Must G-d Create Only Good People?

 

Mack says to the Christian:

You say that free will is the origin of evil. But it is possible for a person to freely choose to do no evil.  Your G-d, if he exists, would be able to create such people. He would know how to create such people. And he would definitely do so because he is good.  But no such thing happened, and therefore your G-d does not exist.

Does anyone else see the problem I see with Mack’s way of thinking?  I’d been wanting to properly deal with this problem since 2005, but I finally found a little mental space to put some real work into it last year.  Now it’s a published article: “Must G-d Create the Best Available Creatures?” in the journal Philosophia Christi, the journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

Mack’s remarks above (written by me) are drawn from J. L. Mackie, who distinguished himself in 1900s philosophy by presenting an important objection to the traditional free will explanation for why G-d could allow evil: If evil is due to the free choice of creatures, why wouldn’t an omnipotent G-d simply create free creatures who would choose better?

Alvin Plantinga, in turn, distinguished himself with his critique of Mackie. Plantinga’s main point is that Mackie made a mistake in assuming that it is within the power of omnipotence fully to create just any possible world.

So far, so good.

But I think Mackie made another mistake.  He had another highly questionable assumption that Plantinga does not critique.

Mackie assumes that a G-d, as construed by classical theistic belief, who could create either of two people—one of whom would freely choose right and the other of whom would freely choose wrong—must create the one who would freely choose right.

But if that’s true, then, just as long as there is any possible person whom G-d could have created and placed in the Garden of Eden and who would not have sinned, G-d won’t allow anyone else the chance to sin!

So, in Mackie’s view, no one else sinning is even possible!  And even that one possible, not-sinning person doesn’t have any possibility of sinning as long as there’s someone else who wouldn’t have sinned given the chance.

In short, for nearly every conceivable arrangement of the facts about what possible people would do, . . . every possible person, or all but one of them, is completely unable to ever sinAnd where does that leave free will?????

Now you might be thinking it’s just not reasonable to even talk about the so-called facts about what not-real-but-possible people might do.  You might be right. I think that’s a very respectable position.

And there are some other options. But I think the best option is to . . . Just. Drop. Mackie’s. Assumption.

This also means we don’t need Alvin Plantinga’s idea, which is this: Maybe all possible created people have what he calls trans-world depravity, meaning that maybe all of them would have sinned given the chance.

I love Plantinga’s Christian philosophy, but I don’t think that particular position is likely.  Still, if I’m criticizing Plantinga, it’s a friendly, and a pretty mild, criticism.  It’s less that Plantinga is wrong and more that . . . we can agree with Plantinga’s criticism of J. L. Mackie, and go just one step further.

Two more notes.  First, the title of my article is inspired by Robert Adams’ famous article, “Must G-d Create the Best?”

Second, this is the best I’ve been able to do so far.  Maybe I’ll do more later.  All this time I’m working with the idea of free will as the ability to do otherwise, which is a prominent theory on what free will is, and is Plantinga’s theory. But there are other views on what free will is.

If we’re going to stick with this definition, we may have to consider the possibility that free will is not good only as a means to the end of freely chosen moral good, but also for other reasons, or even just good in itself.  This is an idea I might explore in the future.

And I think I’ve stumbled on a promising insight: If human beings are made in the image of G-d and if part of that involves the responsibility to creatively develop creation in G-d’s name, then maybe that creativity requires some ability to do otherwise.  This might be at least part of the explanation for why FW—as the ability to do otherwise—is important.

In any case, frankly, I’m happy enough if we just question Mackie’s assumption.  It should never have been allowed to pass unquestioned.

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  1. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    What does a person without free will do? 

    How does a person without free will function?

    We could imagine that a type of will might be possible where the person can make choices, but can only choose the good option and they can never make the wrong choice.   But this would be the same as no choice and no will.

    A person as we understand a person to exist cannot exist without free will.  

    I think if somehow all the free will was removed from the human race, we would cease to function.  Kind of like Socialism would do and for the same reason.  No choices. 

    • #61
  2. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Perhaps we agree more than we disagree then.

    As Treebeard would say, let’s not be too hasty. We would have to succeed at communicating before we could conclude anything like that. I doubt we are anywhere near succeeding.

    I think we agree that when horrible things happen, like a child losing both her parents in a car accident and being paralyzed from the neck down in that same car accident, people often pray for God to ease the child’s suffering. When the child continues to suffer, we sometimes harbor doubts that God is as powerful as advertised.

    That’s the part where I think we agree.

    Well, no.  We sometimes harbor doubts about whether we got something wrong from the Epicurean trilemma.  But close enough.

