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Randomness and Assurance: Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

The Blueprint Worldview

On August 1, 2007, a highway bridge several miles from my house collapsed during rush hour, killing 13 people and wounding 144 others. That night, a well-known local pastor blogged about a discussion he had with his eleven-year-old daughter as he put her to bed. He asked her what purpose God might have had for not “holding up that bridge,” even though he could have done so with “his pinky.” He affirmed her when she responded that God “wanted all the people of Minneapolis to fear him.”[1]

The assumption behind this young lady’s answer is that everything happens for a reason—it’s all part of a grand divine plan. This assumption has dominated Christian theology since Augustine in the fifth century, and I have elsewhere labeled it the “blueprint worldview” because it holds that every detail in history happens in strict accordance with an eternal blueprint that resides in the mind of God.[2] The blueprint worldview is expressed in some of the most famous hymns of the church, such as William Cowper’s famous eighteenth-century piece, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” This hymn encourages believers to “judge not the Lord by feeble sense, / but trust Him for His grace,” for “behind a frowning providence, / He hides a smiling face.” Whatever the nightmare that you or a loved one may be going through, we are encouraged to accept that God ordained it for a good reason, which, presumably, is why he is “smiling” as it unfolds.[3]

So far as I can tell, this view is about as prevalent today as it ever was. It’s reflected in the many clichés Christians, as well as non-Christians, often mutter in the face of tragedies: “Everything happens for a reason,” “God has his reasons,” “God’s ways are not our ways,” “Providence writes straight with crooked lines,” “Nothing happens by accident,” “God knows what he is doing,” “God’s timing is the right timing,” and so on. Although the blueprint worldview reflected in these clichés produces rage toward God in the hearts of some sufferers, it provides a great deal of comfort to those believers who feel assured that, however terrible their suffering or the suffering of a loved one may be, at least that suffering is not without purpose or permanent. It is all part of God’s grand plan.

To understand the traditional theology supporting this perspective, it’s helpful to distinguish between a strong and a weak version of the blueprint worldview. The strong version is usually associated with Calvinism, a school of thought that believes that God eternally predetermines all that comes to pass. In this view, everything happens for a reason because God wills everything to unfold exactly as it does. The weak version is usually associated with Arminianism, a school of thought which believes that God created people and angels with free will, though God eternally foreknows what they will do. In this view, everything happens for a reason because God allows everything to unfold exactly as it does.[4]

Although there are obviously significant differences between these two versions of the blueprint worldview, both are grounded in the same, apparently straightforward, line of reasoning: if God is omnipotent, as all orthodox Christians believe, he has the power to do whatever he wants. He therefore possesses the ability to bring about anything he wants or at least to prevent anything from happening if he wants to. From this it seems to follow that everything that happens does so because God wanted it to happen, or at least God did not want to prevent it from happening. And if God is perfectly good and perfectly wise, as all orthodox Christians believe, it also seems to follow that God has a perfectly good and wise reason for why he chose to bring about every specific thing that happens or at least for why he chose not to prevent every specific thing that happens. And so, whether God specifically willed it or specifically allowed it, everything happens for a reason.

I believe both the strong and weak versions of the blueprint worldview are misguided. In this essay, however, I will focus only on the weak version. I do this because I believe that whatever valid objections I raise against the weak version will apply a fortiori to the strong version, whereas the converse is not true. I will first review the blueprint worldview’s approach to the problem of evil and then address several challenges this worldview faces in the light of Scripture. I will then argue that the apparently straightforward line of reasoning that leads to the blueprint worldview is in fact misguided. As counterintuitive as it may initially sound, I will argue that affirming the omnipotence of God does not entail that God can prevent any event he wants to. I will thus argue that believing in God’s omnipotence does not mean we must accept that everything that happens, including fatal bridge collapses, does so for a reason. Yet, I will close by contending that this does not mean suffering is gratuitous. So long as we remain confident in God’s infinite intelligence, I will argue, we can embrace the same assurance the blueprint worldview offers without denying the randomness of evil events.

The Problem of Evil

There’s no denying that one can find support in Scripture for the blueprint worldview. For example, Luke tells us that, although Jesus’s crucifixion was done “with the help of wicked men,” it nevertheless took place “by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23).[5] Clearly, the freely chosen actions of those who crucified Jesus fit into a grand divine plan. Similarly, the author of Hebrews encourages believers facing persecution to “endure hardship as discipline” from God (Heb. 12:7). It’s again clear that the freely chosen actions of those who persecuted these early Christians serve a divine purpose. And although Joseph’s brothers mistreated Joseph of their own free will, he later told them that although their intent was to harm him, “God intended it for good” (Gen. 50:20). These kinds of passages make it impossible for anyone who takes Scripture seriously to deny that there is at least some truth to the blueprint worldview.

But does this perspective tell the whole story? There are both philosophical and biblical reasons to think not. The main philosophical challenge to the weak version of the blueprint worldview concerns the problem of evil.[6] While there is little difficulty accepting that God may sometimes have a specific reason for allowing a particular evil event to take place, it is challenging to accept that this is the case for each and every evil event. Some events manifest a depth of evil for which it seems almost obscene to suppose they happened for a divine reason.

For example, in my book God at War, I discuss an eyewitness account of a six-year-old Jewish girl named Zosia whose beautiful eyes were plucked out by the bare hands of two Nazi guards in front of her horrified mother.[7] The mother went insane and both were subsequently gassed in one of Adolf Hitler’s concentration camps. It makes some sense to me to affirm that this event happened “for a reason” if by this one is assuming there was something that motivated the guards to choose to carry out this atrocity. But it’s challenging, to say the least, to affirm that this event happened “for a reason” if by this one is assuming there was a specific, perfectly good and perfectly wise reason that motivated God to choose to not prevent this specific atrocity. If we allow ourselves to vividly imagine this terrorized little girl pinned to the ground while getting her eyes plucked out, does it not become obscene to suppose that this is brought about by a “frowning providence” that hides God’s “smiling face”?

