The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

God, Evil, & Human Choice Q&A

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

What is God’s relationship with evil?  Just how important is human choice?  These two questions alone have been the source of endless debate within the Christian community, and they will continue to cause division until this world is destroyed.  When you’re at a point in your own spiritual journey where you want to start really chewing on these topics, it can be tough to find any serious discussions that don’t just do the usual “God is good” brush off.  Because questioning is a critical part of spiritual development, we enjoy helping you dig deeper into topics that you’re currently wondering about.  The purpose of our Q&A posts is to provide answers to series of questions which are often asked by souls who are pondering certain topics.  God’s relationship with evil and the significance of human choice are the themes we’ll be talking about in this post, so now let’s get into it.

Q1. How is it justifiable to say that the real Gods (Yahweh, Jesus & the Holy Spirit) are the origin of both good and evil?

As humans, we naturally want our Creators to have no direct relationship with evil.  And yet at the end of the day, what we think of as “evil” is a concept which was entirely created by the real Gods.  We are only aware of things like evil, suffering, and sorrow because They have intentionally introduced these things to us.  We are only capable of suffering because They have intentionally created us with that ability.  We only have a desire to do evil because They have intentionally given us the ability to desire both good and evil.  So if we’re going to accept Their claims to be the Creators of all things–not just some things–than we certainly cannot divorce Them from evil.  Instead, we are forced to see Them as the Creators of all that we think of as good and evil.  We must also face the fact that They not only created evil, but They are continuously choosing to sustain it.

For all of the griping Christians do about Satan harassing them, when’s the last time you heard anyone acknowledging what a simple thing it would be for our Gods to simply uncreate Satan and all demons?  The issue isn’t just that our Gods created evil–the greater issue is that They choose to keep sustaining it.  And once you understand that these Gods are independent Beings who only ever do what They want to do, you are forced to conclude that from Their perspective, there is a clear plus to keeping evil around.  The question now becomes…

Q2. Why would our Gods prefer to have both evil and good instead of just good?

One attraction to adding evil is that it increases the complexity of any project it is added to.  Since our Gods love complexity, They like designing projects with many opposing factors.  Imagine painting a wall all white–that represents a creation that is devoid of evil.  It has a nice clean look, but you could also argue it’s rather boring.  Now paint half the wall solid black.  Things are now more interesting, but still rather simplistic.  So take off the solid black paint and this time add lines of black.  Make some kind of intricate design of black lines over the white wall, with white poking out everywhere.  Depending on how you apply the black, you can come up with something quite fascinating to look at.

This very simplistic metaphor demonstrates how, from the Divine perspective, adding evil to this creation in a strategic, controlled way can greatly enhance the attraction of the whole thing.  Too much evil would be as boring as too much good.  But an intricate balancing act can actually have the effect of enhancing both.

Because white and black are such opposite colors, white areas surrounded by lines of black really pop out at the eye.  In the same way, black appears more intense when it is surrounded by white.  Mixing two extremes together in the right way will end up enhancing both while stepping up the over all complexity of the finished work.

A desire for complexity and extremes has nothing to do with humans.  These are personal values that our Gods have, and those values affect Their creative style.  If we were dealing with Beings who loved simplicity, we’d live in a very different kind of world.

Q3. If our Creators offer us the choice of fellowshipping with Them in the context of goodness or “light”, do They also offer the same fellowship in a context of evil or “darkness”?

Be careful with how you think of “fellowship,” because this is a highly complex topic.  Let’s use a metaphor:

Suppose you want to edit a picture on your computer.  When you pull up your photo editing software, you find yourself bombarded with choices.  There’s a whole menu dedicated to lighting.  Not only can you adjust the overall brightness of the picture, but you can adjust the contrast of the light and dark elements in the picture.  If you make the picture as bright as possible, but then set the contrast to extreme, the dark elements of the picture will grow super dark, and you’ll end up with some really bright patches and some really dark patches. Adjusting the brightness and contrast is just the beginning.  You can also adjust the color to emphasize reds, blues, or yellows.  You can remove all color and turn it black and white or you can choose to tint it all one color, like sepia.  Once you fix the color you can then start playing with texture. Do you want a grainy look?  A painted look?  A pixel look?  A blurred look?  What about size?  Do you want to stretch it one way more than another, thus causing certain features to be exaggerated?  Do you want to crop it?  Do you want to use edit tools to cut out certain elements from the photo?  The choices go on and on, and all we’re talking about here is one simple photograph.

Your personal fellowship with God is like that photograph–it has many different elements to it which can be individually altered.  How God decides to adjust the various aspects of your personal relationship with Him has a huge impact on how pleasant your experience of that relationship is.  For example, how well do you know God?  Is He frequently teaching you new insights about Him, or is He withholding that information?  The knowledge of God is just one “dial” that God can adjust at will.

