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To get you thinking. Why is free will important? As an explanation for evil? Helps to reach out divine potential? It’s what elevates us above animals? It enables humans to have a relationship with God? It ensures moral responsibility?. The Free Will Defence (FWD).

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to get you thinking
To get you thinking...
  • Why is free will important?
    • As an explanation for evil?
    • Helps to reach out divine potential?
    • It’s what elevates us above animals?
    • It enables humans to have a relationship with God?
    • It ensures moral responsibility?
the free will defence fwd
The Free Will Defence (FWD)
  • Free Will is an essential theme in Augustine’s theodicy as evil is a consequence of a freely made decision to eat the fruit.
  • It is also central to Hick´s Soul Making theodicy as we must be free to respond to instances of evil & suffering in order to develop & grow towards becoming “children of God”.
  • It is essential that as humans, we are not merely robots – God created humans so that they can enter into a loving relationship with Him. Humans must be able to freely chose to enter this relationship otherwise it is not genuine.
  • For supporters of FWD, free will is so valuable, it is worth the risk of evil.
  • Genuine free will requires genuine possibility of evil – God cannot prevent our actions for if he did, I would not be responsible for what I do.
  • At death, God will judge my actions – for judgement to be just, I must have moral responsibility; ie, I must have been free to choose to do good, or to do evil.
exploring both sides of the argument
Exploring both sides of the Argument:


Soren Kierkegaard

Richard Swinburne

Ninian Smart

John Hick


Anthony Flew

J.L. Mackie

soren kierkegaard
Soren Kierkegaard
  • Kierkegaard used the parable of the King and the peasant girl to demonstrate why freewill was so important:
    • The king was desperately in love with a peasant girl so he drew up a legal decree which forced her to marry him.
    • He knew however that even if he forced her to marry him, he could never be really sure of her love.

Freedom therefore is essential to the relationship Christians believe they have with God. For the relationship to be genuine, it must have been freely chosen.

For love to be genuine, it must be freely chosen.

(Titania, Queen of the fairies, falls in “love” with Bottom under Puck’s mischievious spell in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

richard swinburne
Richard Swinburne
  • God is unable to intervene to prevent even the most horrific moral acts
  • If he did, this would compromise our freewill
  • Humans must have total freedom of choice if we are to have freewill at all.
  • God, although omnipotent, can only do what is logically possible: it would be logically impossible for God to intervene without compromising freewill.
how convincing is this view
How convincing is this view?

THE MEANING OF FREEDOM: what does it mean to be free?

Being free does not mean equally likely to do x as to do y.

(I am not equally as likely to murder my mum as to give her a hug)

Likewise, I am not free to fly – I am a human not a bird.

So... Acting freely means acting as I wish, in accordance with my nature.

Could God have made humans so that their nature is such that they would always choose the good?

challenges to the fwd flew mackie
Challenges to the FWD: Flew & Mackie
  • I am free to act within my own nature, without any exterior compulsion.
  • God knows each individual intimately.
  • Therefore, God knows how each individual is likely to act in accordance with their nature.
  • God knows this because he “knit me together in my mother’s womb” and he knows “every hair on my head”.
  • As omnipotent author of my nature, God could have given me a “Good” nature.
freely choosing the good
Freely choosing the Good?
  • Flew & Mackie argue it is logically possible for God to have made humans who always choose the good.
  • If I am able to freely choose the good on one or more occasions, it is logically possible that I can choose the good on every occasion.
  • If I am able to always freely choose the good, it is logically possible for everyone to always choose the good.

Flew’s suggestion: God could have made humans who always freely choose the good.

I have total freedom to act as I wish, within my human nature: I could be the nicest I could possibly be, by helping an old lady across the road or I could be the nastiest I could possibly be, by torturing someone.

Flew’s suggestion is that God could have restricted my nature to being wholly

good – I would still be free to choose, but all of my actions would be good.

Pinching my


Telling a white lie

Helping an old lady across road






Spectrum of human behaviour

god s omnipotence
God’s Omnipotence
  • Mackie maintains if it is logically possible for someone to choose the right thing once, it is possible for them to choose the right thing all the time.
  • If it is possible for someone to be like this, then it must be logically possible for God to make them like this.
  • An omnipotent being must be able to create beings who freely choose the good.
the counter argument ninian smart john hick
The counter argument: Ninian Smart & John Hick


  • Smart calls Flew & Mackie’s suggestion a “Utopia Thesis” and rejects it.
  • According to Smart, if we are to make truly moral choices, there must be real temptation to overcome
  • If all my choices are good, “good” becomes meaningless.
  • “Good” includes concepts such as temptation, courage, compassion, generosity – all redundant if there is no concept of evil or suffering.


  • Hick draws an analogy with a hypnotist. Even if a hypnotised patient thinks they are acting freely, they are still being controlled by the hypnotist.
  • The purpose of our existence is not simply about rising above moral evil and the importance of “love your neighbour” it is equally about the need to “love God”.
  • God may be able to create beings who freely love their neighbour, but God cannot create beings who freely love Him.