Consider that if God deemed it better to allow this nightmare than to prevent it, we must also believe that it would have been bad had Zosia’s torture been prevented. We must thus accept that God’s perfectly wise and perfect good plan for the universe would have been less good and less wise if Zosia and her mother had been spared. And this we must accept for every single child and adult who were tortured and gassed under Hitler’s demonic regime as well as for every unthinkable nightmare people have experienced throughout history. God’s grand plan would have been somehow tarnished, we must believe, had one less child been kidnapped, raped, and mutilated or had one less person been tortured by the corrupted church in the middle ages and by demented world leaders such as Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin.

I fully accept Cowper’s encouragement to refrain from judging God’s ways “by feeble sense” and to instead “trust Him for His grace.” Believers must expect to encounter a great deal of mystery as we ponder the ways of God. But at least for me, to affirm that God specifically allows evil events such as these as part of his greater plan is to move from legitimate mystery into sheer incoherence.

Problems with Scripture

Although Scripture contains many examples of God allowing evil for specific reasons, it also contains a many examples in which God must engage in conflict with rebellious opposing spiritual forces. In fact, I’ve elsewhere argued that God’s conflict with opposing spiritual forces forms one of the central motifs of the biblical narrative.[8] In the Old Testament, these forces are rebellious subordinate gods, hostile waters, and cosmic monsters (e.g. Leviathan) that all Ancient Near Eastern people believed surrounded and perpetually threatened the earth. In the New Testament, the opposing spiritual forces God must battle are Satan, principalities and powers, and demons.

There are biblical grounds for believing that the infinitely wise God always finds a way to use the evil he battles to further his sovereign purposes, but nowhere in this central biblical motif do we find the slightest hint that the battle itself was allowed, let alone willed, for a specific higher purpose. Indeed, the very fact that God must engage in genuine conflict with opposing forces and rely on his wisdom to overcome them suggests to me that he can’t simply use his omnipotent power to prevent their evil activity. I will address the paradox of how there can be things an omnipotent God can’t do in a moment, but first we must consider other biblical material that conflicts with the blueprint worldview.

Given that Jesus is the one and only perfect revelation of God (e.g., Heb. 1:3), our understanding of God’s conflict with opposing forces should be based primarily on his ministry. Jesus spent his entire ministry among people who in one way or another were suffering. Yet he never once suggested that their suffering was “for a reason.” Never do we find any suggestion that people’s afflictions somehow fit into a grand divine plan. To the contrary, Jesus and the Gospel authors uniformly diagnosed people’s afflictions as being due to the work of Satan and/or demons (e.g., Mark 9:25 and Luke 11:14 and 13:11–16).[9] And far from suggesting that people’s afflictions had anything to do with God’s will, Jesus manifested the will of God by freeing people from their demonically influenced infirmities.

Peter would later summarize Jesus’s entire ministry to Cornelius by proclaiming that Jesus “went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil” (Acts 10:38). In doing this, we are elsewhere taught that Jesus destroyed “the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8) and broke “the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Such teachings should lead us to conclude that if infirmities happen for a reason, the reason is found in Satan and other forces of evil that oppose God. The only reason for afflictions that has anything to do with God is for people to be set free from them and for the forces that oppress people to be overthrown.

As a matter of fact, Jesus several times explicitly rebuked the suggestion that tragedies happened for a reason. For example, when certain people speculated, in good blueprint fashion, that Pilate’s massacre of a group of Galileans served a divine purpose, Jesus responded by asking them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no!” Whatever purpose led to the massacre of those unfortunate people resided in Pilate, not God (Luke 13:1–3).

Along the same lines, in response to this crowd’s blueprint belief that God was somehow behind a natural disaster involving a tower that collapsed and killed eighteen people in Siloam, Jesus asked, “Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you no!” Instead of getting involved in misguided speculations about what purpose God had for allowing people to perish, Jesus instructed these people to focus on turning their own lives around, lest they perish (Luke 13:4–5). If someone wants to discern the reason natural disasters occur, the fact that Jesus responded to a life-threatening storm by rebuking it, just as he did demons, should not lead them to God but to the spiritual forces that oppose God and that corrupt nature (Mark 4:37–39).[10]

Finally, just as there is no suggestion in Scripture that there is a divine purpose behind God’s conflict with spiritual opponents, so too we find no hint of a divine purpose behind God’s conflict with rebellious humans. Beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and continuing throughout the biblical narrative, we find God giving people the choice to follow him or not. And when they choose to rebel, it is almost uniformly understood to reflect their own purposes and to stand in opposition to God’s purposes.[11] So, for example, Luke notes that “the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves” by rejecting John’s baptism (Luke 7:30, emphasis added). And in Isaiah, Yahweh rebukes his “obstinate children” who “carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin” (Isa. 30:1, emphasis added). Far from being allowed for a specific sovereign purpose, we see that sin is sin precisely because it conflicts with God’s sovereign purpose. In this light, I would again submit that if someone wants to look for a reason behind Zosia’s torture, they should look for it in the guards who tortured her, not in God.

The Logic of Free Will

With very few exceptions, Christian thinkers throughout Church history have agreed that there are certain things an omnipotent God can’t do, such as create a married bachelor, a round triangle, or a rock so heavy he can’t lift it. The reason God can’t do these things is because they are not really things at all. They are, rather, self-contradictions and are therefore devoid of meaning. A bachelor is by definition not married. A triangle is by definition not round. And rocks, by definition, have a finite weight and can always be lifted up by an omnipotent God. The problem with the blueprint worldview is that it fails to apply this logic to the concept of free will.

