Theism and the Criminalization of Sin




theodicy, free will, evil, legal moralism


The free will theodicy (a standard theistic response to the problem of evil) places significant value on free will: free will is of such substantial value, that God’s gift of free will to humans was justified, even though this gift foreseeably (and regularly) results in the most monstrous of evils. I will argue that when a state criminalizes sin (by punishing producers of sinful materials such as illicit drugs, or punishing consumers), it can restrict or eliminate citizens’ exercise of metaphysical free will with respect to choosing to partake in or refrain from these activities. Given the value placed on free will in the free will theodicy, theists who endorse this theodicy should thus oppose the criminalization of what I will call Millian sins—that is, actions which are immoral, but which do not directly harm another person. In other words, such theists should oppose legal moralism.

Author Biography

Jeremy Koons, Georgetown University in Qatar

Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University in Qatar


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How to Cite

Koons, Jeremy. 2018. “Theism and the Criminalization of Sin”. European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 10 (1):163-87.