Plantinga’s felix culpa theodicy turns on the following assumption–what he calls the “weak value assumption”–about the value of worlds:
WVA: Among the worlds of great value, some include incarnation and atonement.
Moreover, what explains the “great value” of the worlds mentioned in WVA is (in large part) that they contain the “towering” goods of incarnation and atonement. Plantinga says he’s inclined to accept a stronger assumption, viz., that any world that includes incarnation and atonement is better than any world that doesn’t; he thinks, however, that his argument can get by with WVA. The basic thought seems to be that, for any world that contains incarnation and atonement, God would be justified to create that world (it is, after all, by virtue of containing incarnation and atonement, a greatly valuable world). But of course, necessarily, a world contains incarnation and atonement only if it contains sin. So if God is justified to create a really valuable world that contains incarnation and atonement, God is justified to create a world that contains sin.
I’m not sure Plantinga can get by with WVA. Since WVA is consistent with there being worlds of great value that don’t contain incarnation and atonement, it seems to me that we would need to hear more about what other worlds of great value there are before we can conclude that God would be justified to create a world that contains atonement. If some other world of great value contains neither incarnation and atonement nor sin, God might act better by actualizing that world. Moreover, I think even Judeo-Christian theists should be suspicious. Here is a distinctively Christian way to push the objection.
Many within the tradition–in particular, the “great medieval theologians” (as Marilyn Adams points out in a recent F&P piece)–have held that incarnation and atonement are logically independent: God could have become incarnate even if humans had never sinned (and thus had no need for atonement). Moreover, it’s plausible to think that, in worlds where humans don’t sin but God nonetheless becomes incarnate, God’s becoming incarnate in those worlds is a good-making feature–an extremely good or towering good-making feature–of those worlds.
Suppose there are worlds where humans don’t sin but at which God nonetheless becomes incarnate, and that God’s becoming incarnate at these worlds is a towering good-making feature of those worlds; call them I-worlds. If there are I-worlds, the plausibility of Plantinga’s theodicy rests on the plausibility of the following claim:
C: No I-world is more valuable than the actual world (assuming that the actual world contains both incarnation and atonement).
I have doubts about the plausibility of C, especially if we assume that I-worlds roughly resemble the actual world (i.e., they contain, not one or two, but very many free creatures, etc.). Perhaps the most natural move for Plantinga is to deny the feasibility of I-worlds. In fact, Plantinga’s own free-will defense entails that I-worlds aren’t feasible, since I-worlds contain no sin, and this (at least on the face of it) conflicts with the FWD’s claims about trans-world depravity. Despite the fact that Plantinga nowhere says he intends his felix culpa view to presuppose or depend on the FWD, I suppose Plantinga could say this. There would, however, be lingering questions about whether the resultant felix culpa view could still work as Plantinga intends it: as a theodicy, rather than a defense.