As I’ve been reading student papers about the problem of evil, several have offered the free will defense, arguing that free will is necessary for there to be love.
That seems to me to be correct, but it has some corollaries that should not be missed.
If creating free beings who can love you freely is preferable to creating robots who have no choice but to serve you and are incapable of loving you, then what happens when the idea of God threatening people with punishment and torture if they fail to love God? Surely that too is a form of compulsion, one that compounds rather than alleviates the problem of evil?
It seems to me that one can make the case that a universe with free beings in it, even if those beings use their freedom to harm one another, could be better than a universe without freedom or evil. Some second-order goods may be valuable enough that they make the second-order evils worth the price.But if one then goes on to depict God as seeking to coerce love, as though that were possible, then does one not undermine both the reason freedom was allegedly given in the first place and also the potential to use that gift of freedom for the purpose of theodicy?