Can God Create a Morally Perfect Creature?

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

November 26, 2018

Question

Dear Tim,

I am in a discussion with a skeptic and it has basically come down to “why couldn’t God create a free moral creature with a morally perfect nature?” Basically if God can have free will and not do evil what limits Him from creating humans who do as well?

My contention was that omnibenevolence is an attribute of God alone and goes hand in hand with omniscience, omnipotence, etc. With that being said God would in essence have to create another God, this is logically impossible since another attribute of God is eternal existence.

He keeps pressing on the idea that I am just making definitional distinctions and not actually showing that a created being couldn’t posses omnibenevolence.

My question is how should I approach showing omnibenevolence isn’t something a created being could posses? Or am I totally off base and a created being could posses it?

– James


Tim’s Response

This is a great multifaceted question, James! The first thing to do is to properly define what one means by a “morally perfect creature.” I take it to mean the following: A morally perfect creature is one who always freely chooses to fully approximate (fulfill, realize, achieve, etc.) its objective purpose (See Does an Objective Moral Compass Point to God?).[1]

With this definition in place, allow me to offer a response in a step-by-step fashion. Your first question is the following (note my clarifying edits):

“… if God can have [libertarian] free will and not do evil what limits Him from creating [libertarian free] humans who do [not freely choose evil] as well?”

The answer is simple: What would limit God from creating this morally perfect free creature is the free creature (at least if “free” really means free).

If it were important for God to create beings who possessed the ability to love or not to love, to sin or not to sin, to approximate to the purpose in which they were created or to choose otherwise, then these creatures would also possess the real ability to do evil. Jesus was clear that the purpose of human life was to bring ultimate glory to God by loving God first and then to love everyone else He has ever created (Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39) from our neighbors to those who consider us to be enemies.

Life is all about love. Love is the objective purpose of life. Love is why humanity exists.

True love requires libertarian freedom (unless one wants to argue that Stockholm Syndrome is equal to love). If this free will is really free — and not some word game — then creatures who possess the ability to love also possess the genuine ability to do evil. So, the libertarian freedom allowing a creature to love is the same power that allows one not to love. That is to say, the same ability God gives us to love, is the same ability — when used in a backwards manner — that allows us to do evil. This is easy to remember because “love backwards is evol.”

With that in mind it must be said that God does possess the power to create beings who cannot freely choose evil (because they are causally determined), but then God would create beings who cannot freely choose to love or experience true love. Jesus was clear that the objective purpose of life is love. Love seems to be of ultimate importance to God.

With love in mind, James, allow me to quickly address something else you said:

//My contention was that omnibenevolence is an attribute of God alone and goes hand in hand with omniscience, omnipotence, etc. With that being said God would in essence have to create another God, this is logically impossible since another attribute of God is eternal existence.//

You are on the right track, but the skeptic could counter by saying that God could create “maximal created beings” as opposed to another maximally great being. So, the skeptic could merely drop the “eternal” and necessary attribute and ask, “Why can’t God create contingent beings who possess the other attributes?”

Consider this: It would be logically impossible for an omnipotent God to create another omnipotent being. After all, if two omnipotent beings got into a fight, then no matter what the outcome, at least one of them is not omnipotent (even if the fight ended in a draw). So, since omnipotence is typically defined as the ability to do all things logically possible, it is metaphysically impossible (logically impossible in a broad sense) for an omnipotent being to create another omnipotent being.

But can an omnipotent/omnibenevolent being create another omnibenevolent being who always freely chooses to love all persons perfectly? There does not seem to be anything logically impossible with the concept of this kind of creature. Thus, it is proper to say that this possible world exists. However, this possible world might not be possible for God to create.

How can this be? If God can do all things that are possible, then why couldn’t God create this possible world? Well, once true love and libertarian free will are factored into the scenario, it might be the case that in any world where true love can be attained, evil will also be experienced. If this is the case, then — if love is important to God — it might become impossible for Him to create a world where evil does not rear its ugly head. That is to say, it depends if a possible world exists that is also feasible for God to actualize in which created/finite beings always freely choose to love perfectly.

This delves into deep philosophical waters regarding the difference between possible and feasible worlds — but the difference is vital to grasp. We are simply not in an epistemic position to know if this possible world is feasible for an omnipotent God to create (we can only speculate), but an omniscient God possessing limitless middle knowledge would be in a position to know if this possible world is also feasible. For an introduction regarding the difference between possible and feasible worlds read: Could Adam Avoid the Apple?

I personally doubt that a world where everyone always freely chooses perfectly is feasible for God to create. One is free to question my statement, but it is utterly impossible for a human being to prove my doubts incorrect. What I am attempting to communicate is that it could be the case that any world that God creates with creatures who possess libertarian free will — so that they can experience a true love relationship — these free creatures always (or at some point) freely choose to act imperfectly. If this is the case, then it is simply not possible for God to create this possible world (this is what is meant by a “feasible world”).

