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God is supposed to be perfect. If the world is the work of a perfect god, it should be, as Leibniz argued, the best possible world.

But it is not very difficult to imagine a better world than this.

How is this argued from the point of view of classical theism?

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    The Christian Gospel explains the reason for humanity (I take it you mean 'the human world' not the matter of the universe) being sinful. And the Christian Gospel explains the remedy for this in the sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The question is not focused. It is vaguely providing the beginnings of a debate rather than seeking precise answers to a precise question.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 13:47
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    The question could slightly be refined to tie better to Christian theism/philosophy but it is answerable
    – eques
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 13:56
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    It seems odd to ask a question in the Christianity stack that is not specifically about Christianity; is this not off topic as written?
    – bob
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 23:55
  • Take a look at how many times humans imagined a political system they at the time thought would be much better than the existing one, that the new system would bring about a utopia, only for it to turn out to be much worse when they actually implemented it (communism, nazism, etc.). So we might imagine a different world where the laws of physics are different, and we might imagine that it would be better by some metric or another compared to the universe we live in, but due to our limited knowledge we could likely be wrong, and in reality it would be worse, due to aspects we are ignorant of.
    – vsz
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 4:16
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    Genesis 3:16-19 is where the Bible says that the perfect world became imperfect.
    – RonJohn
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 5:30

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To be able to answer this question, a definition of goodness is required, perhaps as a mathematical function of a given world, such that you can make objective comparisons of the form:

  • Goodness (world1) > Goodness (world2)
  • Goodness (world1) < Goodness (world2)
  • Goodness (world1) = Goodness (world2)

Furthermore, we need a very precise definition of what a world is, and as eques correctly pointed out in his answer, we need to make sure that we only consider counterfactual worlds that are logically possible, free of inconsistencies, absurdities or contradictions. And if you are a Molinist, you might also want to restrict your options to worlds that are feasible. William Lane Craig talks about the distinction between possible and feasible worlds in this article:

God’s middle knowledge is His knowledge of all contingently true conditional propositions in the subjunctive mood, including propositions about creaturely free actions. For example, logically prior to His creative decree, God knew that if Peter were in circumstances C, he would freely deny Christ three times. Such subjunctive conditionals are often called counterfactuals. These counterfactuals serve to delimit the range of possible worlds to worlds which are feasible for God to actualize. For example, there is an intrinsically possible world in which Peter freely affirms Christ in precisely the same circumstances in which he in fact denied him; but given the counterfactual truth that if Peter were in precisely those circumstances he would freely deny Christ, then the possible world in which Peter freely affirms Christ in those circumstances is not feasible for God. God could force Peter to affirm Christ in those circumstances, but then his confession would not be free. By means of His middle knowledge, God knows what is the proper subset of possible worlds which are feasible for Him, given the counterfactuals that are true.

God then decrees to create certain free creatures in certain circumstances and, thus, on the basis of his middle knowledge and His knowledge of His own decree, God has foreknowledge of everything that will happen (His free knowledge). In that way, He knows, simply on the basis of His own internal states and without any need of any sort of perception of the external world, that Peter will freely deny Christ three times.

[...]

So there are worlds which are intrinsically possible but which God, given the counterfactuals that happen to be true, is not capable of actualizing and which are therefore, in Flint’s terminology, infeasible for God. Notice that because counterfactuals of creaturely freedom are contingently true, which worlds are feasible for God and which are infeasible is also a contingent matter. It all depends on how creatures would freely behave in various circumstances, which is beyond God’s control.

Moreover, the question seems to assume that God can be viewed as some sort of utilitarian, in the sense that among all possible worlds, He decided to create a specific world that maximizes a Goodness (or Utility) function. As if He was solving a utility maximization/optimization problem when He decided to create this world. I personally don't take any issues with this view, but viewing God as a utilitarian is controversial among Christians. I know this as I've had my fair share of facing firsthand this controversy in previous questions I've asked: What are counterexamples to the position that Christian morality is ultimately utilitarian (i.e., that God is utilitarian)?, According to Christians who believe that God is a utilitarian, why is homosexuality suboptimal?. Even Molinism itself is far from being the dominant view among Christians and is not free of criticism.

So, my answer to the question is that the question as currently stated is ambiguous and therefore unanswerable, as the question offers no precise definition of Goodness nor a specific alternative world that would be judged to be better (under that hypothetical definition of Goodness). However, if you allow answerers to fill in the blanks of your question with their own assumptions, a Molinist for example could say that if God did in fact create the best of all possible/feasible worlds, then it would logically follow that there is no other possible/feasible world that God could have created that would have been better than this one (according to God's standard of goodness, which is a mystery to us), and therefore your imagined world is either impossible, unfeasible or wrongly judged/evaluated (from God's perspective).


