Questions from the Street: “If God Already Knew How Bad …, Why Did He Even …?”

Mark Wheeler

Father’s Day, June 15, 2014

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

I Samuel 15:11, 35                                                                                                            

Questions from the Street: “If God Already Knew How Bad …, Why Did He Even …?”

Mighty God, You have delivered us from sin’s captivity and freed us from the powers of death through Jesus Christ, our risen and ascended Lord. Inspire now our songs of extravagant praise until all the world knows that You alone are Savior and Redeemer. Amen.

I have this terrible ability to always pick the slowest check-out lane. When someone stands in line behind me, I almost automatically apologize for how long it will take them to get thru – not because I have some complicated transaction to make, but simply because I am standing in that line!

It has come to the point of me just picking any cashier, because I know it will be slow. All the other lanes will start to rush thru each customer, just because I’m not in one of those lines.

So, when I’m with someone, I might confess, “I know this will be the slowest lane, but this is where I’m going.” “Why? Why not go the next line?

          “Because if I moved over, than that would be the slowest line!

We are in a series addressing questions people off the street might ask. We have been blessed to get some excellent questions from some of your friends and neighbors. Today’s question comes from a church-attender – but not this church. I agreed to see if I could answer it because it is such a great question. The question asked was “If God already knew how sinful humans would be, why did He bother creating them?

Behind this question stands the Reformed theological belief that God is omniscient (all-KNOWING).

So, if God knew, before He created Adam and Eve, that they would sin and turn away from Him, why did He even bother?

And that question can be extrapolated out to probably every story in the Bible. If God knew Cain would kill Abel, if God knew humans all over the earth would have only evil in their hearts (see the Noah story), if God knew that Noah’s descendants would build the Tower of Babel, if God already knew that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, if God knew Abram would sleep with Hagar, if God knew the new Israelite nation would rebel and turn away from God – even against God … why did He bother to create, to rescue, to call, to establish? Why did God bother?

Or, maybe God did not know, maybe He does not know what He’s doing. What do you think?

Those are solid questions! Let’s see if I can come close to approaching a way to address this question. A month ago, one of you said something to me about how much you have appreciate my “entertaining” these kinds of questions; and I picked on her for saying that I only “entertain” the questions, but don’t really “answer” them. I know what she was truly saying, but I think “entertain” might be the correct word for this particular question. Let’s see if I can dance a little soft shoe around this question.

I invite you to look with me at a specific instance in the Bible where one might wonder, what was God thinking? “If God already knew how bad …, why did He even …?” Listen to the Word of God, I Samuel 15:11 &35 …. —-

11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night….

35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.

This is one specific instance to illustrate that God did something that He knew would end badly – God chose Saul to be the first king of Israel, even though God knows all things – any honest examination of the whole of the Bible reveals that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Creator of heaven and earth, knew from the beginning how things would unfold; that is undeniable from the very first stories which offer promises of the Savior who would arrive in the form of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying n a manger several thousand years later – and God knew that Saul would rebel against God and lead His people away from God. David was the rightful king all along, but Saul was anointed first. Why?

Perhaps the larger question behind any single example of people failing to carry out God’s purposes is, “Why would God create the world in the first place if He knew that evil would enter the world, people would sin and terrible things would happen?

This question is related to the questionwe addressed two weeks ago, “Does God ever change His mind?” The answer we discovered was, “Yes, but only because God’s CHARACTER, His nature, never changes.”

What is the character of God that is revealed when evil or rebellion is experienced? [Opportunity for shout-outs. Maybe “grace”, “mercy”, “freedom”, “sovereignty”.]

This whole topic opens into a debate of FREE-WILL versus PREDESTINATION. I know that we have some strong philosophies of God’s sovereign predestinational prerogative – and it is soundly grounded in Scripture. But, God, in His ways which are not our ways, in His wisdom which is beyond our understanding, holds us in tension to also being responsible for the choices we make; that is, we have free will, too.

Norman Geisler argues that a free world where no one sins or even a free world where everyone sins and then gets saved is conceivable, but it may not be achievable. As long as everyone is really free, it is always possible that someone will refuse to do the good.

Of course, God could force everyone to do good, but then we would not be free. Forced freedom is not freedom at all. Since God is love, He cannot force Himself on anyone against their will. Forced love is not love; it is [violence]. … Love must work persuasively but not coercively.

Hence, in every conceivable free world someone would choose to do evil, so a perfect evil-free world may not be possible.

Why would God allow evil that He knows is going to happen? Here’s a weird tension that exists in reality. If evil is not permitted, then it cannot be defeated! The Seattle Mariners will never win another game unless both the Mariners and their opponents show up at the stadium.

God may have permitted evil in order to defeat it. If evil is not allowed, then the higher virtues cannot be attained. No pain, no gain. Tribulation works into patience. There is no way to experience the joy of forgiveness without allowing the fall into sin.

That is not to condone or endorse or encourage sin, Paul says in Romans 5:20-6:2, “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?

So, a world where evil is absent would not be the best world achievable. While a world where sin does not occur is theoretically conceivable, it would be morally inferior.

Some people may think they would prefer it if God had never created the world in the first place. Why risk the possibility of evil?

Others may wish that God had not created people with the freedom to sin rather than to love and obey Him. Why risk the possibility of rebellion?

Still others may wish that God would simply rid the world of all the evil people so that only the good ones who never go against God’s will are left – Ila Vista, CA, shootings; SPU shootings; HS in Troutdale, OR, shootings; STA stabbing. Why let bad people live among all the good ones who always only do things the way God wants them done? Follow-up question: who among us would be left?

In any of these idealized cases, such preferences negate the possibility of the “wisher’s” own existence. I would wish myself out of existence.

Why would/should God bother with our freedom to make bad choices? Because God’s character proves that there is always HIS WAY. Jesus said, John 14:7, “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The challenge for us – for us fathers (of any age), and also for us followers of Jesus of any gender – is to seek God’s glory and discover God’s grace, even in, especially in, the bad/evil outcomes of life’s events. And to commit ourselves, and to train our loved ones, to follow Jesus; and to experience God’s grace in brand new ways; and the trust that in God’s perfect foreknowledge – He will see us through even the slowest of lines and the most difficult of results.

Mighty God, You have delivered us from sin’s captivity and freed us from the powers of death through Jesus Christ, our risen and ascended Lord. Inspire now our songs of extravagant praise until all the world knows that You alone are Savior and Redeemer. Amen.

Resources:

Burchard, Kenny; God Sometimes Changes His Mind (But Only Because He Never Changes); ChurchLeaders.com; 05/20/2014.

Geisler, Norman; The Avoidability of Evil”; Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics; Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI; 1999.

Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Grand Rapids, MI; 2012; P. 415-417.

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