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One of the most flexible Christian answers to the Problem of evil (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil) is that God must allow the possibility of evil for Men to be free (although I would have A LOT of questions about the logic of that, that would be for another time!). In that setting, evil is a consequence of considering free will indispensable. It showcases the importance of free will for the Creator, and how crucial it is for Him to let Men choose by themselves between good and evil.  

With that in mind, how is it coherent with God’s warning in Genesis 2:17:

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”

  Here is my issue with it: if Adam and Eve do not know about good and evil, they are not free to choose. They do not have free will without the knowledge that there is even a choice to make in this dichotomy. Yes, they had the possibility to take the fruit (as we see), but God tries to actively sway them away from it. God actively tries to keep them deprived of free will, which does not seem to fit what I know of the Christian views on this matter.

To exemplify, I would take the example of parents who never want to see their child leave, and, to that effect, hide from the child that an outside world exists. Without knowing that there is anything outside of the house, the child would not be free to make the choice to leave or not since, for him, there is no choice. The equivalent of the fruit in that setting, would be a covered window in the house, with the parents telling the child that he will immediately get burnt to ashes if he touches the curtain. He still has the possibility to do it, but the parents are actively trying to keep him in the ignorance of an outside world with their warning, to deprive him of his free will to leave.

It seems to me it is what God is doing. He is trying in a “soft” way (i.e. not with absolute impossibility) to suppress freedom of choice by prohibiting to obtain the required knowledge to choose. That also raises the question of how they were at all supposed to know whether the right thing to do was to listen to God and the evil thing to do is to listen to the snake, without knowledge of good and evil, but I believe it is a separate question. Although maybe not. If ignorant, as they are, they do not have free will, then they are no more free to do the right thing than they are to do the wrong thing. They litterally just listen to the last one who spoke, cause how would they know better?  

In short: why would God create a world where he allows evil, because free will is so important to him, and then "manually" try to suppress evil by suppressing free will? Those two approaches do not seem coherent. The fact that the humans were in the end able to acquire that knowledge anyway by disobeying him still does not explain His intention, of depriving them of it.

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  • One of the many related, duplicated and closed questions regarding this very same (and, essentially philosophical) subject is ----> Why would God create beings with the capacity to sin ?. (Many of these other questions show considerably more focus than this one.) I am voting to close.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 6 at 5:26
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    I respectfully but completely disagree with your viewpoint. This is not at all the same question. I am taking for granted the answers to that question. I am not in any way asking why God is allowing evil to be. I am asking why he is trying to deprive the first humans of free will. I invite you to read again the body of my question. The problem of evil was only used as introduction, to establish the premise of God's care for free will. The question itself is totally unrelated to it, and could have been stated without any reference to it (although it would have been less rigorous) Sep 6 at 6:19
  • @Nigel J I can understand if you're voting to close because it lacks focus. But I do not understand if you're considering it a duplicate of the question you linked Sep 6 at 8:15
  • The other reasons are because I have never found a trace of 'free will' within my own humanity : only bondage to the law and enslavement to sin. And because my interest is in Jesus Christ my Lord, for that same reason. But I have to choose reasons that are listed in the available categories - which I did : philosophical, duplication and lack of focus.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 6 at 12:39
  • The way you explain it does make it sound like you are loosely using officially-valid excuses to close a question for what is really a non-officially-valid personal opinion, but I should not debate this further, at the cost of even more focus! Sep 6 at 15:25
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Summary

Romans 6:16 (all verses KJV)

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves as doulos, to obey, his doulos ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

The solution is to not read “free will” so heavily into the Bible, and to not believe in free will as an ultimate good per se, or maybe even not believe it is ever the actual case, or for that matter even metaphysically coherent.

There’s no effective way to argue the existence and value of free will within the framework of a religion where the founding disciples and apostles self-identified as slaves, and where they, and even the incarnate God, joyously celebrated their obedience and claimed to be nothing by their own will. Where being bound to God, Christ, and the Spirit is the salvation sought.

