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#374 God, Evil, and the Rules of Logic

June 15, 2014

Dr. Craig,

I love your work and all that you do! I believe you are one of the chief defenders of our faith today. I am a missionary about to begin living in England and am preparing myself for the questions I may be asked.

As a mental exercise I like to ask myself questions about my faith that I feel may one day be asked by an atheist or agnostic. I sometimes run down a rabbit trail of thought that I myself cannot come up with a satisfactory answer. Today, I bring you one of those rabbit trails. In your discussions on the problem of evil you often argue that a world of beings with free-will that choose to follow God and negate all suffering may not be "feasible" for God to create. Although, it does seem logically impossible to create a being that is free but only chooses the correct path, it occurs to me that God himself created logic. Why should he be subject to the rules of logic? Can God not do anything? As far as I understand God created all things that exist. He is the ultimate entity. Thus, can he not create a free being that follows him no matter what? Sure, to my human understanding that is impossible. But with God all things are possible. Could he not have created a world where freedom of choice and ultimate happiness co-exist?

This is a question that keeps me up at night. God himself created reason and logic. Why is he subservient to it? Am I missing something here? I hope you can take the time to respond to this question that currently plagues me. Either way, thank you for all that you do and I pray that you know you have made a great difference in many lives!


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Dr. craig’s response


I’m glad, Dylan, that you will be serving the Lord in the UK. May He greatly use you!

First, let’s clear up a misunderstanding evident in your question. When we say that some possible worlds are not feasible for God, we are not saying that such worlds are logical impossibilities. There is no logical impossibility involved in a sinless world in which people always freely choose to do the right thing. The point rather is that such a world, though logically possible, may be infeasible for God because the counterfactuals needed to actualize such a world may not be true.

Imagine a possible world in which the apostle Peter freely affirms Christ in the very same circumstances in which he denied him. Nothing logically impossible about that! The problem is that if God tried to actualize that world, things would go wrong because Peter, as we know, would freely deny Christ if placed in those circumstances. So such a world is not feasible for God. (If you don’t grasp this point, you need to read some more on divine middle knowledge, e.g., the relevant chapter in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview [IVP, 2003].)

Next, you claim that God freely created logic and therefore transcends the rules of logic. Now why do you think that? Such a view, after all, is not the mainstream view of Christian theology but lies on the extremist fringe. By far and away most Christian theologians do not think that God has the power to do what is logically impossible or to have created different rules of logic so that what is logically impossible would have been logically possible. You seem to give two justifications for such a radical view: (i) God is omnipotent, and (ii) God is the creator of everything.

But as for (i) there is no reason to construe omnipotence to entail the ability to do the logically impossible (take a look at my Brown Bear and Red Goose book, “God Is All-Powerful”--or the relevant section in Philosophical Foundations!). Logical impossibilities like creating a round square or making a rock too heavy for God to lift are not “things” at all but just contradictory combinations of words. Moreover, if you do think that God can do logical impossibilities, then the problem of evil immediately evaporates, for then God can bring it about that both evil exists and He exists, even though that is logically impossible! Even if evil proves that it is logically impossible that God exists, God can bring it about that He does not exist and that He exists, so no problem!

As for (ii) I don’t think that the laws of logic are things, any more than are holes, Wednesdays, or numbers. So while God certainly is the Creator of all that exists, He needn’t be thought to be the Creator of logic’s laws. Rather I’d say that the laws of logic are a description of the functioning of God’s mind. The Bible says, “In the beginning was the Logos (word, reason), and the Logos was with God and the Logos was God” (John 1.1). God is the supremely logical thinker, and the laws of logic are a reflection of His mind, just as the moral law is a reflection of His character. Just as God did not arbitrarily make up the moral law, so He did not arbitrarily make up the laws of logic.

What you’re missing, then, is the third way between the horns of your dilemma: the laws of logic are neither arbitrarily willed by God nor is He subservient to them; rather they are grounded in His nature.

- William Lane Craig