In my previous question How do proponents of the “free-will defense” against the problem of evil explain that God can be free and immune to moral evil at the same time?, I presented the following contradiction:
- P1: God is omnibenevolent
- P2: God is omnibenevolent => God is not capable of moral evil
- P3: God has free will
- P4: God has free will => God is capable of moral evil
- D1: God is not capable of moral evil (from P1 & P2)
- D2: God is capable of moral evil (from P3 & P4)
- Contradiction between D1 & D2 (=><=)
The contradiction follows logically from the premises, so anyone interested in dispelling the contradiction has no choice but to challenge the premises. And it's interesting to note that there is no consensus among Christians as to how to do this, as different answers would concede and reject different premises. For example, Christians who believe in some form of determinism/compatibilism and reject the existence of libertarian free will would deny premise 3, thus rendering premise 4 moot. Other Christians would concede premises 1-3 but reject premise 4, for example, by claiming that God does have free will but moral evil is not part of the options available to Him (unlike human beings, for whom moral evil is part of the options available to them).
But in the case of Latter-day Saints, they seem to focus more on rejecting premise 2. For them, omnibenevolence entails freedom to do moral evil while consistently choosing not to. I will quote two answers in support of this:
The "missing link" here is character. God has free will, and is fully capable of being tempted and enticed to do evil, but consistently chooses to use that free will in benevolent and righteous ways. In this, and particularly through the example of the life of his son, Jesus Christ, he teaches us how to use our free will in benevolent and righteous ways as well.
Comment: this answer explicitly affirms premises 3 and 4, and implicitly affirms premise 1 and rejects premise 2.
The OP presents a logically valid argument to show a contradiction between God having free will and God being omnibenevolent. However, the argument is not sound because premise 2 is false.
Premise 2 (God is omnibenevolent => God is not capable of moral evil) is an untenable definition of omnibenevolent--it in fact begs the very question the argument is trying to evaluate. If God expressed love, provided aid, and sustained life simply because He couldn't not do those things, He would be no more benevolent than oxygen, which also sustains life...but is not benevolent.
Oxford languages defines benevolent as "well-meaning and kindly". Something which sustains life because it is compelled to do so by the laws of nature may be useful, but it fails to demonstrate any evidence of benevolence. For a more down-to-earth example, we might consider how we would feel if someone did a great service for us (oh, how benevolent!), only to learn that they were coerced into doing so (it no longer appears benevolent at all). Neither oxygen nor someone forced into a service project are well-meaning & kindly. It is a category error to assume Christians use "benevolent" to describe a God who is loving, merciful etc. because He is compelled to do so.
God is benevolent because He has free will and chooses to do things that are well-meaning and kindly.
Comment: this answer explicitly concedes premises 1 and 3, explicitly rejects premise 2 and is silent about premise 4, although premise 4 is implicitly accepted since it follows logically from accepting P1, ~P2 and P3.
In summary, both answers, written by Latter-day Saints, seem to concede all premises except P2, and therefore reject that God is not capable of moral evil, which is equivalent to conceding that God is capable of moral evil.
In short: they believe that God is capable of moral evil.
And this brings us to James 1:13-15:
|James 1:13-15 KJV|
|13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.|
If, according to James, God cannot be tempted by evil, that explicitly contradicts the belief that God is capable of moral evil. See this answer for a more elaborate presentation of this objection.
How do Latter-day Saints account for James 1:13-15, and how do they reconcile this passage with their understanding of God's omnibenevolence and God's free will?
Appendix - Deriving P4 from P1, ~P2, P3
I'm adding this as requested in the comments.
- O = God is omnibenevolent
- E = God is capable of moral evil
- F = God has free will
Then the premises can we rephrased as follows:
- P1: O
- P2: O => ~E = ~O | ~E
- ~P2: ~(~O | ~E) = O & E
- P3: F
- P4: F => E = ~F | E
If P1, ~P2, P3 are conceded, then it follows:
- E (from ~P2)
- P4 = ~F | E (from E)
Actually, ~P2 is enough to derive P4. ~P2 entails E, and E entails P4.