I've never been impressed by any of the Christian theodicies, and today I'll tackle one of them to explain why. Just to clarify, a theodicy is an attempt to reconcile the problem of evil in the universe with God's inherently omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent nature. One of the proposed solutions is that God allows humans to have free-will, and we make the choice to be evil ourselves.
But I don't buy it for a minute, because the idea of free will has been negated even in the bible. For information on why , check it out at http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/says_about/free_will.html
The idea of predestination is rampant in the biblical text, and it is likely that it was used as a conversion tool to attract people. "God has chosen you to be part of his flock, he has foretold it, he has predestined that you be saved, that your name be written in heaven, etc. etc." It can all get very catchy. But the idea that God predestined some people to heaven, and predestined other people to hell, completely removes his "all-good" and "all-loving" fair, and just status. It would mean he created some people with the full knowledge that they would suffer in hell for all eternity, quite apart from the individuals choice. After all, if god has decided I'm going to hell before I'm even born, what can I do about it?
The most obvious example of why god doesn't allow people to have free will comes with the idea of prophecy.
Let's say I'm out to lunch with a friend. Towards the end of our meal we decide on a split check. I walk over to the waitress and say. "Truly, truly, my friend here will not pay for his food, and try to steal it." In other words, I've prophesied and predicted that in the near future that my friend is going to sin. There's a problem though, because no matter what the outcome of the future is, one of the two of us will be required to sin now. If my prophecy is correct, then my friend did indeed sin. But if my friend chooses not to sin and pay his bill, then I've told a lie, falsely accused him, and seriously slandered his name. Ouch. It's a "sin-sin" situation.
Unfortunately, this very situation played out between Jesus and Judas in the bible. At the last supper the 12 disciples heard Jesus say:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me." Matthew 26:21. And again Jesus said:
"He that dipped his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me." Matthew 26:23. And just when it couldn't have gotten any more specific "Then Judas, who betrayed him, asked, "You don't mean me, do you, Rabbi?" "Yes, I do," Jesus replied." Matthew 26:25
Sure enough, Judas of all people was planning on turning Jesus in. But therein lies the problem, it was just a plan, he hadn't actually done it yet. Jesus had now made not one, or two, but three prophecies that all indicated Judas had to betray him. Did Judas still have a choice? If Judas didn't have a choice, then god is not all-loving, not just, not fair, nor all good, but a malevolent deity who decides people's fate for them and condemns them without their choosing. But Indeed, Jesus made every indication that Judas had to betray him.
But consider the alternative, what if Judas did choose differently? We'll, here's where the complication comes in, Jesus can't tell a lie. Jesus is supposed to be the perfect sacrifice that will save humanity and redeem them of their sins. In effect, he has to be equivalent to the spotless lamb. If Judas chooses otherwise, Jesus becomes a 3-fold liar. Christians are trying to have their cake and eat it too. If Judas can choose differently, Jesus is not divine. If Judas can't choose differently, the Jesus is denying Judas his free will.
One pathetic proposed solution to this problem is that the devil made him do it. John 13:2 describes "And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;" First of all, how stupid can the devil be? Of all people, he should know that letting Jesus be sacrificed will accomplish exactly what God wants, you would think that the guy would be trying everything to stop it. After all, Jesus has been talking about his plan to be sacrificed non stop. I also completely reject the idea that humans are the subservient pawns of bigger and more powerful deities. But furthermore, the idea that the devil could force anyone to do anything invalidates our free will again, and makes God a jerk, because he created the devil and allows him to exist.
But "subservient pawn" is exactly the picture that the Bible portrays, saying: "And after the sop, Satan entered into him[Judas]. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly." Not only is Judas now possessed by the devil, but Jesus has given a command to betray him, quickly too. This presents another epic contradiction, in the fact that Jesus is giving someone the command to sin and he's not going to stop them. If he's talking to Judas, then Judas will sin if he obeys the command and sin if he disobeys it (after all, it came from god). Another "sin-sin" situation. If Jesus is talking to the devil, then satan is essentially obeying Jesus's command.
What's more is that despite being possessed by a supernatural evil deity, despite being told directly by Jesus to betray him, and despite having to the live up to the three prophecies that Jesus made about him, Judas is going to be damned for it. During the course of the last supper Jesus has said: "How terrible it will be for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for him if he had never been born." Matthew 26:24
Well again you better hope that Jesus isn't lying, because that would invalidate his sacrifice. (This is the most likely reason why the Gospel of Judas is not considered valid by the church) But Jesus is basically spelling out word for word that Judas is going to hell. So not only does God decide people's futures for them, but he punishes them for it too. Judas is damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. He was born, lived and died simply as an instrument of god's damnation. It brings up an interesting point, in that:
Jesus gave up his life to save mankind but
Judas gave up his eternity to allow mankind to be saved
Who made the greater sacrifice?
Free will is a theodicy fail. If you look at the broader picture, God didn't just force Judas to sin, but also Herod, Pilate, many of the Jews, and a bunch of Roman soldiers. Had any of them chosen differently, humanity would have been screwed.
I'm sorry but I'm not a pawn, nor am I an choice-less instrument of some deity's will. These stories were made up by fallible people who didn't posses the slightest bit of logic or fact-checking to think them through.
If you're interested in more "sin-sin" situations, it also happens with Peter denying Jesus three times, and I welcome anyone to try to find more.
This article has been sponsored by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who wants you to know that He loves you, and would never make you do bad things even if the outcome is good (because that's called utilitarianism).