Your Online Cup of Tea
These thoughts are not original to myself, but I’ve learned from others who know a lot more I. They’ve helped me a lot, and I have links to more resources that discuss these issues in other posts. If one goes to the Energetic Procession website, the blog post “Simplicity, Virtue, and the Problem of Evil” discuss these issues more in depth. Especially if you read the comments section.
This article will first lay out some of the principles and then there will be an excerpt from a past Facebook conversation on these matters.
First of all, free will is not just a dichotomy between good or bad, if it were then no one, not even God has free will, and creation would be necessary. Why? Because, if free will is always a choice between good and bad, and God chose to create, then it means he had to do it, or else to choose otherwise would have been wrong. This free will I’m positing is Libertarian Free Will as opposed to Compatibilism. Which I would posit would also lead to a necessary creation. I have two blog posts specifically about these issues 
The second thing is to realise, that persons have a nature, an essence, but persons =/= natures. Christ is by nature God, and when He took on flesh, it was only the Person of the Word that incarnated, not the other 2. They all share one nature but are distinct (not separate) from it, as they are distinct but not separated from each other.
The third thing is to realise that evil is not a thing that exists, it has no substance. It is not therefore a natural thing, and all natural things are created by God, John 1:3 “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” So all created things have a nature and correct design/use (telos) for that nature. Sin then is to “miss the mark” by misusing what God has created. Such as lust, the desire for sex is good, but the way in which it is sought is not. Even when we sin, we do it because we think we are choosing a “good” in that moment. So evil is the action of a Person, misusing their will to put themselves in a state that is contrary to the design of their nature and therefore harmful to themselves and contrary to God’s will and design for creation. It’s a distortion.
If evil isn’t then a thing and the desires of a nature are inherently good, how then does one commit evil and misuse it? This is because since the person and nature are distinct, they have have nature, a will and mode of willing (how they’ll use the will). Their mode of willing can be either virtuous (eg living in conformity with how their nature is designed) or they can choose to either go against the design of their nature. And because they are distinct from their nature, this nature cannot determine their actions but can only limit the options. Hence libertarian free will, where the person, the agent is primary in decision making. And every creature that comes into existence has to learn how to use what they have correctly. This is what character is about and it develops by the choices of the Person. If it were instant, it wouldn’t be real and it wouldn’t be you. Free will meant the opportunity to choose whether one would develop a good character and habit (virtues) by living how they were designed or choosing not to. It’s about getting your mode of willing to become habitually consistent with how you were designed to exist. Which is why Christ, even though he became man, couldn’t sin, because since the character is a trait of the Person and not the nature, from eternity, His Person had always done what was right and willed what was good according to His nature. So nothing changed when He incarnated, He always willed what was good for the Human nature. It also poses an issue for Deterministic views of salvation since, the presence of Grace does not mean that one will choose to conform to God, rather Grace makes the option possible. That’s why salvation is synergistic and even born again people can sin, because the change of nature isn’t the only issue, but the forming of the character of the person that posses the nature.
That’s why it doesn’t matter how good God would have made Adam and Eve, as created creatures, they have a choice of either following God’s design for them and eventually having their character fixed towards only willing what is good for their nature or choosing sin and eventually being fixed in their rebellion against God. Hence why in heaven we will be impeccable and those in hell would never repent. As CS Lewis said “the gates of hell are locked from the inside.”
It’s for this reason that sanctification and Union to Christ is important, because God is orientating our Persons, to build character and conform to Christ’s image, which is to live in accordance to God’s design for us. By the time of our Glorification, we won’t be robots unable to choose but we’ll have fixed characters. And we’ll have an infinite amount of good choices and they’ll be good because they won’t be contrary to what we as glorified humans were designed for and thus won’t be against the will of God. Once you love God as you should, all your desires and options (what you can choose to do out of what you would want to do) will only be good. Hence why Augustine said “Love God and do what you want.”
The following then is a conversation I had with people on Facebook that further illustrate some of these principles at work.
J.I: As much talking as I’ve done about this, I’m just not gonna believe that sin was a part of God’s plan for creation. I’m not gonna sit here and believe that God planned man’s fall, planned the punishments that he gave to us all and planned for man to be separated from him. Nope, not happening. Adam and Eve chose to sin, that had nothing to do with God’s plan. God worked his plan out, despite what they did.
Me: Calvinism: Where God is so sovereign, he can’t choose to give people free will
Evil isn’t necessary, whether Adam or Eve sinned or not, God’s plan of the incarnation and Glorifying humanity would still be active. Same ending, different route.
God’s immutability doesn’t mean that this world is the only one possible. That implies that not only does God’s nature lay out the options God has, but it also determines which option God chooses. And since on this view, the nature not the person is the determiner of action, and the nature is eternally the way it is; then creation would have to be an eternal generation. For there could be no change in the nature that brought it that at one moment it wasn’t determining God to create, and the next moment it was.
Basically this position is:
State of nature determines choices taken.
State of nature is immutable and eternal.
Therefore the decision to act in creating is eternal and immutable.
Therefore Creation becomes eternal.
But if God did not create, it would mean a different state of nature.
Since state of nature determines choice.
This is impossible for God.
Therefore Creation is necessary.
Therefore Evil is necessary.
Calvinism tends then to make evil necessary by virtue of God’s immutable essence. Or by saying God had to decree evil for His Glory (thus making the Glory of God contingent on evil).
As Trinitarians it is important to make the distinction between nature and person. Libertarian free will doesn’t mean that people act outside their nature, it simply means that the nature may qualify or circumscribe the possible options, but it is the *Agent* that ultimately decides which option to take.
