Hello Friends who are ‘spiritiual leaders’ of some sort.
I’m really struggling with the idea of free will. Which makes me question God’s goodness. Does God know the future? If yes, how do we have free will? If He already knows what we’re going to decide why did He create us all knowing some would go to hell and why did He create Lucifer if He knew He would rebel?
Would really appreciate your answers,
Confused Rach (March 28, 2012)
I decided to respond as best I could in that kind of forum as follows:
Hi Rachel, well, you’ve picked a big one. Philosophers and theologians have been arguing over that question for millennia! So it probably means you are not going to get an open-and-shut answer that ties up all the loose ends. Sorry!
But here are my thoughts and how I approach it:
- God wants a world where people are free – to some extent at least – to live, to love, to choose, to respond, etc. To have that kind of world, there must also be the possibility of some people saying No to God and Yes to evil. Did God know that would happen? Yes. Did God want it to happen? No. But God obviously determined that to have a creation was more important than not having one!
- There is no such thing as a totally ‘free will’ – sin has so corrupted us, that we are ‘slaves to sin’ (John 8:32-36; Romans 6); a slave is not free. Once sin came in, we all lost our freedom. Further, our will is also ‘weak’ through genetic inheritance, habit, training, models we have had, addiction, etc. Thus the idea that we are ‘free’ is not accurate. Sure, we can make choices, but often those choices are constrained by forces bigger than us. Only in Jesus have we any hope of being ‘free’ and even then, not totally until he comes again.
- God does not will the evil that is in the world or in us. We do it, as a misuse of our ‘freedom.’ But God has responded to evil – this is the gospel. First, God has taken evil into himself in order to ultimately overcome it. He came to the cross and took the full weight and impact of sin and death INTO himself in Jesus. He swallowed the whole bitter pill. He drank the cup to the dregs. That is what we will remember on Good Friday. Then on Easter he rose, conquering the whole fallen mess of sin and death and opened up a door into a new world of life, hope and wholeness. So two things: One, God knows what it is to suffer because God has suffered in Jesus, and so understands our sufferings. Second, God has promised resurrection, a new heavens and a new earth in which all sin, evil and suffering is done away with. This is the hope of the gospel. God has acted decisively to lift us out of this mess by taking evil upon himself.
- We live in the in-between time: between Christ’s resurrection and the final end when all our hopes will be realised. In this time, suffering is real, existent and awful. We and all others will be touched by it. So we can only live in hope of the resurrection and the new heavens and new earth. But, that hope is also a call: to be witnesses of this hope and to show the same compassion to others that God shows by doing what we can to alleviate suffering. We join God in his mission to redeem a broken world wracked by suffering.
- In this time God’s got you covered. God surrounds us on every side. It is as though we have a certain area in which we are free to move. We can go here, or there, or here or there; we can do this or that or this or that. God gives us “space” to live and choose and make decisions. If he wants us to be or do something specific, he can make that known to us. Otherwise, live and choose and make decisions to the best of your ability and to the best of your knowledge of his will. And then trust him. Entrust your way to him. God’s got us covered, and even if we make a poor choice, he can help us.
- There are still huge questions such as WHY God chose to do it this way, why God allows unmitigated evil to continue, why “natural” evil (earthquakes, tsunamis, deformities, etc) occurs, the question of hell and judgement, etc. But, God has acted and on the grounds of this act we can have hope and thus also courage, faith and love.
The reality of life in a fallen world is that we will suffer; nothing is surer. And when we do, it is even more important to cling tightly to Jesus and the hope we have in him, and also to be part of his people so that we don’t suffer alone.
Sorry for the long essay-type response. If you have read this far you deserve a medal. But I hope that it is helpful in some way. Good on you for wrestling with the hard questions of the faith. That’s the way mature faith grows.