Why Didn’t God Just…?
by Prof. John Stackhouse
Many of us wonder, particularly in the face of evil, why an omnipotent God didn’t just do things differently–you know, the way you and I would do them if we were God. I mean, it seems so obvious, doesn’t it, that God could do a better job of running the world than God does? As David Hume remarked so long ago, it’s not just that we endure earthquakes and plagues and betrayals, we also endure irritations and nuisances and disappointments. The house we live in isn’t only lethally dangerous in places, it’s also shoddily built everywhere else.
Why, for instance, didn’t God create human beings immediately with such moral goodness that they freely would never sin? After all, Christians aspire to such a state in the life to come, such that, as Augustine put it, it is non posse peccare—not possible to sin. Just as it would be impossible for a loving mother ever to torture her children and enjoy it—no matter what the inducement, no matter if the whole world was at stake—because she is just not that kind of person, so Christians look forward to enjoying a state of moral maturity such that sin has lost its appeal and we invariably prefer the good. So why doesn’t God create us that way from the start?
The point I want to make here is that we may be asking God to create a square circle. It may be (I certainly don’t know) that it is simply the nature of things that a creature does not enjoy the condition of moral maturity without maturing, without undergoing a process of moral training, conditioning, and confirming. Thus Adam and Eve, in their original created state of moral innocence, were as good as God could make them immediately as free beings. They necessarily then had to embark on a journey of moral maturation—with its ever-present peril of moral declension.
We often ask other questions of the “Why didn’t God just . . .” variety. Why didn’t God just avoid the whole painful business of the Incarnation? Why didn’t God in particular just spare his Son the Cross? Why didn’t God just heal all the sick and raise all the dead at once in the career of Jesus? Why didn’t God just . . . and so on, and so on. In each of these cases, the Christian answer is the same: God elected either the best of the available choices or, indeed, the only choice available for God to pursue his purposes…
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