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It is sometimes said that if God is all powerful, and all loving and all good, that there would be no evil. The problem of evil then is known as Theodicy. It is essentially a claim against the consistency of God’s omnipotence and goodness. And thus if the idea is inconsistent, then it must not be true, and an all powerful and all good God does not exist.
Sometimes a similar type of claim is put against free-willers by Christian determinists; if God is all powerful, and He in fact wills the salvation of all people, then why aren’t all people saved? Either God isn’t all powerful or He does not will all people to be saved. I think however to deny that God wills the salvation of all is to affirm that God either isn’t all good or that good and evil are arbitrary (1). Some will go as far as to say, God actually wills both things, but His desire for something else makes the desire to save all people subservient. However this then puts a tension in God’s will because it brings about opposing Goals that God wants. Both of which are *fully* in His power to bring about, but one can’t exist if the other does. However, I think the free-will position is strengths in this case for two reasons:
1) It can avoid the tension between God’s omnipotence and goodness.
2) It can avoid the the tension of having two opposing wills in God.
If the telos/purpose of mankind, the image of God, entails that humans be free, then for omnipotence to mean God has deterministic power over them, would entail that God contradicts His already set will of the Human telos. It would be to put two opposing wills in God bringing about a situation similar to an unmoveable rock vs an unstoppable force. That is, God’s omnipotence which brought about the telos of humanity (unmoveable rock) would contradict God’s omnipotence which goes against that telos (unstoppable force). Both situations are logical absurdities. Omnipotence means being able to actualize all logical possibilities. Which means it is possible for certain state of affairs to render certain things logically impossible. Even still something may be logically possible but not morally correct. Such that it is within God’s power to actualize, but due to His character He won’t. Ergo, God willing the salvation of all doesn’t entail all will be saved, and this is not due to God’s will lacking potency but due to the way God Himself has created things. So God’s omnipotent will *is* already being played out in the very freedom of His creatures.
Another way to frame it. 1) God wills that humans, be. In order to be human it entails that the imago dei is intact. The imago dei entails freedom. 2) God wills that people come to love and know him. And that they do so freely, given that is what love entail and the imago dei entails. 3) God wills that all be saved. 1 and 2, are actualized from the get go. The outcome of three is conditioned on and presupposes the reality of 1 and 2. So if someone is saved, God’s will is fulfilled. If someone is not, then God’s will per number 3 is not fulfilled, but is still per 1 and 2, without impugning His power. But it is a logical possibility of 1 and 2 which are established by the power of God. If God prevented number damnation from being a possibility, He would be contradicting 1 and 2, as such would be contradicting Himself. And that is a weakness, not a power at all. Thus not omnipotence.
I think we need to be cautious not to put opposing desires in God, creating a divine inner turmoil as it were. There is an order of desires, such that the fulfillment of desire B is contingent upon the previous desire A. So God’s desire for all to be saved, B is not contrary but rather conditioned on the desire A (that the imago dei be in tact). For incompaitbilists (free willers), then that B is not actualized does not create a tension in God, since tension presumes that it is within God’s logical power to actualize it in every instances (which pressuposes determinism), but due to an opposing desire, does not. As such, it avoids the problem of theodicy, where God could have prevented all evil and damnation but didn’t because either His Glory is somehow contingent and dependent on evil, God lacked the power to do it or God prefers a world where evil exists. None of which are in my opinion good positions to hold or consistent with the God revealed in scripture, as preached by the Church.