Why Did God Give Us Free Will?

One of the best questions I’ve heard from those who don’t believe in God is this one: If God really existed, why did He give us free will?

Usually the argument goes something like this:

Atheist: The mess the world is is God’s fault
Christian: No, what God created is good. The mess is a result of sin.
Atheist: But why didn’t God create people who wouldn’t sin?
Christian: He gave us free will. We aren’t puppets on a string.
Atheist: But if God knew we’d sin, why did He supposedly give us the free will that led to sin? He could have prevented the whole thing.

The fact is, there’s nothing wrong with that line of thinking. God could have made little robots which He programmed to say they loved Him. No one would have used a weapon against someone else. No one would give in to addiction. No one would love money or power or sex more than they loved God. All the behavior of God’s people would be as perfect as He planned for it to be. Nothing would violate His wishes. No one would rebel against Him.

There are two problems with that picture.

First, a third of the angels had already rebelled against Him. So the world of humans could never be perfect. Not as long as Satan continued to show up. The only way to achieve “perfect” was to deal with the rebellion.

The second major problem is that God had determined to make humankind in His image, His likeness. He Himself has a will, so for humans to be like Him, we also would need to have our own will.

There’s probably something bigger here. Would loving God if you had no choice but to love Him, actually be love? Isn’t part of love connected with freely doing so? I mean, God already had trees and birds and reptiles and the like. They could act in an instinctual way if that’s what God wanted. In making humans, He made more. He stamped us with His likeness and He breathed into us the thing that makes us unique.

Ironically, as I looked on the internet at some of the unsolved mysteries of science, I discovered that human consciousness is one of those things nobody understands or can explain.

5 What is consciousness?

We’re still not really sure. We do know that it’s to do with different brain regions networked together rather than a single part of the brain. The thinking goes that if we figure out which bits of the brain are involved and how the neural circuitry works, we’ll figure out how consciousness emerges (“The 20 big questions in science”)

For that matter, science has yet to answer what actually makes us humans since “the human genome is 99% identical to a chimpanzee’s” (same source). Why can we talk and reason and do science? Why can we think philosophically, and above all, why do we worship?

The Christian knows the answer to that question.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Gen. 2:7, KJV)

Unique. Different. With the capacity to relate to God as no other being could, not even the angels. Such a person could relate to the Person who created him by loving Him freely. And likewise, being freely loved.

No relationship could be more.

But creating humans in the image of God, you might say, was “high risk, high reward.” When it works, it’s the best. That’s why Joni Eareckson Tada could say that she, a quadriplegic, would rather know Jesus as she does and be in her wheelchair, than not know Him and be out.

The flip side is the possibility of people choosing NOT to love God. For them the result would be disaster. But of course, God would make Himself clearly known. He’d walk with His people and talk with them. He’d give them signs and wonders. He’d display His glory in a physical, tangible way known as the Shekinah. He’d send messengers to give His words to the people. He’d have some write those words down so they’d be widely disseminated. Ultimately, He reversed the process and came in the likeness of humans so that He again walked and talked with the people He’d made.

Oh, yeah, there was one other thing that He said was even better—He’d send His Spirit to be in us. So that we’d never be alone. Never be without His presence.

Why did God give us free will? I guess the short answer is, He wanted to. That’s what would please Him and complete us. Plus, our relationship freely given, glorifies His name.

Published in: on November 15, 2017 at 5:53 pm  Comments (10)  
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The Goodness Of Humans And Animals

I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an animal referred to as evil. Sure, there have been rogue animals that break from normal behavior for one reason or another. They may act in unpredictable ways, but no one ascribes evil motives to them. They are being nothing more than what their environment and their DNA made them to be.

Of course many in our culture want to believe the same about humans. Except there’s this odd, inexplicable problem: Humankind believes in evil.

Not within animals, mind you. No matter how many gazelle a lion slaughters, no one calls him a murderer. No one is out trying to convince the cat family to become vegetarians — not even those which we’ve domesticated and which live under our care. We understand they are carnivorous, we accept that as fact, and we don’t try to train the “evil” out of them. We don’t believe it is evil for them to eat meat.

In contrast, humans believes humans to be evil. Even those who think humanity is good. Generally “society” is blamed for causing good humans to swing to the dark side. It’s those churches, one side says. If it weren’t for religion, we wouldn’t have had all the wars we’ve enduring for centuries.

It’s demon drink, the other side says, or bad government or political corruption or Big Business or drugs.

Whichever way you look at it, the answer is, humanity causes the problems because “society” is nothing more than humans acting in a group.

And yet, our culture increasingly says openly, humanity is good. Hence, we should simply give in to our instincts—as long as we do no harm to others.

