Why did God create a rebellious people? (1)

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: Why would God go ahead and create beings like us, knowing that we would rebel and sin… and that some of us would spend eternity in hell as a result… I mean… that’s the most serious penalty imaginable! So — and with such serious jeopardy in view — why would he go through with his plan to create humans? Isn’t it plain-old mean to send people to hell? Or at least, if some of his “beloved” creatures will be lost in the process of saving others, doesn’t that outweigh any good that could come from it?

Answer: That’s a great question… and it comes up a lot. But I particularly like the phrase “why would he go through with his plan to create humans?” — because the plan was not flawed. You see, the fact that people sin is not a flaw in God’s plan; it’s just the opposite, in fact. God’s plan fixes sin — that’s its point. But your question is well taken; is all that trauma necessary? Yes. The trauma is necessary for God to have a meaningful relationship with his creation. In fact, I believe that this trauma is one of the “go/no-go” tests for whether or not God would create.

The Bible is clear that every human being and some of the angels sin — and that we are in a cosmic (as well as in a spiritual) mess because of it.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. (Romans 3:23, NLT)

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; (2 Peter 2:4, NIV)

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22–23, NIV)

But if God had decided — on the basis of sin, its requisite punishment and its results — that he should not go through with his creative plan, then sin (and the theoretical perpetrators thereof) would have beaten God! The only other alternative would have been for him to create beings who could not sin — robot-people compared to us. Either way, his primary objective would have been thwarted by the enemy; only volitional beings may love God and give him glory.

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Rev. 4:11, NIV)

You see, the only being who possesses intrinsic worthiness is God… but without created beings who would know that? God created us as sentient and volitional beings who have the ability to behold his glory — and when we voluntarily give that glory to God, that pleases him… but legitimate glory cannot be given unless there is a risk that some might withhold it. What this means for your question is that our ability to sin actually completes God’s plan as well as justifies the risk to both God and humankind. As such, sin is an inextricable part of God’s plan — a plan which, by definition (that is, by virtue of it being formulated by a God who is omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, etc.) has no flaws.

Remember, for us to be worth more than just rocks or trees to God, we must have robust free-will… and sin is proof that such freedom truly exists in humankind. After Jesus returns, and after he finally dispatches evil, sin will no longer be an issue. But for now, we cannot not sin… and that’s sort of okay… because an essential part of today’s plan is for God to engage our imperfections without impinging upon his own perfection. How can a holy God do that? Through the blood of Christ — its atonement does that. We have been made holy and blameless categorically... although it rarely feels like it experientially.

God’s plan is perfect, its execution is perfect — and even its objects are perfect! We are just not complete. Remember, God wants to redeem an optimal number of people — and this takes time; it just won’t take forever.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
(Ephesians 1:4, NIV)

Since God chose us before the foundations of the world, and since his redemptive plan was already in place before any creation, then Jesus’ sacrifice was a pre-foundational part of that plan. God’s plan has always been about redemption — and redemption was no add-on where God addressed sin on-the-fly.

He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
(1 Peter 1:20, NIV)

God designed his plan for salvation, not damnation… but logic insists upon it. You see, given a holy God, and given a sinful human population in which some are saved, logic creates a category of people who are not saved. No one “designed” this category; it popped into existence when the first person got saved. Biblical salvation is a positive structure… but one which makes no sense without its logical opposite. The notion of people being “saved” is differentiating; it demands a logical contrast… or else why have the category at all?

Part of God’s omniscience is that he foreknows everyone’s sin… but that’s just a subset of his knowing everything. When an omniscient Being foreknows the free choices of volitional beings, that knowledge is not sending anyone to hell. People choose hell for themselves. God's plan is for volitional beings to find a volitional Savior — Jesus Christ. He chose to die so that we might choose to live — and the answer to your question hinges right there — on choice and on volition.

I find it interesting that hell wasn’t even created for humans. It was created for Satan and his minions.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’” (Matthew 25:41, NIV)

As to the "whys" of it all, although the Bible is replete with direct reasons “why” God performed some individual acts, it does not answer this broader "why" question directly. But the writers of the Westminster Shorter Catechism did: "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." … and I agree. The biblical case for the “whys” of creation is cumulative rather than pointed. But — and as much trouble as we volitional beings surely can be — God wants a relationship with us… but only the “us” that could say no to him if we so desired… and some do. That’s not on God. That’s proof of volition.

Another difficulty in answering the "why" questions about God, is that he does not perform acts as a subject that is doing something. It is more that he is something. When I perform a loving act, it is not because I “am” love at my core. It is because I choose love from my palette. But when God performs loving acts (acts in real-time — acts that we can feel, evaluate and articulate) it is because he “is” love (1 John 4:8)… and that’s different. God has no palette; he does not choose among character traits. He exists… and those passages which show him acting as if he had a physical body are mere anthropomorphisms — literary devices to help us know how the Unknowable works with us.

As such, God is never “motivated” as we understand the term; nothing drives him. When we observe God's "actions," it is only our human perspective that makes us think that he has performed a deed... but that's not exactly correct. God just existsdecrees… and stuff happens. This is why it is so difficult to answer the “whys” of God. He has no motives that are separate from his essence… and any questions that are so bound up in a transcendent essence cannot be plumbed by created beings.

Now — and sin notwithstanding — God did make us in his own image (Genesis 1:27)… and he is very generous with his revelation — both general and special. This tells me that he is interested in being known. But the trick is to know him rightly… and that’s the direct path of God’s plan. Once we know him rightly, then we will (of necessity) glorify him — which is the logical conclusion of the matter.

As you can see, Christianity is far from fanciful… it is logical — and here’s how: if we postulate what Christians affirm, that God is a being who is a sufficient cause of creation, then giving him glory is logically congruent. But if that is true, then there’s more at stake: he created the entire cosmos just for us... and don’t let its size put you off. Size is nothing to God.

God wants a relationship with the only type of creature who can really engage in one — those who could say no. But why does he bother? Because if even one person were saved because of creation, this would give more glory to God than if none were saved… but the converse is more useful here: if God did not go through with creation, this would have resulted in less glory than if he did create. And since the greatest possible Being must receive the greatest possible glory, his nature demands that he creates volitional beings… and here we are!

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20170109 Why did God go ahead with creating a rebellious people?).

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)