Thus God was truly free to create or not create.
This is the same problem that Arius had. For him nature = person. And God for him was absolutely simple (one essence with no distinctions or parts). So this simple essence had to be the Father. And because there could be no distinction or change in the essence, God’s will and essence are the same. And if His essence is immutable then so is His will.
Now here comes the problem. There can therefore be no distinction between God’s will to beget the Son and God’s will to create. Neither is there a distinction between begetting and creating, thus making the Son a creature. Neither could it mean that the Son is of one essence with the Father, because that would make them the same person. Since essence equals person. So either:
a) Creation and the Son are both necessary and eternal.
b) Creation and the Son are both contingent.
Arius simply chose the latter.
The same dilemma which Arius had by collapsing nature and person (this notion of person was a radical innovation of Christianity). Is the same dilemma one has if they make nature to be the determiner of choice, given God’s nature is immutably how it is.
Jane: Are you saying God isn’t sovereign over all? Isn’t it yes or no?
Me: God is sovereign/in control. His purposes will come to pass. Our choices will say whether or not the outcome will be pleasant for us when they do.
Me: [responding to a different comment]: J.I, you said –
//Garry, Yes, and Yes. But the difference is, Adam was a grown man. What I’m having a hard time grasping is, what’s the point in creating something, when you know that it will turn against you? And here’s something else: Death wasn’t a part of God’s original creation. There was supposed to be no death. Death is the result of Adam’s sin. So how can the fall of man be a part of God’s plan, but the consequence of it, death, not be?//
I think you may find the following article helpful as it deals along side your issue:
“Why then does God create this world which has the possibility of evil and has free will since there seem to be other possible worlds that are much much better to select from?” [Website: Energetic Procession – Blog: Simplicity, Virtue and the Problem of Evil]
Michael: Yeah, and that’s where us reformed folk hold to a higher view of God’s sovereignty. We would say that He did plan for it, and that nothing happens except by His will. We hold more to an exegetical position that God orchestrates all things, rather then relying on the philosophical position of free will and reading scripture through that lens.
Me: Reformed theology also assumes a philosophical position of free will. Otherwise you’re stuck denying man is free in any sense and end up outright calling God the author of sin. Hence why reformed theology tries to reason how God can be sovereign (on their terms) and man free (on their terms) doesn’t impugn the character of God. Trying to pit Reformed theology as this philosophy free thing is disingenuous and in reality doesn’t make sense at all. For truth is going to be coherent, and philosophy is essentially the art of thinking right. If you think you’re somehow neutral going into the text, and not assuming certain concepts and meanings then you’re committing the same error as the YEC’s you debate.
Me: Evil isn’t necessary, and choice isn’t necessarily a dialectic between good and evil. But the article will clear that up J.I
J.I: Evil isn’t necessary YScribes?
Me: Adam and Eve were created with a functioning nature, united to God by grace. However they did not yet possess the personal property of virtue/character. Which comes about by practice and using our natural faculties as God intended. Evil then is a deliberate misuse of these. Which Adam and Eve were free to do. But they did not have to. So the *possibility* of evil is necessary to *gain* virtue, but the actuality of evil is not. For they could still have become virtuous by always obeying and resisting evil. Eventually they would have been brought to the point where they could do no evil, not because they would lose libertarian free will, but because their character would preclude any evil options. Free will only requires that their be more than one option. Not that these options have to be of differing moral worth. This is why God is impeccable because he eternally possesses the character that precludes any evil options. And how Christ could be impeccable and yet human, because character is a personal property and his person still had it at the incarnation. And this is how we will have libertarian free will at the end and yet never sin, because being fully conformed to his Character, God will keep us in that state and so all our options will remain only good options. And thus why the judgment will mean no repentance for those who rejected, because they will be sealed forever in that state of enmity against God, where all their options will only be evil. So you end up with the Character you choose. It’s better explained in the article and there is a lot packed into all of this which will require further reading.
Michael: I didn’t state that reformed theology is philosophically free. However, which method of pursuing knowledge is held higher? For the Calvinist, philosophy is looked at through the lens of scripture, whereas for the proponent of LFW, scripture is looked at through the lens of this idea of LFW which Doesn’t appear in scripture.
Garry: In order to experience certain attributes of God, I think you would have to say that evil is necessary. Mercy, forgiveness, sacrifice, justice, for example. How could these aspects of His character ever be manifest without the presence of evil?
Me: 1) It’s impossible to to do exegesis without already having concepts in mind
2) If you mean that nowhere in scripture is the concept explicitly stated, sure. But I would argue that this is the idea that it implies. And it makes sense of text. Not only so, but the theological, moral and consistency issues that come up by denying LFW and assuming the Calvinistic view of free will makes me think it isn’t true. Some of which I’ve mentioned many times about Calvinism leading to both a necessary creation and evil. That’s just one of the many issues.
Me: Garry, if God’s Glory couldn’t be fully manifest, and if God couldn’t fully be “the good” without evil having to exist, then before God created the world, the Trinity could not fully enjoy their own Glory. And for God to be God, he now needs creation and evil. That’s why I say that mercy is but one expression of the same love which is intact and full from all eternity. And in regards to justice, one doesn’t need evil to be just. In fact when one does something wrong we say they are “unjust” because they stopped being something that they were supposed to be.
And I agree, I don’t feel like debating Calvinism. And I may add, I don’t defend LFW from philosophy per se. The only reason I defend is because I’m a Christian and think it is faithful both to the text and the teaching of the historic Church. If I were to have to debate someone on the mechanics of such, I’d be lost. I take it from revelation. Later I’m going to read up on the philosophy to defend it.