I received a question about God pre-ordaining evil. If God ordered the whole world, did he order child abuse?
My response is below:
I understand your submission to contain the basic questions below:
- How can we have free will if God ordains the circumstances in which we choose the way he wants us to?
- If God plans out all circumstances in which we choose, did he plan that certain evils (i.e. child abuse) will occur?
- If God plans out even the circumstances in which we sin, then how are we responsible for the sin?
Answering these questions will be aided by an understanding of Molinism and possible worlds. “Possible worlds” semantics is a way of talking about possibilities. Consider a “possible world” to be a complete description of how the world may have been given some sort of variable. So you might consider a “possible world” in which you were born in Canada instead of the United States. That “possible world” would be the same as the actual world with the exception of your birthplace and all of the implications that follow from it.
When God created the universe, he knew beforehand all possible worlds. He knew every way that the world could go given any/all variables in when/where/how he would act. He knew what new circumstances would be created by any and every action and all of the decisions that free agents would make in the new circumstances. When he chose to create our world, this entailed choosing all of the circumstances that resulted and indirectly choosing to allow all of the free choices that would result (this is essentially Molinism). He didn’t force those choices, but rather he knew what each person would ultimately do.
So to answer your second question, Yes God knew all of the evil that would result in his creating the world. He knew about all of the abuses that would occur, all of the evil choices that people would make. Nonetheless, he evaluated every possible world and decided that this world was better than any other possible world. It is beyond us to know why exactly why this world is better than any other world, but neither do we have reason to think that God has made a poor choice. Consider one extreme alternative, a world in which God refrained from creating humanity. Certainly there would be less evil, but then humanity would never exist. Each person who does choose to follow God and be reconciled to him would never have existed to have that relationship with Him. It seems wrong that God should allow evil people, through their evil choices, to hold hostage the existence of those people who will be redeemed.
This is why God did pre-ordain everything that would happen in our world, having chosen to bring this world about when he chose to create, but nonetheless we are free creatures and responsible for our choices. God didn’t force us to choose one way or another in any circumstance, but he took into account what we would do when he brought about the world. We don’t always choose the way that God wants us to, and he has chosen to allow us to make our own choices.
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