uniquely God’s, and no creature can ever be at all good in this sense.

If by goodness we understand God’s 2nd-level Trinitarian perfection, then humans can be good, as they are made in this God’s image and likeness; however, God is infinite and creatures can only be finite. God, after all, begot only one Son who is equal to the Father in all respects. Now can a finite humanoid creature ever be truly safe from sin? The Christian story of the fall of man suggests that even perfect nature of both oneself and the environment is no guarantee of perpetual virtue; any finite being, no matter how naturally uncorrupt (as Adam was), will in infinite time sin. It is permissible, i.e., not contrary to revelation, to hold that Adam had survived in his Garden for a million (or billion) years and succumbed to temptation only at long last. But succumb he did.

(God then created our present corrupt universe in anticipation of Adam’s sin, having foreseen it.)

The good angels never fell, but they were tested only once and merited their destiny with a single decision. But Adam was presumably subject to the temptation to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil continuously over his entire initially immortal life. Adam’s original sin was then inevitable, and God, foreseeing this bothersome problem, has with all His later actions aimed to make the best out of a bad situation. If true, then Plantinga’s Free Will Defense discussed in the previous post acquires additional merit if we speak of merely natural (ungraced) humans and infinite life: if Adam could not in the end avoid sin, then a fortiori, neither can any other sufficiently human-like creature. Thus, the Genesis story, if it is a truthful account of the creation of man, provides massive empirical support for the theory of universal transworld depravity and therefore for the truth of

(c) □∀(x)(◊(x is depraved) ≡ □(x is depraved)).

The perfect security of happiness obtains only in heaven / paradise in the state of glory where the process of self-making will cease. Creatures can never fully relax while away from God.

Hence, there can be no such thing as a created humanoid who is “logically determined” toward good. These aren’t the droids you are looking for, Quentin.

Re: Unjustified Evil and God’s Choice

La Croex expends far too many words in an argument that could be expressed very simply: In order for evil not to exist, God could have refrained from creating the world; further, since God is the greatest possible good, no goodness was added to God as a result of creation. Why then did God create? And would it not be better if He had not?

On the theist’s own view prior to creation there was nothing missing from the perfect value of God which would call for creation.

One possible approach to a satisfactory apologetic of creation, for example, might be to point out that if God had not created, then there would be no human free will or human moral good.

But this kind of an approach would require a further premise to the effect that a created, hierarchy of value adds to the overall value and, hence, God created.

It would follow from this, however, that created value adds to God’s value and, hence, that God is not the greatest possible good because His goodness can be increased by the addition of created value. (124)

But Thomas Morris has solved this problem to my satisfaction in his Our Idea of God. He notices a distinction between

a being, an entity, an individual, on the one hand, and any state of affairs which involves that individual. The distinction is a fundamental and quite simple one. I am an individual being, my Pelikan 800 fountain pen is an individual entity, and we are both involved in the state of affairs of my writing this sentence with my Pelikan 800 fountain pen.

Likewise, we must carefully distinguish between the state of affairs of that fountain pen’s existing and the object which is that fountain pen.

With this sort of distinction clearly in mind, we can clarify exactly what the central claim of perfect being theology is: It is that God is to be thought of as the greatest possible being. And this is a claim that does not entail the separate proposition that the state of affairs of God’s existing alone is the greatest possible state of affairs. …

We can acknowledge that the state of affairs consisting in God’s sharing existence with our created universe is greater than the state of affairs of God’s existing in pristine isolation or solitude. But from this, it does not follow that there is any being or individual greater than God. This would be the case only if God and the created universe could be thought of as parts of a larger object, God-and-the-world, which could be assigned a value as a distinct individual, additively derived from the values of its parts.

And this is prohibited for at least two reasons.

First, there is no natural principle of unity in accordance with which God and the created universe would together compose one object.

Second, it is just conceptually precluded by perfect being theology that God ever be considered a part of a larger and more valuable whole, an entity distinct from, but partially composed by, God.

With all this in mind, we can affirm the positive value, even the great positive value, of the created universe, without thereby posing any threat to the conception of God as the greatest possible being, and without any risk of contradiction arising in connection with that conception. (142-3)

If the overall state of affairs of God + the world is better that the state of affairs of God alone even despite the presence of evil in the world, then La Croex’s argument fails.

Alleged Paradox of Eden

This article, amounting to less than one page, argues: “Before they ate the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve either knew that obeying God is good and disobeying God is evil, or they did not know this.” (127) La Croix then deduces that God was unjust toward them in either case.

Now interpreting early Genesis is less interesting than it might seem. But why not?

I think Adam and Eve knew enough of good and evil to prefer life to death. Hence on their own, they successfully abstained from eating the forbidden fruit, as per the Lord’s “From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.” (Gen 2:17)

However, persuaded by the snake’s argument, Eve decided that God was viciously withholding from her a valuable good, wisdom. The snake, she thought, was doing her a favor by exposing the pettiness and jealous character of God, as though the Lord were Zeus and the snake, Prometheus. To the extent that Eve held a false idea of God of this sort, she did not know good and evil. As a result, she despised her Creator in her heart.

Regarding the realization of their nakedness, my guess is that in the state of innocence, Adam was banging Eve 3 times a day and enjoying it immensely. So, it was a corporeal sign of Adam’s soul losing its subjection to God that his body lost its subjection to the soul. He could no longer control his sexual drive profitably for himself.

The Original Sin then was the combination of the contempt for God in the will, false understanding of God in the intellect, and the act of disobedience via physically eating the fruit. This is what was punished “legalistically.”

At the same time, consuming the fruit did bestow a godlike attribute on the couple, as evidenced by God saying, “See! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil!” (Gen 3:22) In particular, Adam must have learned that God was the highest good. Now knowing good and evil entails being able to choose between good and evil. But Adam had not yet shown that he preferred good to evil. He was expelled so that he could earn glory for himself by demonstrating in action his love for the good despite obstacles such as the “cursed ground,” the need to toil, and death. That’s why God worried that Adam “reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever.” It was not proper for a man whose nature was now corrupted to be immortal.

Thus, the punishment was not mere divine retribution but served a separate purpose, as well. In either case, there was no injustice in it.