    • #62
  3. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):

    What does a person without free will do?

    How does a person without free will function?

    We could imagine that a type of will might be possible where the person can make choices, but can only choose the good option and they can never make the wrong choice. But this would be the same as no choice and no will.

    A person as we understand a person to exist cannot exist without free will.

    I think if somehow all the free will was removed from the human race, we would cease to function. Kind of like Socialism would do and for the same reason. No choices.

    Let’s say you have an opportunity to steal someone’s money.  But you choose not to steal the person’s money.  That’s a free choice.  

    Now, if your “nature” is really good, all of your choices would be good and none of them would be bad.  

    So, free will doesn’t necessarily seem incompatible with moral perfection.  This is why the free will explanation for the bad behavior of human beings has been questioned.  If God created human beings with a perfect nature, human beings would make only good choices and no bad choices.  

    But if God created human beings with an imperfect nature, this would explain why human beings sometimes make good choices and sometimes make bad choices.  

    • #63
  4. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    If God created human beings with a perfect nature, human beings would make only good choices and no bad choices.  

    You don’t understand the view you’re talking about.  The view is not that humans were made “perfect” in that sense.  The view is that they were made sinless with the ability to decide whether or not they would sin.

    • #64
  5. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    If God created human beings with a perfect nature, human beings would make only good choices and no bad choices.

    You don’t understand the view you’re talking about. The view is not that humans were made “perfect” in that sense. The view is that they were made sinless with the ability to decide whether or not they would sin.

    I am talking about human nature.  If (and I say if) human beings had a perfect nature, they would be free to choose, but they would only make good choices and never make bad choices.  

    We all know that human nature is imperfect.  Even really good people aren’t perfect.  

    • #65
  6. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    If God created human beings with a perfect nature, human beings would make only good choices and no bad choices.

    You don’t understand the view you’re talking about. The view is not that humans were made “perfect” in that sense. The view is that they were made sinless with the ability to decide whether or not they would sin.

    I am talking about human nature. If (and I say if) human beings had a perfect nature, they would be free to choose, but they would only make good choices and never make bad choices.

    We all know that human nature is imperfect. Even really good people aren’t perfect.

    Ok. Then you’re not talking about the same human nature any Christian philosopher or theologian talks about.

    • #66
  7. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    If God created human beings with a perfect nature, human beings would make only good choices and no bad choices.

    You don’t understand the view you’re talking about. The view is not that humans were made “perfect” in that sense. The view is that they were made sinless with the ability to decide whether or not they would sin.

    I am talking about human nature. If (and I say if) human beings had a perfect nature, they would be free to choose, but they would only make good choices and never make bad choices.

    We all know that human nature is imperfect. Even really good people aren’t perfect.

    Ok. Then you’re not talking about the same human nature any Christian philosopher or theologian talks about.

    Do you think that human nature is perfect or imperfect? 

    • #67
  8. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Do you think that human nature is perfect or imperfect? 

    The term “nature” can mean different things. So can the word “perfect.” “Perfect” can mean flawless, complete, fulfilled, good without any limitations, and probably some other things.

    A kidney has a nature described by the sentence “The function of the kidneys is to purify the blood.”

    In that sense of “nature,” human nature is perfect in the sense of being flawless.  But, of course, we don’t live up to our nature because we don’t function the way we were meant to.

    Sometimes “human nature” refers to what we do more or less automatically.  In that sense, no, human nature is not perfect.

    But then “human nature” could refer to the original created version of humanity, humanity in the Garden of Eden, Humanity 1.0.  That nature was perfect in the sense of being flawless, but it was still able to go wrong because it wasn’t perfect in every sense.

    • #68
  9. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Do you think that human nature is perfect or imperfect?

    The term “nature” can mean different things. So can the word “perfect.” “Perfect” can mean flawless, complete, fulfilled, good without any limitations, and probably some other things.

    A kidney has a nature described by the sentence “The function of the kidneys is to purify the blood.”

    In that sense of “nature,” human nature is perfect in the sense of being flawless. But, of course, we don’t live up to our nature because we don’t function the way we were meant to.

    Sometimes “human nature” refers to what we do more or less automatically. In that sense, no, human nature is not perfect.

    But then “human nature” could refer to the original created version of humanity, humanity in the Garden of Eden, Humanity 1.0. That nature was perfect in the sense of being flawless, but it was still able to go wrong because it wasn’t perfect in every sense.

    Right. 

    What I am saying is that if God had created human beings with a perfect nature, by definition, human beings would freely choose yet make all good choices and no bad choices.

    • #69
  10. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Do you think that human nature is perfect or imperfect?

