Evil is often explained as a result (a byproduct, in a sense) of the free will God has given to us. Doesn't this notion contradict the idea of the omnipotent God (especially the God above laws of nature and logic many Christians advocate)?

By the free will interpretation of evil I mean the theory which says that the evil there is on the world is a necessary result of us having free will to decide to serve God or to turn against him. The problem I see here is that if God's truly omnipotent (in the sense he can do even things we cannot imagine - the God above logic), there wouldn't be anything necessary since God could create us both perfectly free and good.

  • Please don't self-migrate. Instead, flag the post for moderator attention and ask them to migrate it. That way, all information is kept in one place.
    – user2953
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 7:35
  • Also, can you explain how this question is different from the one Confiold linked to?
    – user2953
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 7:35
  • @Keelan Sorry, I can't.
    – Probably
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 13:00
  • That's no problem, but then I will mark it as a duplicate so that future visitors will be linked to that question.
    – user2953
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 14:42

2 Answers 2


My concept of God is that it is not meaningful to describe the omnipotent God as bound by any human constructs of logic or any other mortal rule. Just doesn't make sense to say that "God must do this or God must do that or God cannot do this other thing."

I think that God chose to give people (as well as other creatures) free will and to make that will truly free. Now just because I will the current occupant of the White House to be forcibly removed and tossed out to the street, doesn't mean that my will is realized in reality. So my will is not omnipotent even if I choose that it is. God's will is omnipotent but God can choose to cede power to mortal humans whose will may be to choose differently than what is the will of God. Sometimes in Christian circles we differentiate this with semantics like "God's perfect will" and "God's permissive will.", but that is a human construct and I don't expect God to be bound by that. But that differentiation between two different attributes of God's will (attributes cooked up by mortals so they might try to wrap their brains around this thing) is useful to me when I try to grok the Problem of Evil.

This response to the Problem of Evil appears to me to be compatible with Alvin Plantinga's thinking.

So while mortals may act in a manner contrary to the perfect will of God (but we don't have to, we can choose to act in a manner consistent with the perfect will of God), we mortals cannot act in a manner contrary to the permissive will of God. Some evil is within the scope of God's permissive will (and some is not), but no evil is within the scope of God's perfect will.

  • Ok, I see I rather might have asked why does the God choose not to apply his perfect will. My point is I kind of see the "nobody knows" answer in this interpretation as well.
    – Probably
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 19:20
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    of course. i wouldn't expect mortals to understand everything about God's nature and will. i really don't know why God allows evil (other than a hint that God wants our will to be truly free). and i really don't know what evil that God permits and what evil God does not permit. Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 19:24
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    Oh, that's an amazing answer, I understand you now.
    – Probably
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 19:26
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    It's nice that you think that, but my point was, very many theologians disagree with you. There are hundereds of years of arguments on the matter, and it simply isn't the case that the best we can do is, "Well, God is transcendent, so I just can't say that much." Maybe you don't believe that e.g., the universe is fundamentally rational, but that is so far from a nontrivial position that I don't understand why you would assert it without argument or reference.
    – Canyon
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 19:55
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    @robertbristow-johnson More to the point, 1) we are not supposed to just deliver opinion here without either traditional or very strong logical support. 2) This place is about philosophy which includes theology, but not about religion as personally practiced. So this is, by the site standards, just not an answer at all.
    – user9166
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 12:38

By Leibniz's logic in the Theodicy, you cannot know that your final statement is true: that it is possible to have the best possible world without evil. If God is omnipotent, in fact, you have to assume otherwise. For instance, if heroism, is truly valued, it would be difficult to display it in a world that lacked all aspects of evil.

Negation being a human concept, the idea that the absence of evil is good does not necessarily follow logically from anywhere. The theological position known as 'privatio boni' suggests that evil does not exist as a real thing, and that we create it out of our understanding of 'good' and of 'lack'. But even lack is good: we can only really be fond of what is occasionally lacking, or we would never notice it. So we are creating 'evil' out of two good things, making an obvious error, though perhaps a necessary, human one. By that argument, were there no evil, we would still perceive it, and thus create it. It is not a product of God's (or Satan's), but of ours.

In a popular Catholic interpretation, an amplification of Augustine's "Dubito ergo sum", the best possible world may teem with evil, especially self-doubt, so that there are ubiquitous opportunities to address it and become stronger.

From those points of view, there is no argument here, because one of the two contending premises is a complete misunderstanding.

  • i don't think that all peril must be coupled with evil. someone falls partially down a cliff and is rescued by a "hero" or a tornado hits a building or a mine collapses (not due to criminal neglect) and people get rescued by heroes does not mean that the hero was striving against a malevolent agent. i dunno if i would call a tiger attack "evil" or not. Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 20:09
  • OK, so does Leibnitz state whether humans have created diseases or whether God has created lack of good (an imperfect world even though he could create a perfect one)
    – Probably
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 9:52
  • You are not getting the point at all. Diseases create the opportunity for cures. Would a world without the ability to rescue anyone be perfect? Wouldn't it be more lacking than this one? Maybe this world is more perfect than if everything were the way humans think they want it. By Leibniz logic, this is the best possible world, we just have a childish notion of what is better than what else, which we should outgrow.
    – user9166
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 19:55
  • A less academic notion of this kind is Brene Brown's notion of the Blessing of Imperfection or the Quaker notion of 'Hallowing Diminishments'.
    – user9166
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 20:09
  • @jobermark Oh thank you, you've made it much more clearer to me.
    – Probably
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 17:25

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