You will often encounter the idea that freedom can explain away certain problems in theology and the philosophy of religion. One well-known case is Alvin Plantinga’s book, God, Freedom, and Evil. In it, Plantinga provides a counter to the Argument from Evil that many consider devastating. We can see an example of that type of counter argument in this recent post by Alexander Pruss.
So, that’s one way in which freedom is considered important in this area. Another of the major themes in these discussions is the idea that freedom is somehow better than a lack of it, or that freedom somehow makes actions praiseworthy. For example, you may have heard the idea that you have to be able to do evil for good to have any meaning; or if God showed himself clearly, then accepting Jesus Christ in your heart would lose its significance. Consider the following two quotes from William Lane Craig during his debate with Sam Harris:
If there is no free will, then no one is morally responsible for anything.
His [Harris’s] thoroughgoing determinism spells the end of any hope or possibility of objective moral duties because, on his world view, we have no control over what we do.
One interesting thing about the previously mentioned arguments is that they focus on human freedom. But what of God’s freedom? Is it fair to say that, if God did not act freely, then his creation of us is no more praiseworthy than blinking?
Rowe defends a position held by Leibniz that argues, if God has certain perfections (like being perfectly good), then that entails certain things. One of them is described by Rowe as follows:
Given his necessary perfections, if there is a best world for God to create then it appears he would have no choice other than to create it.
This is because God would otherwise be doing less good than is possible, thus, allowing for there to be a better possible being. Anyone familiar with theology can recognize that a better possible being would be an unwelcome conclusion to traditional theists. That is precisely why Leibniz defended that God would have to create the best possible world and also defended that this was, in fact, that best world. Many will at this point criticize the idea that this is the best possible world; however, I want to focus on freedom.
If God had no choice to create this world, then why are we obligated to praise him? Why are his obligatory actions praiseworthy? I think this problem deserves serious consideration from theists.
In parting, I will note that I see a possible, if non-traditional, way out of the problem. One could maintain that Heaven (or something along those lines) is actually the best possible world. Perhaps you could say the best possible world cannot avoid some amount of freely choosing wrong, so Heaven is the world where it happens only once (Satan). Then, you could say God has created at least one other world freely that is not as good as Heaven – namely, our own world. This would even allow for alien worlds, multiverses, and the like, which some might find attractive. Under this view, it would still not be praiseworthy for God to have created Heaven, but I suppose you could say it is praiseworthy for God to have created us and to allow us into this best of all possible worlds, if we make the cut.
What do you think of the problem and possible resolution?