This question plagues both the believer and the non-believer. It is the go-to argument when someone wants to cast doubt or rebut our faith. It’s a fair question but as is often the case with such things a superficial one.
My answer is found of course in science, namely quantum mechanics. The wave equation is, as I see it, the mathematical representation of free will. A choice is made and all possible futures from the choice not taken cease to exist. The function collapses, something is “observed” and becomes real.
So imagine a point in time, then create a fork in the road so to speak, choice A and choice B. My faith and Scripture tell the story of such a choice. When God created the universe he used a set of rules which we know as physics. Everything in creation has to obey these rules, including people. So when God created choice – choose Me or the other thing (the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) he was simply following the rules He created.
Choice A was His Way, and everything in it was perfect. There was no flaw, no branching of probabilities. Just perfect. And in perfection there was only more of the same; no flaws or “wobbles” existed. In choice B there were infinite probabilities. And none of them were perfect. Perfection only exists along the path of choice A.
Since choice B was obviously taken, now all manner of weirdness is possible. Instabilities now exist and as a result even more instabilities. A hurricane or tornado exists because of instabilities in the weather system. The worst of human behaviors exist because of instabilities in our genes, our pattern of thinking and feeling and our neurochemistry. “Unhappiness” and suffering exist for the same reason. There can be no perfection or stability, yet we look all around trying desperately to find it.
God made this world, the universe, perfectly. And the rules he put into place to let it run allowed for choice. We chose poorly. And God, knowing that choice B could be made at any time, had the solution prepared beforehand. This is Jesus Christ, God the Son. God loves all of His creation so much that if ever even ONE person chose B God was prepared for it and His plan to redeem that person back to Himself and His perfection. The expression for this is n-1, with n being the entire number of humans who have or ever will exist, and the 1 being the poor chooser.
There will be those who are offended by my journey into the non-secular. 2 responses: 1) Get over it, and 2) counter my argument. I am always open to the points of view of others. Why? Because I have spent a LOT of time thinking about this and so am quite comfortable and confident of my understanding. Folks who don’t do that, who are intellectually lazy and emotional children, just get offended when presented with an opinion that doesn’t match theirs. I call these people Wainwrights…
Don’t be a Wainwright, make a good comment.
Steve, you told me you want people to reply and either agree or bring up objections. I want to agree with your Road A/ Road B theory but would like to have your “tree of knowledge” information about the science and math of your theory. I pose a couple other questions. If I had more time, I could write a shorter response. – Churchill
I like this!!! Sorry Steve, I know you hate it when I use exclamation points. Since I do have questions, perhaps I should say, I like this up to a point. Part of what you say is the best answer I have heard to the question of why God allows us to suffer? (a) I can relate to the two roads, but I have no clue where math and science come in. Are you trying to say that math and science can prove the existence of God or they can explain why God allows suffering? Since the subject or idea of math runs throughout the entire blog, I do not feel confident about sharing it. I cannot back up Stephen’s statements and frankly, just for myself, I would like to be able to understand exactly what you are saying here.
Despite this I really like the explanation of how God gave us the opportunity to make choices. Knowing what I know now I would not in a million years choose Road B over Road A. Adam and Eve chose for me and for that reason I have always felt I had a right to be indignant (indignant with Adam and Eve and with God). That is UNTIL I am honest with myself. This blog has pushed me to look at the choice of free will in a different way. Maybe it is the blog or maybe it is just more maturity, but I feel comfortable being objective about what road I would choose. Instead of my own suffering overwhelming me to the point that all I can see is my desperation to be on Road A, I can ask and answer honestly which road I would choose if I were Adam or Eve.
If I did not already know about suffering, I suspect I too would have chosen Road B. For the first time I suddenly do not feel Adam and Eve are guilty alone for my predicament. I have always said I would never have chosen the tree of knowledge. I now see that I not only might have, I probably would have. I would regret my choice for my entire mortal life, but I no longer necessarily feel I can blame someone else for making the wrong choice. I have a very curious nature, so again, if I am honest with myself, I realize I probably would have chosen the tree of knowledge as well.
Having said all that, I am still not a hundred percent satisfied with Steve’s answer for one reason. If God is indeed a good God, why would he not stop the suffering? Why not give us a second chance to choose Road A or Road B now that we know the truth about what choosing Road B means? Can God stop the suffering? If he is God than he can. If he cannot stop the suffering, then he is not God and we are all telling ourselves a not so pretty story (crucifixion is not pretty) to make us feel better.
Where does this leave me? Frustrated is where! I do not want to live in a world full of suffering anymore. I want to choose Road A. I want a second chance!
