Part one of the series: “How Reasoning Reinforces My Faith”
God doesn’t create inquisitive minds just to disappoint them. Answers are in the Bible if you are willing to think. This series is about how, once I began to think about the Bible, logically and analytically, my faith was made stronger as I became convinced that the Bible is practical, coherent, consistent, and profound. I have ordered this series in such a way that the most common and fundamental questions are first. The focus becomes more and more narrow as you read through the series.
As I write this, I have one person in mind. You know who you are. I claim that logic and reasoning strengthen my faith, but let me just say from the beginning that the Bible doesn’t work logically. You can’t just convince somebody to believe in the Bible. God just doesn’t work like that. In fact, to the person to whom I am writing, I probably won't convince you of anything. The truth is, though I may think I am writing to you, in actuality I am writing to some unsuspecting stranger in Guam who stumbled across my blog after a web search for "games like Carcassonne". She will think she likes my style of writing, but this is not true. In a vacuum, she would dislike just about everything else I've written. The reason she will read is because for one day in this beautiful universe, I was the one who somehow came up with precisely the right words to deliver what she needed to hear and then posted it on the Internet at the exact moment when she went looking for it.
That is how God works.
So to the person I think I am writing to, I think it would be great if my writing sheds light on issues you've grappled with. If it falls flat and you learn only one thing, I want you to know that I never claimed that a logical explanation was all you need. But maybe this will serve as a signpost to you, a landmark in your search for the moment when everything clicks. When that happens, and you look back on everything it took to get you there, I promise all logic and reasoning will prove it was the only way it could have happened.
Why would an all-powerful, good and perfect God create humanity with free will?
This question and its variations needs no introduction. I have spent a huge amount of time on the matter myself, but as I was attempting to condense my understanding into something more concise, I realized something. When asked, we always use the term “free will,” but this is not a Biblical term. We impose this term on the Bible. Sure, we impose a lot of terms. As an example, the word “trinity” isn’t in the Bible, yet its meaning is Biblical. I don’t think that is the case with the term “free will.” You may as well be asking, “Why isn’t the alphabet in ‘numerical’ order?” because if we think “free” will implies something completely independent from God, we have no such thing. Biblically, our will is, without question, intrinsically intertwined with and dependent on God, even while we make our “own” choices.
When I think about what I consider my “free” will, it helps to remind myself that I am created in God’s image and am a physical extension of himself. If I will for something truly good, then it is truly God's will. It's like a decision he makes through me and is as much God’s as it is mine.
Similarly, when I choose wrong, it is because I fail to align myself with God's will. From everything I've read in the Bible, it seems my ability to choose wrong is not because God controls me, but because I have a little bit of degenerate godliness in me, stemming from my pride and my desire to prove that I "know better". It is not necessary to read far into the Bible to find evidence of this:
Genesis 3:5-6 (emphasis added)
"When you eat from [the fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.”
Notice two things : (1) our sin comes from believing that choosing makes us like God. (2) our sin comes from believing, when it comes to knowing what is best for ourselves, we know better than God or, if God knows what is good for us, he is holding out on us. (3) Eating the fruit didn't actually cause us to gain new knowledge, as we could already determine the fruit was “good.”
Therefore, the moment we "ate of the fruit" we didn't gain knowledge, but we began to decide for ourselves how to act on our knowledge.
Instead of thinking of "free will", I think it is more accurate to think about the existence of two wills, "God's will" and "my will". My will is "free" but incapable of goodness. Alternatively, I might say that my will is good, but only when it is aligned with God’s will. At such a time, there is no differentiating between God’s will and my own, it is in that moment when I am expressing the image of God in me. When I think this way, the Bible starts to make more sense and suddenly what once seemed like a contradiction dissolves. Below is a list of Bible verses to serve as an example. You can hover over each one to see the associated text.
In the next part of this series, I will discuss why God created a tree of good and evil in the first place and the purpose of our existence.