    The term “nature” can mean different things. So can the word “perfect.” “Perfect” can mean flawless, complete, fulfilled, good without any limitations, and probably some other things.

    A kidney has a nature described by the sentence “The function of the kidneys is to purify the blood.”

    In that sense of “nature,” human nature is perfect in the sense of being flawless. But, of course, we don’t live up to our nature because we don’t function the way we were meant to.

    Sometimes “human nature” refers to what we do more or less automatically. In that sense, no, human nature is not perfect.

    But then “human nature” could refer to the original created version of humanity, humanity in the Garden of Eden, Humanity 1.0. That nature was perfect in the sense of being flawless, but it was still able to go wrong because it wasn’t perfect in every sense.

    Right.

    What I am saying is that if God had created human beings with a perfect nature, by definition, human beings would freely choose yet make all good choices and no bad choices.

    So which sense of “human nature” and which sense of “perfect” are you talking about? 

    • #70
  11. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Do you think that human nature is perfect or imperfect?

    The term “nature” can mean different things. So can the word “perfect.” “Perfect” can mean flawless, complete, fulfilled, good without any limitations, and probably some other things.

    A kidney has a nature described by the sentence “The function of the kidneys is to purify the blood.”

    In that sense of “nature,” human nature is perfect in the sense of being flawless. But, of course, we don’t live up to our nature because we don’t function the way we were meant to.

    Sometimes “human nature” refers to what we do more or less automatically. In that sense, no, human nature is not perfect.

    But then “human nature” could refer to the original created version of humanity, humanity in the Garden of Eden, Humanity 1.0. That nature was perfect in the sense of being flawless, but it was still able to go wrong because it wasn’t perfect in every sense.

    Right.

    What I am saying is that if God had created human beings with a perfect nature, by definition, human beings would freely choose yet make all good choices and no bad choices.

    So which sense of “human nature” and which sense of “perfect” are you talking about?

    Perfect in the sense that every choice a human being makes is a good choice, not a bad choice.  

    Human nature in the sense that it is human nature for human beings to desire food and water.  

    In other words, if someone tells you need to quit your addiction to food and water, you can respond that human nature being what it is, you can’t quit your addiction to food and water because you need it to survive.

    To be more precise, human beings need vitamin C in their diet whereas a cat does not.  A cat creates its own vitamin C just as a human being creates its own blood cells.  A human being doesn’t need to consume blood cells in their diet because the human body makes blood cells.  A cat makes his own vitamin C.

    That’s human nature (or cat nature).  So, if someone tells you to avoid vitamin C, they are either telling you to die or to cease being human.  

    • #71
  12. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Do you think that human nature is perfect or imperfect?

    The term “nature” can mean different things. So can the word “perfect.” “Perfect” can mean flawless, complete, fulfilled, good without any limitations, and probably some other things.

    A kidney has a nature described by the sentence “The function of the kidneys is to purify the blood.”

    In that sense of “nature,” human nature is perfect in the sense of being flawless. But, of course, we don’t live up to our nature because we don’t function the way we were meant to.

    Sometimes “human nature” refers to what we do more or less automatically. In that sense, no, human nature is not perfect.

    But then “human nature” could refer to the original created version of humanity, humanity in the Garden of Eden, Humanity 1.0. That nature was perfect in the sense of being flawless, but it was still able to go wrong because it wasn’t perfect in every sense.

    Right.

    What I am saying is that if God had created human beings with a perfect nature, by definition, human beings would freely choose yet make all good choices and no bad choices.

    So which sense of “human nature” and which sense of “perfect” are you talking about?

    HW is perfect. Just ask him.

    • #72
  13. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):

    What does a person without free will do?

    How does a person without free will function?

    We could imagine that a type of will might be possible where the person can make choices, but can only choose the good option and they can never make the wrong choice. But this would be the same as no choice and no will.

    A person as we understand a person to exist cannot exist without free will.

    I think if somehow all the free will was removed from the human race, we would cease to function. Kind of like Socialism would do and for the same reason. No choices.

    You confuse having limited choices with either having unlimited choices or no choices at all.

    • #73
  14. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):

    What does a person without free will do?

    How does a person without free will function?

    We could imagine that a type of will might be possible where the person can make choices, but can only choose the good option and they can never make the wrong choice. But this would be the same as no choice and no will.

    A person as we understand a person to exist cannot exist without free will.

    I think if somehow all the free will was removed from the human race, we would cease to function. Kind of like Socialism would do and for the same reason. No choices.