Another critical area is how aware God allows you to be of His personal involvement in your life.  Are you going through life in a fog of oblivion or are you very aware of God interacting with you?  God is intimately involved in every human life, but we cannot become aware of His involvement until He opens our eyes.

A third key area is the tone of your relationship with God.  God can be incredibly sweet or utterly terrifying, depending on which of His many traits He is choosing to emphasize with you.  He can be as gentle as a soft breeze or as violent as an erupting volcano.

So since God is in total control of how He interacts with us, and since He can drastically change His style with us at anytime, how do we humans even begin to approach Him?  Well, He tells us that He has given us the ability to choose how we’re going to respond to Him.  He then says that the choices we make will directly affect how He chooses to relate to us.  He says that if we keep saying “yes” to Him on a soul level and embrace the soul attitudes and priorities He tells us to embrace, then He will respond by adjusting the knowledge, awareness, and tone elements of our relationship with Him in positive directions.  Our knowledge of Him will increase, our awareness of Him will grow, and His tone with us will be very positive.  If instead we keep blowing Him off, then our knowledge will decrease, and the tone of the relationship will turn negative.

So to answer this question, do our Gods offer us the same kind of fellowship with Them regardless of what kinds of choices we make?  Not at all.  Instead, They promise that obeying Them versus defying Them will result in drastically different experiences.

Q4. If Heaven is a byproduct of obeying God, then is Hell the byproduct of ignoring Him?

Don’t view Heaven and Hell as “byproducts” because that comparison implies a lot of things that aren’t true.

Heaven and Hell can be compared to the AM and FM stations on a radio.  There isn’t just one AM or FM station–there is a wide variety of both.  In the same way, there isn’t just one experience of Heaven or Hell.  If you end up in Heaven, your experience of it will be different from how other humans experience it.  Depending on which human you’re being compared to, those differences can range from minor to extreme. It’s the same with Hell–creatures who end up there will have a variety of experiences.

Tone is the best element to think of when you’re trying to understand the difference between Heaven and Hell.  The wide range of Heaven experiences will have a positive tone.  In Hell, creatures will all be experiencing a negative tone in their relationships with God.  But here again, we run into complications, because a positive tone can be mildly positive, pretty positive, or very positive.  Negativity can also come in a wide range of intensities.  Then there are the issues of knowledge and awareness.  Imagine a situation in which you are acutely aware of God interacting with you, yet all He ever does is torture you in hideous ways.  Obviously being aware of God isn’t a plus in this situation–it’s just adding to your terror.  Depending on how God adjusts the various aspects of His relationship with you, He can fix it so that you are having a fantastic experience of life, or you’re utterly wretched.

Q5. I notice the material on this website really emphasizes the importance of soul choice.  But why exactly do our choices matter?

Soul choice is of critical importance in your relationship with God.  But here’s where it gets interesting: you have no choice about how important your choices are.  You see, God could just say, “I don’t care what you do or how you respond to Me–I’ll treat you however I please.”  Some people believe that God has predestined or pre-programmed humans to make the choices He wants them to make, and we’re all just like a bunch of robots living out our programming.  Others believe that God isn’t forcing us to make certain choices, but He doesn’t care about the choices we make, either.  Instead, He pretty much ignores us and lets the human drama unfold as a series of random events.

The truth is that God has created you to have some choice in life.  There are a ton of issues which you have absolutely no say about–and in these areas, God just forces His will upon you.  For example, God didn’t ask you whether you wanted a male or female earthsuit.  He didn’t let you have a say in who your parents were or what society you’d be born into.  To have an accurate understanding of choice, you need to understand that your true choices are extremely limited.  In fact, when we stack up the things you actually have some say about against the things you have no say about, the second group so outnumbers the first, that your choices seem too few to really matter.  And yet the truth is that they not only matter, they are critical.  But why?

Let’s say that you only have one real choice in life.  But then suppose God decides to make that one choice the determining factor for where He places you in eternity.  Do you see how God’s decision to attach enormous significance to your choice makes it so important?  It’s not how many choices you have that matters–it’s how God decides to respond to whatever choices you make.  If He decides to view your choices as extremely important, and if He decides to drastically change His reaction to you based on how you respond to Him, then suddenly your choices become very important.  If instead God decides to ignore any choices you make, then having a million choices won’t help you–you’ll be stuck dealing with whatever God shoves on you.

By themselves, our choices are not significant.  It’s only God’s response to them which gives them their great value.  God tells humans that whether He puts them in Heaven or Hell will be a direct response to what kinds of soul choices they made while they were on Earth.  Since this is how He has chosen to operate with us, we are forced to work within that system.

