Does God allow evil so that men can have free will?
Suppose God allows evil because he wants to create free moral agents. Among other problems with this claim, it comes down to God having a choice between perfect goodness, and less-than-perfect goodness with free agents. If God chooses less-than-perfect goodness with free agents, then his desires are not for perfect goodness since he prefers free agents, at the cost of evil, to it. Hence God’s will cannot be perfectly good.
This is actually, a rather surprising and well informed answer. I like the way he goes about this, he informs us that if God's purpose of allowing sin was so that man can have free will, God's perfection is compromised if His choice is to choose free agents at the cost of evil. Due to the facts, if truth was lead this way, Williamson's conclusion would be appropriate, that God's will cannot be perfectly good because His choice is for free agents and not moral perfection. Though, I think what Williamson's problem is, he is not examining all the evidences. Though, Williamson may simply be answering an objection of free will, but nevertheless, he does not properly address it by adding lacking information, though, he does well in answering it. Now, what I would like to add to this is, though, God does allow us to have free will (which we only choose evil things to do before we are saved), it is not the purpose why He allows evil. For God's actions, we must search God's Word. We see in Scripture that God does cause natural disasters, Genesis 19:24-25 "Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground." This may not be the specific evil that Williamson is targeting since it is not natural disasters cannot be answered by free will. So, let us go to another type of evil, moral evil, such as murder, incest, homosexuality, sexual immorality, child molester...etc. Now, is God sovereign over this? The clear answer is, yes. Because sovereignty is a necessary attribute of theism. Acts 4:27-28 states, "for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." So, the next question is, "how do we reconcile God, and the problem of evil?" So, what we see happening here is 2 different things, 1) God predestined that Jesus would come and take on the sins of the world, 2) God predestined how Jesus would come to do that, through death on a Cross? but how would an innocent man take on the punishment of a criminal? God planned this so that it would be a merciful act, that Christ would take on the wrath, pay the debt, impugn His righteousness to those who believe, and declare just those who are unjust and believe. We must remember that "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Genesis 50:20. Things that we perceive as evil, God uses it as a tool to bring about a final good. So, as what happened to Jesus was in fact, murder, which is evil, God planned it from the beginning of time to bring about the redemption of those who believe. So, in essence, God allows evil so that good may come from it, which brings us to Williamson's second issue.
Does God allow evil so that good may come from it?
Suppose God allows evil so that good can come of it, perhaps by inspiring the moral qualities, such as compassion. In this case, God essentially uses the suffering of one person for the good of another, something that is commonly regarded as immoral when human beings do it. A god that uses people’s suffering for his own, or another’s, good cannot be perfectly good.
This rebuttal, I think, is much weaker than his previous rebuttal, though, still a good point. The issue that I believe Williamson is missing here is, "Are there things that cannot be found if evil did not exist?" For example, justice. God could not administer justice if there were no evil in this world. This actually sounds, beneficial to us! It sounds that the world would actually be better if God did not allow evil in the world. But, we must remember something, if all of Creation declares the glory of God...even in the midst of evil, we need to see, why that is so. Now, we may say that God can get glorified in anyway except justice and yet He still be glorified, correct? Yes, but in turn, it means that all the glory does not go to God, because the glory of justice does not go to Him. The thing is, you cannot be fully loved if you are not fully known, and this is the case with God. God must display all of His attributes so that He can be fully loved and fully worshiped, not in the sense of narcissism but rather, since He is the most pure and exalted being, He deserves all the glory, honor, worship and love. I think John Calvin put it well when he said, "men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God." (1)So, we see that God's majesty is glorified in our evil and wicked nature because it is put into contrast with each other. So, again, this point is not strong, though, it is not fallacious it just is missing key components.
He concludes with this,
Lastly, the notion of hell makes the problem of evil insoluble, since nothing one can do in a finite life can justify an eternal punishment and then, the excess suffering in hell would count against God’s goodness.
Williamson is correct in one part, "nothing one can do in a finite life can justify an eternal punishment" this is completely true. Because we sinned, even if it were 1 time, it is before an infinitely powerful, infinitely just, and eternal God, therefore it is eternally before God whose justice is infinite and acts out in His justice with His infinite power. But, one issue that Williamson fails to see, God sent His Son as an act of His infinite mercy, that "whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Williamson also claims that it is an "excess" suffering, which I believe is a common mistake on his end, we must see God's actions in light of His nature. So, if God does a merciful act it is because He is merciful, but God is also eternal so His act would be infinitely merciful. God is love, and God is powerful and strong, so, as the singer Jon Foreman said, "Your love is strong." In the same way, if God is just and eternal, His justice would be an eternal act...not excess at all, but natural, and fair, since we knew we were sinning before an infinite God, whose wrath and justice is infinite and eternal. Finally, Williamson stated that the excess suffering of hell would "would count against God’s goodness." Now, this is completely incorrect. I obviously, as a Christian, would say this. But as a rational person, the question needs to rise up, "how then do you define 'goodness'?" Well, if discipline is good, if justice is good, if perfection is good...all things that we do and cherish in our government, in our family lives, in our personal heart...we all practice these. So, if God's sending people to hell is an act of His justice, if God's sending of natural disasters and allowing evil to happen is an act of discipline because His standard is perfection, then by our own standard, God is completely good.
I found George Williamson's rebuttals fair and genuine, though, I do believe if he examined them in light of Scripture, he would have no issues at all. For, if we are talking about the God of the Bible, it is clear that our source must be the Bible since it would be the direct source for the God of the Bible.
1. John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Ch. 1.