There are, of course, an almost endless number of highly complex and hotly contested philosophical issues surrounding the concept and conditions of free will, but for our purposes here I submit a brief, less nuanced definition: agents are free if and only if they have the capacity to resolve, by their own power, two or more possible courses of action into one actual course of action.[12] Free will, in short, is our self-determining capacity to choose to go this way or that way. It’s my conviction that God created us with this capacity because his ultimate goal for creation, so far as it is revealed to us, includes humans entering into an eternal love relationship with him and with one another. Yet, as Tatian and other early church fathers so clearly understood, it is logically impossible for contingent beings such as ourselves to enter into a genuinely loving and morally significant relationship with God or with other people unless we have the capacity to choose for or against it.[13]

Of course, God certainly could have created us in such a way that we would have to always perform loving actions, speak loving words, think loving thoughts, and even experience loving feelings. But unless we possess the self-determining capacity to choose against these things, God would know, even if we did not, that our decision to engage in these things was not our decision at all; it was rather his decision when he predetermined us to engage in these things. I would argue along the same lines for angelic beings: the very fact that some angels rebelled against God and are destined to be punished for this implies that they were created with something analogous to our morally significant capacity to say yes or no to God’s love.

If this understanding of free will is accepted, we can begin to see why God cannot prevent certain events, despite the fact that he is all-powerful and despite the fact that he would like to do so. Suppose God has endowed someone we’ll call Charlie with the self-determining capacity to go this way or that way—this way representing a way that God approves of and that way representing a way God disapproves of. If God prevents Charlie from going that way because he disapproves of it, then he clearly didn’t endow Charlie with the self-determining capacity to go this way or that way. For God to endow Charlie with free will, we see, means that, by definition, God cannot coercively prevent Charlie from going that way simply because he doesn’t approve of it. Charlie’s free will must, by definition, be irrevocable. The concept of God preventing Charlie from going that way, though he’s endowed him with the capacity to go this way or that way, is as self-contradictory as the concept of a married bachelor, a round triangle, or a rock so heavy God can’t lift it.

Of course, the free will that God endowed Charlie with is limited in scope and duration, as is the case with the free will of every created being. Therefore, there are limits to how much and how long God must tolerate Charlie making decisions he disapproves of, as is also true for every created free agent. And Scripture assures us there will come a time when every created agent’s capacity to “go that way” will be used up and when the entire creation will therefore be free of evil. Until that time, however, the extent to which God has endowed agents with the capacity to resolve, of their own power, two or more possible courses of action into one actual course of action must be the extent to which God, by definition, cannot unilaterally prevent events from happening just because he doesn’t approve of them.[14]

To my way of thinking, this perspective on free will explains why God, though he is all-powerful, engages in genuine conflict with opposing spiritual forces and opposing humans. It also explains why Scripture celebrates God’s wisdom, and not just his power, in governing the world, engaging in battle, and bringing good out of evil (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:30 and 2:7, Rom. 7:12 and 16:27). One only needs wisdom when one has to outsmart an opponent or solve problems, things that God would never need to do if he could simply coercively prevent anything from happening that he didn’t approve of. And this perspective makes sense of why the God of the Bible is often portrayed as getting exasperated and grieved when he tries unsuccessfully to get obstinate people to align themselves with his will (e.g., Jer. 3:6–7 and 19-20, Ezek. 22:30–31, and Isa. 63:10). The God we find in Scripture is sovereign without being micro-controlling, and in my opinion, his sovereignty is all the more praiseworthy for this reason.[15]

Accepting Randomness with Assurance

If we accept that God’s goal for humans is centered on love and that this love requires a free choice, and if we accept that this free choice is, by definition, irrevocable for a significant length of time, then the only “reason” for events that are the result of free decisions is found in the agents themselves, not in God. We thus need not speculate about a divine reason for Zosia’s atrocity or any other atrocity. Moreover, if we accept the biblical witness regarding the existence and authority of good and evil angelic beings, we can say the same thing about natural evil. As the early church fathers uniformly understood, whether we’re talking about physical infirmities or injurious earthquakes, we may presume that all suffering that occurs from natural causes is ultimately due to the fallen state of creation and to the cosmic rebellion of angelic free agents who use their God-given authority over aspects of creation at cross-purposes with God.[16] Hence, we may affirm that everything in creation that is inconsistent with the character of God, as revealed in Christ, is ultimately due to wills other than God’s.

I have no doubt that some readers will find this perspective disturbing, however, for it means we must accept the apparent randomness of evil at face value. There is, in this view, no higher reason to explain why Zosia had her eyes plucked out while other girls in her vicinity were spared. This randomness grows even more disturbing if we consider the many free decisions that factored into Zosia’s atrocity. For example, for all we know, there were a thousand free decisions Zosia’s mother made in the days, weeks, and months preceding the moment of the attack that, had any one been different, may have prevented her and her daughter from being precisely where they were when the Nazi guards noticed her beautiful eyes. The same can be said about an innumerable number of other people whose decisions exercised, or could have exercised, any degree of influence on this unfortunate woman and her daughter. The same holds true for the two guards as well as for Hitler—for all we know, had any one of an unfathomable number of free decisions that exercised any degree of influence on Hitler, his colleagues, his enemies, his parents, or his grandparents been different, he may not have become the führer of the Third Reich. He may not have attempted to annihilate the Jewish people and Zosia may have consequently been spared.

In this light, we can only conclude that these kinds of tragedies are the result of an unfathomable number of random events. And we have not even considered the unknowable, but nevertheless real, free decisions of the myriad of angelic agents who undoubtedly exercised some degree of influence in bringing Zosia’s tragic episode about. Looking into this vast abyss of arbitrariness can indeed be disturbing, for it seems to suggest that Zosia’s suffering, and all such suffering, is devoid of meaning. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons the blueprint worldview is attractive to many people despite its formidable problems. If the blueprint worldview is true—if everything happens for a reason—then we can rest assured that Zosia’s suffering, and all suffering, occurs for a good and wise purpose. Evil and suffering are not random and do not have the last word.

The longing for suffering to have a purpose is both understandable and legitimate. But if we remain confident that God is all knowing and infinitely wise, I don’t believe the blueprint worldview is our only means of having such peace. For although the innumerable free decisions that factored into Zosia’s suffering constitute an unfathomable abyss to us, they surely do not to God. To the contrary, if God is all knowing and infinitely intelligent, he foresaw from all eternity the possibility that every one of the innumerable free decisions that factored into Zosia’s torture might occur just as they did. Not only this, he must have foreseen every other possible way these free decisions might have gone. Indeed, he must have foreseen from eternity each and every possible decision that each and every possible free agent could ever make and how all these possible decisions could possibly interact with each other. And because his intelligence has no limits, God must have anticipated each and every one of these innumerable possibilities as though it was the only possibility he had to consider.

