I’ve gone about 500 pages into my research project. It’s been draining, but I’m beginning to formulate ideas as to how the Felix Culpa theodicy may resolve evidential forms of the problem of evil. Below are some initial summaries and thoughts on this issue.
Theodicy was not seen as a noble endeavor when Alvin Plantinga began addressing this problem more than thirty years ago. Plantinga, wisely I think, saw the value of “defense” to disprove the logical problem of evil. The logical problem of evil simply (yet broadly) states that the existence of am omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God is logically impossible in a world which contains evil. In other words, there is not even a possible (let alone, probable) explanation for God and evil to exist together.
Plantinga’s famous Free Will Defense (FWD) is both mind-boggling and yet deceivingly simple. Plantinga contends that it is possible (i.e. it could be the case) that God is bound to what is called the counter-factual of freedoms, so that even he could not create (or actualize) just any non-contradictory possible world. Plantinga reasons that it is possible that given all possible worlds which contain the great-making quality of libertarian free will applied to human creatures that perhaps every human creature posses a transworld quality known as “transworld depravity.” This means that it is possible that given the counter-factuals of freedom, there is no human creature which wouldn’t fall into sin or evil at a particular point in time.
It’s important to note what Plantinga is not saying here. Plantinga is not saying, 1) that there aren’t any possible worlds wherein human creatures do not sin that God could create according to logical principles, or 2) that it is necessarily (or even likely) that there isn’t a possible world where the counter-factuals of freedom would have it that a human creature would not choose to sin or do evil. Plantinga only claims that libertarian free will for human creatures is such a great-making property (and God wants to make a great world) that it is possible that he is constrained by the counter-factuals of freedom so that human creatures suffer from trans-world depravity. In addition, this notion is logically possible, thus rendering the logical/deductive problem of evil to be unsound.
Plantinga goes on to apply the FWD to the evidential form of the problem of evil. Here, he seems more agnostic in that it is difficult to calculate where the actual world stands in relation to all other possible worlds God would weakly actualize and the horrendous evil they contain. Peter van Inwagen claims something similar, though he makes room for an open theist view of God as to bolster his FWD.
The FWD may be classified with other defenses as Greater Good Defenses (GGD). The GGD is a broad claim which says that it is possible (or perhaps probable) that God permits evil/sin/suffering in order to bring about a greater good which otherwise wouldn’t have come about. Technically, the FWD is a GGD since Plantinga and others claim that libertarian free will “might not” exist in possible worlds God would weakly actualize if trans-world depravity wasn’t a property obtained by free agents. Thus, the greater good of libertarian free will is a good reason for God to allow evil.
One weakness of the GGD is that it speaks globally rather than locally. Given particular evils, what greater good may be in mind? This is where the evidential problem of evil comes to stage. Many Christian and non-Christian philosophers believe that the logical problem of evil has been resolved, but evidential forms are more difficult. Some evidential forms claim that the mere quantity of evil makes it probable that God doesn’t exist. Or perhaps, it is logically impossible for God to exist in a world with a great quantity of evil. Still, the problem may be more narrow in terms of evil’s quality. There are particular horrendous evils which make God’s existence improbable, or even illogical (especially if the GGD fails to justify a particular horrendous evil). There are even gratuitous or pointless evils, some claim, which cast doubt on God’s existence.
Various theodicies and defenses have come to the forefront alongside Plantinga’s FWD. John Hick claims a “soul-making” theodicy where human creatures experience pain and evil as a redemptive means of making their souls better. In other words, evil serves a good purpose from God’s perspective, and we just need to see this same perspective. Yet, not every evil which exists directly relates to humans. What about the famous fawn in a forest which suffers excruciating pain and dies with no one to observe it?
The Felix Culpa theodicy, which is present in church history in the writings of Augustine and Aquinas, has been revived by men such as Plantinga. Plantinga has now moved on from defense to theodicy in contending that a world which contains great-making properties of incarnation and atonement is greater than a world which doesn’t contain these properties. Since a world cannot contain atonement and incarnation unless there is evil and sin, such provides the reason why God allows evil. Yet, this doesn’t seem to solve the evidential forms of the problem, though Plantinga claims (similar in his FWD) that we don’t know the value of horrendous or gratuitous evils in the actual world as compared to other possible worlds. In addition, Plantinga claims that natural evil (hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc.) may be the result of the fall of angels and demonic activity. (This hasn’t persuaded many people, as one could estimate.)
Yet, Plantinga’s theodicy is critiqued by other philosophical theologians. Marilyn Adams and Kevin Diller claim that Plantinga is making God out to be one who purposely lets his son drown so that he may jump in and save him. In other words, God is cruel in that he uses human creatures as a means to creating a great world. This ends justifies the means methodology leaves a sour taste in even the theologian’s mouth.
Plantinga obviously has an answer to these objections, and I think his position is unfairly criticized at points. Yet, there are some holes needing to be filled. In addition, Plantinga relies on a molinist account of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. A theist or non-theist could simply reject this account for another, thus leaving Plantinga’s theodicy with little merit.
However, I propose that the Felix Culpa theodicy is able to withstand the evidential problem of evil in all its forms so as to provide one sufficient (though certainly not the only) reason by God for allowing particular evils into the actual world. In addition, this version I propose isn’t dependent on incompatibalism. In addition, it doesn’t require one to adopt too many sectarian beliefs (as far as I can tell, it requires an Apostles Creed commitment). In addition, this particular theodicy may succeed where other theodicies usually fail in providing a remedy for emotional and existential problems of evil.
Stay tuned for more.