    Lawst, let me ask some real life examples.  Give me, if you would, three choices that you remember you’ve made that could have gone either way; say, buying a new car, which you could easily do, or foregoing buying a car for another year, which you could also have easily done.  Just an example of what I’m talking about.  And ask yourself, could you really have done either, regardless of which one would have turned out right or wrong for you.  And then give me three examples of choices that you face, that you really don’t know what you will decide to do, but you have to decide either one way or another.

    What you’re saying is that without free choice as you define it, the choosing is not yours to make.  I say that it is.  Is it possible that God can direct your paths, and direct your footsteps, for your own benefit, and that you still have made (or will make) the choices of your own free will?

    • #74
  15. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Do you think that human nature is perfect or imperfect?

    The term “nature” can mean different things. So can the word “perfect.” “Perfect” can mean flawless, complete, fulfilled, good without any limitations, and probably some other things.

    A kidney has a nature described by the sentence “The function of the kidneys is to purify the blood.”

    In that sense of “nature,” human nature is perfect in the sense of being flawless. But, of course, we don’t live up to our nature because we don’t function the way we were meant to.

    Sometimes “human nature” refers to what we do more or less automatically. In that sense, no, human nature is not perfect.

    But then “human nature” could refer to the original created version of humanity, humanity in the Garden of Eden, Humanity 1.0. That nature was perfect in the sense of being flawless, but it was still able to go wrong because it wasn’t perfect in every sense.

    Right.

    What I am saying is that if God had created human beings with a perfect nature, by definition, human beings would freely choose yet make all good choices and no bad choices.

    So which sense of “human nature” and which sense of “perfect” are you talking about?

    Perfect in the sense that every choice a human being makes is a good choice, not a bad choice.

    Human nature in the sense that it is human nature for human beings to desire food and water.

    In other words, if someone tells you need to quit your addiction to food and water, you can respond that human nature being what it is, you can’t quit your addiction to food and water because you need it to survive.

    To be more precise, human beings need vitamin C in their diet whereas a cat does not. A cat creates its own vitamin C just as a human being creates its own blood cells. A human being doesn’t need to consume blood cells in their diet because the human body makes blood cells. A cat makes his own vitamin C.

    That’s human nature (or cat nature). So, if someone tells you to avoid vitamin C, they are either telling you to die or to cease being human.

    So if G-d had designed us to do good automatically, we would do good automatically?

    True.

    But it beats me what the point of talking about this is.

    • #75
  16. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):

    What does a person without free will do?

    How does a person without free will function?

    We could imagine that a type of will might be possible where the person can make choices, but can only choose the good option and they can never make the wrong choice. But this would be the same as no choice and no will.

    A person as we understand a person to exist cannot exist without free will.

    I think if somehow all the free will was removed from the human race, we would cease to function. Kind of like Socialism would do and for the same reason. No choices.

    You confuse having limited choices with either having unlimited choices or no choices at all.

    Hold that thought.

    • #76
  17. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):

    What does a person without free will do?

    How does a person without free will function?

    We could imagine that a type of will might be possible where the person can make choices, but can only choose the good option and they can never make the wrong choice. But this would be the same as no choice and no will.

    A person as we understand a person to exist cannot exist without free will.

    I think if somehow all the free will was removed from the human race, we would cease to function. Kind of like Socialism would do and for the same reason. No choices.

    Lawst, let me ask some real life examples. Give me, if you would, three choices that you remember you’ve made that could have gone either way; say, buying a new car, which you could easily do, or foregoing buying a car for another year, which you could also have easily done. Just an example of what I’m talking about. And ask yourself, could you really have done either, regardless of which one would have turned out right or wrong for you. And then give me three examples of choices that you face, that you really don’t know what you will decide to do, but you have to decide either one way or another.

    What you’re saying is that without free choice as you define it, the choosing is not yours to make. I say that it is. Is it possible that God can direct your paths, and direct your footsteps, for your own benefit, and that you still have made (or will make) the choices of your own free will?

    I think you are several levels of civilization above the basic idea I floated, so I may not have floated it too well.  I think you are considering a person who, having the free will to do so, has acknowledged their Creator and asked for direction.  I’m back in time considering the programming of the human species,

    So in the beginning, does the Creator give these humans the ability to do right or do wrong, or does He program them to only do right?  If programmed to only do right, there are no decisions and there is no free will.  

    We could consider that there are decisions that do not rise to the level of right or wrong, but if we consider that every option has even minuscule differences and potential impacts on other people, etc., one option will always be a better option and therefore a right option when considering the right and wrong of the options. 

    At least it all sounds good to me at the moment. 

