Last week we introduced the logical problem of evil as follows:
Logical Version: “It’s Logically Impossible for God and Suffering to Coexist.”
The argument goes something like this:
1. An all-loving, all-powerful God exists.
2. Suffering exists.
3. If God is all powerful, He can create any world that He wants.
4. If God is all-loving, He prefers a world without suffering.
Argument: God is all-loving and all-powerful. Therefore, He both can and wants to create a world without suffering. Therefore, it follows that the world has no suffering. But that contradicts 2, Suffering exists. Therefore, God must not exist. 1
Let us consider assumption 3.
Assumption 3 says, "If God is all powerful, He can create any world that He wants." I would contend that this isn't so if people have free will. Dr. William Lane Craig explains:
"It's logically impossible to make someone do something freely. That is as logically impossible as making a round square or a married bachelor. God's being all-powerful does not mean that He can bring about the logically impossible-indeed, there is not such 'thing' as the logically impossible. It's just an inconsistent combination of words...since it's possible that people have free will, it turns out that 3 is not necessarily true. For if people have free will, they may refuse to do what God desires. So there will be any number of possible words that God cannot create because the people in them wouldn't cooperate with God's desires. In fact, for all we know, it's possible that in any world of free persons with as much good as this world, there would also be as much suffering. This conjecture need not be true or even probable, but so long as it's even logically possible, it shows that it is not necessarily true that God can create any world that He wants. So assumption 3 is just not necessarily true. On this basis alone, the atheist's argument is logically fallacious."2
Next week we will look at assumption 4, "If God is all-loving, He prefers a world without suffering."
Courage and Godspeed,
1. William Lane Craig, On Guard, p. 154-155.
2. Ibid. p. 155-156; for those who might respond, "Can't God do anything?," see here.