Scripture tells us (b) that God will give us a second chance, we just do not know when. Because God (in the form of Jesus Christ) did the eternal dying for us we get that second chance! We do not have to die for eternity. We can live for eternity. Not only that, we can live in perfection (on Road A) for eternity. The second coming is when God returns to ask us again which Road we wish to take.
This additional information leads me to yet another question, if I get a second chance in the future to choose Road A, why not make the most out of this wretched life? Ignore the bad. Seek only the pleasing. Wouldn’t life be simpler if we just said, “No” to God and believed that when we die that is it, “That’s All Folks?” I have two answers to this question. First is that people want to feel that their life matters and that there is a purpose to their life. If there is nothing more than this transitory life what is the purpose of anything? Ultimately it all ends in ashes and dust. God offers us a purpose. He will use us to show glimpses of the life lived on Road A. He will use you to show that love is better than hate. Second, God offers us something here and now. Yes, we get eternal life, but he can give us strength and comfort while we are in the midst of following Road B.
A year ago, while stopped at a traffic light, I pictured something new. It was a beautiful day and there were no noises about that I could hear. I wondered, what would it be like if God came back this second and showed his face in the sky. Granted, I pictured God as the body of Jesus (as a mortal it is impossible to grasp the true essence of God). The sky was no longer blue with clouds, it was a clearly loving expression on the face of a young, healthy, man with a beard and mustache (curly hair and blue eyes). Until the light changed to green forcing me back to reality, I felt sheer joy! Everything evil would already be over. The burdens of life would no longer exist. I would already be on Road A. You see, I have already chosen Road A. God does not need to ask me a second time. He knows my heart now and he is protecting me now. Knowing that my true future is Road A, I am given strength to carry on to the best of my ability down Road B. I am NOT alone, and things will get better. There is meaning to the madness of this life, even if I am not privy to that meaning right now. But I will not always be in the dark.
a. The vague and frustrating answer I usually hear is, “This is where faith comes in. We just have to believe that God knows more than us.” If the foolish mortal I am can have an abundance of faith that never wains than that is a satisfactory answer. However, even the best Christian ever does not have faith 100%. That is part of what makes us human. When I say I want someone to experience the comfort and peace that comes with knowing Jesus and thus his father, I know I am “praying” for something that will never come to fruition, not in this body.
b. I tried to find where in scripture we are told that when Christ returns there will be a second opportunity to chose him, but I cannot find where scripture say’s that. Does this mean I am wrong and that someone must have put this idea in my mind? Unless I am shown otherwise, it does mean that Scripture does not tell us we get a second chance. There is talk of who rises from the dead first and whether or not those who were not exposed to Christ get a free pass (so to speak) but I cannot find where God tells us we will get a second chance.
All thoughts, ideas, arguments, or questions are welcome 😊
Those are really good observations and questions! Thank you!! (Yes, I use exclamation points too lol) I will do my best to address the various points you raise.
1) Without a solid foundation in quantum mechanical theory and Newtonian physics it is almost impossible to explain any better than I have. But I am grateful for the opportunity to dig further into my own understanding (and lack thereof!) I have written a book on the subject but it is not through the beta-reader phase yet. My “reader” is an extremely intelligent person I know, one who has tremendous depth of knowledge in theology but basically zero in the hard sciences. In other words a perfect lens through which to savage my thinking. You will be (possibly) the first to receive a copy of it! Anyway, from my point of view, and all the reading I have done for many years, I do believe that science points to the existence of God. Maybe I need to do a specific blog post on this – yes, that would be best. Now you get to practice patience while I write it!
2) Your comment (question?) about God being “good” is spot on. The thing is, He is Good! We can’t begin to fathom this “goodness” other than to acknowledge He gave us an out. The world as it is has been set in motion and while of course God could step in any time and correct it, I think he allows it to play out as it does but with the choice (oooh here comes the theological questions) to accept His grace and offer of ultimate reconciliation to Path A. I also think that if (again, it’s a choice) we look for His purposes as opposed to our own we will find some measure of happiness in this existence. I know I certainly have. By accepting His calling to be a counselor (which I would NEVER have done on my own) I have experienced moments that are immeasurably valuable. You can’t put enough zeroes on that check! This is the real value of Radically Accepting that we exist on Path B, turning towards it and asking “How can I serve you, Lord?” and actively listening for the answer.