Some theologians have claimed that unless God foreknows the future as a domain of settled facts, he cannot guarantee that his plan will bring good out of evil.[17] While they don’t intend it, this claim actually insults God’s intelligence, for only a God of limited intelligence would be better prepared for one certain future as opposed to a myriad of possible ones. If we remain confident in God’s infinite intelligence, we can rest assured that God has an eternally prepared plan on how to bring good out of evil for each and every possible tragedy that could ever possibly come to pass. And we can be confident that this plan is as perfect as it would have been had the tragedy been specifically allowed by him for the very purpose of the good he plans to bring out of it, in case it occurs. We thus need not believe that evil events happen for a perfectly good and wise purpose in order to believe that evil events happen with a perfectly good and wise purpose. That is, specific tragedies don’t happen because they fit into an eternal divine plan, but God nevertheless has an eternally prepared plan for every specific tragedy that might ever possibly come to pass.

Thus, we do not need to accept that Zosia’s nightmare was part of a “frowning providence” concealing God’s “smiling face” and that God planned her torture for some greater purpose. I, for one, believe God wept as this arbitrary demonstration of demonic evil was being carried out. Yet I also believe that God, from before the creation of the world, had been preparing a contingency plan to redeem good out of this atrocity, just in case it tragically came to pass.

 

Editor’s Note: As a companion to Gregory A. Boyd’s essay on the randomness of evil, check out the creative writing piece “Things that Fall and Things that Stand,” which meditates on the same tragic bridge collapse that opens this piece.


[1] John Piper, “Putting My Daughter to Bed Two Hours After the Bridge Collapsed,” desiringGod, August 1, 2007, http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/putting-my-daughter-to-bed-two-hours-after-the-bridge-collapsed.

[2] Boyd, God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1997), chap. 1.

[3] Cowper, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/m/gmovesmw.htm.

[4] Although people who believe that everything is predetermined obviously advocate the strong version of the blueprint worldview, not everyone who believes God foreknows how humans and angels will behave is an advocate of the weak version of this blueprint. Some contemporary Arminians espouse what is often called “simple foreknowledge,” which is the view that although God eternally foreknows all that will come to pass, he does not possess the ability to do anything to alter it.

[5] This Scripture reference and all subsequent references are from the TNIV.

[6] The strong version of the blueprint worldview faces other philosophical challenges, such as the question of how humans and angels can be held morally responsible for engaging in evil acts that God predestines them to commit while, conversely, God is held to be all holy (and not morally responsible) for predestining them to do so.

[7] Boyd, God at War, 33–36.

[8] Ibid., passim.

[9] For a complete discussion of Jesus’s healing and deliverance ministry and how it undermines the blueprint worldview, see Boyd, God at War, chap. 6.

[10] To read more about Jesus treating this storm like a demon, see Boyd, God at War, 211. This is not to suggest that there is a specific demonic being behind every particular natural disaster but that were it not for the corrupting influence of demonic beings, nature would not afflict us the way it sometimes does. See Boyd, “Evolution as Cosmic Conflict,” in Creation Made Free: Science and Open Theology, ed. J. Oord (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2009), 125–45. See also S. Webb, The Dome of Eden: A New Solution to the Problem of Creation and Evolution (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2010), 147–52. I should note that many see John 9:1–3 as an example of Jesus affirming that God was involved in a man being born blind. Even if this is granted, it is the one exception to the otherwise uniform perspective of the Gospels and cannot be legitimately used to overturn this perspective. But I have elsewhere argued that this passage actually provides another example of Jesus rebuking people for speculating about God’s supposed role in people’s afflictions (God at War, 231–36).

[11] I say “almost uniformly” to account for those several instances in which Yahweh is said to “harden” someone’s heart, such as he did with Pharaoh (e.g., Exod. 9:12 and 10:20). Even here, however, I argue that Yahweh’s hardening is a disciplinary action taken in response to human sin, which originated in people’s own will, not God’s. It’s significant, for example, that Scripture says Pharaoh hardened his own heart before it says God hardened it (e.g., Exod. 8:15 and 8:32).

[12] I have explored these matters in detail in Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001), especially chaps. 2–6.

[13] Tatian, Address to the Greeks, 7, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, eds. A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979), 67.

[14] This is not to suggest that God can’t influence free agents to go this way and not go that way, so long as this influence stops short of taking away these agents’ God-given capacity to go this way or that way.

[15] For a more comprehensive and detailed fleshing out of issues surrounding this perspective, see Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil as well as Boyd, Is God to Blame: Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2003).

[16] See Boyd, Satan and Problem of Evil, chaps. 8–10. This is in no way to deny that humans frequently share responsibility for “natural” evils that afflict us, given that it is becoming abundantly clear that our free decisions affect our environment, for better or for worse, in a much more profound way than previous generations ever imagined.

[17] See for example, Bruce A. Ware, God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000); and John M. Frame, No Other God: A Response to Open Theism (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001). For fuller responses to this frequent claim, see Boyd, “Neo-Molinism and the Infinite Intelligence of God,” Philosophia Christi 5.1 (2003): 187–204; and “The Open Theism View,” in Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, eds. James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001), 13–47.

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Author:
Gregory A. Boyd :
Gregory A. Boyd is co-founder and senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood, Minnesota. For sixteen years, Boyd served as Professor of Theology at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he still teaches on occasion. He has authored or co-authored nineteen books, including Letters From a Skeptic (1994, with Ed Boyd), The Myth of a Christian Nation (2006), The Jesus Legend (2007, with Paul Eddy), and God at War (1997). Boyd and his wife live in community with several other families in St. Paul and have three grown children, five grandchildren, and an adorable dog named Max.
  • Katie

    Thank you for this.

  • Monica Brands

    What role does prayer play in this model? Is prayer a force that affects events in this world, or is it useless against random acts of evil?