    • #77
  18. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):

    I think you are several levels of civilization above the basic idea I floated, so I may not have floated it too well.  I think you are considering a person who, having the free will to do so, has acknowledged their Creator and asked for direction.  I’m back in time considering the programming of the human species,

    So in the beginning, does the Creator give these humans the ability to do right or do wrong, or does He program them to only do right?  If programmed to only do right, there are no decisions and there is no free will.  

    We could consider that there are decisions that do not rise to the level of right or wrong, but if we consider that every option has even minuscule differences and potential impacts on other people, etc., one option will always be a better option and therefore a right option when considering the right and wrong of the options. 

    At least it all sounds good to me at the moment. 

    Let me go back to something I asked earlier.

    Jesus was sinless, but it was by choice.  Being God, He could not sin, though tempted.  But nonetheless He chose only to do good.

    Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the goodFor before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that you abhor shall be forsaken of both her kings.”

    Doing good is a choice.  Nowhere does it say that Jesus ever chose evil, but Jesus knew to choose good even as a baby (or a toddler).

    Now we look forward to the day when we will be sinless.  When we are finally perfected and incorruptible, and all corruption and sinfulness is removed from us, and we will only choose to do good, and consequently we will only do good.  And sin will no longer exist.  Will this reduce us to being a zombies?  Or will we all be better human beings?

    Will our free will be exemplified by our choosing to do only good?    Or will we need to choose evil occasionally to prove that we still have free will?  In other words, does the exhibition of free will depend upon making bad decisions and wrong choices?

    • #78
  19. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Do you think that human nature is perfect or imperfect?

    The term “nature” can mean different things. So can the word “perfect.” “Perfect” can mean flawless, complete, fulfilled, good without any limitations, and probably some other things.

    A kidney has a nature described by the sentence “The function of the kidneys is to purify the blood.”

    In that sense of “nature,” human nature is perfect in the sense of being flawless. But, of course, we don’t live up to our nature because we don’t function the way we were meant to.

    Sometimes “human nature” refers to what we do more or less automatically. In that sense, no, human nature is not perfect.

    But then “human nature” could refer to the original created version of humanity, humanity in the Garden of Eden, Humanity 1.0. That nature was perfect in the sense of being flawless, but it was still able to go wrong because it wasn’t perfect in every sense.

    Right.

    What I am saying is that if God had created human beings with a perfect nature, by definition, human beings would freely choose yet make all good choices and no bad choices.

    So which sense of “human nature” and which sense of “perfect” are you talking about?

    Perfect in the sense that every choice a human being makes is a good choice, not a bad choice.

    Human nature in the sense that it is human nature for human beings to desire food and water.

    In other words, if someone tells you need to quit your addiction to food and water, you can respond that human nature being what it is, you can’t quit your addiction to food and water because you need it to survive.

    To be more precise, human beings need vitamin C in their diet whereas a cat does not. A cat creates its own vitamin C just as a human being creates its own blood cells. A human being doesn’t need to consume blood cells in their diet because the human body makes blood cells. A cat makes his own vitamin C.

    That’s human nature (or cat nature). So, if someone tells you to avoid vitamin C, they are either telling you to die or to cease being human.

    So if G-d had designed us to do good automatically, we would do good automatically?

    True.

    But it beats me what the point of talking about this is.

    I never mentioned the word “automatically.”  

    • #79
  20. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    I never mentioned the word “automatically.”  

    Ok. Let’s rewind.

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Do you think that human nature is perfect or imperfect?

    The term “nature” can mean different things. So can the word “perfect.” “Perfect” can mean flawless, complete, fulfilled, good without any limitations, and probably some other things.

    A kidney has a nature described by the sentence “The function of the kidneys is to purify the blood.”

    In that sense of “nature,” human nature is perfect in the sense of being flawless. But, of course, we don’t live up to our nature because we don’t function the way we were meant to.

    Sometimes “human nature” refers to what we do more or less automatically. In that sense, no, human nature is not perfect.

    But then “human nature” could refer to the original created version of humanity, humanity in the Garden of Eden, Humanity 1.0. That nature was perfect in the sense of being flawless, but it was still able to go wrong because it wasn’t perfect in every sense.

    Right.

    What I am saying is that if God had created human beings with a perfect nature, by definition, human beings would freely choose yet make all good choices and no bad choices.

    So which sense of “human nature” and which sense of “perfect” are you talking about?

    Perfect in the sense that every choice a human being makes is a good choice, not a bad choice.

    Human nature in the sense that it is human nature for human beings to desire food and water.

    In other words, if someone tells you need to quit your addiction to food and water, you can respond that human nature being what it is, you can’t quit your addiction to food and water because you need it to survive.

