How Did Evil Come into the World? A Primordial Free-Will Theodicy

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James P. Sterba has provided a compelling argument to the effect that given the extent of significant, and indeed even horrendous, evil that an all-good and all-powerful being could have prevented, there is no God. There is a hidden assumption in Sterba’s reasoning, involving an inference from God being able to do anything metaphysically possible (omnipotence) to his being, after creation, able to prevent evil. As what follows shows, that isn’t a purely logical matter. It depends on ruling out a determinate theological account of how creation limits what is then metaphysically possible for God, an account set out in detail below. So Sterba’s argument is not deductively valid, unless that account is incoherent. Accordingly, we are back in the realm of total judgments of theoretical plausibility, and the effects of God-given grace on what then will strike one as the right view to live by.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number402
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies


  • God
  • God’s reason for creating
  • God’s redemptive back-up plan
  • Neo-Platonism
  • abjuration
  • fine-tuning as demiurgic work
  • grace
  • holiness
  • modal argument for God’s existence
  • negative demiurgy
  • omnipotence
  • the Beatific Vision
  • the Principle of Sufficient Reason
  • the free will defense
  • the importance of a community of grace
  • the mismatch between God’s reasons for creating and the total face of the material universe
  • the origin of evil
  • the problem of evil
  • why there is something rather than nothing


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