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« Asking the Tough Questions (Part One) | Main | We Are Different »

Asking the Tough Questions (Part Two)

Absolute Free Moral Agency

To discuss the foregoing attributes of God establishes a ground plane of understanding before we go any further asking the tough questions. But that’s only part of the equation. You and I are the other part.

Let’s look at how we were created.

Mankind was created with a free moral agency. That means that we are not robots, we are not predestinated creatures with no voice, vote or choice. Even though God has a plan for our lives, we are not pre-determined to follow that script without choices and options along the way.

First, God has endowed man with freedom of choice. The scriptures urge man to "choose," "come unto me," and "open the door." In Joshua 24:15, we read “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Also, Adam and Eve were given the choice to obey or disobey God (Gen. 2: 17; 3: 1-6). The famous "curses" of the Hebrew scriptures were based on the Jew’s free moral agency: "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God...that all these curses shall come upon thee..." (Deut. 28: 15-20, 45). Jesus said to those who were spiritually condemned, "ye would not!" (Matt. 23: 37).

If man has freedom of choice, he then becomes responsible for those choices. Since man has the freedom to obey or disobey and God does not overpower the will of man, man is responsible for his own actions. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," declared the prophet (Ezek. 18: 20). Sin, as such, is not inherited. "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son." The prophet further states, "...the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezek. 18: 20, cf. Matt. 18: 3-6; 19: 13-15).

In view of the freedom of choice belonging to man, the book of Acts abounds with examples of the sinner being urged to come to God. At the very outset we read, "And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized..." (Acts 2: 40, 41, KJV).

If we believe that God is absolute and all-powerful, and that man was created with free moral agency, here is the position we are forced to take:

The absolute God created man with a free moral agency that is equally absolute. Regardless of the outcome of man’s use or abuse of his free moral agency, God will not and cannot interfere unless he is responding to faith and prayer in accordance with his will. We cannot have it both ways.

Yet, that is exactly what we try to do—have it both ways. We say, “God, we want absolute freedom to do whatever we want to do, but, in case our choices mean pain and suffering, we want you to intervene and stop us from doing it. Or, better yet, we want you to eliminate the pain and suffering without diminishing our freedom of choice.” We want to jump from the airplane without a parachute, and when we hit the ground, we don’t want it to hurt. If we jump and hit the ground and find ourselves hurting, we will blame you for being an uncaring, insensitive, brutal God because you let it happen!

When the irresistible force meets the unmovable object, a collision is going to happen and it’s not going to be pretty.


What if totalitarian government or a tyrant dictator took over the USA? What if this new government could eliminate the drug problem, stop gang violence, and provide health care for all citizens? What if it could protect the environment, lower the price of gasoline and guarantee job security for everyone? Does that sound attractive? “Yes!” you say.

Not so fast. What if these improvements would cost us some freedoms, like speech, religion, press or right to assemble? What if you had to work at a job of the new leader’s choosing? Or go to a certain school as directed by the central government?

Indeed, this is very similar to what is happening in Hong Kong. In 1997, a free society reverted back to the control of a communistic, totalitarian regime. Constant protests and continual unrest now beset the city-state because people don’t want their freedoms curbed---even if it is for their supposed good.

More questions:

Why doesn’t God stop universal evil immediately?

To end evil God would not only have to destroy sin—which is the cause of evil, he would be obliged to eliminate the entire human race because it is contaminated with sin. His plan, however, calls for redemption, not destruction.

Why doesn’t God disable our ability to cause suffering?

He could, but in so doing, He would invalidate our ability to choose. Free will is the core of humanness. In order to love, for example, you must be able to choose to love. None of us want to be forced to love. Love, therefore, involves the capacity for choice, the choice to love or not to love. Once that possibility comes into being, evil, pain and suffering are necessary extensions of the range of choices.

Why does God allow natural disaster and disease?

It is a part of a sinful world. Dr. Norm Geisler says that God lowered the perfection of creation (from the perfect garden of Eden) to match the spiritual state of those who live here (Romans 8:20-22). God, in his grace, allows people on this earth to live life, to reproduce, to develop governments and systems to deal with the effects of sin. By his grace, He sustains the fallen creation (providing sun and rain for food to sustain life – Colossians 1:17). But we live in the world of a fallen creation. To further complicate the issue, even good things have evil by-products (water can drown; gravity can kill; lightening can burn and kill).

Why doesn’t God stop evil acts that cause innocent people to suffer?

If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why doesn’t he stop war, disease and crime? Why does he allow the gene to exist that causes congenital birth defects? Why doesn’t He stop the drunk driver’s car from demolishing a bus load of children? Why doesn’t He deflect the murderer’s bullets? All of these questions seem reasonable if we drop the freedom of choice out of the picture. You see, people don’t actually want God to stop all their evil acts. They don’t want God to slap his hand over their mouths every time they’re about to say something hurtful; they want the freedom to kick the dog without breaking their leg. They just want God to stop certain evil acts or just the evil acts of others. But, should that scenario play out, life would become impossible to live. We would be essentially incarcerated with no freedom, no predictability and no personal responsibility.

Well then, why doesn’t God let us choose to get out of this suffering?

I’m glad you asked…because that’s exactly what Calvary is all about. That is the gracious, loving response of God to the evil condition of this sinful world.

God has provided each of us an opportunity to be saved. He has given us the promise of eternal life in heaven where there is no suffering (Revelation 21:4). One must put his trust in the payment for sin God provided through Christ’s death on the cross. Then, based upon that trust, one must follow through with the plan for salvation. (John 3:16-18; Acts 10:38-43: etc.).

Acts 2:37-39  Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

God not only has a plan for our personal salvation, He also has promised that the whole earth will be redeemed at a foreordained time in the future. Romans 8:18-19 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

But why is God waiting so long to do this?

God keeps his timetable under wraps. He has a certain strategy and sequence of events that, in his omniscience, he will not alter. Adam and Eve were not delivered immediately for a very good reason: He first had to provide redemption through Christ. The world continues today in part because there are more people yet that will come to have eternal salvation. We do know that God is causing all things to work together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28).

Since we are part of a world that is locked in the penalty of sin, and yet we have a relationship with the God who created all things, what should we now do with the pain and suffering that affects us?

There are some good reasons for suffering.

Suffering enables us to cope in a sinful world. Pain can keep us from a greater physical evil. A burnt finger warns us to avoid worse danger. Pain can keep us from greater moral evil. Punishment of any kind can act as a deterrent against further disobedience or wrongdoing.

Suffering teaches us to turn to God for our help. 1) For eternal deliverance from evil – Heaven. 2) For temporal deliverance from evil – Safety or holiness. 3) For spiritual strength to endure suffering (2 Cor. 12:7-10)

A wonderful insight into suffering is given to us by the Apostle Paul in 2 Cor12:7-10

7 “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”NKJV

Suffering produces character improvement (holiness, maturity, etc. James 1:24) which in turn produces eternal rewards (crown of life – James 1:12).

Finally, suffering gives God the opportunity to show His grace, love and care for our sinful condition. 1) Through Christ’s life and death for our sake (Romans 5:6-8). 2) Through providing a place where there is no more suffering, sin or death (1 Corinthians 15:51-55; Revelation 21:4). (Some of the ideas in this study were adapted from Dr. Norm Geisler).

We must never forget the difference between time and eternity. Even a painful life that lasted one hundred years is not even a blip compared to eternity.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

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