How interesting that the animals have no such exception clause. They can do harm to others with impunity. No one calls the bull elephant who chases off the young males threatening his leadership in the herd, a bully. No one wants to hold him accountable or tell him he needs to make room for others to express their individuality. Or that, in fact, the female elephants should have equal authority, and if they want to take charge of the herd, then the males should be only too happy to care for the pint-sized elephants for a while.

There is no equity in the animal kingdom, no sense of fair play, of justice. Alligators aren’t held accountable for the baby wildebeest they devour. Cheetah aren’t considered immoral because they attack the weak or the young instead of taking on the most fit zebra in the herd.

Animals act as animals will. And humans?

We’re such a mixed bag. We volunteer hours on end to search for a missing child, we collect money and clothes to give to victims of natural disasters, we risk our lives to pull others out of burning buildings or sinking ships.

But we also cheat on our income tax and lie to our husbands or wives. We hold grudges and argue and complain and push to get our own way. What a selfish, proud, unkind, discontented lot we are.

From what I can discern, only Christianity explains the existence of evil. If life is, as many apart form Christianity believe, nothing more than matter plus time plus chance, then where did intolerance come from? Where did hatred come from?

Christianity understands the uniqueness of humanity, both of his created and his fallen states, explaining the mixed bag completely. What other worldview can make such clear sense of the things we see in this world?

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in March 2012.

Published in: on April 11, 2017 at 6:14 pm  Comments (1)  
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iPhone2While my computer operating system was being upgraded, making my Internet connection obsolete and requiring more technology upgrade, I relied on my Smart Phone. I was able to access my email and answer the most important notes from my editing clients, and I could check Facebook. As some may recall, I even posted a short article here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction via the phone.

As helpful as it is to have the phone, I felt as if I was limping along, making do, barely staying current. I wasn’t quite on the sidelines, but I couldn’t say I felt like I was in the game either. It felt a little like being on the disabled list—not a permanent condition, not a dismissal from the team, but not a full-fledged, current participant either.

This afternoon as I’ve been trying to wade through the emails that downloaded onto my computer and to navigate all the bells and whistles that are on these upgraded software programs, I have still been overwhelmingly thankful that I’m working on my computer again.

The phone was great! But it was a phone! Smart, yes, but still a mini-version of my computer. If I had never been able to use my computer again, would I have been able to get by with just my phone? Certainly for some things. But my guess is that other things would simply go by the wayside. I couldn’t navigate with ease from one blog to the next during a blog tour. I couldn’t download and edit my clients’ manuscripts, I couldn’t write lengthy treatises here at A Christian Worldview Of Fiction. ( 😉 )

In other words, the phone was a helpful substitute for a time, but it was not a replacement for the computer.

Too often, when it comes to spiritual things, I think we human beings settle for the substitute instead of going after the real deal. It’s understandable. We’re born with just the phone. No computer. We need to learn about the computer, be willing to go through the uncomfortable adjustments of a more powerful and demanding machine, and embrace all the things that we’re now capable of doing.

In this little analogy, as you probably surmised, I’m equating God with the computer and humankind’s own efforts with the phone.

We actually can do a lot, we men and women. We can think and create and relate and learn. But when we settle only for what we can determine using our finite senses, our world shrinks. There’s so much we can’t do if we lock ourselves away from God. We might feel independent and free—I can take my phone anywhere. It’s light and mobile, not encumbering like my desktop. But it’s limited. Small. Restricted.

Instead of making me free, the phone narrowed my world. It did allow me to limp along. A good thing . . . unless I came to believe that the phone was All That I Needed.

Who we are as humans is really marvelous. We are living beings with minds that create and reason, compute and recite. We can love and forgive, learn and worship. We can choose between right and wrong; we can dominate or submit.

But we are still locked into our finite way of looking at the world. Without God’s revelation, without relationship with Him, we don’t understand the big picture: Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going?

We can know our Smart Phone version of love, but we would lose out on the full desk top version of God’s love. Same with mercy and forgiveness and grace and kindness and joy and patience and peace.

God is the source of all those traits, the One who shows us what they mean in all their fullness. Without Him, we would accept our small version as sufficient, but at every turn we’d have to let things fall by the wayside—the big things that the phone simply isn’t built to handle.

Sadly, at some point, a good many people not only settle for the phone, they embrace it as superior to the computer, or, worse, so great that they can’t envision anything greater.

We humans are pretty awesome, no doubt. The Bible says we are fearfully (awe-inspiring) and wonderfully made. But we are the image of the One who made us. We are the mini-version—not God, but the reflection of God.

How important that we don’t fall in love with the reflection, that we don’t get so comfortable using the substitute that we distance ourselves from the Real Deal.

Published in: on April 29, 2015 at 5:39 pm  Comments (3)  
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