Wasn’t there another way?

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So it has been said: Couldn’t God give us freedom but there be less evil? Well I’d like to ask a follow up question: How could God give humans free will yet not let them hurt each other? Saying this doesn’t make it true, could God do it better? Well how do you know considering all of the variables? If you can’t imagine another way then it’s at least logically possible there isn’t a better way.

How could God freely make us always do the right thing? You need to be able to do other than you do. I am all for the sovereignty of God, obviously, his grand plan over creation, his will happening as he intends, but many people don’t fulfill God’s will everyday. God is perfectly good and there are evils that come about from free choices. In the story of Job, yes God’s will is achieved, but he doesn’t desire Job to suffer (Satan desires that), but knows God’s will can still be achieved despite acts contrary to what God may want for his people. Satan is free to torture Job but Satan is not able to, on the grand scheme of things, affect God’s plan for his creation, for he knows what Satan and us will freely do long before they’re aware of their actions. 

So we have free will, God has perfect knowledge of what you’ll freely do, He is not blind, nor misses everything and knows what you’ll decide. I understand this isn’t black or white and of course objections can be raised. But again, what is important to say is you are a sinner, God is not a sinner. His son, Jesus (part of the triune Godhead) took on sin for us and became our advocate. God was just, but that does not make God someone who partakes in sinful acts. 

Also if God determined every sin, how could you not sin? It wouldn’t be your fault if God made you sin. God is in control at the same time that we have free choices. It’s complicated, but that’s all you need to know from this article.

As William Lane Craig put it: Imagine a situation in which one succumbs to temptation. Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 10:13 implies that in such a situation, God had provided a way of escape that one could have taken but failed to do so. In other words, in precisely that situation, one had the power either to succumb or to take the way out—that is to say, one had the freedom to do otherwise. It is precisely because one failed to take the divinely provided way of escape that one is held accountable.

William Lane Craig, “A Middle-Knowledge Response,” Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, eds. James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001), 202.

And it isn’t just 1 Corinthians 10:13—doesn’t the most unforced reading of every New Testament command to the Christian lead us to believe that Christians, when they do sin, could actually do other than sin?

Could God prevent evil without us knowing?

Imagine a situation where you are held at gunpoint and the terrorist tries to pull the trigger, but suddenly there are no bullets in the gun. Though he is sure he loaded it. Next time he tries, he slips over. Then again he aims and as he pulls the trigger and the gun turns to rubber. The man has been stopped from shooting the person, so all good? No, the terrorist then starts beating the man to death, but no worries because God has made your clothes as strong as steel so you are again unharmed. Now, at what point has free-will been encroached on? Will the terrorist ever stop and be able to freely reject the divine force of God? 

Take a stuntman who keeps trying to roll a barrel across a tightrope over the grand canyon. He falls and die…wait, no the ground turns into a trampoline and the physics of the grand canyon is altered. Or the person unfortunatly trying to commit suicide may be relieved they did not die, or keep trying in harsher, quicker ways.

The idea that God could prevent evil without you knowing it is absurd. People would know it, may even become angry at these limitations. But they’d know something was up because, in the end, humans possess evil in their heart driving them to extremes too harsh, like a firing squad that all miss would create suspicion.

Dilley tells of a woman who decides to find out whether there is a good God by jumping out of tall buildings: 

Could even the fool continue to say in his heart “there is no God” if every time he intended to harm himself or others some coincidence occurred which prevented it? Suppose that Gertrude is determined to find out whether there is a beneficent providence and takes to intending to jump from tall buildings. The first time she might discover that she could not find any windows to jump through. The second time she might find a window but discover it was barred. The third time someone intending to rob her might prevent her from jumping. The fourth time she might discover that a circus troupe had left behind its trampoline as she hit and bounced…Make her as dumb as you will, the hundredth or the thousandth or the millionth time she tries to kill herself, it will occur to her that her failure to come to harm is not mere coincidence, that there is something about the universe which prevents her coming to harm

Frank B. Dilley, “Is the Free Will Defense Irrelevant?” Religious Studies, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Sept. 1982), 360-61

A person changed against their will is of the same opinion still. God wants His creatures to want to do right, and part of how He accomplishes that is by allowing us to see the consequences of evil.

