Alvin Plantinga provided a solution (or what he called a defense) to the problem of evil based on the value of freewill. Assuming one believes in God, the problem is how to reconcile the apparent contradiction between the fact that God is omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent on one hand, and the existence of evil in the world on the other hand. Plantinga's defense (called a defense because he purports to show that there is no problem, as opposed to trying to solve the problem) is the following:
- People who are compelled to do only good do not have freewill.
- Actions are not considered moral or good unless people have the freedom to behave otherwise.
- For there to be good in the world, freewill is necessary.
- In a world where freewill is possible, evil is possible.
- Therefore a world where evil is possible is better than a world were evil is impossible.
- Evil occurred because humans were free to commit it, and freewill was necessary for a better world, not because God willed it.
For a long time, this argument made sense to me. I have since started having doubts about it, for the following reason: Only so much evil can occur in the world before God becomes guilty by inaction. Consider the following example:
- A kindergarten teacher believes that his students will be better off if they learn how to resolve their conflicts by themselves. Accordingly, he doesn't intervene when they fight over a toy or a piece of candy. If however a fight between two students escalates to the point where one of them severely injures the other student, and the teacher knowingly allowed it to happen based on his principle of non-intervention, the teacher will be held responsible for the students injury. A truly moral teacher would have intervened at some point and prevented the student from injuring his classmate, even if it was OK for him to let him be mean or even land a few punches on the victim. There's point at which the teacher becomes just as guilty as the perpetrating kid.
Other similar scenarios are valid as well: A corporate executive is held accountable for turning a blind eye towards corruption, even if they didn't partake in it themselves. Law enforcement officials would be held accountable for failing to prevent a crime they knew about in advance, etc....
By this same ethical logic, isn't here a point at which the evil and violence committed against innocents (the holocaust, the massacre of the children in Syria, the Armenian genocide, Sandy hook) become so disgusting and irreversible that God should be held responsible for their occurrence? Doesn't he become guilty because of his inaction, just as the kindergarten teacher does? And doesn't this contradict the notion of divine omnibenevolence?