Does our free will trump God’s free will?
Because I’m a geek, I often do random Google search terms and see what comes up. A while back, I entered in “Rick Warren Mormon” and found this transcript of a Larry King interview with Rick Warren. There was some back-and-forth about Mormonism, but I found this exchange on the problem of evil, or theodicy, more interesting.
A typical exchange on the Problem of Evil
KING: What happened to you?
WARREN: I think it wasn’t one turning point. I think over a period of time, as I began to study the Bible over and over, I kept seeing this concept that you are not an accident, that there are accidental parents, but there are no accidental children. There are illegitimate parents, but there are no illegitimate children.
In other words, your parents may not have planned you, but God did. And honestly, it really doesn’t matter whether your parents were good or bad or indifferent. The fact is the reason they were your parents is God chose them because they had just the right DNA that would create you.
And God was more interested in making you than he was in their parenting skills, so they might have been terrible parents or they might have even abandoned you, and that concept that you’re not an accident, you’re made to last forever, you were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life doesn’t make sense.
KING: How do you deal with it when you know, he made Adolph Hitler, because you just said he made all the children.
WARREN: Larry, the greatest blessings in our lives and the greatest curse is the same thing, it’s this free will that we have. It’s a great blessing because it gives me lots of freedom to do what I want to do. I can choose to do things.
The bad part of it is, I often choose to do dumb stuff. And I choose to hurt people sometimes unintentionally, sometimes intentionally. Some people take their free will like Hitler did and they destroy millions of people, destroy all of those 6 million killed in the Holocaust.
KING: And God could have prevented it.
WARREN: God could have prevented it, and the way he would have prevented it would be take away the free will of humanity.
KING: What if it was just Hitler?
WARREN: Well, if he just takes away–if he’s going to take away every time we make a bad decision then that’s going to take away all my free will.
KING: That’s more than a bad decision, that’s 6 million people.
WARREN: Six million people, and we don’t downplay it.
Where was God when that was happening? He was weeping. I think people need to understand that not everything that happens on this planet is God’s will.
In other words, part of it, in that God has — God ultimately, as we talked about the ship is going to the other row, going to the other side of things. That’s going there, but during the cruise, people are making all kinds of decisions and God says you shouldn’t have done that.
I could go out there and get drunk and kill somebody and that wouldn’t be God’s will.
Perhaps, a not-so-typical approach to the Problem of Evil.
I don’t want to dump on Rick Warren because Warren’s response is a typical evangelical response to the so-called “Problem of Evil,” or “Theodicy.” While it sounds nice on the surface, I want to explore if it is consistent with what the Bible says about God’s control of His creation; about the nature of man’s freedom; about how we are to view biblically the trauma and trials of this life on this planet.
Over the next several weeks, I would like to post some thoughts on this issue. Needless to say, I disagree with Warren and probably the majority of evangelicals that the purpose of evil’s continuing presence in the world is a merely unfortunate side effect of man’s free will. I disagree, not because I like to be a controversialist, but because Scripture compels me to do so. Also, I find the majority position to be dishonoring to God and, frankly, not helpful both ministerially or apologetically.
I want to look at the following questions in light of this issue. I may explore more as I work through it, but I think this is a good start.
- What is free will and is it taught in Scripture?
- What does the Bible say about God’s control over His creation?
- Is there any comfort in a God Who can’t keep you from being the victim of a school shooting (or some similar tragic event) because He will not violate the free will of man?
I invite your comments as I explore these issues.