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Divine Freedom

Edited by Kevin Timpe (Northwest Nazarene University)
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Summary While differing accounts of the nature of human freedom have received considerable attention, many of the same debates apply to how to understand God's free will as well. Central in this respect are concerns regarding the relationship of God's choices to his moral character and other divine attributes. For example, how should we understand the relationship between God's purported essential goodness and his freedom? 
Key works The majority of philosophers of religion are incompatibilists, holding that free will is incompatible with determinism. But many of these same philosophers also endorse perfect being theology, which raises an apparent tension between God's essential moral goodness and his freedom. Some take this to be a major problem for such views; see Morriston 1985. Particular attention is often given to God's choice in creating, a discussion largely influence by Rowe 2002. For an overview of many of the relevant issues, as well as the relationship between divine freedom and human free will, see Timpe 2013, particularly the last chapter.
Introductions Flint 1983, Mawson 2005, Morriston 1985, Timpe 2012, O’Connor 2005
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  1. Michael Bergmann & J. A. Cover (2006). Divine Responsibility Without Divine Freedom. Faith and Philosophy 23 (4):381-408.
    Adherents of traditional western Theism have espoused CONJUNCTION: God is essentially perfectly good and God is thankworthy for the good acts he performs . But suppose that (i) God’s essential perfect goodness prevents his good acts from being free, and that (ii) God is not thankworthy for an act that wasn’t freely performed.
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  2. Andrei A. Buckareff (2000). Divine Freedom and Creaturely Suffering in Process Theology: A Critical Appraisal. Sophia 39 (2):56-69.
    : The suffering of creatures experienced throughout evolutionary history provides some conceptual difficulties for theists who maintain that God is an all-good loving creator who chose to employ the processes associated with evolution to bring about life on this planet. Some theists vexed by this and other problems posed by the interface between religion and science have turned to process theology which provides a picture of a God who is dependent upon creation and unable to unilaterally intervene in the affairs (...)
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  3. Evan M. Fales (1994). Divine Freedom and the Choice of a World. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 35 (2):65 - 88.
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  4. Thomas P. Flint (1983). The Problem of Divine Freedom. American Philosophical Quarterly 20 (3):255 - 264.
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  5. W. Paul Franks (2013). Divine Freedom and Free Will Defenses. Heythrop Journal 55 (3).
    This paper considers a problem that arises for free will defenses when considering the nature of God's own will. If God is perfectly good and performs praiseworthy actions, but is unable to do evil, then why must humans have the ability to do evil in order to perform such actions? This problem has been addressed by Theodore Guleserian, but at the expense of denying God's essential goodness. I examine and critique his argument and provide a solution to the initial problem (...)
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  6. Laura L. Garcia (1992). Divine Freedom and Creation. Philosophical Quarterly 42 (167):191-213.
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  7. Theodore Guleserian (2000). Divine Freedom and the Problem of Evil. Faith and Philosophy 17 (3):348-366.
    The traditional theistic philosopher is committed to hold that God has a perfect will essentially, and that this is better than having a free will. It will be argued that God, being omnipotent, would have the power to create creatures who also have a perfect will essentially. This creates a problem for the traditional theist in solving the problem of moral evil. The problem of actual moral evil will not then be solvable by reference to the value of our moral (...)
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  8. Daniel Howard-Snyder (2008). The Puzzle of Prayers of Thanksgiving and Praise. In Yujin Nagasawa & Erik J. Wielenberg (eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Religion. Palgrave Macmillan.
    in eds. Yujin Nagasawa and Erik Wielenberg, New Waves in Philosophy of Religion (Palgrave MacMillan 2008).
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  9. Patrick Kain (forthcoming). The Development of Kant's Conception of Divine Freedom. In Brandon Look (ed.), Leibniz and Kant. Oxford University Press.
    In his lectures, Kant suggested to his students that the freedom of a divine holy will is “easier to comprehend than that of the human will,”(28:609) but this suggestion has remained neglected. After a review of some of Kant’s familiar claims about the will (in general), and about the divine holy will in particular, I consider how these claims give rise to some initial objections to that conception. Then I defend an interpretation of Kant’s conception of the divine will, and (...)
