Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Nature of God's Will

Stand to Reason has recently combined their youth blog with their main blog. One of the features that the youth blog brought to the table was a weekly challenge that gives readers an opportunity to try their hand at answering a challenge to the Christian faith with a followup article later in the week that offers a recommended answer. This week's challenge was thus:

Here's a question we received from a reader:
If morality is in God's nature, then He is omnibenevolent, right? Does that mean that God cannot choose evil? So, if God cannot choose to do evil, does that mean He doesn't have free will?
What do you think? How would you respond to a friend who asked you this? What kind of questions would you ask him? What would he need to clarify? Leave your response, then look for Brett's answer on Thursday. People from different theological traditions will probably respond to this differently, so this should be interesting.

My response was to clarify the difference between God's will and human will:

We must understand that God's will is not the same as man's will. God's will is creative. Man's will is reactive. Man doesn't choose the conditions or the determinants of his choices. Mutually exclusive paths (conditions) are set before him from outside of himself and he cannot choose by using information or stimuli (determinants) outside of God's created order. For God, however, the conditions and the determinants are the same for he creates them out of nothing more than his nature which his will reflects. Since goodness has its foundation in the nature of God, there is no higher ethical standard against which God's will can be compared. So whatever God does is good.

Now the problem we have in trying to ascertain God's goodness is the effect of sin on epistemology. Sin distorts our ability to perceive truth by creating ethical dilemmas inside of God's creation. God himself is not conflicted, but we perceive conflicts because of the distortion.

Perhaps a metaphor will help. God's will is like a river that flows gently but swiftly and strongly. We are like swimmers in the river who can choose either to swim against the flow of God's will or with it. If we swim against God's will we push against the water that is carrying us downstream. Our efforts are frustrated by the strength of God's will. Our swimming is laborious and difficult and we are buffeted by the current. Are we not swimming as God has instructed? yet because we swim against the flow we feel God may be doing some evil against us.

On the other hand, if we choose to swim with the current, our swimming is easy and we are carried along to our destination. Perhaps the speed at which we are carried along is frightening and other swimmers struggling against the flow impede our path dangerously. Perhaps rocks or some other natural peril threatens us. Nevertheless, we find that we are carried to our destination handily.

God has established not only the river, but its source, destination, obstacles, and us. We will be carried along willingly or unwillingly. The willing will be happy with the destination. The unwilling will not. God has done no evil to either.

Now, this answer I gave doesn't answer all questions regarding the problem of evil. That wasn't my intent. But since we know that God is always good, he is trustworthy despite what we may not understand. That is what someone questioning Christianity on this point will most need to hear.