God and Free Will

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis attempts to explain God’s ways to man. When I first read the book many, many years ago I was initially impressed with it. But on closer examination, I realized his ideas were nothing but laminate covering philosophical particleboard.

Let’s take the notion of why God permits evil. Well, why the hell does He? According to Lewis, God permits evil because to “interfere” with evil acts would be a violation of a man’s free will.

Now let me understand this clearly. If a man is about to rape a woman, is it a violation of his free will to prevent him from doing so? Wouldn’t preventing the rape preserve the free will of his intended victim as well as preserve the free will of anyone who might choose to help her? If I understand Lewis correctly, humans can violate each other’s free will, but God cannot (or will not), even if such “violation” protects the free will of innocent people at the expense of the free will of the evil.

So if I get Mr. Lewis’ “logic,” it is permissible for a sadistic brute to violate an innocent woman’s free will, but not a Good God. The sadistic brute in effect has more freedom than the author of freedom Himself.

But even this doesn’t work. According to the Bible, God does wreak havoc on the wicked and do right by the righteous in fulfillment of His covenant with the ancient Israelites. So in light of His record on matters of interfering in man’s affairs, the Good Lord interferes if and when He so chooses.

The principle of man’s free will didn’t prevent God from destroying humanity during the time of Noah. How can a person who’s dead exercise their free will? The Christian will say that those who God killed were evil and deserved to be destroyed. But that begs the question: How come God doesn’t kill the evil today? Are we really supposed to believe that everyone deserved to die then but not now? Even young children, babies, fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs? God apparently cares so little about “free will” that He kills “souls” before they even get a chance to exercise it.

And if God chose to part the Red Sea to let the ancient Israelites escape from the Egyptians, He also chose to do nothing when the descendents of the same Israelites were shot, burned, and gassed during World War II. The Old Man is apparently taking a 3,000-year coffee break. Maybe someone should poke Him with a stick and yell in His deaf ear, “Your fifteen minutes is up, now get to work!”

In addition, Christ told his followers to pray and promised them their prayers would be answered. What possible purpose would prayer have if God chose to ignore such prayers and simply let nature take its course? Obviously, any believer who follows the Bible believes that God does answer prayers—either by acting in a given manner or choosing not to act. Either way it follows that everything that happens is the responsibility of God, directly or indirectly. God either chooses to let things take their course without interference, a choice He can be held accountable for, or He chooses to interfere and is responsible for that interference.

Beyond the question of human free will is the question of nature itself. Not all ill that befalls a human being comes from the exercise of human evil. Great pain and suffering are exacted by the forces of nature, both external and internal. Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and predations by living organisms of other species, all come from without. Cancer, congenital malformations, the ravages of aging, and a host of other infirmities occur from within. All are the result of the nature of reality, the facts of life, that nature and those facts authored if you believe in God, most certainly by God. Yet, according to the religionist, the manufacturer of nature has no control over His product and cannot be held liable for its functioning or malfunctioning.

The all-powerful God is actually responsible for...nothing.

And what about free will in heaven and in hell? Does a human being even have free will in those places? In hell, God presumably eternally punishes the wicked, meaning the unbelievers, who forever have their free will violated. In heaven, the faithful presumably choose to do whatever God wants them to do because if they chose differently—well, they wouldn’t have ever made it to heaven in the first place.

Anyone who has an answer to the question of why God permits evil (and all manner of ill happenings) that is more substantial than simply “The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways,” feel free to respond.

Back to top

Rift Rants

Comments? Contact me.

© 2005 Laura J. Rift. All rights reserved.