An Almighty Predicament

Regular visitors to my blog will know that there is an important matter, related to free will and the nature of God, with which I have been struggling for years. I thought it was about time that I fully expressed my thoughts on this issue, and if you’re a God-fearing person (or even a curious atheist), you might be interested to read what I have to say.

So the sole purpose of this post is to point you to a paper I’ve spent the last few weeks working on and that I’ve just uploaded to my Essays page. The essay is called An Almighty Predicament: A Discourse on the Arguments For and Against Christianity and you can download it for free here.

As always, your thoughts and feedback would be appreciated.

23 comments

  1. Reading this, I imagined myself taking the place of the Muslim you sat opposite to. However I would take the position of the agnostic who used to be Christian as a child. Many times I’ve asked myself if I should go reverse that decision, each time I came out saying no. There’s too much to say so I’ll stick to two points.

    For me one of the arguments is simply that the bible contains a finite amount of documents chosen out of a great deal more documents during canon written over long period of antiquity when much of what can be learned today wasn’t accessible back (the observable universe, carbon dating, the study of distant civilizations etc). The authors back then were wise and noble but not imperfect as no one can fully rid themselves of bias be it conscious or unconscious. If one considers this and the millions of copies, translations and readings done to over the past 2 millennia. The probability of changes being made to the gospel and overall message is so gargantuan that the only way to keep the message of truth in its original form is not to spread it in the first place.

    I would argue it far better to treat Christianity as anything but a constant but instead as an evolution of ideas which constantly evolves and branches out like culture.

    One core disagreement I have would have is about intellectuals being flawed by their pride. True, I take pride in the argument I wrote above, I’m only human. But I would never have opinionated such had I not swallowed my pride once before because I did not always think that way. Pride is not a flaw, it is how you control it that matters. The greatest intellectuals only got to where they were because they painstakingly swallowed their pride, again and again, when an argument presented a superior stance. In other words, they’re self-aware (it gets easier each time you do it).

    So if I, a non-believer, were to die and see with my own eyes heaven and hell and all the like. I doubt I’d be surprised nor devastated because then I can’t deny what is in front of me, just intrigued.

  2. Western understanding of the “human soul” with so much of it based on Platonism, doesn’t match up with early Hebrew thinking, and this results in irregularities, IMO. I’m no expert, but this link from wikipedia touches on the subject and could prove to have some use given the scope of your essay. Hope so.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul_in_the_Bible

    1. Hey Katrellina,

      I take it you’re referring to my essay on ‘The Human Soul in Plato and Christianity’ rather than my ‘An Almighty Predicament’ essay? Thanks for the Wikipedia link, I had a quick look through and there are some really interesting points in there that I’d like to investigate further. I’m so pleased that you’re interested in this subject because I believe the soul is such a mysterious concept for many (myself included).

      God bless you and thanks again,

      Steven

  3. First I would like to say you are a really great writer, and I enjoyed your paper. Nobody wants to be a Christian if it’s a lie- why would we? I do not want to follow Jesus if he is not the Son of God, why would I or anyone else want to do that? God is omnipotent, omniscient- GOD IS GOD.

    The words I AM are simple yet on those two words we could hang a million word thesis on what that means. Two tiny little words that describe billions of truths. I AM is like the mustard seed of language. What I think would benefit you is the study of the Sovereignty of God. God created everything, knows everything that has or will happen, he is in control and ALL things ultimately come together in his perfect will. God created all things in his perfect knowledge, his ways and knowledge are higher than ours therefore it may never be understood but can be trusted – fully.

    He created all things. There is nothing outside of Gods power or knowledge or control. God created even Lucifer and knew he would deceive him. He also created Judas and knew he would deceive Jesus. I often imagine Gods thoughts as like individual Big Bang theories – if God speaks it it is so. Boom. And in that second God knows the result of what he has spoken billions of years into the future….when he spoke the Covenant to Abraham, he knew it would include Jesus the cross, and you and I having this conversation. So they are organic yet controlled. His will is that of ultimate creation for the same reason any artist creates, he delights in his art, his glory is represented in his creation.

    He is ultimately in control, but that does not limit God to operating or excercising control at all times. God can choose to give us the ability to choose. Just because he can control us, does not mean he decides to do so at all times. Part of his control is allowing us to also have control over our decisions- hence free will – yet in his omniscience he already knows the result of every decision we will ever make. The does not mean that he controlled it in our sense and understanding of the word “control” – more so it means he allowed it in all knowing awareness, he allowed us to have what we refer to as free will…but he did so with an eternal understanding of what and how that would result.

