Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why Didn't God Create the World Differently?

Does God's nature, specifically omnisapience, entail there is only one possible world He would have created and this is the best of all possible worlds? Some of Paul Helm's thoughts [1] that indirectly touches on the question would help here; and then I will make a few comments.

  Helm makes it clear God chooses to create the world consistently with His nature and plan.

Helm states the world is contingent. God could have eternally chose not to create. But, God, given His nature and plans, chose freely to create the world.
   Helm is direct in saying this is the only possible world God would create given His nature and plans. But if the question is "could God have created the world differently?" the answer is yes he had the power to do so, but it did not please Him to do so given His nature and plans. Hence God would not create the world differently than He did since it is according to His nature and plan. But the question arises following Leibniz, "Is the actual world the best of all possible worlds God could have created?"
The answer seems to be yes and no! Yes it is the best according to God's nature and plan. No because value and worth comes from God. Something can only rightly be called the best ( e.g. any given possible world) because God makes it the best. There is no "best making properties" in possible worlds in which God chooses the one that has the most of such properties. Rather, God creates the world by His nature and plan. We must keep in mind, it is He who states if something is the best (if it exemplifies His nature and what He thinks is best). God has not revealed the actual world is the best. Therefore, we must not conclude it is or is not. However, we do know God is not obligated to always and only create the best. In fact, it is quite possible He may create something that is not the best (a world with deficiencies) to all the more demonstrate Himself as the best.  John Frame commenting on evil says,

"People sometimes say that God must make the best possible world because he himself is perfect. So they think that although evil exists now, this is nevertheless the best world God could have made. That is one traditional attempt to solve the problem of evil.
I disagree, however. Genesis 1:31 says that God made everything good, but not perfect. “Perfect” would mean not only good, but also incapable of becoming evil. Clearly God did not choose to make that kind of world. In that sense, the new Heavens and the new Earth (Rev. 21:1) will be a better world than this one, for that world will be confirmed in goodness, incapable of becoming evil. So the world in which we presently live is not the best possible world. God is free to make a world that is imperfect in some respects.
 Could God have made a better world than this one? Certainly. He could have made what we call the “new Heavens and new Earth” right back at the beginning. Why, then, did he choose not to do so? I don’t know. That is essentially the problem of evil. I think there are some biblical ways of addressing the problem, but I don’t think we will have a completely satisfying resolution of the problem during our present life."[2]   
William Lane Craig discussing the Ontological argument writes,

"Now concerning your theological misgiving: I don’t see that this has anything to do with God’s being metaphysically necessary. Even if God exists contingently, so long as He is essentially morally perfect you can run your argument that He is morally obligated to do the best and therefore must create the best possible world. So this is a problem that faces any theist who thinks that God is morally perfect.
The misgiving is to be met, I think, by questioning the assumption that there is a best of all possible worlds. Worlds may just get better and better without limit. For any world God chooses to create there will always be a better one that He could have created. God must at most create a good world, not the best world (since there is no such thing). Moreover, there’s no reason to think that God must create anything at all. In a possible world in which God creates nothing, there is only He Himself, the paradigm and locus of goodness—the summum bonum. That’s a pretty good world, to say the least!"[3]

[1] Helm, Paul. The Eternal God: A Study of God Without Time. 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford P, 2010) p.p.186-188.
[2] John Frame Interview on the Problem of Evil Here
[3] William Lane Craig. Question 51. Here

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