The freedom mentioned in the Bible is simply salvation, freedom from the prison of sin, from being a slave to the earthly or evil. It does not refer to autonomy or free will.

Finally, this concept then transcends itself, transcends free vs bound, and transcends all concepts.


Lord Christ Himself in John 12:49

For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak

And this is by no means unique. He repeated over and over that He was not doing His will.

Slavery

The point of the Bible is freedom from sin, the freedom of being saved by Christ, which literally means becoming a slave of Christ. The word translated as “servant” does not mean servant. In the New Testament it is Doulos (Greek: δούλος), the Greek masculine noun meaning "slave". Timothy Schmidt recently noted that there were many other available words, sometimes even used elsewhere, that the Spirit could have chosen if He did not mean slave exactly. The reason it is translated as servant is that translators don’t think modern people can comprehend the often happy, legally protected, often initially voluntary, often dignified positions of some slaves in the distant past. Slaves of influential or wealthy people were free from starvation, and depending on the owner, free to be part of something and live lives of meaning and purpose. To date, 4,000 tombstones have been found where it is believed the deceased chose the epitaph, which says proudly “A Slave of Caesar”. And it is not accurate to say that they were simply bond servants who always had the chance to enter in voluntarily and negotiate and renegotiate. People were owned outright, sometimes for years, and sometimes for life. However the vast majority of slaves were war prisoners. They had no judiciary rights (considered litteral property in the roman law), no identity, and were therefore entirely at the mercy of their owners which were not always nice. Cases of rape and murder were common. Slaves revolts ending in a bloodshed were the consequence. The point is more that, despite the potential for immense suffering, “slavery” in and of itself doesn’t have as much positive or negative implication as we tend to think. The same applies to being a tool, instrument, or to a lesser degree a servant. Most of us are happy to be a body part or tool or instrument (literally an object, zero rights, clearly even more owned, less independent than a slave) but not slave.

One possible take on the Christian life is that there is nothing more dignified, meaningful, safe, and valuable in this universe for man than being a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, declaring Christ as our Lord is declaring our slavery. Free people don’t have a Master. As is often noted, we will serve something. The only question is what that is.

John Calvin wrote in On God’s Sovereignty:

This “liberty” is compatible with our being depraved, the servants of sin, able to do nothing but sin. In this way, then, man is said to have free will, not because he has a free choice of good and evil, but because he acts voluntarily, and not by compulsion. This is perfectly true: but why should so small a matter have been dignified with so proud a title [as “free will”]?

In addition to being slaves, we also have the repeated claim in the Bible that faith causes obedience, and the saving value of it is due to obedience.

At this point one might agree this is almost entirely true, but we each have the free choice of which master to serve. I do indeed hope we can pick the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ of Nazareth, but on our own this is impossible. It takes some grace. The best one can do is claim that each can reject or not, and electionists would not even say that.

Obedience

Philippians 2:8

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Acts 20:22

And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there

Corinthians-2 10:5

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

1 Corinthians 14:34

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

Corinthians-2 10:6

And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

Peter-1 1:2

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

John 14:31

But I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here

Philippians 2:11

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


Good News, Loving Master

Romans 1

1 Paul, a [slave] of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

Psalm 34:22

The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned

5:19

For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Philippians 2:7

“[Jesus] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a [slave], and was made in the likeness of men”

In other words taking human form is equivalent to taking the form of a slave of the Divine.


Great News: Sons and Unity

Obedience eventually transcends itself, and transcends the human will, in unity. This, in my opinion, is beyond all concepts of free or slave (and maybe beyond all concepts period). When the heart loves the master, it isn’t exactly slavery. Is a child a slave of his parent?

