Recently, I picked up one of Keith's hard copy studies from Preston Eby. It is number 82 in The Candlestick to the Throne series; a study on Revelation that has been going on for several years. I was somewhat taken aback when I read the following:
Sin, sorrow, and death are God’s great cosmic object lesson! God could have made all of us like robots, programmed to be holy and to act righteously at all times and under all circumstances. But should He have done so, the one thing we all would lack is character. We would be holy, but without the knowledge of why we are holy, or the understanding of the consequences of not being holy. We would not be holy because we desired holiness, or because, with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, we chose to be holy. God didn’t want robots! He wanted sons and daughters!
God, in His omniscient wisdom and knowledge, understood fully the difference between good, evil, holiness, and life. He planned for us also to understand! Not by being told, counseled, or trained like animals, but by experience. Oh yes, experience is the best teacher! Our heavenly Father purposed to take us a route through which we would learn experientially the true nature of all things, that through the interchange of good and evil, and the deep dealings of the Holy Spirit, every man and every creature ultimately would be brought to the place where they would knowingly, willingly, and eternally choose and cling to the way of life, light, and love! Aren’t you glad!
God deliberately gave to man an area of autonomy — self government — POWER.
I can see some merit in this plan. There was a time I couldn't. Worded this way, I can even sort of agree that it might be a good idea.... although I still really don't like the suffering parts. It provides an explanation for the age old theodicy question...the question Beth thinks she's found the answer to when she dons her "YOUR GOD IS DEAD" T-shirt. Why is there suffering in the world? The answer? So we learn experientially to cling to the way of life, light and love....,
In his book "Is God To Blame?" Gregory Boyd expresses a similar thought:
God’s plan has always been that we would align our will with his will. But because his plan is a plan of love, this alignment could not be preprogrammed or coerced. The possibility of rejecting it had to exist. If love is the end, freedom must be the means to that end.
God created the world out of love and for the purpose of love. But as all emotionally healthy people intuitively know, love must be chosen. And choice means that a person can say no. Unless people can choose not to love, they can’t genuinely choose to love. The possibility of the one is built into the possibility of the other. Love simply cannot be coerced or programmed into people.
Gregory Boyd is not a universalist. Like C.S. Lewis he believes that "There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, "All right, then, have it your way." As a universalist, I believe that God will never say...have it your way. The hound of heaven will relentlessly dog every single soul ever born. He will hunt them down, overwhelm them with his love and goodness until they willingly and joyfully bow their knee to Christ. Some may take longer than others but he has time on his side...
Regardless of Boyd's stand on UR, aren't these guys both saying that there is an area, a dimension, a sphere, a realm of autonomy, self government...freedom?
In "Man Is a Free Moral Agent" Eby says the following:
Where do these man-made preachers get the notion that man is a free moral agent? Indeed, he may be free in some minor things that concern his personal conduct, but concerning God's eternal purpose for him He is not free to do his own will.....
Does that mean we are totally free? Another one of those age old paradoxes that has never been fully sorted out and agreed upon....free will/determinism. Our choices are not unlimited. Of course God imposes his will on us sometimes. Often...even most of the time....virtually all the time. We even pray that he forces his will on others...and oftentimes he does. Oftentimes there may only be ONE choice based on the overwhelming influences and our character and nature and those things he blinds us to...but sometimes, sometimes we must have a choice, a real choice, not a psuedo choice to demonstrate to ourselves (and if you hold to the open view to demonstrate to him) what we've learned. Otherwise, we ARE simply robots and our "training for reigning" is akin to "animal training." And if we choose the opposite of life, light and love? Well, we have to repeat the lesson again and again until we get it right...and then we get to move on to the next one.
... For the mystery of godliness belongs to those who are willing, not to those who are overpowered. --Gregory of Nazianzus