How much trouble is Plantinga’s Free Will Defense in?

I’ve spent a fair amount of time arguing that the claim that Plantinga conclusively showed popular versions of the argument from evil do not work is problematic because (1) Plantinga assumes libertarian free will and (2) even if Plantinga showed that the existence of God is compatible with some bad choices, that doesn’t at all mean a loving God could have allowed the Holocaust to happen.

I’ve written up a lengthy version of my take on the argument from evil in chapter 5 of my current book project. For an even more detailed explanation of the philosophical issues, see here. But I’ve recently learned that Plantinga’s Free Will Defense may be in even more trouble than I had realized.

This was brought to my attention a couple weeks ago in a post by Ex-Apologist. The really attention grabbing thing about Ex-Apologist’s post is that a paper by Richard Otte argued that the version of the Free Will Defense given in Nature of Necessity does not work, and surprisingly, Plantinga agreed with him! Both Otte and Plantinga, however, appear to believe that the Free Will Defense can be patched up no problem.

But wait, there’s more! Alexander Pruss argues that Molinism (Plantinga’s view of the relationship between divine foreknowledge and human freedom) creates problems for Plantinga’s Free Will Defense, though Pruss seems to want to solve this problem by dropping Molinism. Daniel Howard-Synder has a paper arguing the Free Will Defense depends on an assumption whose validity is very hard to assess. And Ex-Apologist mentions several other papers from several other philosophers that raise other problems for Plantinga.

To be honest, it’s a little hard to know what to make of all this. At minimum, though, I think these papers show that deriving “God might allow at least some small bit of evil” from the assumption of libertarian free will is not so straightforward as some have supposed.

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