The lynchpin of the free will defence to the logical problem of evil is the claim that significant freedom is intrinsically valuable. If free will were not valuable, then it would be better, all things considered, for God to not give persons free will since it inevitably leads to evil. But is it true that free will intrinsically valuable—that is, valuable in and of itself? I will argue it is not. Instead, I propose that the reason why significant freedom is valuable is that it allows persons to make up their own minds. God grants persons significant freedom and this allows persons to decide what they are going to do and who they are going to be. If God didn’t give people the freedom to make up their own minds, then persons would not be responsible for evil in the world; if persons are not responsible for evil in the world then it seems God must be, and that would render classical theism inconsistent.
Putting the value of free will in terms of ‘making up your own mind’ might seem to play into Pawl and Timpe’s hands. They contend that persons can use significant freedom to set their characters such that they can no longer sin; what is distinctive about the redeemed, on their view, is that they cannot sin because they have set their characters such that sinning is not an option for them. The fact that persons can make up their own minds seems to be synonymous with setting one’s character: that is, when a person makes up her mind she has, in effect, set her character. But this isn’t so.
I will now make two comparisons between political freedom and free will to support the claim that making up one’s mind is not synonymous with setting one’s character. What will come out of these comparisons is that significant freedom is not valuable simply in virtue of allowing persons to make up their minds, but rather in virtue of allowing persons to make up their minds and then to change their minds at later times. Hence a person making up her mind doesn’t amount to her setting her character because character setting precludes that person being able to change her mind later on—that is, once a person sets her character, she is no longer free to change her mind.
First, consider slave contracts. A slave contract is one which when a person enters into it, she thereby gives up her rights. The person, in effect, lets herself become the property of some other person; she who enters into a slave contract agrees to become another person’s slave. But a person does not have the political freedom to enter into a slave contract. No one is free to enslave a person, not even the person herself.
Second, what is valuable about democracy is that it allows the people to choose who is going to govern them. That is, it gives people the political freedom to make up their own minds about who going to govern them. It is not, however, possible on a democratic model of government for the people to decide at a particular time to always be governed be a particular leader or political party. In countries where this happens—that is, countries that are officially democratic, but which are not in reality democratic—it seems that the people lack the sort of freedom that people in properly democratic countries have.
One reason that slave contracts seem bad is because they stop a person being able to change their mind. One reason that democracy seems valuable is because it ensures that people can later change their minds. While slave contracts undermine political freedom, democracy promotes it. This suggests that being able to change one’s mind is necessary for political freedom to be valuable. Just as being able to change one’s mind is necessary for political freedom to be valuable, I contend that it is necessary for free will to be valuable too.
But according to Pawl and Timpe (and any proponent of the tracing view of heavenly freedom) the redeemed are unable to change their minds. They can, of course, decide between varying good options. But they cannot choose between a good and an evil path; thus they lack the ability to significantly or morally change their minds. I submit that the value of making up one’s mind is, in fact, dependent on one being able to change one’s mind at a later time. Consider democracy again. We make up our minds when we vote for a particular candidate/political party. But if voting for that candidate/party resulted in us losing the freedom to vote or to vote for someone else at the next election—that is, if it resulted in us being unable to change our minds (politically speaking)—then whatever prima facie value our freedom to vote for the candidate/party had would be undermined. So, the value of politically making up one’s mind is dependent on being able to politically change one’s mind later on. These cases suggest that value of significant freedom is dependent on a person being able to change her mind, and this requires that a person can never truly set her character. It must always be possible for person to choose between good and evil courses of action if she is to have the sort of freedom that is valuable. So, while significant free will is valuable, it is not intrinsically valuable.
If I’m correct, then the redeemed not only lack the sort of freedom that is valuable whilst they are redeemed, their irreversible loss of significant freedom actually undermines whatever value their earlier exercises of significant freedom prima facie had. This is because they are unable to change their minds, and so they are in an analogous situation to the voters who voted for a party or candidate who then undermined their right to change their (political) minds.
This leads to two problems. First, we would expect the redeemed to have at least had at some point in their lives the sort of freedom that is valuable. But Pawl and Timpe’s view, as I’ve argued, rules that the redeemed have never had such valuable freedom. This might be enough to render Pawl and Timpe’s view untenable. It seems clear that heaven is the greatest possible ‘place’. Given that heaven is the greatest possible place, we would expect its residents to have at least had the most valuable form of freedom. If redeemed have not at least had the most valuable form of freedom, then heaven is not the greatest possible place. This seems to be an implication that most theists cannot accept.
Second, this doesn’t just suggest that the redeemed have not exercised a valuable sort of freedom, it also threatens to undermine the free will defence. Remember that the lynchpin of the free will defence is that free will is valuable: it’s better for God, all things considered, to give persons free will than it is for him not to give person’s free will. I have argued that significant freedom is not valuable when it leads to persons being unable to change their minds. On Pawl and Timpe’s view, the redeemed in heaven have not had, and do not have, the sort of freedom that is valuable; they lost that by exercising significant freedom to set their characters such that they could not change their minds. This implies that the damned—that is, the residents of hell—also lack and have always lacked the sort of freedom that is valuable because they have set their characters such that they perform exclusively bad actions. The upshot is that, on a tracing view of heavenly (and hellish) freedom, no one exercises a valuable sort of freedom because all persons will eventually set their characters, and thereby undermine whatever value their significantly free actions had. This, in turn, undermines the free will defence: it now seems that it is not the case that God providing persons with significant freedom is better than him not giving persons significant freedom (by, say, creating a world without evil), since all persons, on the tracing view, will set their characters eventually, thereby undermining the value significant freedom has. So, it seems that endorsing Pawl and Timpe’s account of heavenly freedom requires rejecting the free will defence. I take it that this is not a palatable option for classical theists. Therefore, Pawl and Timpe’s—and the tracing view of heavenly freedom, more generally—must be rejected.