Love, and do what you will... the soul who lives God will do nought to offend the One beloved

Augustine (354-430 AD)

Matthew 22

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Romans 8

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

This unity, sons of God, united in Spirit, part of the Body, shows up this bondage to be beyond a free or imprisoned individual, as Paul can write from inside a Roman prison that he is not actually a captive of Rome:

Ephesians 4

4 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,

2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

And:

4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

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  • 1
    Thank you for this answer. I think it is great, and it was the angle I was expecting to see: attacking the premise of free will since I know it is not from the bible, but from arguments of theodicy. It does raise new questions of coherence with other problems, but they are outside the scope of this question. Thanks a lot, I think it is so far the most fitting answer to this question even though it raises many new ones, so I will probably accept yours. I was not aware that Christians did consider themselves slaves, also it had always appeared as such to me indeed. Interesting and puzzling Sep 7 at 8:27
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    And as an aside, I just want to outline that one should not remember too rosy a picture of roman slaves. Exceptional examples such as slaves of emperors or most gladiators were very well treated. However the vast majority of slaves were war prisoners. They had no judiciary rights (considered litteral property in the roman law), no identity, and were therefore entirely at the mercy of their owners which were not always nice. Cases of rape and murder were common. Slaves revolts ending in a bloodshed were the consequence. So, just to remind that, for most, it did suck to be a roman slave :) Sep 7 at 8:33
  • Oh, I wanted to ask in my first comment but forgot: would you say that your view on identifying as God's slave and refuting free will is a view shared by all Christians? Or is it particular to your confession/personal belief? (I'm also not sure what you were referring to when mentionning people happy to be a tool or body part. It does bring some images to my mind but I am afraid it would not be appropriate for me to bring them up on this website haha) Sep 7 at 8:57
  • Id guess the vast majority would agree with the idea and implications but would not use or like the word slave. Part of the Body (the mind of Christ, a sortve universal consciousness is the Head and the church, the collection of believers, is that Body of Christ). Also a servant, an instrument, seeking to do Gods will not ours. All of that. There is this paradox of a type of freedom after unity that I mentioned at the end (maybe edited after you saw?). Augustine said, “Love. And do what you will.” Seemingly antithetical to obedience, but if our heart is in line then obedience and choice match.
    – Al Brown
    Sep 7 at 9:09
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    @IsaacM I did correct that in my very last comment. Just above yours. But it took me awhile so I can see why not immediately clear
    – Al Brown
    Sep 10 at 11:24
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He is trying in a “soft” way (i.e. not with absolute impossibility) to suppress freedom of choice by prohibiting to obtain the required knowledge to choose.

There was no suppression of the freedom of choice:

  • God said "don't do this".
  • Adam and Eve now know that they have a choice about whether to obey God or not.
  • If they obey, they have freely chosen to obey.
  • If they disobey, they have freely chosen to disobey.
  • They are free to choose either course of action (and the resulting consequences).

As a symbol of free will, the fruit tree itself is both literal and figurative. By eating the fruit:

  • Adam and Eve literally chose to disobey God.
  • Adam and Eve figuratively earned the ability to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong.

Eating the fruit gave them the ability to decide, but in choosing to eat the fruit they had already demonstrated that they could decide.


why would God create a world where he allows evil, … and then 'manually' try to suppress evil by suppressing free will?

I see no evidence of this premise of suppressing free will.

Consider an analogy.

  • Parents tell their children not to climb the tree in their backyard, because if they do they might fall and hurt themselves.
  • The neighbour tells them to go ahead, they just don't want you to have any fun.
  • Should the children choose to climb the tree and as a result fall and hurt themselves, it would ultimately be their use of free will to make a bad choice that hurt them; they were not being punished for it.

The parents are trying to guide and to protect their children, not to suppress their free will. Their ultimate goal is to train the children to use good judgement, to grow into responsible adults, to develop their free will, not to suppress it.