    Some Theologians argue that this is still the seventh day. That all creation was thought of and God completed all of his works on the 6th day and he is resting from them. What I believe is that the details will be revealed to us as God decides in his Sovereignty to draw us into a higher level of understanding….some are seeking a deeper awareness than others for unique reasons again given in Gods Sovereignty. It is scary and also comforting to wrap your mind around what sovereignty is – but without it – God isn’t God.

    On the topic of Muslims. The Quran teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin, any Muslim will agree to to this because it says it in The Quran- Why they do not connect the dots that that makes him the son of God…he had to get his blood from a father…human babies get their blood from their father…that according to the Quran makes Jesus the Son of God.

    Anyway great read…you definitely made me do some thinking over my coffee. Have a blessed day and have peace knowing that he who started a good work in you will bring it to completion- isn’t that just comfortingly.

    We don’t have to figure it all out – God already has ❤️

    1. Thank you, Tamara, for your thoughtful comment 🙂

      The sovereignty of God – yep, that’s one of my main points of interest! I actually wrote a blog post about God’s sovereignty in Scripture fairly recently. We have somewhat different views about what that sovereignty looks like, but that’s cool.

      So grateful you took the time to read my paper and that it was thought-provoking. Hope you enjoyed your coffee too 😉

      God bless you and I hope we’ll keep in touch!

      Steven

  4. Hello Steven, Firstly, I received your book, thank you. Am still reading it but appreciate the courage and commitment it took to present your life struggles and insights while on this journey of faith.
    If I might share, out of concern, I would suggest that there is an essential foundational tenet that seems somewhat shaky in your essays. “Omnipresent” means God is everywhere. Not to oversimplify, but ‘air’ is everywhere but is not ‘in’ everything. To say that we are “puppets of God’s sovereign will” is almost to define us as robots, programmed from within and controlled by an outer force. Yes, the Lord strongly influences and impacts the lives of men, specifically to establish His will and His coming Kingdom. For example, Jesus said in Luke 19:40 that if His disciples didn’t praise Him, the rocks would cry out. God determines that He will be praised because He is due all praise and honor. If man CHOOSES not to give Him what is due, nature will rise up and praise Him. (you can see in scripture that nature did not rebel against God and, at every juncture, obeys the commands of God. Fish come to the boat, storms cease, etc)

    Steven, this issue is essential to the Gospel. If you, even in a perfunctory way, review the lives of ‘spiritual giants’ like Moses, Noah, David, Jeremiah, Apostle Paul…they were not puppets but God powerfully drew them to His presence. The supernatural call of a Heavenly Father is a deep inner call, not a manipulation. Many ‘giants’ resisted this call, like Sampson and others turned away from God’s call upon their life. Knowing everything, how each man will respond, is not the same as programming man like a robot or puppet. Choice, of course, started with Adam and Eve.
    Hebrews 2:8 declares that Jesus is crowned with glory and honor, that our heavenly Father put everything under His authority however, “…at present we do not see everything subject to Him.” None of the strong foundations of scripture hold together if we merely have “an illusion of free will” as you have often mentioned in your writing. God’s universal law, “You will reap what you sow” is not at all just but becomes the decree of an unjust God if He gave us no choice.
    The essential truths of judgment and even Christ coming as Judge become perverted if we are not intrinsically responsible for our actions.
    “Nothing in creation is hidden from God’s sight. (omnipresent) Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (an account of the choices we made),” Hebrews 4:13
    The concept of the Bridegroom seeking and a Bride is a love choice. Yes, God chooses, but isn’t He choosing the Bride that He foreknows will receive Him? The “whosoever will” truths have no power or hope if you complete the verses with wrong premises….it is never, ‘whosoever is programmed’….

    I pray that the deep foundational truths of our heavenly Father become rooted in your soul and open up greater revelations of Him in your heart. I pray that the Lord bring us all nearer and closer to Him, uncovering His truths, and preparing us daily for His coming eternal Kingdom.
    May the Lord continue to bless and inspire you Steven. Thank you for letting me share.

    1. Hi Lisa!

      Glad to hear my book arrived safely and thanks again for buying it and taking the time to read it.

      I disagree that God being sovereignly in control of our lives makes us like robots. Robots are mechanical, but God is living, and puppets are not mechanical. If you do believe in free will, then you are necessarily limiting God, by saying that He is not in control of many parts of reality. And yes, this is a popular view among Christians, and is of course at the heart of my essay, and one of the reasons why I struggle to fully embrace Christian doctrine.

      You seem to agree that God is omnipresent, but perhaps you don’t see Him as the sustainer of all things, like I do. I believe God grows the trees, beats our hearts, moves the planets, etc.

