In the philosophical competition of worldviews many Christians use the "free will defense" as a way to excuse their god's apparent moral negligence in this world. Supposedly the value of free will is greater than whatever evils may result from establishing moral beings who have this opportunity to do both good and evil and suffer or profit as a result of it. I've taken the liberty of assembling all of my analysis of this popular move of theirs. Enjoy.
Free will doesn’t require evil options. It just requires options. One can select from all good options...just like heaven is supposed to entail. Do the saved become mindless do-gooding robots in heaven? Or do we even care if we are incapable of hurting ourselves and others? If, in a morally appropriate way (just as we can breed animals with better overall temperaments), we could breed humans predisposed to choosing almost completely good options, why wouldn’t we? If we make A.I. won’t we try to make sure they do good the vast majority of the time and see virtually no value whatsoever in them being able to be immoral? If we don't need evil-inclusive free will for all eternity, why do we need it for the first hundred years of it? Doesn’t sound very meaningful. There are tons of things we cannot do no matter how much we will it. Like walking on water, moving mountains with our thoughts, magically healing the sick, jumping over the moon, etc. Have we been violated in some way as a result of these limitations? If so I’d like to file a lengthy complaint with the party responsible. :)
Even under perfectly normal circumstances no one cries “violation of free will” when we do our very best to provide an ideal environment for our children to be raised in so that we can ensure the most probable outcome of their moral and spiritual success as adults even if we can’t control every element of their adult lives. Free will simply has absolutely nothing to do with meaningful criticism of the Christian god as our heavenly father and divine shepherd (if those extremely popular Biblical Christian tropes are to have any meaning). Do some extraordinary people come out of the fire of horrible circumstances? Sure. But who in the world ever says, “Why didn’t you abandon your child on the side of the road in a box, since that is the best way to encourage their spiritual development!?” Is it the case that perhaps only a significant minority of humanity is grossly mistreated in this life? Possibly, but if a set of parents has many children, how many of them say, “I’d better leave at least a few of these kids on the side of the road in a box so that some of them can pull themselves up by their bootstraps”? Might the Christian god go out of his way in the afterlife to make up for the absolutely horrible things that reliably happen to a portion of the extant human population? Sure, but who ever says, “I guess it’s okay to be negligent with some of my children since I can just judge them less harshly and reward them for it in the end”? “I was locked in a closet and regularly sexually and psychologically abused by my father for the first 2 decades of my life, but then he took me to Disney Land and that made it all better,” said no one ever even though that first part happens in this life to some people. Or, in Sci-fi terms, is it okay to rape, assault, and murder someone as long as you can wipe their memory of it (and heal all their wounds) afterwards and then do it all over again whenever and as often as you feel like it? How many parents feel free to outsource the evil and negligence to other parties (as in the case of Christianity blaming Satan, other demons, and Adam and Eve) as though that could possibly absolve themselves of wrongdoing if they had the power to protect the next generation? Every person is a new being, aren’t they, and we instantly recognize the perverse scapegoating and victim blaming in any other context.
It’s not so much about judging a god so much as it is not being able to pretend like we don’t know what we actually do know about morality. Point me to Christian parents that actually operate on some other presumption in regards to the well being and salvation of their own children? Yeah, didn’t think so. We hedge them in like crazy to prepare them for an unpredictable world. There’s simply no relevant difference between human moral agents being responsible for their own children to a point and noticing that the Christian god is obviously shirking on his duties to make sure there are even Christian parents acting responsibly for their own children to that same point. None of these ridiculous excuses in defense of Christian theism intersecting with this amoral world can stand up to any scrutiny. Should this be any surprise to Christians who live side by side with atheists who see no problem whatsoever interpreting the world as though no divine eyes are watching out for anyone? Do you think atheists have to stretch very hard to see the moral chaos and gross loss of human potential in the world? Do we praise the god of micromanaging the individual rock positions in context of a relative rock slide? Or do we just see anarchy and unfairness in our world (much like is pointed out in the Bible itself as though no explanation is even needed)?
Valuing free will above and beyond the competing value of informed consent is perverse. If life is a test, people simply have no idea where home room is most of the time. How can one value liberty so much at the expense of the knowledge to use it properly? Christians suddenly stumble upon this other value when they want to mandate that pregnant women should be forced to get ultrasounds when considering abortion. Suddenly it conveniently makes sense to know what you are doing with your choices... This value inexplicably evaporates for Christians when considering the Christian message and humanity in general ever since Adam and Eve like all of humanity doesn’t deserve to know in a very straightforward way what the deal is with this life (especially if there is as much on the line as typical Christian theism says there is).