Q6.  When God convicts us to make wise soul choices so that we will end up in Heaven when we die, is that mainly for His benefit or ours?

First, we need to separate the concept of Divine preferences from the concept of human preferences.  When your Creators tell you that you should obey Them in life so that you can experience being rewarded by Them, They are talking in terms of your human preferences.  Rather than create you to be some lump that doesn’t care what happens to it, your Creators have designed you to be a creature with very strong preferences.  It is because of Them that you find lying down on a soft bed very pleasant and lying on a bed of broken glass to be very unpleasant.  When God says “Obey Me and it will go well with you,” He is talking about your definition of well.  He’s also talking about longterm, not the present moment.  Making wise soul choices on earth will result in you ending up in Heaven–an experience which God knows  you will find much more desirable than being in Hell.

When you’re being a rebellious brat and God threatens to discipline you if you don’t repent and re-submit to His Authority, He is threatening you using your definition of unpleasant.  Depending on the context, He might be threatening to turn your life into your definition of unpleasant very soon or a long time from now.  Either way, you’d be a fool to keep going down any road that God is telling you will end in your definition of misery.

So then, when it comes to counseling us about how we can thrive as Their creatures, our Creators are talking to us in terms of our definition of thriving.  They have given us strong desires to experience joy, peace, growth, and satisfaction.  They say that if we follow Their lead in this world, we will end up in a place where we are very happy as human beings.

From the human perspective, disobeying God will result in an acutely miserable existence.  Since our Gods have decided to let our choices play a big factor in how They choose to respond to us, it is in our own best interests to follow any recommendations They give us about what choices are best.

So then, when it comes to counseling us about how to thrive as Their creatures, our Gods are using the human definitions of punishments and rewards.  They also talk in terms of the big picture, not what is happening right now.  Obeying some conviction that God gives you today might create a lot of problems for you in the short term, and here’s where Christians usually get quite disgruntled and feel ripped off.  “I thought obeying God was supposed to end in rewards, but I’m just getting punished,” is a common complaint among obedient Christians.  The problem here is that the Christian is looking for immediate rewards when what God has actually promised are longterm rewards.

There’s a lot we can learn from the fact that our Gods personally convict us in life.  When you’re focusing on a specific conviction, it’s easy to be so focused on the specific thing God is telling you to do that you don’t see the big picture.  But when you step back and see how your Creators are constantly advising you on how to thrive as Their creature, what does that say about Their Character?  Why should these three non-human Beings show any concern for how you experience life as one of Their creations?  There’s no rule that says our Gods have to care about us, so the fact that They choose to do so is very encouraging.  Instead of being created by three aloof Beings, you’re dealing with three Gods who not only understand your human perspective, but They care enough about it to push you to do what is in your own best interests.

When your Creators convict you, They’re doing it for your benefit, not Theirs.  They’re expressing a preference for you to thrive in Their care.  It’s a big sigh of relief to realize that we humans were made by Gods who express such interest in our well-being, and who actually care enough about us to push us to make wise choices.  It’s not like Their own happiness is dependent on ours.  So why should They even bother to convict us at all?  This is one of the reasons that we say that our Gods are good in Character–because They take such a personal interest in us, even though we’re such insignificant specks compared to Them.  When you consider that we could have found ourselves stuck with Beings who didn’t care about us, or who were only interested in trashing us, it helps you realize what a blessing it is to be human.

Q7. So what happens if we blow our Creators off and They respond by throwing us into Hell?  That’s obviously a terrible situation for us, but how do They view it?  If Their happiness doesn’t depend on us being happy, then does that mean They are just as happy if we end up in Heaven or Hell?

To answer this question, we need to start by understanding why our Gods create in the first place.  Creating beings, worlds, dimensions, and concepts isn’t something They have to do–it’s something They choose to do for Their own pleasure.  Because They are not humans, They think differently than we do, and They have different interests and priorities than we do.  It’s not hard to see how vast the differences between us and Them are when you look around this world we live in and find many elements in it that repulse you.  What’s appealing about stinkbugs, rotting flesh, parasites, cockroaches, and thorny weeds?  Even if you’re a fellow who studies bugs and you happen to think beetles are beautiful, there will be plenty of other elements in this world that disturb you.  We humans just don’t see the point of much of what our Gods make, and if we had our way, we’d purge our world of its many negative aspects.  And yet the fact remains that if it exists, our Gods have created it intentionally and They see some positive purpose in doing so.

Once you understand why our Gods create in the first place, you can understand why They have a positive view of both Heaven and Hell.  If you end up in Hell, for example, you will find that terribly distressing, but your Creators won’t.  Your Creators have a drastically different perspective of Hell which exists independently from your perspective of it.  In the same way, our Gods’ attraction to Heaven is quite different than our own attraction to it.  We humans like the Heaven package because we associate it with a very positive experience of being alive.  For us, Heaven is a place where our quality of existence will be much more positive than it is here.  But this is not true for our Gods: Their quality of existence isn’t altered by where They put you after you die.

