Category Archives: Free Will

The Question For Atheists Is Not “How Do I Find God?” | The Question is “How do I Miss Him?”

While God is a hidden God and is surrounded by mystery (we will never totally understand Him – He transcends us), He also has revealed much about Himself in the world that He has made (cosmos) and in how He has made human beings with an in-built God awareness (conscience). This is what theologians call “Natural Revelation.” This in itself provides enough evidence for a reasonable belief in God and renders us without excuse.

In Romans 1:20, Paul states: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”

God has planted evidence of Himself throughout His creation so that we are without excuse. Even if you were a non-Jew without the Torah, according to Paul, you are totally responsible for your behavior and cannot plead ignorance of God or His ways because God has revealed Himself to us in what He has made.

Paul’s argument is this: If you looked long enough at what God has made, you would come to understand something of His beauty and nature. Glittering stars flung across a black heaven. The earth in perfect orbit around the sun – close enough to sustain life but far enough away to keep from burning up. Sculpted mountains. The earth’s crust carved into breathtaking canyons. Fish that glow in the blackest depth of the sea. A butterfly breaking free from a cacoon. The meticulously spun web of a gray spider. The growth of a child in the womb. Birth. God’s fingerprints are all over.

After all of this, how could we ever come to the conclusion that we can live life any way that we want; that there is no God; that life is all about my glory, not His. From the greatest feat of forming a beautiful cosmos out of nothing to the intricate details of the smallest little insect or cell, each act of God in creation serves as a missionary in miniature form. They are sermons without preachers; they are biblical texts without Bibles. And while general revelation is not adequate to explain the Gospel, it renders all mankind without excuse and calls for a response.

God is everywhere, yet invisible. God is a hidden God. God has given us just enough evidence so that those who want Him can have him. Those who want to reject Him can do that as well. Think about it. It’s the only way a relationship with God could not be forced. If He was here in visible form, ruling with great power, would anybody choose differently? Evil melts away in his presence. So God must hide and self-limit in order for a free-will world to be possible. The direct presence of God would inevitably overwhelm our freedom. God gives everyone the room to either choose or reject. He’s a hidden God and He will not force love.

What you will find in your spiritual journey, is that it’s not so much that you find God; He finds you. And you realize you knew Him all along, but you suppressed knowledge of Him in your life (Romans 1). So don’t so much focus on “How do I find God?” Turn it around. “How has He already found me?” He brought me to this blog. He’s communicated via the Bible (Special Revelation). He’s placed me in an intelligently designed world that operates according to natural laws. He’s used crisis, confrontation, catastrophe, and even some fantastic blessings in life, like friends, baseball, family, and a day at the beach to get my attention and to cause me to tune in to Him.

Many former atheists have come to this conclusion: “God has found me! He’s known me all along and has never lost me, even though I’ve suppressed knowing Him. If I would have just looked at things close enough, I would have seen Him looking back at me. I don’t want to suppress Him anymore. I want to see and know Him.”

“How do I find God?” you ask. I reply: “How do you miss Him?” Look closely, and the very fact that you’re looking indicates this startling reality. He already found you.

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Conscience, Creation, Earth, Existence of God, First Cause, Free Will, Hidden God, Intelligent Design, Theism, Truth

Atheists: Don’t Fear God’s Intervention | Fear His Non-Intervention

God’s wrath as revealed in Romans 1 is not so much about intervention with some cataclysmic event of judgment, but about God’s non-intervention. God who honors human freewill, will eventually hand people over to their chosen path or belief or sexual preferences or lifestyles. He allows you to have your addictions, your worldviews, your atheism and the emptiness that comes with it. Pay attention to the three italicized phrases in verses 24, 26, and 28 of Romans 1.

Romans 1:24 says “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.

Three times Paul underscores the non-intervention of God. God doesn’t zap with wrath or bully them into doing things His way. He simply lets them have what they want in full measure.

The ultimate wrath of God is when you are so belligerent and stubborn, that God says, “OK, have it your way.” God gives you over to your beliefs or non-belief (in the case of atheism), hoping that the emptiness of it all will turn you back to Him. Many people fear the intervention of God and His punishment. But our greatest concern is the non-intervention of God and living with the life that will inevitably result from such a path taken.

A philospher once opined that when we reject truth and God, we will do one of two things: we will play god over our lives and we will live for the gratification of our senses.

