2. Likewise, I am not particularly bothered by deserved bads. This is an extension of the preceding point. In the preceding point, I was focusing on cases where the agent knows (or is aware of very good reason to think) of the bad that will befall him by his choice. A deserved bad may not be one that the agent knows about. The agent may falsely believe he will escape justice. Nonetheless, deserved bad are not a particularly serious problem, since if we deserve something, then it is a good thing--it is just--that it should befall us. (Here I leave open the question whether it is good for us or good <em>simpliciter</em>; on Kantian grounds, I think both.)
3. Suppose Milly Malefactor freely wrongs Peter Patient, say by undeservedly punching him in the face. What do we still need a theodicy for? Well, by point (1), we do not need a theodicy for the bad <em>to Milly</em> constituted by her having chosen something wrong. She could have chosen not to wrong Peter, and in choosing to resist temptation shewould have been the recipient of a good dependent on her freedom to have chosen to wrong Peter. Furthermore, by point (2), if Milly receives a bad gets justly punished for wronging Peter, we do not need a theodicy for that. That is a deserved bad.
I think what I have said so far fits fairly well with our intuitions. When we are worried about the problem of evil, we are not worried about Milly's damaging her soul with her bad choice or Milly's suffering punishment afterwards. Of course in compassion we should be concerned about Milly. An evildoer typically harms herself more than she harms others. However, there is, I think, no logical problem about a perfectly good, all-knowing and all-powerful God allowing Milly to harm herself in this way, since divine justice is thereby exercised. It is true that according to Christianity and some other monotheistic religions, God goes beyond justice to exercise mercy. But that mercy is one that he is free not to show us--it is a free gift of his grace. The problem of evil concerns the coexistence of evil and God's essential attributes. God's forgiveness of our sins is not one of his <em>essential</em> attributes, i.e., attributes he could not be without. God was free not to forgive us our sins, but to punish us justly for them. (And indeed, even as it is, God does not forgive everyone their sins, but only the repentant.)
Of course I am leaving for the last moment the evil that really bothers us, namely the bad <em>to Peter</em> of his being wronged by Milly. Peter gets undeservedly punched in the face. Why would an all-good, all-knowing and all-powerful God allow that? This does worry us a lot.
But now suppose that Peter chooses to forgive Milly. Then Peter will be better off for having been punched. Moral goods are more important than non-moral goods, since they are more central to who we are. Being wronged is a non-moral bad to the recipient, though wronging is a moral bad to the agent. Forgiving is a moral good. The worse the wrong to Peter, the greater the virtue in Peter's forgiveness. Thus in the case where Peter does forgive Milly, he is the better off for having been on the receiving end of the wrong. Moreover, the way in which he is better off is a way that could not happen without his being wronged or at least his being under the illusion of being wronged (I shall not make much of the second disjunct here, because there is a value to God's having Peter know the truth). For only someone who takes himself to be wronged can forgive. Hence, in the case where Peter forgives Milly, it seems we now have a theodicy to every evil. Peter is better off for having been punched as that gave him an opportunity that he accepted to forgive Milly. Milly is the worse off for having punched Peter, and may go to jail for it, but (1) and (2) take care of that. (Moreover, we may optimistically note, if Milly knows that she is forgiven by Peter, this can help her climb out of the viciousness of character that the maleficent deed contributed to.)
But what if Peter does not choose to forgive Milly? Then it seems the forgiveness theodicy falls through. But that is not clear. For now we can apply (1) to Peter's overall state (though not directly to his being punched). Peter is overall the worse off for having been punched and not having accepted the opportunity to forgive Milly. But he was perfectly free to put himself in a position where he would have been better off for the whole affair, viz., by forgiving Milly.
Now, this sounds like I am blaming the victim instead of the malefactor. Yes and no. It is just to blame Milly for what she did. She is indeed the malefactor. However, God did no wrong in allowing Milly to punch Peter in the face, because Peter's being punched in the face offered Peter an opportunity for a more important good, for the good of a special exercise of virtue, and it is was Peter who freely rejected that opportunity. <em>Milly</em> has no right to blame Peter for not forgiving her. Forgiveness is something we can beg for but cannot demand, even if it is the duty of the wronged party to forgive. But if God has commanded us to forgive our neighbor, then <em>God</em> has the right to blame Peter for not forgiving Milly. And even if God has not commanded us to forgive our neighbor, Peter has no right to blame God for allowing Milly to punch him in the face, because this offered Peter an opportunity for a greater good, and it was within God's rights as creator to decide when to allow what opportunities for greater goods.
I have no right to punch someone in the face in order to put them in a position that would make it possible for the victim to attain greater virtue. Typically, I have a duty to prevent an undeserved punch in the face even if I think that the victim could be morally better for it, since typically I have no right to judge of the kind of changes that it would be best induce in the victim's character and how. However, God does have that right, and the knowledge needed for it, and thus God does have the right not to interfere with an evil if that evil makes it possible for the victim to attain greater virtue.
(This story is even more plausible if Peter himself is a sinner needing God's forgiveness, and hence under the obligation to forgive others in order that God should forgive him.)
4. What I said above requires both Milly and Peter to have free will. (In fact, I think it requires them to have libertarian free will.) However, if Milly lacks free will, Peter still has the opportunity of forgiving her (perhaps in a non-strict sense of "forgiving") so a part of what I say is true. The story above certainly does not take care of natural evils (unless we can argue that these are the result of the sin of Adam or the devil's work, and we thus receive the opportunity of forgiving Adam or the devil for them). A case where Milly murders Peter only fits in the above scheme if Peter has an opportunity before <em>or after</em> his death to forgive Milly. I am not claiming to have given a theodicy for all evils, but only for many.