As humans, it’s very difficult for us to imagine the Divine perspective, because we have trouble separating that perspective from our own.  The more repulsive we find something, the harder it is for us to even try to imagine how God can like whatever it is.  The same goes for something we really like or want–in such cases, it’s very hard for us to imagine why God would take a negative view of it.  Why doesn’t God just make our illness go away?  How could He possibly view our suffering as a positive?  Or suppose our lives are going great and God starts messing them up–why would He want to do that?  How can God have a problem with us being happy and comfortable when He claims to want us to thrive?  Why does God make beautiful flowers die–why not have them bloom forever?  Why create things like dust, mold, and slime?  Why does He let good things decay?  Why doesn’t He just make yucky things die while He makes good things last?

The Divine perspective is linked to a very different set of priorities which we humans don’t relate to because those priorities aren’t about us.  Unless our Gods decide to help us understand and resonate with Their personal priorities, we’re not going to get anywhere with being able to understand exactly what They get out of creating something like Hell.  But we can certainly understand the general principle that our Gods only create things which They derive some pleasure from, and this is enough to help us steer us away from many absurd theories that Christians have invented in order to shield themselves from disturbing truths.  The theory that God hates Hell, for example, is utterly ridiculous.  Many Christians teach that Satan is the ruler of Hell, and that God stands back crying in defeat as humans are sucked into it against His will.  This is total rubbish, of course.  By humanizing God and refusing to leave room for Him to have His own set of priorities, we only end up minimizing His involvement in our lives and rejecting His Supreme Authority.

Whether we like it or not, our Gods heartily approve of everything They create, and They have created all that exists.  Given what different Beings They are, it should hardly surprise us when we find it difficult to relate to much of what They do.  But before you find this discouraging, realize that you don’t need to be God’s equal in order to have a rich and satisfying relationship with Him.  If your Creators had wanted a peer, They would have made you a God.  But as it is, you were designed to relate to Them on a very different basis: that of creature-to-Creator.  Don’t underestimate how satisfying that relationship can be.

Q8. When our Gods create souls, do They pre-program them for good or evil? Or perhaps do They hamper us with flawed earthsuits as a way of forcing us to make certain choices in life?

Whenever you’re trying to sort out choice, the key is to remember that your choice is real, but very limited.  Those who argue that humans are just a bunch of predestined automatons are often reacting to the fact that so many elements in life are forced upon us.  They get so focused on the very real element of coercion that they totally lose sight of the reality of choice.  After all, little Heather didn’t get to choose to be born into an abusive family.  She had abuse, poverty, and emotional starvation shoved on her as a child, so of course she grew up as a total mess.  And since she was a mess as an adult, of course she then made a bunch of self-destructive choices.  Of course she rejected God–how could she possibly warm up to the idea of a heavenly Father when her own father was such a creep?  This is the kind of logic you often find being used among those who try to argue that choice is irrelevant–they basically argue that with so many factors forced upon us in life, any choices we make are just instinctive reactions to those factors, thus our choices aren’t true choices.  Well, this is like you glancing quickly at a glass of water and saying that there is nothing in the glass but water.  Yet if you look closer, you will see that there are many grains of sand resting on the bottom of the glass.  Sure, the glass is mostly water, but the presence of all that water doesn’t make those sand grains disappear.  And just as those few grains are real in that glass, there are elements of real choice in lives which look like nothing but a sea of coercion.

We humans are far too hasty to leap to conclusions, and we think way too much of our own wisdom.  How people summarize their lives out loud doesn’t come close to accurately portraying all that has occurred in them.  As an outside observer, you have no way of monitoring what’s happening between another soul and God, so you can’t possibly claim to know how many choices that person did or didn’t have.

CONCLUSION

Growing close to God is an utterly thrilling and perplexing journey which includes an endless stream of questions and discoveries.  Asking questions is a vital part of your spiritual growth, so don’t hesitate to ask God questions in your own relationship with Him.  Question.  Wonder.  Wait.  And then be open to receiving some very unexpected answers.  When we sincerely care about pleasing our Creators, They delight in drawing us closer to Them one fascinating insight at a time.

FURTHER READING:
God’s Will vs. Human Choice Q&A
If God controls everything, how is it fair that He punishes us for making certain choices?
Salvation Concerns: Why does God block some souls from coming to Him?
Understanding Divine Judgment: How God Ranks Sin
Identifying God’s Limitations: Why It Can’t Be Done
Practicing Dependency: Appreciating the Wisdom of God

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