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  • Thank you for taking the time to answer! However it doesn't address the details of my question. As far as I understand it, the gist of your answer is already included in my question, along with the reason why I don't consider it a resolution. If you need me to state those reasons again in comments, I can do so, let me know Sep 7 at 5:50
  • @BarbaudJulien, the only question in the Question is "why would God create a world where he allows evil, … and then 'manually' try to suppress evil by suppressing free will?". My entire point is that I see no evidence of the premise of suppressing free will. The original question itself is based on a false idea. I've added an example to make this clearer. Sep 7 at 12:57
  • Can you clarify what is meant by saying that "Adam and Eve figuratively earned the ability to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong" when they ate of the tree?
    – jaredad7
    Sep 7 at 14:55
  • @jaredad7, the tree served as a symbol of the knowledge of good and evil (the ability to decide for oneself what is right or wrong). The expression "ate the fruit" has become a figure of speech, a metaphor for committing oneself to a bad decision. This is figurative language for what the tree represented; the fruit itself wasn't magic. Sep 7 at 16:25
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First of all, remember that the heavens existed and God had created angels long before he created the physical universe (Job 38:7). We can be sure that he created the angels with the same free will because some of them went on to practice evil (Gen 6:2). The issues related to free will and to good/evil may well have already been tested before the creation of man, and perhaps that is why the tree was placed in the garden as a 'test' from the outset.

Using your own analogy of a parent - knowing that children will be born with free will and the capacity to do good or bad does not stop parents from having children. Good parents hope that they will be able to raise their children to be moral adults. Any good parent knows their children, their personalities, their tendencies. When a parent tries to help a child work out a 'negative' personality trait, it isn't a 'suppression of their free will', but rather something for their benefit. For example, teaching a child to be appreciative, to say 'thank you' etc isn't just to serve the parent's ego but to help that child grow into an appreciative adult who will have better human relationships for it. So, the idea that God doesn't know his own creation and their tendencies doesn't really make sense, as his understanding far exceeds any human parent.

Also, the idea that Adam and Eve didn't understand the concepts of free will, and of good and evil, is shown to be incorrect by the scriptures. 'Free will' is defined as "the capacity of agents to choose between different possible courses of action unimpeded". Eve ably explained to Satan that she understood the tree could be eaten from, but that it would have consequences (Gen 3:3). In most philosophies, 'free will' is also closely linked to the concept of moral responsibility, and again, Eve's explanation to Satan shows that she understood it was her moral responsibility towards God, her creator, that held her back from doing so. Satan's lie to Eve (Gen 3:4,5) attacked her relationship with God and diminished her moral responsibility towards him, and without that, she ate from the tree.

Clearly, Eve already had 'knowledge of good and bad'. That was not something suddenly and miraculously bestowed on her upon eating from the tree. Remember that the 'knowledge' promised to Eve if she ate off the tree was a lie from Satan. God told her it would lead to death, which it did, proving God to be true.

The question "why would God create free will and then suppress it" is a logical fallacy. If he didn't want anyone to have free will, he wouldn't have created it in the first place. It is apparent that God is benevolent and he chose to share his own life and free will with all that he created. But with free will comes moral responsibility. As the creator of all things, God gets to set the parameters for everything, including 'good and bad'. Like a parent, he tries to steer his children in a positive direction for their benefit and he warns them of the consequences of misusing their free will.


In response to comments raised about the above:

