On Plantinga’s *Felix Culpa* theodicy God’s primary intention is to actualize a highly eligible world. A highly eligible world is one in which there exist the towering goods of incarnation and atonement. According to this view, God intentionally instantiates individual essences and intentionally places them in circumstances where they will suffer severely, as a means to actualizing a highly eligible world. The theodical conclusion is that the total amount of suffering, evil and sin in the world is justified by the great good of the incarnation and atonement.
But, as Plantinga admits, there is something peculiar about the idea of God intentionally instantiating just those essences that will go very wrong, and just those essences that will have to endure suffering, in order that God might save them. It is peculiar even under the false assumption that the instantiated essences consent to suffering terribly for the sake of the incarnation and atonement.
Isn’t this a scenario for a cosmic Munchhausen syndrome by proxy? Isn’t it too much like a father throws his child into the river so that he can then heroically rescue them, or a doctor who spreads a horrifying disease so that he can then display enormous virtue in fighting it in enormous disregard of his own safety and fatigue? Could we really think God would behave in this way? How could it be in character for God to riffle through the whole range of possible creatures he could create and the circumstances in which he could create them, to find some who would freely sin, and then create them so that he could display his great love by saving them? How could he be so manipulative?
But the main problem displayed here is not the manipulation of God’s creatures. The main problem is that, on Plantinga’s view, God is intentionally (and unnecessarily) actualizing a bad world for the purpose of redeeming it. Certainly God is not permitted to intend that something intrinsically bad occur as a means of producing something good, even something extremely good.
Suppose God instantiates Smith in circumstances where he intends that Smith throw Jones into the path of a runaway trolley. It is wrong for God to do so even to keep the trolley from hitting five people on the track ahead. It is wrong for God to do so even as a means to actualizing the towering goods of incarnation and atonement. God would be intending to harm someone, or intending to have someone harmed, as a means to realizing a highly eligible world.
The main problem with Plantinga’s *Felix Culpa* theodicy is not God’s manipulation of his creatures. The main problem, as illustrated above, is God’s obvious violation of the *principle of double effect*. In the *Felix Culpa* theodicy God *directly intends* to actualize evil states of affairs– he directly intends to actualize states of affairs in which many suffer terribly. These are *intended as a means* to actualizing a world with the towering goods of incarnation and atonement. The *Felix Culpa* theodicy fails not because it includes God’s violation of Kantian prohibitions against using others as a mere means. The *Felix Culpa* theodicy fails because it includes God’s violation of the doctrine of double effect.