    • kevinsawers

       I read Greg Boyd’s book ‘God at War’ a while back and I think Boyd would simply say that prayer is our main weapon against the powers of evil.  Look at all the prayers for healing and deliverance in the New Testament – they are addressed to the person (‘Be healed’, ‘Get up and walk’) or to the demonic powers (‘Get out of him’). 

      • Monica Brands

         Thanks – that’s helpful, I might have to check out that book. I think prayer is the are that confuses me the most in relationship to God’s sovereignty — why can we pray our hearts out and it does no good, etc.? Sometimes it seems easier to believe we’re helpless against forces of sickness and evil, but that also leaves God powerless, which of course isn’t right.

    • http://zackallen.me Zack Allen

      To me,

  • Mitch
  • http://www.reconcilingviewpoints.wordpress.com/ Dan McM

    Excellent post addressing a subject that is very difficult for people to wrap their minds around. (Initially typed “warped their minds around” which is not what I meant, but a lot of people do that too!)

    I read CS Lewis’ “The Problem of Pain” ~25 years ago and his position was something fairly similar: in order for the choices that people make to have real weight in terms of being “good” or “bad”, there had to be a real possibility that true suffering would occur. If free will is truly to be free will, God has to allow the existence of evil that can cause pain, even though that would never be in God’s nature to will or cause pain himself.

    A few months ago, I found myself debating in the comments section on a post where some folks that are proponents of “process theology” were arguing that we should not refer to God as omnipotent. The authors of that post insinuated that if God were omnipotent then he would truly be a despicable being for allowing the suffering that occurs in this world to go on, as though the suffering would actually be at his hand. (A number of commenters pointed out that the authors seemed to be equating belief in an omnipotent God with a Calvinist view of God, an equivalence which I think you and I would both disagree with.) 

    In my argument with those posters/commenters, I used a similar point to one you referred to here: I said that if God weren’t omnipotent, he couldn’t make the future “facts” that he’s promised (e.g., the no more tears prophecy in Revelation, etc.) come about. In other words, if God isn’t omnipotent because he can’t stop suffering now, how could he possibly end suffering as he has promised he would in Revelation?  Ergo, I do believe God is omnipotent.

    While I wouldn’t go so far as to say God foreknows the future as a set of settled facts, I do tend to think of it as though certain facts and events are settled, and God allows events to play out with some randomness as long as those random events don’t create a conflict with those certain settled facts and events.  

    However, even if
    I did believe that “God foreknows the future as a domain of settled
    facts”, I wouldn’t see that as a view that limits God’s intelligence.  Rather, I think a limitation occurs when we
    see God traveling through time with us. 

    What I’m saying
    is this: whether we see God as knowing exactly how all future events are going
    to play out or if we see him as knowing how the infinite possibilities could
    play out, in either case we are assuming that God is here in this moment with
    us, looking ahead to future events. In other words, we are assuming that God is
    traveling through time with us.

    The way I think
    of it (and discussed on my blog http://reconcilingviewpoints.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/we-do-not-understand-time-no-wonder-we-can%e2%80%99t-figure-out-eternity%e2%80%a6/) is that God is omnipresent in
    time as well as space – he is not passing through time with us, but is existent
    in the past, present and future simultaneously (for him).  Although God is infinitely intelligent, I don’t
    think he needs to use his infinite intelligence to look at every possible
    contingency from this point forward (though he could) because he is already in
    the future and knows which events will transpire. That doesn’t mean I think he
    controls each event as it transpires, but he is aware at this moment of the
    actual outcomes of all events past, present and future.   

    I completely agree with you
    on your conclusion regarding Zosia’s nightmarish experience, by the way: God
    didn’t plan her torture, and he would’ve wept as it happened, and he does/did
    have a plan to redeem good out of that evil event.

     

    • http://www.reconcilingviewpoints.wordpress.com/ Dan McM

      that link to my old post didn’t work. this one should: http://bit.ly/ooUXlb

    • Moses, We Hardly Knew Ye

      “If free will is truly to be free will, God has to allow the existence of evil that can cause pain, even though that would never be in God’s nature to will or cause pain himself.”

      This raises the question of whether free-will is good or evil. For, if free-will is evil, then we have evil for the sake of evil. Moreover, if free-will can be shown to have aided and abetted evil, then it would be hard to argue that free-will is anything more than a contingent good.

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  • Marty

    There are too many complexities glossed over for this article to be satisfying. What is God’s relationship to the creation, efficient causation, and so forth? Is God inside of time? If God is temporal, why wouldn’t he also be spatial? How can a metaphysically free action be ascribed to the agent who committed it? Why is metaphysical libertarianism necessary for love between God and human beings? Is God just another being, a supercreature, so that his agency and our agency operate on the same level, meaning that his agency is coercive when it fails to align with our own? Wouldn’t God’s embedding us in a context already be coercive then, since he has eliminated so many potential choices for us? If an earthquake that causes suffering in the present is identical to an earthquake that struck the same spot in a time before humans had settled it, would the first earthquake be unattributable to God (because it caused death and destruction) and the second one attributable to God (since it caused no harm, and allowed the crust of the earth to release accumulated tension)? And how is it conceivable to isolate God’s power from God’s wisdom – as though omnipotence in a traditional sense entails an unguided, nondirectional expression of power, without design? And if Christ censures those who would try to read meaning into suffering and evil, does he mean to say that it’s inappropriate to look for meaning because there is none at all, or that it’s inappropriate because it’s not for us to know (as with God’s rhetorical questions at the end of Job)? 

    While I understand that they exceed the scope of a single piece (obviously), some of the issues (especially related to agency!) are directly and even essentially relevant to what the author wants to argue for regarding God’s omnipotence and evil. The problem is that there are so many assumptions that need to be shared in order for the argument to achieve any purchase. Even the account of agency given is perfectly intelligible within a compatibilist framework, because it could be understood as saying a person is free when they are not being coerced by another person – or that they are free if they can deliberate between two courses of action, and choose one of them. Any compatibilist would say the same! Whether a person can thereby introduce something that breaks the causal chain is a wholly different question, one that remains untouched. Anyway, I dunno, I just don’t find much to recommend this perspective. It addresses some problems with traditional conceptions of sovereignty, evil, and agency, makes Christianity more humanistic (definitely attractive), but then seems to introduce a host of intractable new problems. 

