A common objection from skeptics of Christianity is why did God create people that went so bad? If sin is real, why create people who are susceptible to sin? Secondly, moving beyond the human creation to the physical creation, why did God create a world where there is so much pain and suffering? In this sense, why did God create a world where disease, floods, famine, and other catastrophes occur? In the next two articles, I’ll zoom in on these important questions. In both objections, the skeptic is declaring that God did a poor job in both the human creation in the moral law and a bad job in the material creation of the physical laws. While I’m not God and don’t fully know the answer to these questions, I will give a reasonable response to both objections through the lens of philosophy, science, and the full Christian story.
The first question to explore is why did God create creatures he knew would go wrong? When we say the words “right” and “wrong,” “good and “bad” we are describing a moral law of how one ought to behave. So, if there is a moral law, there must be a moral law giver. If there is an objective, binding, sense of morality that we all have, it must have come from an objective, transcendent, binding, authoritative source. This source is God. Therefore, God created the moral law to guide people on how to behave. But why is it that people repeatedly break the moral law that God created? So, why did God create bad people that break his moral law? To understand this question, one needs to know who God is. First, we see that God is love (see 1 John 4:8). Second, we know that love must be free. You can’t force someone to love you, and no one can force you to love someone. That would not be love but fear. So, love by definition has to be free just like triangles by definition have to have three sides. Therefore, God’s creation in his image and likeness would have to have free will or free choice.
God could have created human beings that were programmed a certain way always to do good. However, in this creation choice and love do not exist. Suppose a person had a perfect programmed wife. He goes up to the door, and he selects a button that indicates hug. Then, she gives him a hug. However, this is not love as for love to exist there needs to be a free choice; not a programmed response. To have a free choice, there must exist a possibility to reject this love of God. As C. S. Lewis sums up, “God created things which had free will. That means creatures can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a free creature but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot.” To say God could have created a free creature that had no possibility of choosing wrong is akin to saying God could make a one ended stick, or a four-sided triangle. For a person to be free and programmed always to be good at the same time is a logical contradiction. Therefore, God’s creation must have free choice embedded in it. Human evil comes in when that person selects the wrong choice from this very free will God gave them. So, it is the person’s wrong choice that caused the problem of sin and evil, not God. In other words, it is not the giver of free will (God) that is responsible for bad actions by people. It is the user of free will (the person) that is responsible. If someone caused a bad car accident, it would not make sense for the user of the car (the driver) to blame the giver of the car (Ford Motor Co.) for the accident. However, the skeptic will now interrupt with the protest, “Yes, but God knew people would make bad choices. Therefore, God is still on the hook.” C.S. Lewis replies to this objection:
“Apparently He [God] thought it worth the risk. Perhaps we feel inclined to disagree with Him. But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes. You could not be right and He cannot be wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source. When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting of the branch you are sitting on.”
In other words, Lewis suggests rather wisely that chances are God knows more than people in reasoning that creating free creatures in which some go bad is worth the risk. Because God created time, that means God stands outside of time. Therefore God’s foreknowledge of a bad decision in time in no way allows a person in time to make a better judgment of the one who is beyond time. Simply put, the author, God, knows the end of the story better than the character in the middle of the story. To build off this common objection, I will suggest an additional reason why God created with knowledge that his creation would go bad. To fully answer this one has to come back to the fundamental point that God is love, and love is a free choice. Therefore, love and free will are a package deal. Now, people have a grasp at what choice is however, most people today do not understand what love is. This is where the confusion lies. People tend to think of love as some sort of warm and fuzzy feeling. Love is not primarily a feeling, but an act of the will. As Thomas Aquinas stated, “Love is to will the good of the other” (Summa Theologica Vol. II 26, 4). Love states – how can I use myself to serve the other. Therefore, in love, there is nothing in it for God. God did not create people so he can get something out of it. God does not exist for the sake of himself. So, God is not interested in creating people so he can get them to do what he says. In fact, God created mankind and knew fully that his creation would one day kill him. Nevertheless, God created anyway. That is love – to give up the self for the good of the other. Indeed, when Paul famously talked about love he said that love is “not self-seeking” (see 1 Corinthians 13:5). Love goes beyond the question of “what’s in it for me” and instead asks “what is in it for the other.” So, having knowledge that his creation will turn on him and kill him, God didn’t care. He didn’t care because being love God is fixed on the good of the other, not himself.
