The unpredictable God (a dialogue)


  • Comment from RS, USA

    After reading your reply to MF’s question about God being unpredictable, I feel compelled to point out that God’s Being is Perfect and that the only reason we cannot know or predict His Perfect Doings is because we are all imperfect. beings, given to imperfect understandings and doings. Thus, God uses His Freewill Perfectly and we, being imperfect, are perplexed and mostly ignorant of His Perfect Doings.

    Finally, God, our Infinite and Eternal Heavenly Father, has given us free will despite our imperfections and finite lack of life experiences, because it is His Will that we become perfect “even as He is Perfect,” by making our own decisions, both good and bad, and learning from them, on our path to perfection. Indeed, it is clear that if He made us perfect by fiat, we would have no choice, no credit, no dignity for us as perfect robots. We must come to know right from wrong and consistently choose right according to our own free will. This, of course, explains why there is evil and sin in the short run, but in the long run the opportunity for us to grow and progress spiritually and become increasingly more perfect children in our Heavenly Father’s Awesome Divine Family…

    A reply from Jon the freelance theologian

    There are two problems with this approach. Firstly, in the face of a difficult question for the believer, namely ‘why does God appear unpredictable’, RS seems to advocate a retreat into mystery, in this case ‘God’s perfect ways are over our imperfect heads’. But Christian theology has always contended that, while human beings were created physically finite, in other terms humans have a grasp of the infinite. This is echoed poetically in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verse 11, where God is described as ‘setting eternity in the hearts of men’.

    It is fairly reasonable to assume that as humans are the only creatures created in the image of God (Genesis chapter 1, verses 26-27, and repeated in chapter 9, verse 6), that part of bearing that image would include mental or spiritual alignment. Very few people would argue that it meant physical similarity, especially given that “God is Spirit” (John chapter 4, verse 24). Of course, the doctrine of the Fall of Man means that sin has marred the image of God, but that image can still be restored through belief in Jesus Christ. At some point in the process of salvation, it is believed that Christians will attain perfection, but to say that “we, being imperfect, are perplexed and mostly ignorant” seems to be a pious, yet unpersuasive, cop-out.

    The second problem stems from the definition of free will. At a deeper level, free will that is forced on an agent is not free will. There is no choice in the matter. There is, of course, a danger of drifting into a philosophical debate about power and freedom at this point. However, to keep the discussion on course, it is worth pointing out that most of what RS states in his comment is bordering on philosophical speculation about the necessity of free will. Relying on human free will to justify the existence of problematic things like evil, has huge ramifications.

    The dilemma is that, in allowing free will, God allows the possibility of sin. But if God is omniscient, then God should know what the outcome of giving free will to human beings would be. Therefore if God knew what the outcome of any action was going to be, it would be very simple for God to prevent that outcome or act in a way to influence it. Deciding not to change the outcome is as much of an action as changing it completely (a ‘sin of omission’). So, this argument relying on human free will is weak. Whatever happens, God has the final decision over whether an action happens or not (unless the believer is willing to accept the idea that there are some actions that God does not know the outcome to).

    The Biblical picture of humanity’s choices does not dwell on the concept of free will. Human sin is the result of human rebellion and whether in Eden, or in any other place, the Biblical picture tends to be one of rebellion, not ‘misused free will’. Saying that God ‘had’ to give his creation free will in order for those created beings to mature, puts limits on God’s power. RS says that “it is clear that if He made us perfect by fiat, we would have no choice, no credit, no dignity for us as perfect robots. We must come to know right from wrong and consistently choose right according to our own free will.” But must we? Doesn’t this imply that God is limited in some way? If God is truly omnipotent, as believers tend to proclaim, then surely it would have been possible for God to create beings that knew right from wrong without sinning in the process.

    Equally, saying “it is His Will that we become perfect “even as He is Perfect,” by making our own decisions, both good and bad”, is tantamount to saying that humans had to have the opportunity to misuse free will by rebelling against God in order to mature. This seems to imply that the Fall of Man was allowed or tolerated by God. If this is the case then God becomes a morally ambiguous being, who not only allows sin to happen, but also sets the situation up for it to happen, and is therefore the indirect cause of sin, evil and suffering.

    Ultimately, of course, calling God ‘faithful’, like any other attribute ascribed to him, is a matter of personal faith on the part of the believer. However, when it appears that God is not faithful, then human beings, imperfect though they are, should be able to ask why that is. If faithfulness is part of God’s nature, then the appearance of unfaithfulness makes it difficult to emulate God as believers seek to we “become perfect even as He is Perfect.”

    Thanks for your comment, RS – freelance theology welcomes comments on anything posted on this site, with a view to constructive debate or further discussion.

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