Master of Arts (MA)


Edward N. Martin

Primary Subject Area

Philosophy; Religion, Philosophy of


Alvin Plantinga, Can God be Free, O Felix Culpa, Problem of Evil, William Rowe


In his "The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism," William Rowe famously argues that there are no God justifying goods that we know of that can excuse God's allowing the very many widespread evils and horrors there are in our world. I argue that this forms the backbone of his 2004 volume entitled Can God be Free? in which he posits two further arguments: (1) God must create the best of necessity and is thereby not free and so not praiseworthy, and (2) God cannot create a best world (since there is no best) and so always does less than the best He can and is therefore morally culpable (and so, surpassable). What is more, even if God could have created a best world, Rowe finds it obvious that the actual world is not the best God could have done in creating a world since it includes such things as the Holocaust and other rampant evils and horrors.

The intent of this thesis, then, is to argue three things: (1) that God is free in a significant way to create (or refrain from creating) and is thereby worthy of our praise, (2) that there is no world-creating ethic to which God is beholden, and (3) that there is at least one God justifying good in the world that we do know of, namely, the incomparably great good of the divine incarnation and atoning work of Jesus the Christ. Following Alvin Plantinga's argument from his "Supralapsarianism, or `O Felix Culpa'" it is argued herein that there is no possible world that is of a greater value than a world that includes the divine incarnation and atoning work of the Divine Son. On this model, then, evil and suffering must exist because if they did not, then Jesus and His work would be unnecessary, and without these things there would be no best type of creatable world. In pitting Plantinga's theodical arguments against Rowe's latest contribution, we will see that God has done what Professor Rowe has wished all along: He has freely created a best of all possibly created worlds.