Can God make free agents who always choose right?

  • Clarifying the question

    Question: Can God create a world like ours, but consisting only of saintly moral agents who always freely choose to do what's right?

    If God did this, He couldn't do it by creating agents and then forcing them to choose as He wishes. (After all, a controlled choice would ipso facto not be free in the relevant sense.)1 But perhaps God could create the kinds of persons who would always freely choose what's right.

    1. As famously articulated by one philosopher,

      Alvin Plantinga (Philosophy professor at Notre Dame): “Now God can create free creatures, but He can't cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they aren't significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can't give these creatures the freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. ... He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.” [The Nature of Necessity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), 166–167.]

“Yes, after all…
  • Saintly free agents are not contradictions

    There is no logical contradiction entailed by God's creating only persons who are both essentially free and are saints (i.e. persons with “the property of being such that there are some occasions on which one has a capacity for wrongdoing and no occasions on which one in fact does wrong.”1This is relevant because...

    Antony Flew: “If there is no contradiction here then Omnipotence might have made a world inhabited by perfectly virtuous people.”2

    But so what if there is no contradiction? Something can be metaphysically impossible and/or not feasible for God while simultaneously not entailing a contradiction.3

    1. Clement Dore calls these Q-essences in Moral Scepticism (St. Martin’s, 1991), 57.
    2. “Divine Omnipotence and Human Freedom.” In Anthony Flew and Alasdair MacIntyre (eds.) New Essays in Philosophical Theology. (Macmillan, 1955), 149.

      John Mackie: “If God has made men such that in their free choices they sometimes prefer what is good and sometimes what is evil, why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good? If there is no logical impossibility in a man's choosing the good on one, or on several occasions, there cannot be a logical impossibility in his freely choosing the good on every occasion. God was not, then, faced with a choice between making innocent automata and making beings who, in acting freely, would sometimes go wrong: there was open to him the obviously better possibility of making beings who would act freely but always go right. Clearly, his failure to avail himself of this possibility is inconsistent with his being both omnipotent and perfectly good.” [“Evil and Omnipotence.” Mind 64: 200-212.]

    3. Here is a proof that something can be both (metaphysically) impossible and yet not entail a contradiction or be logically impossible:

      CONTRA = For any proposition p, if p is necessarily false, then p entails a contradiction.
      1. Assume CONTRA.
      2. If CONTRA is true, then CONTRA is necessarily true.
      3. Therefore, CONTRA is necessarily true. [From 1 & 2]
      4. If CONTRA is necessarily true, then not-CONTRA is necessarily false.
      5. Therefore, not-CONTRA is necessarily false. [From 3 & 4]
      6. If not-CONTRA is necessarily false, then not-CONTRA entails a contradiction. [From 1]
      7. Not-CONTRA does not entail a contradiction.
      8. Therefore, Not-CONTRA is not necessarily false. [From 6 & 7]
      9. Therefore, CONTRA is not necessarily true.
      10. Therefore, CONTRA is not true. [From 2 & 9] One can also replace “entails a contradiction” with “entails a logical impossibility.” The conclusion is that one needs to distinguish metaphysical possibility (what is actually possible) with logical possibility (which includes things that are not actually/metaphysically possible). In other words, perhaps Plantinga is right. Perhaps all non-Divine persons suffer from “transworld depravity.’’ That is to say, in any world where a person is significantly free, that person would, on some occasion, act morally wrongly. If persons are instantiated essences and if all essences are transworld-depraved, then “no matter which essences God instantiates, the resulting persons, if free with respect to morally significant actions, would always perform at least some wrong actions.” [Plantinga, God, Freedom and Evil (Eerdmans, 1974),; 53.]