Summary: Our moral universe raises several questions: 1. What does it mean to have free will? 2. Why is it frightening? 3. What are we to do with it?
God has a problem. His problem began when he created other living beings to live in the same universe as himself. Before the creation there was only one will — God’s will. But now there were other beings and other wills operating in the universe — millions of them. And because God wanted a relationship with these beings, they had to be like him. They had to be made in his image. And since they were made in his image they had to have a free and independent will. They had to be able to choose their own destiny and make their own decisions. They had to be able to say yes, or no. In fact, they had to be able to say yes or no to God himself. For if they could not say no to God, neither could they say yes to him.
Let’s look in on Adam and Eve as they walk about in the Garden of Eden. Here they are perfectly content. They have everything. They live in a perfect paradise with intimate fellowship with God. They love each other and life is good. God has never told them not to do anything, except one small thing — eating the fruit of a certain tree. It has never occurred to them to disobey God. Why would they? They believe he has their best interest at heart, and he has never done anything but good to them. If they ate from the tree called “the knowledge of good and evil,” they would know the difference between good and evil, because would have disobeyed God and thereby chosen evil. God did not want them to make that choice, but he did want them to have the choice. Here is where Satan enters the scene. He is the one who also dwelled in a paradise with God at one time. He had everything, and yet decided to rebel against God. He could do it because he too was made with the freedom to choose. He came to the garden of Eden to plant doubts in the minds of the couple. He made them think God was keeping something from them. He made them question the goodness of God. He questioned whether God told them the truth about the consequences of disobeying him. He tempted them to want to
become like God. In the end, they decided to use their freedom to chose not to trust God or obey him. And we have been following Adam and Eve in failing to trust God and obey him ever since.
God’s gift of free will — this awesome and frightening gift — raises many questions. The first question that we will consider today is: What does it mean to have free will? Having free will means that we can say yes to God, or we can say no to him. We have been given the freedom to love him, follow him, and obey him, or walk away from him and even hate him. We can spit in the face of God — as some literally did at the crucifixion. Mankind had the freedom to nail God’s Son to a cross, and God refused to interfere. We can serve God, or oppose him and work against his purposes and his people — as many are doing.
It is amazing that God gives us this kind of power. The little dictators of this world would never consider this kind of arrangement. They want total control of the people under them. They do not want people to have freedom. But they can afford to do this, because neither do they want a relationship with their people. They are only interested in controlling them. God, on the other hand, has created people for the very purpose of having a relationship with them. He wants this relationship to be intimate and real. In order to do that, you have to have freedom. You cannot choose to love God if you do not have the freedom to push God away. If you have no choice, then you cannot choose to love.
God could force us to love him, or even program us to love him. But what kind of love would it be if it were programed and predetermined? Even if he made it so that we didn’t know there was another choice, it would not satisfy the heart of God. For instance, in the Garden of Eden, God could have kept Satan out, and kept them from realizing that there was any alternative to doing what he said. Or he could have permitted them to eat from the tree so that there would never be a test of their will. They could have lived ignorant and happy if God had chosen to make them that way. There would never be any hate or evil in the world, but neither would there have been any love or goodness, because love is impossible without choice, and so is goodness. You cannot be truly good if you have no choice but to be good. It wouldn’t mean anything. If we would have been programed so that we could never make the wrong choice, then we could never choose to do the right thing. Your choice to love God would not mean anything if you did not have the choice not to love him.