    • http://zackallen.me Zack Allen

      Marty, I think you’ll find many of the answers to your questions in Boyd’s three-volume scholarly work on the subject:

      God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Warfare
      http://www.gregboyd.org/books/god-at-war-the-bible-spiritual-conflict/

      Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy
      http://www.gregboyd.org/books/satan-the-problem-of-evil-constructing-a-trinitarian-warfare-theodicy/

      and the forthcoming “The Myth of the Blueprint”
      http://www.gregboyd.org/popular/where-are-you-at-with-the-book-the-myth-of-the-blueprint/

      Blessings.

    • Monica

      Thanks for articulating beautifully for me a vague sense of dissatisfaction with this article that I couldn’t quite explain.

    • Danny

      Hi Marty- most of the ins and outs of these philosophical issues are addressed in Boyd’s “Satan and the Problem of Evil,” of which this article is an *extremely* brief summary (along with its prequel, “God at War”). His doctorate is in philosophical theology, and the books are very thorough (which, of course, doesn’t mean that he is always 100% right about everything).
      The book(s) don’t argue that we are absolutely, totally free to do whatever–within the parameters that God has established (putting us in the “context”, as you said, of this universe and the place we’re born), we are free to choose for God or for the enemy or ourselves, and we have a certain degree of say-so concerning the happenings in the world (which he cannot revoke until our power to influence has run its course, so to speak–a process that he explains in depth).
      The difference between his perspective and the compatibilist is that his view sees free will as being incompatible with God foreknowing our actions. The compatibilist says that we are free to choose but that God knows the outcome– Boyd denies that.
      Love and freedom– well, to me it just makes sense. You can program or coerce someone to love you, but how will that be satisfying? I think in this we have to remember that love is something that you can exactly pick apart and  explain with precise philosophical arguments. You just have to think of your own experiences.
      His argument concerning Job basically says that God is telling Job that the reasons behind why God can’t stop his suffering (or ours) all the time  are due to the complexity and corruption of creation and hostile agents, not due to some secret plan of God’s.
      I hope that helps, man. Just throwing a couple of quick responses off the top of my head. I’m no philosopher. Keep asking questions, read those books, or in the meantime look at Dr. Boyd’s site (his Q/A and Essay sections address a lot of these questions, though also in condensed form sometimes). For me, while this explanation still leaves a couple of questions, it is WAY less problematic than the other traditional understandings and doesn’t attribute any ambiguous moral character to God. God doesn’t secretly wish rape and torture and genocide.
      I love you, friend.

      • Danny

        OOPS–what I meant was, Love ISN’T something that we can pick apart with precise arguments and logic.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/donald.b.johnson Donald Byron Johnson

    I really like your thoughts on this sensitive subject, there were concise yet well thought out.   There is one
    aspect you did not discuss so I am not sure whether this aspect is addressed in your larger works and that is that God is a covenant maker and keeper, the latter is crucial as it means that God constrains Godself to ensure that any covenants God makes are kept.

  • Amarch

    Greg, you say, “Given that Jesus is the one and only perfect revelation of God (e.g., Heb. 1:3), our understanding of God’s conflict with opposing forces should be based primarily on his ministry. Jesus spent his entire ministry among people who in one way or another were suffering. Yet he never once suggested that their suffering was “for a reason.” Never do we find any suggestion that people’s afflictions somehow fit into a grand divine plan.”

    What about John 9:3? Thanks for any help.

    • Amarch

      Just saw footnote 10. Thanks for the note. Please disregard the question.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Stephen-Klopfenstein/500870412 Stephen Klopfenstein

    My greatest issue with this is the assumption of “perfect” free will. It does not address how God clearly can/ and does at times, intervene in human free will. For instance when God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, or turning Balaam’s curse into blessing, etc. It’s nice to think that God might have no hand in evil, but in all reality, He very well could intervene, He has before – He’s omnipotent as well as all-wise – but He does not… free will is hardly as cut and dry as presented in this article, and does not fully deal with the problem of evil as a result. I agree that God’s will may not be for atrocities, but His will is completed through them as well as through the good things, and that is where the true peace lies. 

    Regardless of whether it is the result of absolute free will or the “permission” of God, His will and plan of salvation and for His Kingdom is at work in all occurrences. The problem with evil occurrences is not with whether God is allowing them or not, it is in our own limited perspective that they are the point at all. The point is God. And that this earthly life and its happenings are  but a vapor in our eternal existence in relationship with God. 

  • http://twitter.com/LucasKnisely Lucas Knisely

    I’m going to attempt to engage with what I see as the foundational sections/ideas of the article, and the quotes that encapsulate them.

    “But does this perspective tell the whole story? There are both philosophical and biblical reasons to think not. The main philosophical challenge to the weak version of the blueprint worldview concerns the problem of evil.[6] While there is little difficulty accepting that God may sometimes have a specific reason for allowing a particular evil event to take place, it is challenging to accept that this is the case for each and every evil event. Some events manifest a depth of evil for which it seems almost obscene to suppose they happened for a divine reason.”

    It should be noted that Boyd does not offer a philosophical problem, but an emotional problem. His story about Zosia and the removal of her eyes by the Nazis is incredibly troubling. It is not, however, a philosophical point, but rather it is an emotional one. He simply paints a heart wrenching picture to draw the conclusion that such a thing is “obscene” if God is the one who brought it about. His emotional point actually creates a philosophical problem. If God were not in control of that situation, it means He were either unable to intervene or apathetic toward her plight. One would expect, since he claimed, “There are both philosophical and biblical reasons to think not.”, that in this section he would have provided philosophical reasons. He simply fails to step on to the philosophical plain, and only puts forth an emotional argument. He seems to expect us to be emotionally troubled by his story in the hopes that we become philosophically opposed to God doing it.