We all have tried living life this way, but especially the atheist. The atheists plays god (by asserting there is no God) and having removed God and any higher purpose for living life associated with this belief, they live for the gratification of their senses. And God says, “You can do it. I’ll give you what you want.” God doesn’t have to punish us or the atheist. The pleasures that we live for punish us. Our sins punish us.

Our problem (not just atheists, but all of us) is that we want independence, total freedom from any deity, even if that deity loves us and we find Him and his ways abhorrent and objectionable. Therefore, we start playing God. You say, “I don’t want anybody telling me what’s right and what’s wrong, I want to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. I want to call my own shots. I want to make my own rules. I want to put myself at the center of the universe. I want to be my own boss, live my own way, and if it feels good, do it. I don’t want anybody telling me what to do with my life.” That’s called playing God and wanting to be at the center of my universe.

When the bottom falls out, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally—what often happens is that God just has to step back and let us feel the full impact of our own stupid decisions. “You want to be God? O.K. You be God.” And He’ll just step back and let you be God (Romans 1) because God always honors free will. It’s not something that He enjoys in some kind of sadistic way. He just lets you have what you want. He allows you to be god and to have your pleasures.

Be careful about persisting for something that you think you want. The worst thing that could happen is that God just might give you over to it and you and I will have to live with the consequences of our own decisions.

And to my atheist friends: if you don’t want God in your life, you can have it your way. God will allow you to do it. But in the end, when your views have been pushed to their logical conclusions and life has been shattered by your non-belief, it will be one time in your life when you will wish that you never got what you wanted.

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Filed under Addiction, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Free Will, Rebellion, Sexual Addiction, Theism

The Sovereignty of God Does NOT Obligate the Free Will of Man

Can God limit his knowledge? Can He choose to exercise his omniscience and omnipotence within self-limited restraints? Can God create a world where He allows humans the freedom to make decisions, even decisions that He has not willed or desired? Is it tenable to think of God as creating a world and voluntarily limiting Himself in terms of what He chooses to know and do in that world? Can God limit his power by delegating some to human creatures?

Of course, God can make this kind of world. When we talk about God’s sovereignty, we don’t just mean that there’s nothing that God can’t do or know. We also mean that He can create any kind of world that He wants. And this would include a world where free human agents are involved.

While God has committed himself to accomplishing some broad purposes in our world, I do not believe that we have to conclude that every last detail of life has all been pre-determined by God. He created that kind of world where humans are to co-create the future alongside Him. And even though humans would choose to rebel, declare that He doesn’t exist, God is still able to work things toward His broad purposes and toward the fulfillment of what He has promised. All the atheist in the world will not prevent His kingdom from coming. God has promised that it will happen.

But while we may not thwart God’s broader purposes for the world, there is legitimate free will in the decisions that we make within these broader purposes. And even though God works things toward His broader purposes, as humans with free will, we CAN destroy his purposes for our lives as individuals. We can even do the ultimate deed – declare that God Himself does not exist.

God does not push people around. He takes a step back and allows us to go our own way if we want. He does not immediately punish wickedness in most cases, nor does He immediately reward righteousness in most cases. But He does honor our free will. God partners with us to create a preferable future. He listens to our prayers and they actually mean something to Him. Prayer proves that the future is open with God; that everything has not already been settled.

Some would have you to believe that everything was frozen into place before history ever got started; that God is not really responsive to our input, nor flexible to change His mind. That God is a Chess Player God, playing both sides of the board, moving His pieces and our pieces too. Don’t believe it.

God is not some aloof deity, living in some solitary place, contemplating only Himself. He has created a dynamic world, is open to free will human creature input, and is constantly working in light of the decisions that we make. He experiences sadness when atheists and the rebellious turn away from Him and He experiences incredible delight when they come Home to Him (Luke 15).

God is omniscient in that He can know everything that can be known. But when he made our kind of world, He voluntarily limited himself, such that, we co-creators can make decisions that surprise and delight God. In this self-limited world that God made, free will actions are entities that God can choose not to know.

Some would even argue that free will actions are entities that even God doesn’t know, because He has self-limited Himself, working with us free will creatures. This does not make Him any less God, they would argue. If God knows every detail of the future exhaustively, then conditional prophecies lose their integrity would be a legimitate logic. But this might be a bit of a stretch for some to ingest. So rather than affirm it as absolutely true, I would suggest stopping just shy of it, and instead, consider that God can self-limit or choose not to know some things, including what we humans are going to do about certain things. God can exclude from his foreknowledge the things that are undecided by human creatures. Of course, God knows what is best for us and woos us toward that always. But the choice is ultimately yours. God is still Sovereign. And we can’t create situations for Him that He cannot handle. But he allows us human freedom to make our choices and waits to see what we will do with anticipation.

