For the purposes of this article, I take for granted a belief in the perspective of monotheism. Arguments for the existence of God are not the focus of this article, but I have discussed this matter extensively elsewhere on this blog and in my books and videos (see, for instance, this video entitled ‘How Do I Know God Exists?’). This article is intended to help believers in a single God to consider whether or not they should embrace Christianity.
When considering whether or not to accept the Christian worldview, there are only three logical possibilities. I will list the three possibilities and then elaborate on the content of each of the statements.
Let us begin with the first statement. If we have free will, then it makes sense that we might be sinners who are potentially rebelling against God, and are potentially guilty of certain things, and are potentially deserving of judgement and punishment. Jesus may well have atoned for the sins which we have freely committed, and we may well have a free choice as to whether or not to believe in Jesus and obey His teaching.
It is clear that the idea of free will is central to all of the key Christian doctrines I have just described, and if we have free will, I for one would be satisfied that the Christian worldview makes sense of reality and should be pursued.
There will be some who could happily stop reading at this point, but for the deep thinkers among you, please read on, because what I have to say is important.
I am convinced that we don’t have free will, for the reasons I have explained countless times on this blog and in my books. I have argued against free will using numerous examples, and discussing the problem from a range of different angles. It would take up too much space for me to repeat all of my arguments here, but I will just state summarily that my view is that God is omnipresent and the animator of everything that happens in existence. God’s boundlessness means that there is nothing outside the being of God, and so there is literally no room for freedom from God, or free will.
If you don’t understand this argument and would like to hear me elaborate upon it further, please do read my book God’s Grand Game, or check out my Deep Thoughts About God video series, because this argument is central to my understanding of reality.
I should mention, at this point, that there are Christians who attempt to argue that it is simultaneously true that God is sovereign over all events and that we have free will (see, for instance, my posts on Compatibilism, Open Theism, Calvinism, and Molinism). But my argument in relation to all of these philosophies is that they do not make sense, because it is logically impossible for God to be sovereign over all events and at the same time for human beings to have free will (again, do check out God’s Grand Game for further elaboration).
Actually, it’s quite common for orthodox Bible-believing Christians to implicitly acknowledge that they don’t have free will. For instance, whenever a Christian prays for God to plant them in a great church, or to bless their marriage or their ministry, or to make their job interview go well, or to heal their sickness, they are acknowledging God’s sovereign control over every aspect of their lives (this argument is expounded further in God’s Grand Game). The fact that some believers pray in this way and simultaneously argue that they have free will represents a clear contradiction in their thinking.
Now, let us look at Point 2. Double predestination is a doctrine embraced by some Calvinists that acknowledges God’s sovereignty over all events. The view is that God predestines some people to be believers in Christ, even before they are born, and others to be damned, even before they are born.
This perspective is certainly a possibility, in that God could logically unfold events in this way, seeing as He is in perfect control of everything that happens, and is responsible to no one. But if God is really like this — that even before He has created a human being He decides that their destiny will be eternal punishment — there is no denying that such a perspective would make God an incredibly cruel being. So we are forced to consider whether it’s likely that God is cruel in this way.
As I argued in this post, it is possible that God is angry for certain reasons (although, I might add, not because of sin; if He is sovereign over all events then He is the cause of all so-called sin, and why would He cause sin in order to make Himself angry?). God may be angry due to a kind of loneliness, or the fact that His existence will never have an ending (I have elaborated on these examples in this post).
If God suffers terribly, this might be a justification for double predestination, because God might want to appease His anger and do so through tormenting His creatures. I would say, however, that it’s not clear to me why even if God is angry He would necessarily need to express His anger by making His creatures suffer terribly. In any case, I think it’s more likely that God’s natural state is perfect bliss (see my essay entitled God and Suffering: A Covid-19 Theology) and so this would, at least in my view, leave Him without motive or justification for damning human beings.
The final option of the three I presented is that God is in control of all events and therefore the Christian worldview doesn’t reflect reality. The argument is quite simple: If God is in control of our thoughts, words, and actions, then central Christian doctrines such as sin, salvation, judgement, etc — which all depend on free will — don’t make sense.
At this point, I believe it’s wise to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Christianity is a religion that has been around on a single planet for around two thousand years. Scientists estimate that the universe is around fourteen billion years old, and that billions of planets exist. I’m not one to blindly believe the statistics of scientists, but when I gaze out into the night sky I have a sense that such incredible vastness is possible.
Even if we confine our considerations only to Planet Earth, there are billions of human beings who have lived and died without encountering the Christian worldview (unless, of course, all of these people encountered Jesus in a dream, or a vision, or a near death experience, or such like). There are also the billions of people who feel they are serving God in accordance with non-Christian religions, such as Islam, Sikhism, and the Baháʼí Faith, for example. A question I posed in this post is can it really be the case that all of these billions of lives are relatively unimportant to God, because these people did not embrace Jesus as Lord and Saviour and lead a Christian life?
An alternative perspective, which embraces the idea of God’s sovereignty over the entirety of creation, is that Christianity should be seen as one great religion among many. According to this worldview, Jesus is an immensely important person in God’s Grand Game, and no doubt an astonishing teacher and healer. But what the New Testament teaches about sin and judgment cannot make sense in a world where we don’t have free will. Instead, Jesus could be considered a great prophet, as Muslims argue he is, but possibly not the only way to have peace with God.
I will leave readers with these questions to consider:
Is there a positive role for every human being in God’s plan? Does the doctrine of hell make sense in light of God’s sovereignty over all events? And, of course, the question it all hinges upon — do we really have free will?
I do believe that the three options presented in this article are a logical way of looking at the problem of whether or not Christianity is true and should be embraced wholeheartedly. I hope that readers have found this post thought-provoking, and if anyone reading would like to explore the issues raised in this article in greater detail, I would (for one final time) urge you to consider investing in a copy of God’s Grand Game.
Read my comments policy.