Couldn’t God teach us in some other way?

It has been suggested that God could forewarn and impart knowledge to us via dreams, well that would make belief in atheism/naturalism impossible. In the natural world where dreams provide such information, how could a naturalistic worldview account for such situations?

But also, could someone ignore the warnings? The messaging on smoking packets are clear with facts about lung cancer, how this will kill you etc. Yet, cigarettes are still a great corporate business turnover.

If you are a parent or have friends, how often have you offered advice, strong suggestions and justification for not doing something, but they do it anyway? And they learn the hard way? Yup, it happens all the time.

Well what about prophetic warnings? Well nearly always the people rejected it in the Old Testament prophets. The Jews were famous for killing the ones who had come to guide them, that’s why the parable of the tenants is so piercing to the Pharisees, Jesus knew he was talking about them and Jesus was the son in the story.

Even if experience isn’t the only way to inherit knowledge and earn, it is the best way! The Old Testament teaches interestingly that no matter how many signs and guidance God gives, mankind is a mess and keeps rebelling. It is only in sending his son that things start to align, the world is transformed through the power of his son.

Maybe God should not of made us in the first place?

First, the unimaginable sum of human suffering is mistaken at the outset. C.S. Lewis put it well: 

We must never make the problem of pain worse than it is by vague talk about the “unimaginable sum of human misery.” Suppose that I have a toothache of intensity x: and suppose that you, who are seated beside me, also begin to have a toothache of intensity x. You may, if you choose, say that the total amount of pain in the room is now 2x. But you must remember that no one is suffering 2x: search all time and all space and you will not find that composite pain in anyone’s consciousness. There is no such thing as a sum of suffering, for no one suffers it. When we have reached the maximum that a single person can suffer, we have, no doubt, reached all the suffering there ever can be in the universe. The addition of a million fellow-sufferers adds no more pain.

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1953), 103-104.

Lewis is right: There’s no point to adding up all the suffering and asking whether God shouldn’t have created people to avoid the sum because no one suffers it. We also need to realize that our suffering—even if we lived 150 years and endured nonstop suffering—is short compared to eternity

I would also say I’m glad I exist, If I didn’t I wouldn’t be around to say otherwise. To know I’ll spend an eternity being close to God is wonderful. I don’t see why I shouldn’t exist because other people don’t want to be with God. If eternity with God is on offer, then why not?

Do you want kids? Do you know in having kids could lead to horrendous suffering, give birth to the next dictator or a rapist? Then why bother? Because it certainly may not be that way. You take a risk having children, God wanted you to exist even if you would say no to him (This is not to say God is taking risks, but he loves us too much not to force us into heaven against our free choices. No one in heaven will not want to be there, everyone will be where they desire in the end).

Could God prevent more evil than he does?

Who is to say what too much is? If only 6,000,000 Jews were killed in Auschwitz, would that be acceptable? How about 6,000? 600? 60? 6? Some would say just one wrong murder is too much. Then how can you be free to do other than you do then? 

People are not good, they are in need of a sinful saviour. Suffering, genocide actually point to the Christian worldview (Not as in God wants genocide, we freely wanted genocide as a human race because we are sinful and divulge our sin when we could choose not to).

What about gratuitous suffering and children?