While it is merely possible, I do not think it is feasible for God to create beings who always freely choose to love (and are thus morally perfect from scratch).[2] With that said, however, I do believe that it is possible and feasible for God to create beings who will eventually always freely choose to love into the infinite future. In fact, I believe this is exactly what God did (2 Corinthians 4:17; James 1:2-4; Matthew 5:48).

Experiential Knowledge 

Only if one exists eternally without beginning (as a necessary being does) and also eternally possesses perfect knowledge (as an omniscient being does), can one “learn all at once” (so-to-speak) without beginning and apart from time. However, if God creates a contingent being with a beginning (who has a birthday), this creature is necessarily finite and must evolve and learn over time.

One might object and say, “Why can’t God just ZAP us with perfect knowledge?” It might be impossible for a finite being to possess perfect knowledge all at once, but even if it were possible for God to ZAP us with vast amounts of knowledge, it seems that we would still lack “experiential knowledge.” God does not need this because He possesses perfect eternal middle knowledge (without beginning and apart from time) as an eternal omniscient being. Only a being who logically precedes creation could possibly possess middle knowledge. Thus, it would be impossible for created beings to be omniscient. With this in mind, perhaps God knows that any created, contingent, and finite being (who does not possess middle knowledge) needs to actually experience evil over time to learn how bad it really is so that we do not take suffering-free states of affairs for granted.

Another might object and say, “One would never take a world devoid of evil and suffering for granted!” Well, according to the Bible that is not true. In fact, according to Scripture, Adam, Eve, Satan, and a third of all the angels each took suffering-free states of affairs for granted — and they wrecked it! Since you and I have experienced evil and suffering — and we are aware of so much worse (even gratuitous evil) — we will not take a suffering-free zone (heaven) for granted. We will not wreck it because we have learned over time, as Clay Jones says: “sin is stupid,” and over time we all learn just how stupid sin really is.

With eternity in mind, these few short decades we exist on earth — where we experience both good and bad, love and evil, pleasure and suffering — will be utterly engulfed by infinite awesomeness! It will be almost as if these few decades of suffering on earth never happened at all (with eternity in mind these few decades on earth are quite comparable to a “ZAP”). But we will always remember into the eternal future, that we really did experience suffering. We will have learned from experience and these afflictions we endure on earth prepare us for a place where no one will ever freely choose to rebel or reject love again (although we could, we never would or will). This seems to be exactly what the Apostle Paul had in mind when he said,

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Conclusion

So, can God create a morally perfect free creature from scratch?[3] Only if a feasible world exists in which a created being possessing libertarian freedom always chooses to think and act with moral perfection. For all we know, these possible freedom-permitting worlds are not feasible. That is to say, these possible worlds are not available for God to make actual.

Although it might be impossible, with feasibility in mind, for God to create morally perfect human beings instantly ex nihilo — it seems that God did create morally perfectible creatures who possess the ability to evolve (change over time) into moral beings who will eventually  eternally freely choose to love all persons — from each Person of the Trinity to every person the Trinity ever created.

That is heaven.

Stay reasonable (Acts 17:2),

Tim Stratton


Notes

[1] I am referring to an approximation of the objective purpose in which we were created. If humanity was created on purpose and for a specific purpose, then there is an objective fact about humanity irrespective of the subjective opinions from humanity. So, if God created humanity on purpose and for the specific purpose to love all persons all the time (from each Person of the Trinity to every person the Trinity ever created), then to a degree that one misses the mark (“sin”) and fails to approximate to the purpose of loving all persons all the time, then to that same degree one is objectively evil. To a degree that one approximates to this objective purpose, to that same degree one is objectively good.

If we “evolve” over time to eventually always love all persons all the time into the future, then, although not perfect beings (we have failed in the past), we would be “perfectible beings.” So, although the term “perfect approximation” might seem oxymoronic, I think at that point it is fair to say that one would then be “perfectly/fully approximating” to the objective purpose of life.

After discussing this issue with Dr. Elliott Ruffin Crozat, he provided a more philosophically precise definition:

“A morally perfect creature is a person who exists at t1, does not exist temporally prior to t1, and always freely chooses to fulfill his/her objective purpose.”

[2]I am speaking of human beings. The two thirds of the un-fallen angels might provide a counter-example.

[3] Some theologians would say that Adam and Eve were morally perfect at the start of their existence but freely surrendered that perfection. Others deny original sin and would say that children start out morally perfect, but always freely surrender their perfection if they live to the age of accountability. My response would be (and the atheist who raises this objection would contend) that a morally perfect creature would never voluntarily surrender moral perfection. After all, the next question raised is, “Why couldn’t God create humans who never freely surrendered moral perfection?”

 

Share:

About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

Learn More