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Why Did God Allow Evil?

Is it possible to force people to love? Powerful people may be able to force others to do just about anything. Through psychological or physical torture, they may succeed in forcing them to curse their own children to deny their faith. They may even succeed in forcing others to act and say loving things to them. But no one can force another person to actually love them.

But God created us, someone might respond, so he need not coerce us to love him. He could simply create us with an unquenchable desire to love him. In this case we would choose to love God simply by virtue of how we were created. I suggest that this supposition also conflicts with our experience.

Consider this analogy: Suppose I were able to invent a computer chip that could interact with a human brain in a deterministic fashion, causing the person who carries the chip to do exactly what the chip dictates without the person knowing this. Suppose further that I programmed the chip to produce “the perfect wife” and inserted it in my wife’s brain while she was sleeping. The next morning she would wake up as my idea of a perfect wife. She would feel, behave and speak in a perfectly loving fashion. Owing to the sophistication of the chip, she would believe that she was voluntarily choosing to love me in this fashion, though in truth she could not do otherwise.

Would my wife genuinely love me? I think not. Proof of this is that I (and hopefully all husbands) would eventually find this “love” unfulfilling. I would know that my wife was not experiencing these loving feelings or engaging in this loving behavior on her own. In reality, I would simply be acting and speaking to myself through this sophisticated computer chip. My wife’s behavior would not be chosen by her, so she would not really be loving me at all. She would become the equivalent of a puppet. If I want love from her, she must personally possess the capacity to choose not to love me.

If God desires a bride made up of people who genuinely love him (see Jn 17)—who do not just act lovingly toward him—he must create people who have the capacity to reject him. He must endow agents with self-determination. They, not he, must determine whether or not they will love him and each other. And this, I submit, explains why God created a world in which evil was possible. If love is the goal, it could not be otherwise. God chose to create a world in which evil is possible only in the sense that he chose to create a world in which love is possible. The possibility of evil is not a second decision God makes; it is implied in the single decision to have a world in which love is possible. It is, in effect, the metaphysical price God must pay if he wants to arrive at a bride who says yes to his triune love.

—Adapted from Satan and the Problem of Evil, pages 54-55

Image by RocPX via Flickr

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