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If God Knew…?

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Here’s a question I get a lot:

My daughter asked if God knows everything and knew that Adam and Eve were going to sin, breaking our relationship with him, then why did he create man?  Thanks for helping me with this one.

Here’s my take on this tough question:

1.  God is maximally good

Everything about God is what we call maximal.  That just means that God isn’t a little knowledgeable or a little powerful but as completely knowledgeable and as completely powerful as possible.  We use words like “omniscient” to mean that God knows everything and “omnipotent” to say that God is all powerful.   Whatever is true of God is true of Him to the maximum possible degree.  Consequently, we also know that God because God is good, He is “omnibenevolent” which just means that He is all good.

2.  God seeks maximum good

Because of #1, it is also true that whatever God seeks, He seeks to the maximum possible degree.  Since He is all good, He always seeks good and since He is maximal, He seeks the maximum possible good.  He is never content with some good when there it is possible to achieve a greater good.

3.  Whatever God does must result in the long-term maximum possible good

Therefore, whatever God does or allows, He does  because it ultimately results in the maximum possible good.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that any particular thing which God allows to happen is good in and of itself, like accidents or human sin.  We have to take the long view, as when we give a child a vaccine shot which is painful and scary (both not-good things) but which keeps them from getting a life-threatening disease later on.  We can’t always know how any given thing will result in the maximum possible good, but we can know with confidence that it will, because God is maximally good and seeks the maximum possible good for His creation.

So, if God knew Adam and Eve would sin, but created them with the ability to sin anyways, we can say with certainty that He did so because it would result in the maximum possible good over the course of all eternity.  It may not be possible for us to understand the precise mechanics of how this will be, but we can make a relatively good guess.  What is better, to have creatures that have capacity for authentic choice that never mess up or to have creatures that can choose wrong but instead authentically choose right?  I think it’s fairly clear that the latter is a far better good.  But perhaps the only way to get creatures who are capable of choosing wrong but instead authentically choose right for all eternity is to inoculate them, so to speak; that is, to let them experience the consequences of sin.  Only in that way will the desire for sin be eradicated while the ability to sin is retained.

It’s like a child who touches the heating element on a stove because it looks interesting, all glowing red.  After they’ve touched the heating element, they’ll never purposefully touch it again, but they will always be capable of touching it.  What I mean is, their authentic will hasn’t been destroyed by the pain of touching the heating element, but their desire to do the thing which caused that pain will be gone.  So they’ll be capable but unwilling…thus they’ll authentically choose never to touch the heating element ever again, though they’ll always be perfectly capable of touching it.

In a similar way, perhaps by allowing us to sin, God has allowed us to experience the pain of sin in such a way that we will (once we’re completely transformed by the Spirit) never ever want to do it again.  But we’ll still be capable of sin, just utterly unwilling.  So, we’ll be able to live for the rest of eternity authentically choosing to love God and avoid sin but we will do so as authentically willful creatures rather than as robots who could never really choose to do other than what we’re programmed to do.

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3 Comments
  • April 6, 2012

    This morning I posted a blog relating to this exact question. Instead of explaining the gist of it, I copied it below. You will see that my answer comes in a conversation with God, I hope you can find the reason within it

    Your love is beyond my comprehension. To bestow Your magnificent attention on such lowly creatures is difficult for me to take in. I know it’s true in my head, but my heart resists accepting the extent of Your passion for me. Grasping the reality that You knew prior to creating me, that I would require a Redeemer, willing to die in my place, is thoroughly baffling.
    My child, I am love. Desiring a being to express it upon is within My essence. In purity, love gives completely, demanding nothing in return, but hoping that it will be reciprocated. I chose to show my deep adoration for you through shedding my blood and dying, because there was no greater cost to me than this. Demonstrating My love for you, was and is my heart’s passion.
    I want to love like you do, but I fall short constantly. I know your definition of love.

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

    I may get little parts of it right, like being patient, kind or not easily angered, but I am eluded when it comes to loving fully like you do.
    With Me, all things are possible, even loving. Living in the damaged and broken world that you do, defines love very differently. As I said before, I am love. When you invited Me into your heart and life, the very definition of love began to dwell within you. Now you, can be like Me.
    How amazing! How humbling! I am overwhelmed by You. May I ever be faithful to return Your love, and allow you to have complete control in my life and my heart.

    We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 NIV)

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  • April 23, 2012

    I am one of those christians who batetls with the command GO. I have so many ideas that would help my church grow tremendously, but my church is very small and there are not many youth advocates that would help bring my ideas to fruition. So, I choose to stay where I am due to the lack of help and motivaiton within my church. I am just stuck between a rock and a hard place and I don’t know what to do.

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  • September 27, 2012

    Craig, I believe that God knows absolutely everything that is true, that the future contains an indefinite amount of possible events and God knows every one of these possibilities. I also believe that the bible clearly establishes that there are things that God ordains and therefore God knows with absolute certainty that these things will come to pass. I would summarize this by stealing a phrase from Greg Boyd: ‘God ordains that which he chooses to ordain and leaves open that which he chooses to leave open’

    I appeal to two versus to help make this case:

    Exodus 13:17; “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”

    Jeremiah 3:7 “I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it”.

    I believe it would be going against the clear wording of the 1st passage to say that God would have known with certainty whether or not his people would return to Egypt as “they might change their minds” seems to imply that, from His perspective, there were more than one possible future outcomes if He didn’t intervene.

    I believe that the most simple explanation for the second verse is also the most likely and that is that although God knew every possibility of future events existed, the future was not yet an established truth that Israel would fail to return to him but rather an infinite number of possibilities that He would permit.

    God is reported as being surprised in scripture multiple times including the second passage above. I believe this doesn’t change our understanding of God being omniscient. With a statistical background I am aware that if 5 die were rolled that there is a possibility that they would all turn up 6s. This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens, afterall, it will only happen statistically once every 7776 rolls. I think God may be in a similar position, although He may perfectly know every future possibility (for things which he has left “open”) and the exact probability of each possibility, that does not preclude Him from being “surprised” when an improbable event comes to pass.

    Chad Mathis
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