Clay Jones has a powerful dialogue example here I’ll share:

I’ve had this kind of conversation many times, and it typically goes like this: Someone asks whether God was unfair for allowing Kaylee to die from leukemia. I respond, “But it’s not just Kaylee that you’re concerned about, right? I mean, you don’t think God should let any child die of cancer, right?” They always agree to this point. After all, you’d have to be a selfish swine to say that you only cared about one child who died of cancer and not others. Then I point out that it’s not just cancer, right? I mean, you don’t think children should die of other horrible diseases, right? They always agree. Then I ask, “But it’s not just disease, right? You don’t think God should let children drown, or be crushed by boulders, or burn in fires, or be murdered, right?” They always agree. But then I point out that it isn’t just death, right? After all, you don’t think children should be maimed or raped, right? They always agree. So finally I ask, “Well, if all this is true, if children shouldn’t be able to suffer being raped or maimed, or to die from murder, accident, or disease, then to what age do you think children should be indestructible?” At this, most people start laughing because they realize the absurdity of indestructible children. In fact, when you change the question from why God allowed a particular child to die to why God allows children to die, the question almost answers itself.”

Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil?: Compelling Answers for Life’s Toughest Questions

God again couldn’t create indestructible children by doing tens of thousands of miracles everyday without people feigning loyalty to him. Also, the actions of a child wouldn’t mean much. Say little Sally stabs her brother Rick and the knife turns to rubber. The family just laugh it off and move on. This is a cartoon world, not the real world. 

if God constantly worked through providences, then He would still have to interfere constantly with free will. For example, how does God prevent parents from getting drunk, or texting, or nodding off, while driving? How does God providentially keep all children everywhere at all times from the fatal occurrences that might afflict other family members? How would God providentially keep all children from being harmed by the intentional cruelty of adults? He couldn’t do all these things unless He were to make His existence unmistakably apparent to even the most hardened sceptic. After all, even the most dull-witted person would conclude, sooner or later, that there’s something about the universe that prevents children from coming to harm. In the real world, parents and their children must learn to be responsible because natural laws do work in regular ways. Even in spite of the suffering of children, the Christian worldview has a heavenly hope for such.

Animals and gratuitous suffering

Clay Jones has this to say and I quote

“Atheist William Rowe uses the example of a forest fire which traps a fawn that is “horribly burned, and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering. So far was we can see, the fawn’s intense suffering is pointless.” But similar reasoning applies to the case of a fawn. After all, it’s not just one fawn, right? It’s all the fawns in all the forests in all the world. And presumably, if fawns were safe, Rowe would then complain that God shouldn’t let squirrels, or bears, or field mice, or even lizards, or whatever, be killed by a fire. And it’s not just fires, right? I suspect that Rowe would complain that animals shouldn’t be drowned by floods or hit by cars and on and on. But if an arsonist started a fire, or a terrorist breached a dam, or whatever, how does God prevent that from happening without doing millions or billions (who knows, Rowe might complain that grasshoppers or beetles shouldn’t die either) of miracles every time something like this occurs? God couldn’t do that without making His existence unmistakable and, as I said in “Is Free Will Worth It?,” that is unacceptable when it comes to people acting out their free-will decisions.”

Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil?: Compelling Answers for Life’s Toughest Questions

Cosmic involvement

Keeping it brief, the angelic demonic realm is wrapped up in all of this (this is part in parcel of the Christian worldview, you don’t need to understand it that well, just know God made beings other than us that are intelligent (yeah I know you want to think aliens!). The Bible says they will learn from an education observing us, they are also involved in the affairs of the world (subtle and unsubtle, we 99.9% of the time will have no idea). For related passages see Psalm 34:7; Hebrews 13:2; Hebrews 1:14; 1 Corinthians 6:3

In light of the end

Also will gratuitous suffering really be that in the end when we look back at the full scope of the world? We assume yes sometimes but the honest answer is we cannot know this side of eternity. Why shouldn’t we fear the worst? Because in light of eternity and how everything will be revealed at the judgement, we will be avenged of wrongdoing against us by the fairest and just judge possible.


Clay Jones, Why Does God Allow Evil?: Compelling Answers for Life’s Toughest Questions

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