A morally perfect god is without a single moral blemish of any kind for any reason. Hence, a morally perfect god would never barter with relative values that would possibly yield any evil of any kind. It does not ask what good it gets out of a deal if it allows for some evil as that cannot logically be a principle of moral perfection. There is no metaphysical negotiation with the terrorism of moral imperfection if you are an all powerful, all knowing, and morally perfect being. There is no obligation to create anything at all and so even in the event that all possible creations would be blemished with at least a drop of evil, this god would simply refrain from all creative acts and bask eternally in its own perfectly complete awesomeness. The creation ability itself would be synonymous with moral imperfection and hence this could not even be an attribute of the metaphysically perfect being Christian philosophers attempt to argue for.
The issue of free will doesn’t even matter if you know what people are going to do with their free will in any event. It’s not that divine foreknowledge somehow metaphysically cancels free will out as many atheists and Christians claim, but instead a moral agent would still be held responsible regardless. If you know the outcome of libertarian and/or deterministic free will, then you know the outcome regardless of mechanism and, as a perfect moral agent, you would be responsible in that prevention of evil kind of way. Or, even if in open theism land where the Christian god doesn’t know the future, that god is still super smart and knows all of the variables in the present (along with perfect knowledge of all metaphysical history) to make a very accurate prediction of what probably would happen even with the free will wild card in the mix and would be responsible in that parental way to prevent injustice and to stack the deck in favor of success. Again, Christians mysteriously neglect rudimentary moral concepts they’d apply anywhere else, only because their god’s reputation is on the line. However there is no “get out of jail free” card to be found.
And in fact, it is immediately verifiable that libertarian free will does not exist. To discover this requires answering two questions well within the domain of human expertise.
The first simple question you should ask yourself is, “Why do humans do anything?” The answer? Because they want to for whatever reason. Even when people are doing things they say they don’t want to do, it is actually because there is some auxiliary desire also in the mix that steps forward when their primary desire is stifled by the constraints of reality. “I don’t want to go to work today, but I’m going to anyway” actually means, “I still want a paycheck so I can pay bills and fulfill my basic life needs.” Even in extreme coercive situations the strongest desire always wins: “I don’t want to give this robber with a gun to my head all my money, but I want to live more than I want to die with my money.” Even when people are confused about why they are doing something out of character, that muddled motivation still happened. As analogy, you may not know who punched you in a riot, but you know someone did (or perhaps a tangle of someones that no one can accurately sort out). The simple truth is that if you don’t have the desire to do something you won’t do it. Period. If your body does something anyway apart from all your desires, we call that accident or mind control and is irrelevant to the topic.
The second simple question you have to ask is, “Do humans give themselves their desires?” I don’t remember giving myself any of my desires and I only do things because of my desires. I also do not have the power, even if I wanted it (which I do) to give myself new desires not present a moment before. That won’t happen until we are cyborgs with fully rewritable mental states. Until then, when did I magically grant myself, as an easy example, the desire for chocolate ice cream over some other flavor? It never happened. The same can be said of all my desires from the most trite of them to ultimate moral satisfaction. Behind every choice is an unchosen desire. It follows we have no free will. I did not magically choose my desire set anymore than anyone else ever did and to the limited extent I can learn to play the system and intentionally cultivate new desires, the motivation to do even that was because of still other desires I clearly did not grant myself. Free will as it is popularly understood is nowhere to be found. Desires simply happen in your mental experience and you never ultimately chose any of them. It is unchosen desires all the way down (like the turtles that hold up the world). It doesn’t even matter if desires are magic or biological computation, or a combination of both. In any event the answers to my two simple questions remain the exact same and the conclusion necessarily follows.
So to review, free will has no bearing whatsoever on legitimate moral criticism of the Christian god in relation to the moral needs of this world that humans are well aware of, the value of free will does not even require a selection of evil options to exist, free will does not cancel parental/divine responsibility to prevent evil and to stack the deck in favor of probable success of new humans, free will cannot outweigh the neglected competing value of informed consent (even if some evil is tolerated), the relative value of free will cannot be more valuable to a morally perfect god than maintaining its own moral perfection (as though it has an obligation to create anything at all), and free will does not even exist no matter what your theory of mind is whether you like the implications or not. The “free will defense” is no defense at all.