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  10. Dan Kaufman (2003). Infimus Gradus Libertatis? Descartes on Indifference and Divine Freedom. Religious Studies 39 (4):391-406.
    Descartes held the doctrine that the eternal truths are freely created by God. He seems to have thought that a proper understanding of God's freedom entails such a doctrine concerning the eternal truths. In this paper, I examine Descartes' account of divine freedom. I argue that Descartes' statements about indifference, namely that indifference is the lowest grade of freedom and that indifference is the essence of God's freedom are not incompatible. I also show how Descartes arrived at his doctrine of (...)
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  11. Brian Leftow (2009). Aquinas, Divine Simplicity and Divine Freedom. In Kevin Timpe & Eleonore Stump (eds.), Metaphysics and God: Essays in Honor of Eleonore Stump. Routledge.
  12. R. Zachary Manis (2011). Could God Do Something Evil? A Molinist Solution to the Problem of Divine Freedom. Faith and Philosophy 28 (2):209-223.
    One important version of the problem of divine freedom is that, if God is essentially good, and if freedom logically requires being able to do otherwise, then God is not free with respect to willing the good, and thus He is not morally praiseworthy for His goodness. I develop and defend a broadly Molinist solution to this problem, which, I argue, provides the best way out of the difficulty for orthodox theists who are unwilling to relinquish the Principle of Alternate (...)
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  13. T. J. Mawson (2005). Freedom, Human and Divine. Religious Studies 41 (1):55-69.
    In this paper I seek to show how God's freedom is not reduced or His power diminished by His inability to be less than perfectly good even though ours would be. That ours would be explains why it might prima facie appear to us that there is a ‘conceptual tension’ between some of the claims of traditional theism and reveals some interesting (well, to me anyway) differences between human freedom and divine freedom.
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  14. Wes Morriston (2002). Omnipotence and the Power to Choose. Faith and Philosophy 19 (3):358-367.
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  15. Wesley Morriston (1985). Is God “Significantly Free?”. Faith and Philosophy 2 (3):257-264.
    In an impressive series of books and articles, Alvin Plantinga has developed challenging new versions of two much discussed pieces of philosophical theology: the free will defense and the ontological argument.' His treatment of both subjects has provoked a tremendous amount of critical comment. What has not been generally noticed', however, is that when taken together, Plantinga's views on these two subjects lead to a very serious problem in philosophical theology. The premises of his version of the ontological argument, when (...)
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  16. Timothy O'Connor (2008). Theism and the Scope of Contingency. Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Religion 1:134-149.
  17. Timothy O'Connor (2008). Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency. Blackwell Pub..
    An expansive, yet succinct, analysis of the Philosophy of Religion --from metaphysics through theology. Organized into two sections, the text first examines truths concerning what is possible and what is necessary. These chapters lay the foundation for the book’s second part -- the search for a metaphysical framework that permits the possibility of an ultimate explanation that is correct and complete.
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  18. Timothy O'Connor (2005). Review of William Rowe, Can God Be Free?. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2005 (4).
    Consider the idea of God in classical philosophical theology. God is a personal being perfect in every way: absolutely independent of everything, such that nothing exists apart from God's willing it to be so; unlimited in power and knowledge; perfectly blissful, lacking in nothing needed or desired; morally perfect. If such a being were to create, on what basis would He choose? Let us assume (as perfect being theologians generally do) that there is an objective, degreed property of intrinsic goodness, (...)
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  19. Kenneth L. Pearce & Alexander R. Pruss (2012). Understanding Omnipotence. Religious Studies 48 (3):403-414.
    An omnipotent being would be a being whose power was unlimited. The power of human beings is limited in two distinct ways: we are limited with respect to our freedom of will, and we are limited in our ability to execute what we have willed. These two distinct sources of limitation suggest a simple definition of omnipotence: an omnipotent being is one that has both perfect freedom of will and perfect efficacy of will. In this paper we further explicate this (...)
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  20. Derk Pereboom (2009). Book Review. Can God Be Free? William Rowe. [REVIEW] Philosophical Review 118 (1):121-27.