    “There are biblical grounds for believing that the infinitely wise God always finds a way to use the evil he battles to further his sovereign purposes, but nowhere in this central biblical motif do we find the slightest hint that the battle itself was allowed, let alone willed, for a specific higher purpose.”

    This may or may not be true with respect to the language surrounding all of the battles fought (I have honestly not studied it). But Isaiah 45 paints a clear picture and uses broad language which encapsulates any battles ever fought. Isaiah 45 is omitted from this article, which is unfortunate, because it uses the clearest language in all of Scripture with respect to God’s sovereignty and evil.

    I am the LORD, and there is no other,
    besides me there is no God;
    I equip you, though you do not know me,
    that people may know, from the rising of the sun
    and from the west, that there is none besides me;
    I am the LORD, and there is no other.
    I form light and create darkness,
    I make well-being and create calamity,
    I am the LORD, who does all these things.
    (Isaiah 45:5-7 ESV)

    Broad categories are used, not specific or narrow words; light, darkness, well-being, calamity. Furthermore, the stronger verb is used when connected to darkness and calamity (ie: create versus form/make). This stands in direct opposition to the claim that there are “biblical reasons to think not” with respect to God controlling all evil things.

    Isaiah gives us a foundational truth that counters Boyd’s statement, and then in Exodus, we have a specific example that counters Boyd as well. Exodus 9:16 refutes the claim that God never allowed something evil for a higher purpose.

    But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.
    (Exodus 9:16 ESV)

    An evil ruler, Pharaoh, is raised up for the greater purpose of God’s power being shown and His name being proclaimed to all the earth. If Boyd wants to retort that this was a specific intervention, he need only read the above passage in Isaiah to see God clearly claiming he does all these things (foundational truth). Furthermore, Boyd baldly claims that there is not even the “slightest hint” that God allows any battles for a “specific higher purpose”. Exodus 9:16 clearly stands in direct opposition to this claim. If Boyd would respond that he was specifically talking about battles and wars, it would undercut his overarching point that God does not ordain evil and suffering. If he specifies that this is only true of battles and wars, then his entire argument falls apart. One must assume then, that his point about battles is one from which he wants to draw a broad principle. This allows for Exodus 9:16 to be used as a refutation of his point. It could be argued, however, that what Pharaoh did to Israel had all the working parts of a war (evil, oppression, death, persecution, etc.)

    Furthermore, like the above point already dealt with, his argument creates far reaching problems. If God is not governing these wars and evil rulers to bring about His purposes, then he is merely reacting to them. How does this allow for God’s plan and purposes to come about? (He quips such a question insults the intelligence of God, and points to God’s plan… but a plan is not a reaction, which leaves him in a philosophically contradictory position) Is God truly omniscient and omnipotent if He is merely responding to evil actions? Foundationally, Boyd’s view makes man sovereign, governing and dictating what God must respond to.

    Jesus spent his entire ministry among people who in one way or another were suffering. Yet he never once suggested that their suffering was “for a reason.” Never do we find any suggestion that people’s afflictions somehow fit into a grand divine plan.

    This is just one more claim that need only be refuted with one clear example. In John 9, the disciples see a blind man and assume his blindness is punishment for sin. Jesus corrects this by claiming it was “for a reason”.

    As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
    (John 9:1-3 ESV)

    Here we have another clear example in Scripture that refutes the bald claim that Jesus “never once suggested that their suffering was ‘for a reason’”, or that their, “afflictions somehow fit into a grand divine plan”. It is difficult, at this point, to take the article seriously when such clear passages are ignored while dogmatic absolutist statements are put forth. Words like “never” and “slightest hint” are just charged rhetoric that, upon searching the scriptures, are unfounded. This passage in John 9 undercuts his entire section entitled “Problems with Scripture” where he goes on to impose the “blueprint” view on people who assumed God was punishing people who suffered or died. Jesus clearly corrects that line of thinking with the disciples in John 9 by stating that it was so “the works of God might be displayed in him”. This means every other situation cited by Boyd where people thought God was punishing those who suffered has it’s correction (in part) in the John 9 passage, showing that God is in control and has ultimate purposes in place. The following quote is a clear example of his imposition of the blueprint view and his failure to understand Jesus’ correction…

    Along the same lines, in response to this crowd’s blueprint belief that God was somehow behind a natural disaster involving a tower that collapsed and killed eighteen people in Siloam, Jesus asked, “Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you no!”

    Jesus does not say, “Do you think God was in control of this? I tell you no!” His correction actually assumes God is in control. Asking them if they thought the people were more guilty than others assumes that God is the one who brought about their death. If God was not the one who brought it about then Jesus’ question makes no sense. Jesus corrects their transactional view of God, and points them to repent or they will likewise perish. He parallels those who died a physical death with the coming judgment of God which keeps the view of God orchestrating their deaths in tact. Boyd imposing his “blueprint” view is just blatant eisegesis. He wants the text to mean something that it very plainly does not. It does violence to the grammatical structure of Jesus’ parallel. Saying you will “likewise perish” means you will perish in the same way. So if the people do not repent they will be destroyed in a similar way. If it wasn’t God who brought about their physical destruction, why would Jesus parallel it to the coming judgment of God? The entire passage breaks down under the weight of Boyd’s eisegesis.

    Lastly, in his section about the Bible, Boyd has this to say…

    Finally, just as there is no suggestion in Scripture that there is a divine purpose behind God’s conflict with spiritual opponents, so too we find no hint of a divine purpose behind God’s conflict with rebellious humans.

    Again, note the grand standing rhetoric: “no hint of a divine purpose”. He actually makes it very easy to refute his claims because he chisels down all that is needed to be found to refute his claim. All we have to do is find a hint of divine purpose.

