Perfect Chaos

The Blog of Author Steven Colborne

Why Regret is Illogical

Welcome to the latest post in my Praise and Prose series, which looks at how the way we use language might change in order to better reflect God’s sovereignty over all events, which is a key component of my philosophical perspective.

When we regret something, we are feeling that something we did in the past should have been done differently, or not at all. The idea of regret is very much bound up with the notion of free will found in all three of the major Abrahamic religions, but I’m a firm believer that God’s sovereignty over all events necessarily means that we don’t have free will.

In this article, I will briefly explain how I believe our feelings of regret function in reality, and why I feel it could be seen as illogical to express regret over something that happened in the past. I will conclude by considering what the world might be like if we didn’t experience regret.

I believe that God, as cosmic animator, is unfolding the story of creation, which includes the story of each and every human life. God’s guiding hand extends even to our thoughts, words and actions. Therefore, everything that we do throughout our lives happens due to God actively unfolding the events of our lives in a particular way.

If what I have said in the preceding paragraph is true, then why do we feel regret?

Regret is a mode of mind under God’s control. God is in control of our emotions, and so when we feel regret it is because God has aroused that feeling within our consciousness. The emotions that we feel are part of God’s Grand Game and the illusion of freedom that God causes us to experience a lot of the time.

Some people live their whole lives without a revelation of the reality of God, which leads them to adopt the kind of ‘we are our brains’ perspective which scientifically inclined people often hold. Others are conscious of God’s existence much of the time, or all the time. It depends on the extent to which God brings an awareness of His existence to each individual’s mind as we live our lives.

As I mentioned in the introduction, when we experience feelings of regret, there is a sense that what happened shouldn’t have happened. But when we understand that God is unfolding our lives in their entirety, the idea that something shouldn’t have happened makes no sense, as there was simply no freedom in the matter.

Does this mean that everyone can do whatever they like — that there are no moral constraints applicable to human beings?

Well, the starting point for our theology of regret should be to investigate the nature of reality, and to explore whether or not my proposal is true — whether God is truly in control of everything that happens. This will answer the question. My understanding is that in the human dimension of reality we may well make moral decisions, but in the ultimate dimension those same decisions are under God’s control.

In a puppet show, the puppets might express a wide range of emotions, and yet they have no freedom; they are 100% under the puppet master’s control. The same is true of human beings with their feelings of regret, which are really the work of their divine puppet master.

So, if what I have said in this article is true, what are the repercussions?

Imagine a life without any regrets, and without any need to feel guilty or apologise for anything. Such a life, which might seem strange when first considered, is actually logical if we understand God’s absolute sovereignty. And yet, our religious heritage has influenced our way of thinking so strongly that guilt, regret, and apologising have become deeply ingrained in the human psyche, to the point of being habitual — especially to religious people. We are, in a sense, slaves to these feelings, even though they can be understood to be illogical.

Would there be anarchy if we didn’t feel regret? This depends entirely on whether or not God would want to create a world of anarchy. He could just an easily manifest a world of peace and harmony without regret.

It would be a drastic change for us to ditch all our feelings of regret and behave in accordance with a theology that embraces God’s absolute sovereignty, but it would not be impossible for us to do so. In a world where God is omnipotent, things that seem very certain can change drastically in an instant. So perhaps a utopian future without any regret is a realistic possibility.

I hope this article has caused readers to think deeply about why we feel regret, whether regret is logical, and some of the possible implications if we were to stop feeling regret. I’ll be back with another instalment in my Praise and Prose series soon, so if you enjoyed this article, please consider subscribing to the blog. Thank you for reading.

(Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash)

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Steven Colborne

About Me

Hello, I’m Steven and I’m a philosopher and author based in London. My main purpose as a writer is to encourage discussion about God. I write about a wide variety of subjects related to philosophical theology, including divine sovereignty, the nature of God, suffering, interfaith dialogue and more. My mantra: Truth heals.

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