Anthony W. Brooks
A question was asked me in response to my last Apologetics article on unbelief (you can read that one here). The question came from a rather inquisitive woman who I believe to be sincere in her thinking, so I wanted to answer at length here on the blog. The question is this. “Why would an all-knowing and benevolent God create man if he knew the evil we would commit?” And this is a good question that has been asked many times.
When I inquired about her upbringing I discovered that she was brought up Christian, but of a sort that I am not. She was brought up in the hyper conservative realm of the Churches of Christ. She, like many children in that movement, lost faith when the questions she asked were not answered to her satisfaction. I feel for her plight, for it is an understandable one.
The differences between the position of my church, the conservative Presbyterian and Reformed church, and that of the Churches of Christ are numerous, but the one I want to focus in on here is that of Monergism vs. Synergism. Monergism meaning that all things are under the divine hand of God’s will, and Synergism meaning that there is a libertarian cooperation between man and God. Narrowly we use these terms in Christian theology to refer more toward the acts of soteriology, but today I will use them to answer the question of theodicy that she raised.
A Brief History Of Man
This will be a long post. I will warn you now. In Genesis 1-2 God created man and woman good. They were not sinful or ashamed of being naked, but lived just as God had intended. But in Genesis 3 the serpent had deceived Eve and caused her to tempt Adam to eat of the Fruit that God commanded him in Genesis 2 not to eat. So right then and there the first sin was committed. Arguments can be had to whether the creation narrative is factual or poetic, but the narrative remains. It was a willful act of disobedience that caused the catastrophic plunge of the world into sin. Because of this God curses the ground and the physical world is also brought into Adam’s fallen state in Genesis 3:17ff.
The Natural Distinction
There is a natural distinction that should be made here between primary and secondary causes. We recognize this distinction in our everyday life. We have to distinguish between these two things because they are what makes an action evil or good. That distinction is simply this: the act of something and the intention behind the action.
Imagine a man was shot. There are two reasons set before you of why this could have happened: 1. The man was shot in a robbery and his money, watch, shoes, and whatever else was taken as a result. 2. The man was shot in self defense because he was the robber. Which one was evil and which was good? It is most definitely good to shoot this man if he was harming yourself, your family, or your property. So the act of shooting the man was intended in that circumstance was good because the intentions of the shooter was good, namely to protect life and property.
Apply these standards to God then. He creates man, man sins, instead of killing man that day he lets him live on and have children. God gets tired of man so he wipes him out in a flood that kills all but eight people. Then he allows man to continue living and multiplying on and on until today. In all of these actions God gives his reasons for doing so and the intentions are good.
The Burning Question
So then the question will be asked, and it is a juicy one, “Then why did God create man at all if he knew we would sin anyways?” Wow! Way to blow my mind! Here’s the answer:
“6 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”” – Isaiah 43:6-7
He created us for his glory. This isn’t an evil intention. This isn’t bad, for we are fully responsible for our sins against him. This is, however, an exercise in divine ego, but there is nothing wrong with that. When you are the creator of all that exists you can have an ego. He created us because whether we sin or do righteous deeds we are glorifying him in either way. If he chooses to condemn us in justice he is glorified, and if he chooses to show mercy to us he is glorified.
So the short answer is this; he decided to create man because he wanted to. As judge, ruler, and sustainer of all the universe he has the right to do as he pleases. This is not malevolent because his intentions are not malevolent. The only way you can see God as evil in this scenario is if you compress this view down into two dimensions and refuse to look at all the categories.
So to the woman who asked such a thoughtful and frequently asked question such as this please note that the church of your youth did you no justice. These are things you should have known by the time you were 15, but, alas, you didn’t. Instead they did a monkey dance around this question. In the place of knowledge they showed you their hider parts and slung their dung in your direction only to hit you and all the children standing behind you. If you think that this illustration was unnecessary, well tough. It’s my blog and I can do as I please.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Picture: St. Augustine of Hippo.