You might also be interested in taking a look at this recent question I asked: Do Christians believe that God chose to create the "best possible world" among multiple/infinite alternatives, by maximizing a "Goodness" function?

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  • Note also that we must establish some Archimedean property on the goodness of worlds, or else it's not possible to compare worlds. For example, it's hard to talk about amounts of justice, and thus it's difficult to compare worlds based on how much justice they have.
    – Corbin
    Commented Jun 18, 2023 at 18:06
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But it is not very difficult to imagine a better world than this.

For this to be true, it would be necessary that:

  • the imagined world lack contradictions or absurdities
  • our estimation of the imagined world to be complete and correct
  • the imagined world to exist

The last one is the assumption; if the imagined world were better than this one assuming it existed, presumably it would exist, so we can ignore further the question about existence relating to goodness.

The first two rely on our powers. We would have to have intelligence and wisdom comparable to God's to be able to imagine a world to a degree to rule out any contradictions/absurdities (e.g. square circles, married bachelors) and for our perception to be correct.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are my ways exalted above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts" Isaiah 55:8-9

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    Are you suggesting that if there be a better world, it does exist, but we are simply not in it? Kind of a reverse anthropic argument? Doesn't that change or question teleologies of most theologians?
    – user3961
    Commented Jun 10, 2023 at 22:29
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    I'm suggesting that our ability to imagine a better world is suspect
    – eques
    Commented Jun 11, 2023 at 11:05
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God is supposed to be perfect.

The word "perfect" has multiple meanings and a whole host of possible implications. You can't really draw conclusions from "God is perfect" without being much more specific about what you mean by that.

If the world is the work of a perfect god, it should be, as Leibniz argued, the best possible world.

That's an odd turn around. What Leibniz argued is that our world is the best possible world. But that's based on some rather more specific characteristics attributed to God, not on vague, generalized "perfection".

But it is not very difficult to imagine a better world than this.

Is it not? How can you be confident that whatever alternative you imagine, which is better in some sense according to you, is not worse in some other sense that balances out the benefit, or worse? How can you be confident that your imagined alternative is in fact a possible one at all? I submit that unless you are yourself possessed of the power and knowledge to be Creator, you are not qualified to judge.

How is this argued from the point of view of classical theism?

You've presented a vague, generalized argument in the vein of the problem of evil. Your particular argument lacks specifics, and that's where a philosophical attack on it would likely start. What does "perfect" mean? How should we recognize "better"? It might go on from there to whether we are justified in substituting our judgement for that of God (read the book of Job some time for a take on God's perspective of that).

Since you bring up Leibniz, this is precisely the problem he is approaching in Théodicée, so you could consider studying your own source material.

Many other theologians and philosophers have considered the question, too. A widely accepted position is that evil in the world is an inevitable consequence of free will. Theistic defense of God as loving and benevolent creator goes from there to humans having free will being better than not, the resulting existence of evil in the world notwithstanding.

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Two things to keep in mind.

  1. We live in a fallen world. The world was a better place when it was created before man brought sin into the world.
  2. We do live in the best world. Humans with all our telescopes and instruments have not found a better planet than Earth. Even the imaginary worlds of Avatar or Hogwarts cannot be said to be better than the world God created.

Arguments can be made for "What is the measure of goodness" or similar. For that side of talk, see @Mark's answer and this linked answer.

But it is not very difficult to imagine a better world than this.

If you say this because of the diseases or sin you find in the world, wait till Jesus comes back and the world will be restored to its original glory.

I also agree with @eques' answer. The world imagined would have to be without contradictions or absurdities and be complete. I really doubt humans would be able to imagine a better world especially with free will.

And finally, do we live in the best world of all possible worlds? Probably not. That is more like a talk on infinity. God is infinitely good. We know is the biggest number possible, but ∞ + 1 is bigger than that. So, God technically could create a better world but right now, we are living in the best possible world.

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    Welcome to Christianity.SE! and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I would also recommend reading the Help Center's sections on asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 13:11
  • We are not Christians is an interesting read. But I assume I can answer questions from a christian perspective @agarza. And thanks for the welcome. Glad to be here! Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 13:14
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    As you spend more time here, you will get a better understanding of how everything works.
    – agarza
    Commented Jun 12, 2023 at 13:18
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"Classical theism is a (generalized) form of theism in which God is characterized as the absolutely metaphysically ultimate being, in contrast to other conceptions such as pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, deism and process theism." Wikipedia ( ) mine

As such, "classical theism" isn't equipped NOR does it claim to address the philosophical question(s) associated with "best possible worlds" (theoretical Creations).

However, the question IS ADEQUATELY ANSWERED by what the Bible reveals regarding the FALL (Genesis 3), the Drama of Redemption (John 1:14-18), and Creation's Eschatological Future (Revelation 21:1).

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