FREE WILL AND SUFFERING

The number one reason people will give for not seeking or believing in God, so I’m told and so I gather, is the amount of suffering in the world. If there really were a loving God, we think, there would be no wars. There would be no crime, no disease, and no hunger or poverty…

The next-door neighbour would be much more considerate about revving up his car at midnight, and about letting his dog bark at six o’clock in the morning. Auntie Flo wouldn’t have died, my girlfriend wouldn’t have left me for another guy, and my lottery numbers would all come up at least once, so that I could buy my dream home and not have to work hard anymore. I know this is how people think, because I myself am a person. So how or why do I have faith in God, and others don’t?

We will once again ignore the answer given by Calvinists for this question, because in my view it’s very wrong. Instead we will consider the God-honoring answer, and the one which honors His creation.

Yes, it is true that God loves His creation. And it is true also that Jesus Christ said, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… (John 3:16). But these words of Jesus Christ do not at all amount to a claim that our lives will be trouble free and endlessly happy. Instead, they represent a rescue mission. His was a mission to rescue us from a world in decay. They are a wake-up call, and a road map to deliverance from decay.

WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVATION: THE STATE OF YOUR HEART?

The decay of planet earth began soon after its creation. It affected not only the nature of mankind, but all of nature. Why did God allow this to happen? Why didn’t He fix it? I must confess to asking the same kind of questions myself. But you see, by asking questions we can arrive at an answer. Such questions are natural to man, and not at all wrong, if asked with the right motives. If we ask such questions mockingly, instantly dismissing any acknowledgment of a creator, we are, in the words of an old proverb, in danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

But if we ask them sincerely, and look for genuine answers, we can find them. And the fact that we can find them is further evidence that there is a creator, and that there is a loving God. Real narratives, truthful narratives, hold together. They have integrity, depth and rigor. They can be explored, tested, and confirmed from all angles.

WHY DID GOD LET IT HAPPEN?

Why, in the Biblical account of the creation, found in Genesis, did God allow Cain to kill Abel? Whether you regard this account as being literal or figurative, the fact remains that God let it happen. Why? Couldn’t He have stopped it? Shouldn’t He have supervised the garden and kept a watch over what transpired? Couldn’t He have grabbed Cain’s arm as Cain was about to bring the rock down on his brother’s head-or whatever the weapon was? The answer is yes, God could have stopped the murder. Is God, then, guilty of being negligent and uncaring?

Recall that one of the trees in the garden which Adam was to tend was to be only looked at. Its fruit, Adam told God, was not to be eaten by people. But what happened? Eve-Adam’s wife-ate the fruit, and then gave it to Adam to eat. The couple failed the simplest, most basic test they could have been given, and one which they could have passed, if their hearts were good. They disobeyed God with no shame or remorse or thought. And shortly after that, Cain, in a fit of envy and hatred, killed his brother. The faulty nature of man was manifested in short order after their creation.

Was there a fault in God’s creation? Did He wire Adam’s brain the wrong way around? Why did He make the tree anyway-wasn’t that a mistake also? Why did He put it smack dab in the middle of the garden tended by Adam? Why didn’t he just leave that out of His creation? Did God make a mistake? No. God, by making the tree, was demonstrating the extent of his love for mankind, because He was giving people-us- the dignity and the honor of choice and free will.

WHEN IS FREE WILL REALLY FREE WILL?

We have the ability to make choices for ourselves and to make decisions. If that were not the case, we would be programmed robots: play things of far superior spirit world. And let’s take this a step further. Supposing God told Adam not to eat the fruit of that one tree, but every time Adam or Eve went to bite it, it jumped out of their hands and vanished, or rolled down the hill into a stream. Suppose that when Cain was swinging that rock in the direction of Abel’s head, God or an angel gripped his arm in mid air, and shook the rock out of his hand. Would mankind then still have free will? No, we would not. We would be prisoners, completely under the power of our masters. We would be puppets on strings: frustrated, angry inmates of God’s world.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF REBELLION

So if God really wanted to bless the pinnacle of His creation-mankind-with free will, He would have to allow that free will to be played out-just as it is now. We are currently all suffering the consequences of each others’ free will, and that of the angels who also rebelled against God. We are all, in a sense, being tested, and failing with regularity. And the further we as individuals and as a society move away from God, the worse it all gets.

Beyond the moral corruption of our minds and hearts, we’re living in a world where nature has been cursed. It’s been cursed by God Himself, because God cannot allow fallen, rebellious, disobedient mankind to live in a perfect world. He has cursed it, and we have done our part to ruin it. This curse, and the rebellion which led to it, is the cause of death, disease, and the law of entropy. The natural, physical realm is in decay all around us, and in us.

However, the good news is that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came to earth and passed the test of obedience. Being tempted as Adam was, and yet passing the test, Jesus Christ became the perfect and sinless man, who is quaified in every way to bring salvation to those of us who have failed the test every day of our lives. And this is why Jesus Christ, in the complete version of the verse from above, said this:

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Thanks for reading. Please like this post. You can search at the top for my series on the subject of suffering.

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