Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil

Plantinga, summarizing his earlier work in The Nature of Necessity and God and Other Minds, demonstrates that the theist does not face a contradiction in a) asserting God exists and b) evil exists. In this work Plantinga also deals with essences, persons, possible worlds, and logical analysis. While Plantinga uses rigorous logic, this book is well-written and and fairly short.

Is There a Logical Contradiction?

If there is a contradiction between the following three premises, the atheologian has yet to show it:
1. God is omnipotent
2. God is wholly good
3. Evil exists

We will call this Set {A}. The atheologian has to show that one of these propositions’ denial or negation contradicts another proposition (Plantinga 13). Even if the atheologian cannot show a logical contradiction, Plantinga will go on to argue that he cannot show a logical inconsistency (at least not on these three propositions. By the end of the book all three of these are meticulously refined).

The Free Will Defense (FWD) is the heart of Plantinga’s argument. He argues that a person is free with respect to an action, a world containing free creatures is more valuable than a world without it, and to create free creatures capable of moral good is to create them capable of moral evil (29-31).

Plantinga further clarifies classical theism by noting that an omnipotent God cannot create just any world. God can only create logically possible worlds (or rather, God can only actualize logically possible states of affairs). For example, God cannot actualize a state of affairs in which God didn’t actualize any state of affairs.

This leads to discussions of Possible Worlds (W). W is a way things could have been. It is an actual state of affairs that obtains. A W is a possible state of affairs, but a possible state of affairs is not necessarily a W (35).

Must Evil Exist?

This is the trickiest part of the book. Plantinga seems to imply “yes” at times (though to be fair that probably isn’t his intention). Classical theism has always denied that evil is necessary. Plantinga calls his model “Transworld Depravity:” God cannot create a world in why my essential properties (E) mean I will be free and always do the right thing (48, 52). I think Plantinga is correct but we need to change “always” to “always compelled.”


This is the easiest of Plantinga’s books to read. And while the material is simpler, he does clarify points from *The Nature of Necessity.* My only criticism is the second half on natural theology. His arguments on Evil and Free Will Defense stand or fall independent of Natural Theology. That section merely restated the material from *God and Other Minds.*

An Arminian Theodicy

Arminianism:  divine election is based on foreknowledge of human choices. (this does touch on the Middle Knowledge debate, which will be discussed below).  Rutherford responds that this denies God as the author of second causes.  Arminians deny that grace determines the decision of free agency; claiming that both act together, this makes both “joint causes, the one not depending on the other…because second causes were denied, God was no longer master of events and altogether sufficient” (Coffey, 119-120). Even worse, Arminianism (and I will put all forms of full-syngerism and semi-Pelagianism under this umbrella for the moment) does not escape the problem of theodicy.  True, the Calvinist may have trouble explaining why God predestined some but not others, but the Arminian must explain why God created people whom he knew would reject him and burn forever (120).