    To be more precise, human beings need vitamin C in their diet whereas a cat does not. A cat creates its own vitamin C just as a human being creates its own blood cells. A human being doesn’t need to consume blood cells in their diet because the human body makes blood cells. A cat makes his own vitamin C.

    That’s human nature (or cat nature). So, if someone tells you to avoid vitamin C, they are either telling you to die or to cease being human.

    Ok, so what sense of human nature are you talking about?  Human proper function?

    • #80
  21. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    I never mentioned the word “automatically.”

    Ok. Let’s rewind.

     

    Perfect in the sense that every choice a human being makes is a good choice, not a bad choice.

    Human nature in the sense that it is human nature for human beings to desire food and water.

    In other words, if someone tells you need to quit your addiction to food and water, you can respond that human nature being what it is, you can’t quit your addiction to food and water because you need it to survive.

    To be more precise, human beings need vitamin C in their diet whereas a cat does not. A cat creates its own vitamin C just as a human being creates its own blood cells. A human being doesn’t need to consume blood cells in their diet because the human body makes blood cells. A cat makes his own vitamin C.

    That’s human nature (or cat nature). So, if someone tells you to avoid vitamin C, they are either telling you to die or to cease being human.

    Ok, so what sense of human nature are you talking about? Human proper function?

    I have often argued that socialism doesn’t work as its proponents believe it should because socialism goes against “human nature.”  It is human nature to care more about your own survival and the survival of people genetically related to you than the survival of strangers.

    One could say that tribalism, the preference of “our people” over “those other people,” is part of human nature.  

    I suppose I could say that to say something is part of human nature is to say that human beings have a very strong predisposition towards that thing.  Human beings are naturally tribal in outlook and this tribal outlook can be reduced through various forms of socialization.  Yet despite socialization, parents will generally be more concerned about the well being of their own children than the children of strangers.  Because it’s part of human nature.  

    I hope that clarifies what I mean by human nature, at least somewhat.  

    • #81
  22. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    On the issue of “free will.”  Obviously, different people mean different things when they used the term.  

    But let’s say I am in a very dark room for a half hour and then someone turns the lights on.  My pupils constrict.  My pupils constricting because there is more light in the room isn’t an example of my “free will.”  This seems like an involuntary action.  

    But if I am at a restaurant and I am handed a mention with a multitude of entrees, appetizers and beverages, I can deliberate over those options and make a “free choice,” provided the waiter doesn’t say to me, “Um.  We are out of everything except mac and cheese right now.”  Also, provided no one puts a gun to my head and says, “Order the pastrami or I’ll blow your brains out.”   

    That’s my rough sense of what free will means.  

    But if we examine even those decisions we make in which we engage in significant deliberation, such as which house to purchase or whether to invest in stocks, bonds, rental property or race horses, even then some people make the argument that these choices are “truly free.”  

    What they mean is that if you get it into your head that stocks are a better investment than bonds, your decision to invest in stocks isn’t really free because your decision was “determined” by the thoughts in your head about the relative benefits of investing in stocks vs bonds.  

    Now, I think there is something to this.  But I think this “anti-free will” person is asking too much of “free will.”  It’s almost as though he is asking a person who has free will to think that stocks are better than bonds but to choose bonds in order to demonstrate that his choices aren’t “determined” by antecedent conditions.  That’s not what I mean by “free will.”  

    • #82
  23. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    If God created human beings with a perfect nature, human beings would make only good choices and no bad choices.

    You don’t understand the view you’re talking about. The view is not that humans were made “perfect” in that sense. The view is that they were made sinless with the ability to decide whether or not they would sin.

    I am talking about human nature. If (and I say if) human beings had a perfect nature, they would be free to choose, but they would only make good choices and never make bad choices.

    We all know that human nature is imperfect. Even really good people aren’t perfect.

    And this admission makes your objections incoherent, taking “nature” here to be in the moral sense. Only perfect people would deserve a world in which there was no possibility of suffering, pain or loss.  A just God would let morally imperfect beings who continue to reject Him, the ultimate ground and source of the true Good, suffer. Tada. God is just. 

    • #83
  24. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Hartmann von Aue (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):
    If God created human beings with a perfect nature, human beings would make only good choices and no bad choices.

    You don’t understand the view you’re talking about. The view is not that humans were made “perfect” in that sense. The view is that they were made sinless with the ability to decide whether or not they would sin.

    I am talking about human nature. If (and I say if) human beings had a perfect nature, they would be free to choose, but they would only make good choices and never make bad choices.

    We all know that human nature is imperfect. Even really good people aren’t perfect.

