Alternative possibilities and the free will defence

Religious Studies 33 (3):267-286 (1997)
Abstract
The free will defence attempts to show that belief in an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient God may be rational, despite the existence of evil. At the heart of the free will defence is the claim that it may be impossible, even for an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient God, to bring about certain goods without the accompanying inevitability, or at least overwhelming probability, of evil. The good in question is the existence of free agents, in particular, agents who are sometimes free with respect to morally significant actions and who are thereby responsible, at least in part, for those actions and the personal character which is a function of and exhibited in those actions. The free will defender contends that if an agent is to be truly responsible for her actions, then she must be free to bring about both good and evil, and God cannot be blamed if such agents choose to bring about the latter rather than the former. A number of years ago, Antony Flew objected that God was not forced to choose between creating free agents who might act wrongly and not creating a world with free agents. Instead, God could have created free agents who were wholly good, i.e. who always acted rightly." Freedom and responsibility, Flew argued, are compatible with one’s actions being causally determined by God, thus it was within God’s power to create agents who were both free and responsible yet causally determined to always act rightly. In response, proponents of the free will defence criticized Flew’s conditional analysis of freedom – if S had chosen to do otherwise, she would have been able to do otherwise – maintaining instead that an agent’s freedom consists in her ability at the time in question to both perform the action and refrain from performing the action. Acting freely, on this libertarian view, is incompatible with one’s actions being determined by God, for an agent..
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