3) I think there is a lack of clarity as to the “end times.” There’s Daniel and Revelations, and some other smatterings of how it all plays out. I don’t know and honestly don’t care, as I am confident that I am being as obedient as I can in this life and that God will sort it out as it suits Him. Maybe Susan will have some insight, as she is remarkably knowledgeable in this area. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all this will be added unto you.” Do the first part and the second takes care of itself.
You are familiar with why I looked at your blog about Why God Let’s Us Suffer… my nephew claims there is no God or God is certainly not good because of the world’s suffering (so why give him any attention let alone give him praise). As mentioned before, I want to tell him more than “this is where faith comes in.” I will wait for the next blog or the book (Congratulations on writing a book; that is no small feat!) to answer the question about how math or science proves God exists. In truth, I do not feel as compelled to answer whether God exists. I am focused on the question of why show devotion and seek help from a God who clearly allows us to suffer?
Here are the points I raise that you may or may not want to respond to.
• Why do you think God is good? Because among your suffering you had a positive moment or two?
• If God did not want robots so he gave us chose, I am certain he could find a way to give us personalities that do not include being evil.
Why do you think God was doing us a favor by allowing us to choose to live amongst brutal evil?
• Do you think God enjoys watching us suffer?
• Do you genuinely think God has provided a clear path for people to choose his way (Path A)? What about people who grow up with Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, witches, etc. and never even hear the name Jesus and who are taught to worship another God?
• Ask yourself, why does God want us to give him all power and praise?
You state emphatically that God is good. Hmm… One of the leaders of the Rwandan Genocide has just been captured and will be taken to the Hague for trial. How do you tell one of the Tutsi’s who survived after loosing her entire family to machete’s right in front of her that God is good? Perhaps you think God is good because after experiencing such evil he will allow us to choose Path A? Perhaps you think God will make something good out of the genocide? Does that “something good” outweigh the shear agony (mixture of terror, hopelessness, lack of control, and the physical pain of being tortured with a machete) that the victims endured? If you say, “yes,” is there prove of that beyond “this is where faith comes in?” Or as you said, “he allows it to play out as it does but with the choice to accept His grace and offer of ultimate reconciliation to Path A.” This comment brings up a separate consideration, but I will hold off on that until later. For now, let us focus on the idea that God brings good out of bad.
Let us say that God wanted NAME to write a book. Could he not have given her imagination or different facts to write about? If God is so good why not give us the chance to change paths long ago, why wait until we destroy ourselves and the planet? Not to mention since He knew the result of choosing Road B why did he give us a desire to want to know more? Why did He allow us to fall into temptation and create this evil existence? God is supposed to know better than me! He would know that I would regret choosing Path B and He would know beforehand that I do not want to suffer. And yet, he dangles a second option. An option that only hurts us. If God does indeed know the future and therefore knows there will be a second coming why put it off? Why make us suffer if we do not have to??? It feels as if God is toying with us. Does He gain pleasure watching us suffer? If so, he is an evil and vindictive God. “We” did not choose to be born/to exist. I almost died when I was born, and I do not think I will ever be happy that I did not die. No matter how fabulous life could be it will always be balanced with extreme suffering. I can give up the good times if it means I can also give up the bad times.
Here is yet another reason I have been given for why God allows suffering to continue. This is from the mouth of Andy Stanley. God wants there to be more people in heaven and so he is waiting for more people to exist who can go to heaven. Really? If God is all powerful surely, he can create more people to be in heaven if he wants. He does not have to make us suffer first. Again, if I must be born to be in paradise, I chose to not be born. I will not miss anything because I never existed. I would be unable to feel if I do not exist. Thus, I cannot feel sorrow, pain, regret, or anything else.
Why not have a Path C (or rather exchange Path C for Path B)? Why not allow us to know about choice and what those choices are BUT have us always choose the “good answer?” Why can’t men know the choice of evil and good and always choose good? If God gives us a mind/desire that wants to do good all the time, then perhaps evil would only exist but not play out!
Above I said one of your comments brought up and entirely separate issue and that I would address it later. Now is later. Is it not selfish of God to let us (even make us) suffer just because he wants man to give Him all our praise? That would be similar to me saying to the genocide victims, I will spare your life if you devote every moment on your life to me and do as I say. If your response is that in the end God will give us paradise (thus, “all’s well that ends well”) that will not satisfy or appease my nephew (or me for that matter).
There is an outstanding book about the Rwanda Genocide (actually, there are two) that I cannot recommend more fervently. Left to Tell by, Immaculee IIibagiza and Shaking Hands with the Devil by, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire. I never recommend listening to a book on audiotape over reading it except for this one time… Left to Tell was chilling and moving in a way the book is not when you listen to the author read it out loud.