second part of this discussion

Jim,

I am trying to find an answer to a question from a coworker, and I was wondering if somebody can help.

This coworker seems to be open to the Gospel, but he has posed a question to me that I honestly can't seem to answer.

The question is this: If God is omniscient, and knew everything that was going to happen in history (including the fact that man would fall into sin), why did He even create man in the first place, knowing that billions of people would reject Him and end up in hell? (This coworker considers it "a cruel joke.")

Considering what happened on Sept. 11, he is also asking the related question of why God created man in the first place, if He knew that terrorists and dictators would cause such destruction and violence and the loss of thousands (and millions) of lives? He asks, why didn't God simply cause those people not to be born, if He knew what they were going to do?

I am having a difficult time coming up with a satisfactory answer -- can somebody help?

Mike. (-:

REPLY

Mike:

The philosophical question surrounding the presence of evil in the world is a difficult and ever present one. It is also a basic question that has to be answered to some degree before a person moves on to more specific religious considerations.

Philosophical attempts to answer the question usually focus on God's determination to create beings who have the capacity to choose good over evil. Sheep and cows, for example, have little capacity to be either very good or very evil. Robots have not capacity to choose at all.

Man is created in the image of God. That is, man has self-awareness in a way that lesser creatures do not. His self-awareness allows him to choose to interact with the world in a variety of ways. The key is that he has the God given ability to choose how he interacts. He can be extremely selfish, or he can be extremely generous. He can "lay down his life for a friend," or he can use people as objects in order to increase his own pleasure. But he chooses to do that.

Now, if he is a robot, or if his destiny is predetermined by God so that the results are always good, then he no longer is a being who has the capacity to choose. He becomes, in a manner of speaking, a pet—a dog or a cat whose destiny is determined by his master.

God, of course, knows that in creating creatures who have the capacity to choose between good and evil, that some will choose evil. But that is the consequence of allowing some to choose to love God and serve Him selflessly from their hearts, as a choice.

So, it was not God who attacked the World Trade Towers, but men who had decided to take a particular course of action that resulted in the loss of seven thousand of their human brothers and sisters. But others thousands have chosen to become heroes. Your friend can't have it both ways: If he wants a world without pain, he must settle for world in which people do not have real choices.

No one will wind up in hell by mistake. They, in their hearts, have chosen to turn from light to darkness. God, as the Anglican Book of Common Prayer so eloquently states, "desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live." God set the standard when He offered up his own Son as a sacrifice for your friend's sin. That is really the "greater love" I referenced above.

The thinking process that causes some people to see evil in the world and blame God for it, can be turned around so that they see beauty in the world and glorify God for it.

Bottom line: God is Good. He created man with the capacity to be Good or Evil. They choose.

Hope this helps your friend. He should not be criticized for asking the question. But if he uses it as an excuse not to seek God, he is already on the pathway to darkness. In that case, tell him to turn around.

Jim