    And this admission makes your objections incoherent, taking “nature” here to be in the moral sense. Only perfect people would deserve a world in which there was no possibility of suffering, pain or loss. A just God would let morally imperfect beings who continue to reject Him, the ultimate ground and source of the true Good, suffer. Tada. God is just.

    But you are ignoring the root of the issue: Human nature.

    If human nature was perfect, human beings would make choices, but all of their choices would be good and none of their choices would be bad.  

    You mention that “A just God would let morally imperfect beings who continue to reject Him . . . suffer.”

    But you don’t take up the issue of how these morally imperfect beings became imperfect?  If God created perfect beings, how did imperfect beings emerge?  

    • #84
  25. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    I never mentioned the word “automatically.”

    Ok. Let’s rewind.

     

    Perfect in the sense that every choice a human being makes is a good choice, not a bad choice.

    Human nature in the sense that it is human nature for human beings to desire food and water.

    In other words, if someone tells you need to quit your addiction to food and water, you can respond that human nature being what it is, you can’t quit your addiction to food and water because you need it to survive.

    To be more precise, human beings need vitamin C in their diet whereas a cat does not. A cat creates its own vitamin C just as a human being creates its own blood cells. A human being doesn’t need to consume blood cells in their diet because the human body makes blood cells. A cat makes his own vitamin C.

    That’s human nature (or cat nature). So, if someone tells you to avoid vitamin C, they are either telling you to die or to cease being human.

    Ok, so what sense of human nature are you talking about? Human proper function?

    I have often argued that socialism doesn’t work as its proponents believe it should because socialism goes against “human nature.” It is human nature to care more about your own survival and the survival of people genetically related to you than the survival of strangers.

    One could say that tribalism, the preference of “our people” over “those other people,” is part of human nature.

    I suppose I could say that to say something is part of human nature is to say that human beings have a very strong predisposition towards that thing. Human beings are naturally tribal in outlook and this tribal outlook can be reduced through various forms of socialization. Yet despite socialization, parents will generally be more concerned about the well being of their own children than the children of strangers. Because it’s part of human nature.

    I hope that clarifies what I mean by human nature, at least somewhat.

    So if G-d had made us with a very strong disposition to do only good, we would not do it automatically, and yet we would do it one hundred percent of the time?

    Maybe. If the disposition is strong enough.

    So if G-d had designed us to do good not automatically but as good as automatically, then we would do good as reliably as if it were automatic.

    Ok.

    I still don’t know what is the point of talking about this.

    • #85
  26. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    But you are ignoring the root of the issue: Human nature.

    If human nature was perfect, human beings would make choices, but all of their choices would be good and none of their choices would be bad.

    A remark you have now explained means:

    If G-d had created us with a really strong disposition to do only good, then we would not do it automatically but would still always do good.

    Is this supposed to be an objection to something I believe? I really don’t know why we’re talking about this. Are you trying to resurrect a version of Mackie’s objection?

    You mention that “A just God would let morally imperfect beings who continue to reject Him . . . suffer.”

    But you don’t take up the issue of how these morally imperfect beings became imperfect?  If God created perfect beings, how did imperfect beings emerge?

    I think it has something to do with free will.

    And with the fact that we were not created with every possible perfection. We were merely created without sin.

    • #86
  27. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    I never mentioned the word “automatically.”

    Ok. Let’s rewind.

     

    Perfect in the sense that every choice a human being makes is a good choice, not a bad choice.

    Human nature in the sense that it is human nature for human beings to desire food and water.

    In other words, if someone tells you need to quit your addiction to food and water, you can respond that human nature being what it is, you can’t quit your addiction to food and water because you need it to survive.

    To be more precise, human beings need vitamin C in their diet whereas a cat does not. A cat creates its own vitamin C just as a human being creates its own blood cells. A human being doesn’t need to consume blood cells in their diet because the human body makes blood cells. A cat makes his own vitamin C.

    That’s human nature (or cat nature). So, if someone tells you to avoid vitamin C, they are either telling you to die or to cease being human.

    Ok, so what sense of human nature are you talking about? Human proper function?

    I have often argued that socialism doesn’t work as its proponents believe it should because socialism goes against “human nature.” It is human nature to care more about your own survival and the survival of people genetically related to you than the survival of strangers.

    One could say that tribalism, the preference of “our people” over “those other people,” is part of human nature.

    I suppose I could say that to say something is part of human nature is to say that human beings have a very strong predisposition towards that thing. Human beings are naturally tribal in outlook and this tribal outlook can be reduced through various forms of socialization. Yet despite socialization, parents will generally be more concerned about the well being of their own children than the children of strangers. Because it’s part of human nature.

    I hope that clarifies what I mean by human nature, at least somewhat.