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  21. Philip L. Quinn (1978). Divine Foreknowledge and Divine Freedom. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 9 (4):219 - 240.
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  22. William Rowe, Divine Freedom. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  23. William Rowe (2002). Can God Be Free? Faith and Philosophy 19 (4):405-424.
    Can God Be Free? is a penetrating study of a central problem in philosophy of religion: can it be right to regard God as free, and as praiseworthy for being perfectly good? Allowing that he has perfect knowledge and perfect goodness, if there is a best world for God to create he would have no choice other than to create it. But if God could not do otherwise than create the best world, he created the world of necessity, not freely, (...)
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  24. William L. Rowe (2010). Response To: Divine Responsibility Without Divine Freedom. [REVIEW] International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 67 (1):37 - 48.
    Michael Bergmann and Jan Cover summarize the essence of their paper as follows: "We argue that divine responsibility is sufficient for divine thankworthiness and consistent with the absence of divine freedom. We do this while insisting on the view that both freedom and responsibility are incompatible with causal determinism." In this response I argue that while it makes sense for believers to be thankful that God exists, it makes no sense for them to thank him for doing the best act (...)
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  25. Thomas D. Senor (2008). Defending Divine Freedom. In Jonathan Kvanvig (ed.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press. 168-95.
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  26. Thomas B. Talbott (1988). On the Divine Nature and the Nature of Divine Freedom. Faith and Philosophy 5 (1):3-24.
    In my paper, I defend a view that many would regard as self-evidently false: the view that God’s freedom, his power to act, is in no way limited by his essential properties. I divide the paper into five sections. In section i, I call attention to a special class of non-contingent propositions and try to identify an important feature of these propositions; in section ii, I provide some initial reasons. based in part upon the unique features of these special propositions, (...)
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  27. Kevin Timpe (2013). Free Will in Philosophical Theology. Bloomsbury.
    Natural theology's name can be misleading, for it sounds like what is being done is a kind of theology, not philosophy. But natural theology is better understood to be primarily philosophical rather than theological for it is, most generally, the ...
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  28. Kevin Timpe (2012). An Analogical Approach to Divine Freedom. Proceedings of the Irish Philosophical Society:88-99.
    Assuming an analogical account of religious predication, this paper utilizes recent work in the metaphysics of free will to build towards an account of divine freedom. I argue that what actions an agent is capable of freely performing depends on his or her moral character.
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  29. Erik J. Wielenberg (2004). A Morally Unsurpassable God Must Create the Best. Religious Studies 40 (1):43-62.
    I present a novel argument for the position that a morally unsurpassable God must create the best world that He has the power to create. I show that grace-based considerations of the sort proposed by Robert Adams neither refute my argument nor establish that a morally unsurpassable God need not create the best. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of my argument for the ‘no-best-world’ response to the problem of evil. (Published Online February 17 2004).
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  30. Edward Wierenga (2007). Perfect Goodness and Divine Freedom. Philosophical Books 48 (3):207-216.
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  31. Keith E. Yandell (1999). God, Freedom, and Creation in Cross-Cultural Perspective. The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 1999:147-168.
    Crossculturally, monotheistic traditions view God as occupying the apex of power, knowledge and goodness, and as enjoying independent existence. This conceptual context provides room for maneuvering concerning God’s nature (e.g., does God have logically necessary existence?) and God’s creatures (e.g., do created persons have libertarian freedom?). Logical consistency is always a constraint on such maneuvering. With that constraint in mind, our purpose here is to consider different conceptual maneuvers concerning God, created persons, and freedom (both human and divine) within Christian (...)
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  32. Coleen P. Zoller (2004). Determined but Free. Philosophy and Theology 16 (1):25-44.
    This paper shows that Thomas Aquinas has a compatibilist position on the freedom of the will, where compatibilism is understood as the doctrine that determinism does not preclude freedom. Thomas’s position concerning free will is compatibilist regarding both the divine and human wills. Thomas pioneers the idea that human freedom is an image of divine freedom. It is on account of the notion that god is the exemplar toward which human beings proceed that it is much easier to understand why, (...)
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