Man's hand moving chess pieces

God’s Grand Game

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My belief that God is the sustainer and animator of the whole of creation is somewhat controversial among Christians and others who believe in free will. After all, if we do not have free will then ideas like sin, the fall, and judgment, don’t necessarily make sense.

However, I believe there is a certain perspective (or perhaps let’s call it a framework), in which these central Christian ideas can be understood in a different light, stemming from an understanding of God’s true nature and what that means for His relationship with human beings. In this article, I will outline this framework.

The Cosmic Animator

At the core of the framework is the idea that whatever you do is what God is doing through you. The best analogy I have found for this is that of a puppet show. In a puppet show, puppets can have distinct personalities and attributes and can be so realistic that a child who is watching the show might forget about the puppet master completely.

We are puppets in the theatre of life and God is the puppeteer, or to broaden the metaphor, I like to use the phrase ‘cosmic animator’ to describe God. He is the life force that sustains and animates all activity in the microcosm (on a small scale, such as the working of atoms) and the macrocosm (on a large scale, such as the movement of planets) and everything inbetween.

God’s Omnipresence

In order for you to accept what I am saying about the way God is involved in creation, I ask you to consider His attribute of omnipresence. If God is omnipresent, there is no particle anywhere in creation which is not a part of Him. And it follows logically that everything that is a part of God must be under God’s control. So if God is truly omnipresent, He is also in control of everything in existence.

Now although much of the time I am aware of God as I go about my daily life, because He speaks to me or because I feel His presence, at other times I’m not directly aware of God, and it is during those times that I feel as though I am a free agent. As a person to whom God has revealed Himself, there are dimensions of my life in which I experience Him that can be particularly vivid; in prayer, or during a praise and worship session, for instance. At other times, while doing some chores around the house, working a job, or having a meal with friends, it’s possible for me to forget about God and lose that awareness.

But just because in some situations I lose my awareness of God, that doesn’t mean He goes away. He is still omnipresent and in control of every aspect of my life, from my thoughts and words, to the functioning of my body, to my every action. It simply means that there is a mode of mind that we experience as part of God’s activity in our lives, where He makes us forget about Him. This is obviously an acute reality in the case of life-long atheists, who may never have an awareness of God, as He has totally veiled His existence in their minds and lives. It seems that God does not reveal Himself to everyone all of the time, and this is a central element of the game of human life that God is unfolding.

God’s Control and the Christian Worldview

When we read the wonderful Biblical narratives depicting the interplay between God and His human creatures, we see that these stories reveal such interactions as command and obedience, action and judgment, prayer and response. In a world where God is omnipresent, this is peculiar, as in reality God is in control of both the command and the obedience, the action of humans and subsequent judgment, and even their prayers and His response to their prayers (imagine a puppet praying to his puppet master and you’ll understand what I mean).

But let us consider this paradox in terms of the bigger picture concerning who God is. God is the extremely powerful, uncaused, necessarily existing, eternal being, who created the entire universe, and everything in it. He has all of eternity at His disposal. What will He do with all this power and all this time? It seems logical to me that He would create a complex universe as a way of entertaining Himself as the vast aeons of eternity unfold.

What I propose is that God has created this great universe for His pleasure, and unfolding the complex story of creation is God’s pastime. In light of this, it makes sense that as part of His grand game, God would create complex and wonderful story lines, such as those that we find in the Abrahamic religions (and other religions).

Conclusion

Within the framework that I have outlined in this article, Christianity makes sense, though not in a mainstream or traditional way. All of life is animated by God, so all our decisions, including whether to follow Christ, whether to read the Bible, whether to visit our neighbour in hospital, whether to fast, repent, and believe – all of these Christian activities are the will of God in people’s lives and part of His grand game. The central events in the Christian story – the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection – these are also part of God’s storyline.

Believing as I do in an omnipresent God, this is the only way I can make sense of the Christian worldview. The fall is part of God’s plan, and so is redemption. Sin is part of God’s plan, and so is salvation. Atheism is part of God’s plan, and so is faith.

This is not what most Christians believe, but without this framework, Christianity makes no sense at all, for I firmly believe that the cherished Christian idea of free will is not logically compatible with the idea that God is omnipresent. If you’re going to accept the sovereignty of God over creation, you must also accept that we don’t have free will, and so a framework such as that outlined in this article becomes a necessary way of making sense of the Christian worldview.


For further elaboration on this perspective I recommend checking out my Books page.

63 comments

  1. Finally got back to your post and after reading other comments I am not sure I have much more to add. You have already talked about Ps 139, which I agree with. God is with us wherever we may walk. But I do believe that he doesn’t make us forget him, we just do because we are human.

    Although he is omnipresent, he is great enough to let people make choices. If a country gives themselves over to the evil one his presence will not be felt, not that he isn’t able to make himself known, he just has chosen to go where he is invited. For example, He does not enter into the hearts of those that don’t ask. Jesus could not even do many miracles in his home town because they did not believe he was whom he claimed to be. So he allows the faith of individuals to move his hand. He allows their choice to believe to allow miracles to happen.

    And though scriptures state over and over that he is our Father, I guess that isn’t how you see the Lord. I think he is many things – beyond our imagination. But he has chosen the word, Father, so we could understand. A father disciplines and is powerful, yet a father loves and protects.