    So if G-d had made us with a very strong disposition to do only good, we would not do it automatically, and yet we would do it one hundred percent of the time?

    Maybe. If the disposition is strong enough.

    So if G-d had designed us to do good not automatically but as good as automatically, then we would do good as reliably as if it were automatic.

    Ok.

    I still don’t know what is the point of talking about this.

    Right.  If God had created human beings with a perfect human nature, human beings would not make moral errors.  

    Adam and Eve would have obeyed God and the thought of eating the forbidden fruit would not have been an attractive option for either of them.  

    I admit this is just one “possible world” that we can imagine.  

    The reason why I think it is interesting is that as we observe the real world in which we actually live, it can sometimes appear like a world in which God has exited the scene long ago or perhaps a world in which God isn’t omnipotent, a world where the creator no longer has full control over his creation.  

    If the world looked different perhaps our perceptions about God would be different as well.   

    • #87
  28. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    But you are ignoring the root of the issue: Human nature.

    If human nature was perfect, human beings would make choices, but all of their choices would be good and none of their choices would be bad.

    A remark you have now explained means:

    If G-d had created us with a really strong disposition to do only good, then we would not do it automatically but would still always do good.

    Is this supposed to be an objection to something I believe? I really don’t know why we’re talking about this. Are you trying to resurrect a version of Mackie’s objection?

    You mention that “A just God would let morally imperfect beings who continue to reject Him . . . suffer.”

    But you don’t take up the issue of how these morally imperfect beings became imperfect? If God created perfect beings, how did imperfect beings emerge?

    I think it has something to do with free will.

    And with the fact that we were not created with every possible perfection. We were merely created without sin.

    Yes.  That’s my point.  

    Human beings were not created with every possible perfection.  

    • #88
  29. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    I’m not sure you are following my line of reasoning.  So I thought I’ll answer the questions based on my grasp of reality and we’ll see where that gets us.

    Flicker (View Comment):

    (1) Will this reduce us to being a zombies?  (2) Or will we all be better human beings?

    (3) Will our free will be exemplified by our choosing to do only good?    (4) Or will we need to choose evil occasionally to prove that we still have free will?  (5) In other words, does the exhibition of free will depend upon making bad decisions and wrong choices?

    1. No
    2. Better, I think so.  Human beings, maybe not.  
    3. Not exactly. Our free will would be exemplified by our having a choice.  
    4. I’m not sure why we would need to prove we have free will.  I further don’t think we can comprehend what this existence will be and whether or not something like a will would even be necessary. 
    5. Assuming we are back in the present in human form, if for some reason we had to exhibit free will, making any choice would do so.  They could be all good or all bad or a mix.  What we choose doesn’t matter.  The fact we can choose is what shows free will. 
    • #89
  30. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Lawst N. Thawt (View Comment):

    I’m not sure you are following my line of reasoning. So I thought I’ll answer the questions based on my grasp of reality and we’ll see where that gets us.

    Flicker (View Comment):

    (1) Will this reduce us to being a zombies? (2) Or will we all be better human beings?

    (3) Will our free will be exemplified by our choosing to do only good? (4) Or will we need to choose evil occasionally to prove that we still have free will? (5) In other words, does the exhibition of free will depend upon making bad decisions and wrong choices?

    1. No
    2. Better, I think so. Human beings, maybe not.
    3. Not exactly. Our free will would be exemplified by our having a choice.
    4. I’m not sure why we would need to prove we have free will. I further don’t think we can comprehend what this existence will be and whether or not something like a will would even be necessary.
    5. Assuming we are back in the present in human form, if for some reason we had to exhibit free will, making any choice would do so. They could be all good or all bad or a mix. What we choose doesn’t matter. The fact we can choose is what shows free will.

    Sounds about like what I meant.  Re: #5, I’m talking about perfected human beings, good, in heaven, immortal, forever.

    To say that in heaven humans aren’t aren’t human anymore is like saying a fully grown corn stalk grown from a corn kernel is no longer corn.

    But if you say that this doesn’t constitute free will, then I have this question.  If God actually can’t do evil, does that mean that he doesn’t have free will?  Does this mean that He can’t actually choose to do anything good?

    And is He somehow lesser than our conception of what God is?

    God made man in His own image.  So if mankind will one day choose only to do good, as God (and most angels) does now, how does this limit mankind’s free will?  They were designed to be able to choose good and eschew evil.  They were told to choose good and eschew evil.  Even in heaven , just as Adam had in the Garden, we will possibly still have the ability to choose between good and evil, we just won’t choose evil anymore.  How is this any different than being an obedient son?

    • #90
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