  • You questioned Eve's preexisting grasp of right and wrong, quoting Kohlberg and likening her recall of God's instruction to his 'stage 1' of moral development. This is non sequitur. 'Understanding right and wrong' and 'moral development' are not the same thing. For example, do all murderers believe that murder is 'right'? Outliers aside, most people who commit crime know that it is wrong, but their moral development allows them to justify it. Eve must have known that it was 'wrong' to disobey God. Satan did not challenge that - rather he contradicted what God had said, claiming that they "will not die" as a consequence of disobedience. The 'knowledge of good and bad' he promised was tied to a lie that they would "become like God". Eve must have understood what this meant. If she didn't have a grasp of 'good and bad', the promise that she would gain knowledge of it would be no temptation. Also, 'stage 2' of Kohlberg's theory of moral development is 'Individualism and Exchange', in which a child understands that there is "not just one right view". The challenge of God's authority is not comparable to the existence of different human views. Satan did not offer Eve an 'alternative view' of what would happen if she broke God's rule - he lied, and the actions of Adam and Eve followed by the consequences proved that. Further, it is a fact that even adults with a 'developed' morality sometimes have a disconnect between their actions and consequence. Impetuous actions are often followed with the rhetorical question "what have I done?". Of course, they know what they did, but only afterwards do they reconnect it with the consequences.
  • Adam and Eve's "eyes were opened" after their disobedience, but not in the way Satan had promised. He said, "your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil". But what actually happened was "their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness" (New Living Translation). They didn't suddenly evolve a new sense of morality - they felt shame. Returning to my example above - do you think that a criminal, after committing their first crime, suddenly develops a new sense of morality? Or do you think that they may feel a sense of regret and shame because of their existing understanding that they did something 'wrong'? Adam and Eve evidently did not feel ashamed of being naked in front of each other - Genesis 3:10 says that Adam hid from God because he was ashamed. So this shame was clearly over their disobedience and not because the fruit they ate supernaturally bestowed the concept of nakedness onto them.
  • Lastly, the 'logical fallacy' I referred to was not a contradiction in the Bible, as I don't believe there is one. I called your question, as written, a logical fallacy. Asking "why did God create free will and then suppress it" in earnest is a logical fallacy because creating free will and suppressing it are exclusionary. If God suppresses free will then he has not created it at all. If the question is disingenuous then your question is in fact "why did God create an illusion of free will", which I hope my answer explains isn't the case.
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  • Tahnk you for your nice answer! A lot of interesting elements, however, I disagree with your most critical premise, which seems like a convenient but biased interpretation of the text. Eve in 3:3 does not show understanding of morality: she only repeats what she's been told, and associates action with punishment. This is Kohlberg's stage 1 of moral development, typically exhibited by young children, which is prior to understanding the concepts of good and bad other by "this hurts me and that doesn't". If anything, this passage tends to show that Eve is unable to make decisions by herself... Sep 6 at 15:39
  • ... and only understands what she should do based on what others tell her. She listens to God when he speaks, the listen to the snake who spoke last. She makes no decision on her own, based on an understanding of good and evil, simply does what she's told. "the 'knowledge' promised to Eve was a lie from Satan", but 3:7 does show that "their eyes were opened" after eating the fruit. They did acquire at least some new conscious level. Nothing that I can read in the passage seems to actually support your viewpoint Sep 6 at 15:43
  • Finally, "The question of "why would God create free will and then suppress it" is a logical fallacy", you are using the wrong word. It is a logical contradiction. Which is why I am asking this question. There is an apparent contradiction that I do not have an explanation for. All in all, I get your point that the idea that Adam and Eve did not know about good and evil before the fruit is debatable. But the text seems to point towrds that. God himself calls the tree "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" after all. It sounds long for a first name, so I guess it must mean something Sep 6 at 15:47
  • @BarbaudJulien Thanks for your comments. Rather than flood the comments, I've addressed these points by appending my answer. I can't keep appending it though - if you have another question off the back of this, pose a new question on the site. Sep 6 at 20:22
  • Thanks a lot for taking the time for a little back and forth, it is very much appreciated! I agree that, sadly, we cannot carry on the discussion and we will have to agree to disagree on a few points (including on the definitions of fallacy and contradiction, and it is a shame to disagree about a formal statement that could be so unequivocally settled haha). Thanks for your time and your participation to the discussion, you did make some good points that I take note of anyway! Sep 7 at 5:19
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Your words:

If Adam and Eve do not know about good and evil, they are not free to choose. They > do not have free will without the knowledge that there is even a choice to make in this dichotomy. Yes, they had the possibility to take the fruit (as we see), but God tries to actively sway them away from it. God actively tries to keep them deprived of free will, which does not seem to fit what I know of the Christian views on this matter.

I have a few problems with your three sentences. First, since when does not knowing something deprive someone of free will? A parent telling his or her child not to touch the stove or they'll get burned does not deprive that child of free will. The child does not even have to know what a stove is. The child does not even know what getting burned is all about. The child is simply expected to obey and not touch the stove.