    Because he is all powerful he sees us before we are born (Jeremiah 1:5) and knows immediately whether we will eventually choose him or not. That is why he can state that we, who are believers, are predestined. I believe he saw Pharaoh before he was born and already knew that his heart would be stubborn against the truth, so used that stubbornness and hardened heart to bring glory to his name, by setting his people free.

    Joshua 24:15 talks about a people who were given the choice to either follow the gods of their fathers or to follow the one true God. He is outside the box of logic. If it were all logical, it wouldn’t take much faith. He is huge.

    I am glad you are praying for truth. We all should as the days seem to be getting darker. I pray that God answers your heart’s cry. He did when you first called out to him. That what he started in you, he will be sure to complete. God bless as you continue seeking truth. The wise men found Jesus, seeking truth. May you be filled with the wisdom of the Lord as you seek after him.

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  2. Nice writing style. Good flow of thoughts. Speaking of thoughts though, I cannot attribute all of mine as being under God’s control–puppet-mastery. As physical creations, given to the fall, there is a natural shadow in our hearts that the enemy can–if we do not protect that vulnerable place– infiltrate and infect us. God is indeed omnipresent, but why does he have to be the Divine Director? Would he not enjoy observing his children and his creations putting on a show of their own volition? If we have some autonomy–thank God we do–then I say we are under some obligation to put on the best show we possibly can for our Divine Audience.

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  3. My daughter said that the only way she understands why God created us is because He is Love and created things to love and to love him. From my perspective, I think that God gave us will so we are not puppets but if we submit to his will He will give us what we need to conquer and will guide our steps. Lovely write 🙂

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  4. This is a very deep and interesting subject. Oh how men have discussed and debated this for centuries! I imagine we won’t solve it here. I am inclined to agree with you for the most part. However, I have a few questions and maybe you can help me better understand where you are coming from (As an American from the Southern portion of the country, you’ll have to forgive me for ending my sentences with a preposition! ha ha!).

    If God isn’t limited by space and time, and if we cannot refer to Him in spatial terms, how can anyone be totally definitive that He is the cause of everything? Also, we are limited in our understanding. Beyond what we know, there is a cloud of mystery and paradox surrounding the concept of God. How can we be too definitive since we are so limited in our abilities? Free will is relative in the sense that we are restricted in it only within a narrow chasm. Scripture teaches us that God isn’t willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:8-10), and that He doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23/ 33:11). Wouldn’t God be a bit schizophrenic if He is the cause of everything?

    Also, how can this be true if God isn’t the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33)? Even if He were the cause of everything else, why not confusion as well? Since God isn’t the author of confusion, could it be that those who have the narrow freedom to choose evil be the authors of it? Thank you for your time and God bless!

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    1. Hi Phil!

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I will respond to your main points as best I can 🙂

      If God isn’t limited by space and time, and if we cannot refer to Him in spatial terms, how can anyone be totally definitive that He is the cause of everything?

      I believe that this is a case of rational inquiry; observing the world around us and deducing what we can about God from our thoughts and observations. Of course, I believe any understanding we have of God comes from God, so it all depends on what He is willing to reveal to the minds of men. At the moment I have an awareness of God, but because He is in control, He could take away that awareness at any time and make me an atheist, if He so-willed. God gives man a wide range of different insights and beliefs, and I believe this is all part of the ‘grand game’.

      Scripture teaches us that God isn’t willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:8-10), and that He doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23/ 33:11). Wouldn’t God be a bit schizophrenic if He is the cause of everything?

      By presupposing that the Biblical Scriptures represent exclusive truth, I believe you are creating a problem for yourself here. Outside of the Bible there’s no reason to say God can’t be schizophrenic; after all, He is all-powerful and does whatever He pleases (actually Psalm 135:6 says as much). I believe there are some major inconsistencies in mainstream Christian thought, particularly when it comes to the subject of the relationship between God’s will and human free will, and you hit upon some of those problems in your comment.

      If you’re interested in a more thorough exposition from me on this subject (I’m not suggesting you would be, but perhaps!), check out my essay entitled ‘An Almighty Predicament’ in which I state the case for and against the Christian worldview. You can download it as a PDF from my Essays page, here. Feel free to email me your thoughts, if you’d like to!

      God bless you and thank you so much for the conversation!

      Steven

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  5. Thanks for the response it was helpful in better understanding where you are coming from. I’ll read that document for further instruction. Have a great day!

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  6. I will say that I tend to appeal to mystery when the Bible hits those points of apparent paradox. I don’t have to grasp or understand it all. Doctrines like the Sovereignty of God, Human Responsibility, the Mystery of Evil, and the Trinity were never meant to be understood fully by the human mind. Perhaps you are right, but until the dirty window of futility is removed (1 Corinthians 13:12-13), we can only guess according to the best tools available. I’ll just defer to Paradox and mystery. I really do enjoy your blog, and hope you’ll keep it up. I’m not on-line everyday, but I check in when I can. God bless you sir, and I imagine one day we both will marvel at the truth when the veil of the curse of this world is removed!

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    1. Totally respect where you’re coming from, Phil. I do agree that much of reality is veiled. And thank you for your kind comment about the blog 😊 Have a great weekend and I’ll look forward to keeping in touch, as and when.

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