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Christians are faced with challenges to their beliefs on a regular basis; both from internal and external forces. This can be a very good thing since it forces them to examine what they truly believe. They may be prompted to further study so they are able to adequately defend their beliefs in the future. In some instances these challenges weaken faith and possibly push people away from God, but the extent of faith for those so easily dissuaded is questionable.
One of the tougher challenges comes from those who question the seeming incompatibility between God’s omnipotence, and our presumed free will. In Psams 115:3 it states “Our God is in Heaven. He does whatever He pleases.” Essentially the argument is this. If God is all-seeing, all-knowing and always in control then how can anyone claim that we have free will to make our own decisions. It would seem that God can only know everything by being in control of everything…including our own choices. Whenever such supposed inconsistencies are discovered, atheists, agnostics and non-Christians use them to argue against the faith. I have learned that quite often these arguments are built upon cherry-picked passages from the Bible taken out of context. What is even worse is that they are made to good intentioned believers who know little about what the Bible really says.
If it is possible for God to experience a predicament it is that he wants us to choose him freely and without force or coercion; however, this goes hand in hand with the above argument. How can we “choose” Him if He controls our choices, or at least knows how we will choose? Furthermore, it could be argued that if God knows our choices in advance…even before we are born…then it is possible he knows we will never choose him, and we are therefore doomed. It would mean that he is allowing a child to be born without any chance of salvation. This does not seem like the actions of a loving and just God.
This is a prominent enough issue that apologists have attempted to deal with it for years. Apologetics is the discipline of defending a position or belief, usually a religious belief. One of the most famous of Christian apologists to broach this concern is C.S. Lewis. Many readers with a limited knowledge of Christianity, and specifically Mr. Lewis’ work, may know him only from the movies based on his books, The Chronicles of Narnia. In his book Mere Christianity Mr. Lewis proposes that God does not experience time the same way that man does. Essentially, he argues that all time is laid out before God concurrently. In other words, our tomorrows and yesterdays are viewed by Him not in real-time but as if they were a series of sequential photographs laid out in front of him all at once. Mr. Lewis states…
“He [God] does not ‘foresee’ you doing things tomorrow; he simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet here for you, it is for Him. You never supposed that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow’s actions in just the same way because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you.” (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis, Harper San Francisco 2001, Pg. 170.)
Mr. Lewis concludes his examination by asserting that this is a very Christian idea that provided him with comfort in explaining this complex problem. He also states that if this claim does not provide everyone with comfort that the reader should “leave it alone”. Mr. Lewis was a great man and an awe-inspiring intellect. There are times when men of massive intellect think beyond what a typical man can comprehend. It should be noted that Mr. Lewis does not offer this explanation as fact; instead he offers it as a one possibility. I offer another in the form of an analogy.
For those who have ever played the game of chess it should be obvious that true masters of the game do not win because they plan for their “next” move. Those who think in terms of their next move in response to what their opponent does are constantly playing defense. This mentality invariably ends in defeat. Instead the best players are always 10 moves ahead of their opponents. My suggestion is that God is the ultimate Chess-master. I assert that he is not waiting to determine what our next move will be. Instead he has already planned out his infinite strategy for virtually any choice that we could make. Regardless, of whether we choose “yes”, “no”, or “maybe” for any question or problem presented to us, he has plans in place for every contingency to ensure that he wins the game every single time. He has already seen how the game will conclude with his victory while we are still trying to decide whether we should move the pawn or the queen.
Interestingly, this suggestion does not bode well for dark one. Satan is a terrible chess player and is most assuredly doomed to failure and loss for obvious reasons. There is no question in regards to Satan’s strategy. Satan’s motives and game plan are unwavering and focused on one end result; however it appears there is only one way to get there. In essence, he is completely predictable and incapable of altering his plan. This is why his game plan is laid out so clearly in the book of Revelation. God figured out how the game was going to be played before it ever started.
As with Mr. Lewis’ explanation, I cannot claim to know God’s mind. Like Mr. Lewis my intention is to offer comfort to those who have concerns about this elephant in the room. Ultimately I wish to provide a possible defense for those who believe and want to answer this challenge with a reasonable response.
write by Flynn