Second, God did not try actively to sway them away from partaking of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Since when is describing the consequences of disobeying an act of moral suasion? It is not. Going back to the parent who warns the child of the consequences of touching a hot stove, all the parent needs to say is, "If you touch the stove you will get burned." Not knowing what touching a hot stove entails does not mean the child is being deprived of free will; rather, it is giving the child a choice either to do as the parent says or not to do as the parent says. Again, informing the child about consequences is not moral suasion.

Third, in laying down the law and informing our first parents of the consequences of disobeying, God is neither depriving them of anything nor is he actively trying to keep them deprived of free will. How could God deprive them of something he gave to them in the first place, and by his own design?

In short, I believe your definition of free will is flawed. While a case could be made that our first parents did not have the "full picture" of what disobedience entailed and what it would cost them, they did experience guilt and shame after disobeying God. What God told them would happen, happened, and they immediately became aware of, at least in part, what evil is and how it affected them. The proof: They hid from God, they experienced shame, and tried to cover up their nakedness. In other words, they had guilty consciences.

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  • Thanks for passing by. Let me clarify your doubts. "since when does not knowing something deprive someone of free will". Free will is the ability to decide on your own between good and evil. How do you do that when you don't even know what good and evil is? As far as I can tell, your parabol with the parents does not at all address that, and therefore does not challenge the point. But anyway, I want to point out "The child is simply expected to obey". Obeying without questionning an order is different from making a choice on your own between good and evil Sep 9 at 5:02
  • "Since when is describing the consequences of disobeying an act of moral suasion". As established, my reasonning is that trying to dissuade them from obtaining the necessary knowledge to make an informed choice deprived them of the ability to make that choice. "How could God deprive them of something he gave to them in the first place, and by his own design" is, in essence, my question. Sep 9 at 5:09
  • "they did experience guilt and shame after disobeying God". This was experienced after tasting the fruit. It does not establish that they had an understanding of good and evil prior to that. Sep 9 at 5:11
  • @BarbaudJulien: Guess we'll need to agree to disagree, agreeably, I hope. Best wishes. Don Sep 10 at 2:46
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Free Will

The short answer to your question is, God wasn't trying to suppress free will; if anything, he elevated its significance by raising the stakes, as previously free choice had no consequence and any choice was fine.

You've stated/implied in a couple of places that "Free will is the ability to decide on your own between good and evil", but I think you will find that is not at all what free will (specifically libertarian free will, which is what people generally advocate) is; rather, it is simply the ability to decide between two or more options without deterministic cause. No knowledge of whether a given option is good or evil is required for that choice to be free. Regardless, though, Adam and Eve had been told by God not to eat from the tree; this was sufficient knowledge for them to know not to do it. They may not have known good from evil, but they still knew who God was.

I would also submit that your understanding of how free will relates to the problem of evil may be flawed; it is not that free will is impossible without evil, but rather, freely loving God is not possible if every possible choice is in accordance with his will. To put it another way, in order for us to truly love him, we have to have the option of not loving him, which is essentially evil: neither confessing Him as Lord, nor obeying his commands. As with the tree in the garden, evil does not enable free will, but it gives free will meaning and consequence.

Moral Significance

After discussion, your question seems to be more about the necessity of evil for moral significance; this is separate to the idea of libertarian free will, although certainly related.

If I understand you correctly, a better way to summarise your question might be: Why, if evil is necessary for moral significance, did God try to prevent Adam and Eve from finding out about/committing it?

My answer to that would be, He didn't try to prevent them. Prevention would have been putting a wall around the tree. His telling them not to eat is simply what gave the choice moral significance, and in fact directly led to the rebellion which otherwise could not have occurred - one cannot break rules that don't exist. If he had said nothing to them regarding the fruit, it seems entirely plausible to me that it would not have been sinful for them to eat it.

Bear in mind that throughout all this, God in his omniscience knew exactly what they would do, further evidence that he was not trying to prevent them from eating. If He had been trying to prevent them, one would have to say He failed, which is impossible for God to do.

