In Answer to the Pauline Principle: Consent, Logical Constraints, and Free Will.




James Sterba uses the Pauline Principle to argue that the occurrence of significant, horrendous evils is logically incompatible with the existence of a good God. The Pauline Principle states that (as a rule) one must never do evil so that good may come from it, and according to Sterba, this principle implies that God may not permit significant evils even if that permission would be necessary to secure other, greater goods. By contrast, I argue that the occurrence of significant evils is logically compatible with the existence of a good God because victims of significant evils may themselves reasonably consent to their suffering. In particular, I argue that they may be able to accept their suffering if it turns out that there was no way for God to secure relevant greater goods (or prevent other, greater evils) except by way of allowing their suffering, and God also provides them with other compensating, heavenly comforts. After using this consent-based argument to address Sterba’s logical problem from evil, I briefly consider how this argument may also help address a related evidential problem from evil, which suggests that while it is possible that victims of significant evils would consent to their suffering, it is unlikely that they would do so. While I do not provide a definitive solution to this evidential problem of evil, I highlight one important example of a trade-off that God may need to make that would—along with the provision of compensating, heavenly comforts—potentially persuade victims of significant evils to consent to their suffering. Specifically, I argue that there may be a necessary trade-off that God needs to make between permitting significant evils (on the one hand) and protecting a certain, morally significant form of free will (on the other hand).

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2022, Author.