      If God is active in some peoples lives but not others, as you suggest, then He is ‘dipping in and out’ of our humanity, sovereignly controlling some events but not others. To me, this is an affront to the nature of God and His omnipresence, and doesn’t make sense (I discuss this in the essay). I’m not sure about your ‘air’ analogy as there are plenty of places where air is not. But there are no places where God is not. And in any case I don’t see God’s nature as passive, but active. There is power in all His activity.

      I do understand your views, and I respect them, but I find them problematic. I’m grateful for your concern, and your prayers, and I pray that God would guide both of us into all truth.

      Peace and blessings,

      Steven

  5. Oops, sorry Steven – yes, I was just finding my way round your site. It was in response to the Plato essay. Thanks for being so gracious.

  6. I just finished reading A Almighty Predicament. What a excellent essay. I have also had the same thoughts to fog my head. I’m reading The Sovereignty of God by Arthur W Pink. As you, everything is mind boggling and trying to reason and sort through all the thoughts is a challenge for me. I believe God is Sovereign over ALL Things. Romans 9:15-16. 15.For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
    16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

    God wills as he pleases. He is the great I AM. There is no other like him now or ever will be. I sincerely enjoyed the essay and looking forward to reading your other articles. I pray for your spiritual journey as God leads you. Praying for you!❤
    Cathey Lynn

    1. Dear Cathey,

      Thank you so much 😊 I’m delighted that you took the time to read the essay, and that you could relate to some of the struggles I’ve been going through with my Christian faith.

      I love the two scriptures you quoted which clearly demonstrate God’s sovereignty. I agree with all you said.

      The book that you mentioned by Arthur Pink sounds right up my street – I will check that out!

      Thank you for your prayers, I will pray for you too, and may you have a wonderful and blessed day.

      Steven ❤️

            1. Actually I haven’t bought it yet. Just added it my basket. So I could download the Kindle version, although I would prefer to pay as I like authors to get credit for their work 🙂 Might buy the paperback, not sure! Thanks again 🙂

            2. I completely understand. I use kindle much myself, but have purchased many through mail. You may already have read The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes. Another in depth read that I purchased from kindle. Thought you might be interested. Have a great rest of the week. God Bless😀

  7. Just a quick respond to the first part of your essay. Here goes …

    Let’s suppose that nothing exists. OK, so it’s a hotly debated subject and has been since the Eleatics and the Greeks, probably before. Objections are still going strong on the basis that once you give “nothing” language by framing it in a word, it’s no longer nothing but becomes “something”.

    Mind-boggling, but …. it’s perfectly possible for God to withdraw Himself from “something” and allow “nothing ” to exist because He is powerful enough to do that. We could even say that God allowed a void to open within Heaven itself, and the bounds of Creation began at that point (motion happening between something and nothing, creating spin, friction and matter etc) – sounds wild, but anyway. Potter and clay come to mind in part, perhaps, but we can distinguish between God and His Creation at that point.

    It’s just a philosophical hypothesis, and can easily be thrown out. But … it would not be that God created darkness, rather He allowed darkness to exist when He withdrew Himself. We could say that He created a void by doing so, but had a purpose: namely, His Creation. By allowing an alternative to Himself to exist (nothing as opposed to something) freewill was intrinsically there too. There was polarisation for everything inside His creation: right/wrong, good/bad, light/dark etc.

    He even before it was Created that it was temporary, everything would be brought before Him for His assessment, and some things would be retained for Heaven and other things (e.g emptiness, vanity) would be discarded into a bottomless pit.

    God didn’t create evil, but allowed evil to exist, and He had a purpose for it – to have at the end of days those who have preferred Him over the alternative rather than not.

    Far-fetched it may be, but I’m an annihilist. My faith doesn’t rest on this sort of thing, it rests on the Person of Jesus, my Saviour, but as a thought-experiment it has some validity.

    1. Hi Katrellina!

      Fascinating thoughts, thanks so much 😊 I’d just like to make a couple of short comments.

      it’s perfectly possible for God to withdraw Himself from “something” and allow “nothing ” to exist

      I don’t believe it’s possible for nothing to exist, because the two terms are contradictory.

      The other thing I wanted to suggest is that the nature of God is that He is boundless (or omnipresent). It seems in what you have suggested that you are denying this, whereas to me it’s a fundamental truth. You suggest that God might be able to ‘withdraw Himself’ from a part of existence. This argument does allow for free will, but I believe it’s contrary to the nature of God and the nature of reality.

      Pleasure to discuss these things with you!

      Blessings,

      Steven

  8. These sort of topics come up every so often in our walk with the Lord, but don’t distract from our security in Him. It’s important that we enter through the strait gate, no matter how “wide” we go in examining things – always return to Who He is in His glorious majesty.

    Our thoughts and pondering issues are as nothing in comparison to Him who is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

    Take it easy and see you around. God Bless. 😀

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