Consider the argument over this issue between Plantinga and Pike and see what we can adjudicate :
For some fifteen years now, Alvin Plantinga has been offering the Free Will Defense
(FWD) in rebuttal to those who claim that the theist is inconsistent in affirming
both the existence of God (an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent Creator and Providence) and the existence of evil. And for some fifteen years, Nelson
Pike has been publishing articles in rebuttal of Plantinga. Now that the FWD is
"clothed in the complex finery of possible worlds ontology," Pike has offered a
response dressed for the occasion.1 I will suggest, however, that he really has said
nothing new. Pike's criticisms, in whatever garb, suffer in the same way now as in
the past: from a misunderstanding of Plantinga 's position.
Plantinga's strategy is the following. To show that propositions (1) An omnicompetent God exists and (2) There is evil are logically consistent, he need only
find a third proposition (however complex) which is consistent with (1) and such
that it and (1) jointly entail (2). Plantinga suggests for this third proposition the
(3) It was not within (an omnipotent) God's power to create a world con-
taining only moral good (i.e., moral good but no moral evil)
(4) God created a world containing moral good.
Now clearly (1), (3), and (4) entail (2). And, claims Plantinga, "these propositions
are evidently consistent - i.e., their conjunction is a [logically] possible proposition" (GFE 54). Pike will contest neither the entailment nor the strategy in general,
but rather the consistency of the set: he claims that (3) is inconsistent with God's
omnipotence (or rather, if we understand "God" to mean an omnicompetent
being, that (3) is self- contradictory).
Before turning to Pike's argument, however, let us look at the general format
of the critic's contention that (1) and (2) are inconsistent. The atheologian posing
the problem of evil, says Plantinga, is claiming that "God could have actualized
worlds containing moral good but no moral evil" (GFE 40). I take that claim to be the denial of (3), and so recast it as
(5) It was within an omnipotent God's power to create a world containing
only moral good (i.e., moral good but no moral evil).
And the argument might continue in this fashion:
(6) An omnibenevolent God who could have created a world containing
only moral good would, if he created at all, create such a world.
.'. (7) If God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent and creates a world, he
creates a world containing only moral good.
(8) This world is not a world containing only moral good.
.'. (9) Either God is not omnipotent, or not omnibenevolent, or he did not
create this world.
The argument is valid, and (8) - which is entailed by (2) - is both an obvious
truth and part of the theist's accepted beliefs. But (9) entails the denial of (1); so
if (5) and (6) are necessary truths, (1) and (2) are inconsistent.2
Pike's contention that (3) is a contradiction is, of course, equivalent to the
claim that (5) is a necessary truth.
(Keith J. Cooper, 'Here We Go Again: Pike vs. Plantinga on the Problem of Evil', International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Vol. 14, No. 2 (1983), pp. 107-116 : 107-8.
A. Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil (Harper and Row, 1974) : 54.
N. Pike, 'Plantinga on Free Will and Evil, Religious Studies, 15 (1979),
The proposition that gives me most trouble is :
(7) If God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent and creates a world, he creates a world containing only moral good.
Grant that God created the world. Grant that God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent. It could still be that a world that contains only moral good is not axiologically the best world. Moral value does not exhaust all value. Thus it seems to me a logical possibility - a non-self-contradictory state of affairs - that an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God created a world that does not contain only moral value and does contain moral evil. There is logical space for this possibility.