My last two posts have considered a skeptic’s challenge that a “loving” God would not have exposed his children to the pernicious powers of the Devil. Yes, God could have better “protected” his children, but to have done so would have deprived us of true free will. And yes, God knew that much of His creation would reject Him, but again if He fashioned things in such a way that no one rejected Him, where in that would there be room for freedom? So, if God does allow His children to experience temptation, and if the consequence of rejecting God is “eternal torment,” how can Christians maintain, nonetheless, that this was an act of love? With consequences of this magnitude, how could God have acted consistent with His loving nature, and not sadistically, as some would contend? Would it have been better for God to have never created us?
This challenge strikes me as a bit ironic. We live, after all, in an era in which individualism is of paramount importance. Whether it’s the call for “less government” or the demand for greater sexual freedom, we find ourselves ensconced in an “age of consent,” in which giving expression to our choice is all that really matters. The abortion industry has made amazing use of this theme, deploying the euphemism “pro choice” to dress up a barbaric act that runs counter to a mother’s basic human nature. Everywhere we look, the desire to give free reign to our “free will” is a driving force.
Clearly, free will matters to us, and it matters despite the consequences that are built into our nature. Sexually transmitted disease reaches epidemic proportions, yet we, as a culture, insist that science save us from these consequences. A change in behavior is simply not in the cards. Is it not built into the very nature of things that we defy what is expected of us, what we know we “should” do, in favor of what we want to do – regardless of the ultimate consequences of our choice? We don’t want to worship God; we’re too busy trying to be Him.
This is the nature of man, and the nature of free will. There are no half-measures. Either a person is free to reject God, or he has limitations placed upon his will. But such limitations eliminate the freedom of the choice, just as a drop of poison deprives a glass of water of its purity.
With this as backdrop, let’s consider God’s choices. We say that God “loves” us, which means that He wills our ultimate good. If He takes away the freedom to reject Him, he can make us perfectly good and content, in the fashion of a cherished pet. But if He gives us intelligence and the freedom to act against His wishes, then the meaning of love cannot be to domesticate us as pets. Love, in this setting, must mean what it means for human beings in proper relationship with each other: the desire for the other to achieve his best destiny. A free will being freely choosing God achieves the highest good imaginable – eternal union with the source of all that is perfect and excellent. Those who direct their will against God do not want union with Him. They want separation from Him. So a perfectly loving God gives both categories what they have been seeking – union or separation.
The skeptic will no doubt object that separation involves punishment. But what would he have God do? Force the unbeliever to spend eternity with Him against his will? Force him to love God by stripping away his freedom, while in his heart he wants only to go on defying God? Force God to reward those who defy Him, even if that is not what God wills? Does the skeptic not see that he is speaking a contradiction?
Would it have been better, then, for God to not have created at all? Many skeptics insist this is the case. I submit that they do not really mean what they say. After all, if they could wipe out all of humanity with the push of a button – eliminate the good and the evil so that no future generations of humans could be lost – I seriously doubt they would do so. And here’s why: because the potential for infinite good outweighs the consequent bad. Consider how the scales are balanced in the end: the many who are received into God’s presence experience eternal – and infinite – joy; the created order therefore experiences an infinite increase in joy. The rest experience what they sought through the use of their wills. Certainly not positive, but consistent with the desire of their wills.
God creates, then, an infinite increase in joy and perfections if He creates, or He creates nothing at all. Doesn’t the right choice seem perfectly obvious?
Posted by Al Serrato