The Free Will Defence - The Richmond Philosophy Pages

Augustine and Irenaeus
Augustine argues that it was free will that led to
the original sin of Adam and Eve
This resulted in their subsequent expulsion from
paradise by God and the introduction of pain and
suffering into their lives and the lives of their
So Augustine maintains that although God
created a perfect world, evil was introduced by
the choices humans made, and thus it is the
responsibility of humans not of God
Irenaeus thought free will is necessary if we
are to improve ourselves and the world, and
to work towards spiritual maturity and noble
So evil is an unfortunate side effect of God
granting us free will. But it is a price worth
paying if there is also the possibility that
human free will can lead to salvation and
Both the Augustinian and Irenaean ‘free will
defences’ view moral evil as stemming from
the free choices of humans
They also both view free will as a positive
quality that is a gift from God to humans
Do Irenaeus’ and Augustine’s Free Will
Defences answer the problem of evil?
Peter Vardy offers a summary of the free will
1. The highest good for humans is a loving
relationship with God
2. Love must be freely chosen
3. So God, who is all powerful and loving, gave
humans free will (in order to achieve 1)
4. Genuine free will means that humans will
sometimes choose good, and sometimes evil
5. Therefore evil exists in order that humans may
choose a loving relationship with God
Hick and Swinburne both point out that God
does wish not to create a cosy ‘toy world’ for
his human ‘pets’ to live in
So it’s a mistake to look at the world and
wonder why it isn’t more pleasant for humans
A much greater good than pleasure is the
relationship humans can have with God, and
this can only be a genuine relationship if we
have free will
What positives are there for the free will
What criticisms can you think of for the free
will defence?