Lynellen Perry Philosophy 101 Paper II, Dialectic O'Connor October 14, 1991
The Problem of Evil
You are presented with a decision. It could be anything from what to wear today to whether or not you will kill someone. Whatever you decide, God has given you a great gift in that it is your choice . . . it was you, "and not some other person, who made this act of will." So if we do evil, we do it "because we choose to do so of our own free will, and suffer it because [God's] justice rightly demands that we should." This is the "free will" defense against the problem of evil; that " the evil and suffering in the world is not due to God's inability to do anything about it or His lack of knowledge or any injustice on His part. It is the fault of people who misuse their freedom and create their own hardships" due to the good gift they have been given of free will.
Pierre Bayle says, however, that this defense is open to many objections. One of these is that the giving of this gift of free will is against the essence of a benefactor, which we define God to be. This is because a true benefactor should "refrain from giving any gift which he knows would be the ruin of the recipient," and the benefactor should then "go to any lengths to assure that his gifts will procure the happiness of the person whom he is honoring." Bayle argues that surely God could foresee man's choice of loving evil instead of good and thus bringing ruin on himself because God is omniscient. God also is omnipotent and thus is able to assure that humans don't use free will to harm themselves. So Bayle has decided that free will is not a good gift. Then why did God give thi s free will to man? "God was willing that man should sin, and that he preferred this to the perpetual duration of innocence, which it was so easy for him to produce and ordain," says Bayle. But Bayle still is not happy with this answer and says, "reconcile this if you can with the goodness he ought to have for his creatures, and the infinite love he ought to have for holiness."
Bayle's objections make a certain amount of sense, but ultimately they are no good. If God had not given the gift of free will, we would not be as precious in His sight. Indeed, we would not be human, but merely an animal acting out of instinct. After all, God has legions of angels whose only purpose is to praise Him over and over for all of eternity. What use would God have of more creatures like these? God does not want more robots who have no free will. Due to the fact that humans are reflections of God's image, we can see that because we do not value as highly friends who are only nice because they have no choice, so God does not value as highly creatures who have no choice but to choose good. This is seen clearly by the fact that He did not ask His Only Son to die for the angels to redeem them when they made the wrong choice, but Jesus did die for humans.
Yes, angels used to have the gift of free will too, which is where Augustine is wrong. God did not make Lucifer to be only a good angel. Lucifer used to have a choice. When Lucifer chose disobedience, evil (disobedience to God) entered creation. For no other being had yet disobeyed God, and God did not create evil in the first place. But Satan decided that he and his followers were going to do anything and everything they could to disobey God and get others to do the same.
Again Augustine was wrong. Evil does exist. Evil is disobedience to God. Natural disasters and other suffering are not evil (disobedient to God) in themselves simply because they are at variance with other things, despite what Augustine says. They are, instead, the result of evil (disobedience to God). This world is no longer the way God created it. This world is fallen and broken as a result of evil (disobedience to God), thus things will happen which cause suffering. But this is not contrary to God's existence because God did not create the evil nor will for it to happen. So why didn't He prevent evil? He did. But not by creating only robots. He stopped the evil and punished the evil one by having the plan of redemption and salvation accomplished even before there was a temporal need for it. He can do this because He is outside of our understanding of time. When Satan rebelled, he was already sentenced and his punishment begun in God's eyes.
God gave humans the gift of free will knowing it's possibilities. And He gave it anyway, perhaps not so much for the chance of us being able to see how wise and powerful and just He is, but for His sake. For He did not want an intimate relationship with a creature that had no choice, but wanted to create and relate to a creature which was a more accurate reflection of Himself.