In this post I’m going to look at the heart of the gospel – the idea that we are sinners in need of salvation. Is this really true?
I don’t at all doubt that Jesus existed. I find the New Testament provides compelling evidence that Jesus was a real person, with a radical message – a message that would proceed to change the world and find billions of converts. But does the teaching of Jesus make sense in terms of a rational view of God? Let us briefly explore this question and see what we can decipher.
My conception of God is that He is omnipresent, and in control of His creation. I find it impossible to accept that God has boundaries and that He could somehow be separate from creation. I see God as the animating force that produces all activity in creation, from the growth of plants and trees, to the movement of celestial bodies, to the beating of our hearts.
God is not spatially limited. That notion is very bizarre, as it would require us to believe there is a specific point where God’s being ends and freedom from God begins. This scenario would only make sense if God is ‘embodied’ somehow – a physical being with a form and shape. But this is not the God I believe in. I believe God is everywhere, and is pure spirit, without boundaries. “Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet”, as Alfred Tennyson once wrote.
We find scriptures that point to God’s literal omnipresence. In Colossians 1:17 the apostle Paul says “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together”. In Acts 17:28 Paul says “In Him we live and move and have our being”. John 4:24 says “God is spirit”. And to give an Old Testament example, Psalm 139:7-10 says “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”
So God is everywhere, He is holding together all things, and of course must therefore be animating all things.
If God is the animator of creation, unfolding a plan for the universe by His sovereign will, then it makes no sense to argue that we are free to act independently of the will of God. God would have to be limited spatially in order for us to have free will.
Also, if we were genuinely free from God’s animating control, we would have to look for alternative explanations as to why our hearts beat, our blood circulates, our bodies digest food, why our hair and nails grow, etc. I suppose we would have to embrace the materialistic idea that our bodies are machines, powered by our brains or even our genes. But that doesn’t really sound like free will at all.
If we are not machines, and God is not controlling our bodies, how is it that all of our bodily processes are going on? Would you argue that you are controlling them? If so, how are you doing it? Please consider this deeply, and I believe you will see that it’s most logical to conclude that God is animating your body. We are not free, but are instead as ‘puppets’ in the hands of God.
If we embrace the understanding that God is sovereign over our lives, this will cause us to think differently about the Christian worldview. If God has been in control of our lives since our conception, then every action we have taken has been in accordance with the will of God. In this context, the Christian idea that we have all sinned against God seems very strange. Do I deserve punishment from God for actions that God unfolded in my life? There’s something deeply problematic about this idea.
Of course, we all experience feelings such as guilt and shame, and we do have the illusion of free will, in that we make decisions and experience emotions in relation to those decisions. But the crux of the matter is that God is in control of every decision we will ever make, and our reactions to those decisions. If anyone reading wants to deny this, let them offer an alternative explanation for our bodily processes and our growth from embryos to babies to adults, other than God. You are welcome to leave a comment with your theory.
All of this considered, it could still be the case that embracing the gospel and living a life of faithful devotion to Jesus is the only way to inherit eternal life. That could well be the way God has chosen to unfold His creation. But at least on some level, we must acknowledge that the decision is not in our hands. And if we are to be judged by God one day, He will, in a sense, be judging His own actions. This is a significant problem with the Christian worldview, the basis of which is freedom of the human will.
For a more in-depth argument concerning God’s sovereignty over all events, with a Christian response, I invite you to read my essay entitled ‘An Almighty Predicament’ which is available as a free PDF download from my Essays page.