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
    (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)

    This is more than a hint. This is a clear declaration that before the world was even created, God’s people were chosen, and all this was done according to the purpose of God’s will. This is explicit divine purpose with respect to the great “conflict with rebellious humans”. Again, one must wonder why he uses such strong language when so many clear passages stand in direct refutation of his claims. This type of hyperbolic rhetoric comes across as a grand standing illusion of strength to disguise a weak argument. This passage in Ephesians also refutes the idea that God is just constantly reacting to evil. Why would he chose His people before the foundation of the world if there was not yet a need to be chosen for salvation?

    When discussing “free will”, Boyd had the following to say…

    If this understanding of free will is accepted, we can begin to see why God cannot prevent certain events, despite the fact that he is all-powerful and despite the fact that he would like to do so.

    This sort of language, when read slowly and truly considered, should be seen to dismantle the entire theological and biblical concepts of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty. The phrase “despite the fact” indicates that man’s free will holds great strength over God, preventing Him from doing what He wants. As has already been pointed out, Boyd’s position makes man sovereign and places God in an ever present state of reaction. The example he provides in “Charlie” completely ignores God’s two wills: His will of command and will of decree, which is a way of seeing how the bible speaks of God’s will in two different and distinct ways. For the sake of brevity: God’s will of command is for man not to murder (Exodus 20:13), but God’s will of decree clearly includes murder because His plan of redemption hinged on Christ being murdered (Ephesians 1:3-6). Boyd’s view simply does not account for the nuances and distinctions in Scripture with respect to the will of God.

    He concludes this article by putting forth that he thinks God wept as the young girl had her eyes removed by the Nazis. What a treacherous and scary world to live in. One where evil men do as they please while a helpless God sits weeping as they carry out their free wills.

    • http://www.facebook.com/freethinker321 Bill Wilson

      You’re wrong in calling this an emotional problem rather than a philosophical one. The objection based on the problem of evil still holds, even when it also carried powerful emotional import with it. You’re guilty of the black/white fallacy.

      Regarding this comment:

      “The phrase “despite the fact” indicates that man’s free will holds great strength over God, preventing Him from doing what He wants. As has already been pointed out, Boyd’s position makes man sovereign and places God in an ever present state of reaction.”

      Jesus says:

      “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” – Luke 13:34

      The meaning of the verse is clear to those without a theological agenda: God’s will was counteracted by the actions of human beings. If you don’t like that, then I would submit that you are the one trying to impose his will on God, demanding that God act in a way that fits your notions of what a deity should be like.

      Re: you last comment, I can think of an even scarier world: where a God perfectly capable of stopping those evil men chose not to do so.

      http://www.leavingtheflock.com

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  • Jeremy

    I agree mostly with what Greg Boyd writes here.  I don’t understand completely though, how his view is inconsistent with a soft-blueprint view (besides the knowing the future part which would be in conflict with Greg Boyd’s openness theology).  Characterizing the soft-blueprint view that he says he will disprove, he says, “From this it seems to follow that everything that happens does so because God wanted it to happen, or at least God did not want to prevent it from happening. And if God is perfectly good and perfectly wise, as all orthodox Christians believe, it also seems to follow that God has a perfectly good and wise reason for why he chose to bring about every specific thing that happens or at least for why he chose not to prevent every specific thing that happens. And so, whether God specifically willed it or specifically allowed it, everything happens for a reason.”  But doesn’t Greg Boyd’s argument boil down to God having a perfectly good and wise reason for not preventing evil things, namely that God wants a universe where people truly have free will?  Doesn’t his view end up also saying that God specifically allows everything but just maybe for a slightly different reason (i.e. allowing people to have truly free wills that can choose to either love God or not, to either do evil or good)?

    Also, Greg Boyd says, “If this understanding of free will is accepted, we can begin to see why God cannot prevent certain events, despite the fact that he is all-powerful and despite the fact that he would like to do so.”  Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but doesn’t Greg Boyd’s position also end up being that God doesn’t want to prevent evil events?  Or at least, that he wants to prevent evil events on one level, but his desire to have a universe where true love based on free will is possible is greater than his desire to remove free will and prevent evil.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/exbattery Pap Zsolt

    If free will means that I can decide what to choose (good or evil) than how could work free will in heaven? In heaven I won’t be able to chose evil because there won’t be evil. Or there’re won’t be evil because nobody will choose it? Hmmm..

  • RsquaredComicz

    Wow, this was a very interesting and thought-provoking piece. I think the distinction between saying that “all evil things happen for a reason” and “God can work all evil things out for good” is essential. I also think that there are some scriptures (as the various other people who have commented have pointed out) that appear to support the “reason” interpretation, and some that appear to support the “works out” interpretation. I think this is but one of many examples of issues that we can interpret differently depending on which scriptures we focus on. Furthermore, I think things get even more messy when we consider the differences between humans’ relationship with and orientation towards God (and vice versa) in the OT and in the NT, and how much Jesus’ arrival to earth changed things.

    All this to say that while I do agree with the gist of Boyd’s argument (that free will is key, and that through it we can oppose God’s will in ways that hurt and grieve Him), I think it’s important for us to keep in mind that his perspective on this issue is just that, and the same goes for any other perspective on this issue. Regardless of where one sides in terms of “reason” or “works out,” in my opinion it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and as the only way to God. Anything aside from that, we can lovingly agree to disagree on.

    In Christ,

    Justin
    http://www.rsquaredcomicz.com

    • RsquaredComicz

      Also this is more of a matter of semantics, but I wouldn’t say that God can’t do certain things, but that He won’t do certain things because of the importance He attributes to free will, and in particular to us freely choosing to love Him. But if God wanted to, He could turn this whole thing upside down, lol!

  • Eddie R.

    It’s hard to learn compassion unless there’s a need for compassion. It’s hard to develop patience unless there is some pressing issue.

    You have to be able to choose your behavior in order to grow.

    It has nothing to do with the ability or inability of God to make things happen or whether he has a direct causal reason for something. Job’s story may well be instructive here. God does the “hands off” approach for a reason. That reason is you.

    Even though God is “all good, all the time,” part of that goodness is offering you the chance to grow into that goodness. He does not compel you; you get to choose.

    So does your neighbor, and the terrorist, and the building contractor.

    As God said, “were you there when I created all that is?”

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