To understand the objection of why did God create people he knew would go wrong, you can look at the example of Judas. Why would God create Judas when Jesus said, “It would have been better for him not to be born” (Matthew 26:24). Well, God’s knowledge of how a person uses their free will cannot coincide with God’s ability to create or not create. Because if God’s knowledge played a role, then God would not have created free creatures but only those creatures who respond the way God wanted them to respond. Free choice is that person’s response, and God’s knowledge of that response cannot be a prerequisite in God’s decision to create. In other words, God cannot say he will only create if this person chooses wisely. This is not love. Therefore, God cannot do this. Love creates and love cannot create with strings attached in how a person uses their free choice. I recently saw this played out as I held my newborn baby. I recall thinking that this baby can grow up to reject me and hate me. However, this is the risk you take as a parent because you know that the possibility of love and relationship far outweigh the possibility of rejection. Additionally, as a parent my decision to have a new child shouldn’t come with fine print – I will create a child given only that child listens to me and is good. If parents made their decision on only having kids that are good and listen, than very few parents would actually have kids.
Furthermore, God’s knowledge of our abuse of free will needs to be properly understood from God’s perspective, not our perspective. Since God created time, that means that God stands outside of time because a creator is not bound by his creation. Therefore, God’s concept of knowledge is different than the human concept of knowledge because God is outside of time. It is hard for many to reconcile the idea of “free will” with God’s foreknowledge of future events. This is mainly due to people’s limited experience of going through time in a linear fashion. If God exists outside of time, since he created everything before time began, then people can understand that God sees every moment in time as the present. People experience time in a linear way. Namely, people see time as a straight line, and they pass from one point gradually to another, remembering the past, but unable to see the future they are approaching. However, God, being the eternal Creator of the construct of time, is not in time but outside of it. It might help to think of time as a circle with God being the center and therefore equally close to all points in time.
At this point, the skeptic’s objection has been thoroughly answered. Choice is necessary to make a creation built on the Creators’ image of love. Choice and love is as far as God takes his creation. How God’s creation responds to this free choice is decided if the creation trust God or themselves more. Therefore, breaking the moral law is the result of the decision of that person. This fact is not on God but on that person. One need not blame God for the Holocaust; blame Hitler. As Lewis sums up, “Man is a horror . . . not because God made him so but because he [man] has made himself so by the abuse of his free will.”
In the next article, I will tackle the more pressing question of why did God create physical laws that bring us death and destruction. For now, the skeptic must understand that God’s creation of people with free will far outweighs the possibility that his creation will abuse that free will. When push comes to shove even the most ardent skeptic lives by this theory. Would people prefer to live in (option 1) a perfect world where they didn’t have free will over (option 2) an imperfect world where they do have free will? Most people I’ve asked this question prefer option two over option one. By the way – in a world that was perfect in which you didn’t have free will, all your thoughts would be programmed. So, ironically in this world, you wouldn’t even know it was a perfect world.
Moreover, since love and choice go hand in hand, ask yourself this question – would you rather live in tropical Hawaii without love, or live in bland Nebraska with love? While Nebraska pales in comparison to Hawaii, when you inject love into one and away from the other, suddenly the tables turn. Given that love and choice are always the preferred preference, we instinctively crave them as they are hardwired into our existence.
At the end of the day, thank God for giving you free will. As you appreciate free will, you will, in turn, appreciate the entity that gave you this free will – God.