I encourage you to look into libertarian free will, 5 minutes' Googling should demonstrate that no knowledge of good or evil is required. As mentioned, I would be interested in any source that claims good and evil are part of it; there seems to be a great deal of conflation occurring.

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  • You rightly point out something that I didn't make clear enough in my question, thanks. I am talking, as I was trying to imply in the introduction, about the free will as conceptualized in the theodicy free will argument which is, there, defined as the unimpeded ability to choose by yourself between good and evil. If talking about general philosophy, you can check the notion of informed choice which is commonly considered a prerequisite of true free will/free choice (cf for example Locke, and, to an extent, Kant even if the notion is not stated in those terms, and is definitely complexified) Sep 10 at 3:57
  • I indeed do not understand your last point as you state that "it is not that free will is impossible without evil", and then proceed to establish that it is. To put it simply if you are not free to choose evil, you do not truly have free will. So not allowing evil would indeed be in direct contradiction with free will in my understanding Sep 10 at 4:03
  • @BarbaudJulien can you provide the source which defines free will as requiring knowledge of good and evil? As for your second comment, evil is not required to allow free will, but to make it meaningful. A choice between two roads that both lead to the same place is still a free choice, just not a particularly meaningful one Sep 10 at 4:11
  • I don't think most people (specifically Christians) mean what you think they mean by free will Sep 10 at 4:16
  • I think the definition I'm thinking of was in Plantinga. I would have to look for the exact passage, but with a quick glance, I found that: "God's creation of person's with morally significant free will is something of tremendous value". I think we could reasonably agree that "morally significant" free will goes against the idea of choosing between two things without knowing if they are good or evil. But I will look for the better quote later if you need Sep 10 at 5:07
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If 'freewill' was so important, the bible would speak of it often and in detail.

We only have a lot of opinion of an alleged FW. Where this premise comes from I do not know, nor much, do I care.

God is more interested in obedience, hence the garden setup. Their choice was not based on all available knowledge, it was simply a matter of trust and a resultant obedience.

Jesus too 'learned obedience from the things he suffered'. Heb 5:8 His will was brought to conform with God's will through that trusting and obedience. This was tested beyond our apprehension until his final breath on the cross.

Once obedience is established, FW has an opportunity to be exercised, and enjoyed.

Truth will set us free, until it does, we are slaves to deception and true choice is impossible.

Jesus was saying to the Jews having believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples. 32And you will know the truth, and the truth will set free you.”

33They answered unto him, “We are Abraham’s seed, and to no one ever have we been under bondage. How do you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you that everyone practising the sin is a slave of the sin. 35Now the slave does not abide in the house to the age; the son abides to the age. 36So if the son shall set you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-

While deception remains, even in part, FW is only an illusion. Without the ability to clearly see both side of the matter, we cannot make an informed choice. Therefore, true FW is non-existent.

Through Jesus, deception is gradually removed and truth begins to change our focus. We selfishly think FW is for our benefit, but this is a lie and a crucial part of the way of the world and its master. FW is for enjoyment and necessary for our created destiny. It will be at the very core of who we are once we enter the Kingdom as 'born from above' saints.

Then, we will always choose good and right and will not want to sin ever again. We will be like God, made finally in His image through Christ and the following verse will finally be true.

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 1John 3:9

Now to the Question...

**Why would God create a world where he allows evil, because free will is so important to him, and then "manually" try to suppress evil by suppressing free will? **

He didn't allow evil. He expressly included evil in His brand new creation. Without it, He wouldn't have been able to develop the perfect character that He has. The character that knows evil and its consequences and chooses to do good at all times. If this reality is hard to accept, note the Genesis information we are provided.

  • God could have prevented the serpent from being there. He didn't.
  • the serpent didn't sneak in! God didn't restrain his interference.
  • we are told he was very cunning. Adam and Eve were not and easily misled.

While God could make people who were already perfect if He chose, the results would not be permanent. Like the angels, they could turn to evil at any time.

++++++++++ The OP refers to, "what I know of the Christian views on this matter." It must be said that there are many and varied 'Christian views' on every matter!

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