Free Will and the Problem of Evil

Religious Studies 23 (2):289 - 294 (1987)
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Hume after arguing for the compatibility of liberty and necessity, a view now known as soft determinism or compatibilism , noted that it is not ‘possible to explain distinctly, how the Deity can be the mediate cause of the actions of sin and moral turpitude’. It seems that Hume is correct if the explanation must show specifically why an omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity must permit certain actions that to human reason seem to be unnecessary evils. On the other hand if such specifity is not required, the soft determinist who also happens to be a theist can argue that it is possible that the actual world is the best of all possible worlds even though the reason for any specific apparent evil cannot be known. If seemingly evil choices are free in the soft determinist's sense but determined by an omnipotent and omniscient deity, then either that deity is not omnibenevolent or that deity has determined the world to have the maximum possible goodness through including seemingly evil choices in the scheme of things. Consequently if, as the traditional theist believes, the creator is omnibenevolent as well as omnipotent and omniscient, the occurrence of seemingly evil choices are necessary for maximizing the goodness of the whole



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