God created mankind because he loves story, said Elie Wiesel. I would modify and say that “God created man [with free will] because He loves stories [with surprise endings.]” How about creatings a surprise for God? Turn away from atheism. Embrace the One true God. Partner with God to create a new and better future.

I think I will partner with God in prayer, and requests that each atheist will exercise their free will and say “Yes” to God’s invitation to write a better chapter in their story – a God chapter.

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Free Will, Sovereignty of God, Theism, Worldview

Atheist – How Would You Run the World?

Most people are going to answer this question by saying that it would be a world without suffering, accidental death, and disease. No one would ever get old and it would be a world of amazing kindness and fairness and love and everyone would get along.

Amazing enough, this is precisely the kind of world that God made! But there’s one thing that most people are going to leave out of their “ideal” world, but that God also included. It’s called human free-will. God created mankind with the ability to love or reject Him and the beautiful world that He made. We chose to reject the world that God made and to run the world on our own terms and the world we now have is the result.

So, atheist, how would you do it? How would you run the world? Would you take free will away? Would you make everyone a robot, not allowing them to freely choose what they want in life, but enforcing the universal good by the inability to choose bad?

For God to neutralize the possiblity of suffering and wrong, He would have to neutralize the source of suffering – human free-will. If we are not free to choose either good or evil, then we are robots, not humans. And we have no real choice.

But, the atheist will contend. “Why doesn’t God just destroy the really bad people?” But who is to define what “bad” is? Aren’t we all sometimes bad? Does this mean we should all be destroyed? See the dilemma that we create with this rationale.

No. God created a free-will world where a legimate ability to choose is the right of every human being. If you run the world and take away this critical component, you’ve just destroyed the good world that you seek to create. If we live in a world run by you and you take away the possiblity of choosing contrary to what you wish, we would all be slaves to your pre-programming. There would never be true love, only a regurgitation of computer code that satisfies the one listening – yourself. No one would want this kind of world. And not even God wanted this kind of world.

How would you run the world? Precisely the way that God is running it now – with an authentic choice to choose the good or the bad and to live witht the results of that decision, otherwise all of creation is sabotaged and obedience is merely perfunctory because it pays well.

You and I have a choice and that’s what makes the world beautiful.

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Creation, Free Will

What’s the Deal with Genesis 1-3? | Myth or Fiction?

Is Genesis, chapters 1-3 really true? Did God really create everything? Or, is it mythology, with talking snakes and a tree of knowledge and a God who walks? To use a concept by C.S. Lewis, I would say it is “true myth.”

When we talk about myth in the Genesis Creation story context, we are not talking about “fiction.” Rather the literary genre of myth is simply a symbol filled story about a reality that is beyond our comprehension. What we must keep in mind, is that no one actually saw the Creation of the Universe. But, through ancient writers, who possessed a rich and accurate oral tradition, we have a Creation Story that sets against a constrasting backdrop of lesser creation story accounts (such as the Enuma Elish Babylonian creation story where the gods are fighting, one is slain, and man is created out of the discarded god-material).

So, in Genesis 1 through 3, we have an author who is not writing primarily as a historian, who is preoccupied with a strict chronological time-line. The author is not writing as a scientist, who is preoccupied with how everything came into existence from a physics standpoint alone. What we have is an author, who is endeavoring to answer the question of Who it is that stands behind the work of unwitnessed creation.

The author organizes the Creation Story along the metaphoric lines of a work week. We work six days and rest; God worked six days and rested. This suggests that the writer himself is nested within an organized social structure when this Creation Story was written. It comes well after the fact of Creation, but through an oral tradition, the Creation story was preserved by a community of people who would not allow inaccuracies into the story.

Genesis 1-3 is a Creation Story that explains what happened from a distinctively monotheistic, Hebrew frame of reference. But allow for the freedom of the writer to borrow from the literary genre of myth to tell the story; allow the author to use symbols that point to a reality beyond our human comprehension.

Let’s grant that there really was an Adam and Eve; that there really was a talking snake; that there really was a tree of life and of the knowledge of good and evil. But, let’s not stop there. Let’s make the application in light of true myth. That Adam and Eve stand for all of us; that the talking snake represents something very evil in our world; that the tree of knowledge of good and evil represents a choice that we always have to make. You see, we have all been created by God and are in His image. We all face a force and personality of evil in our world. We all have a free-will choice to make regarding God and our relationship with Him. In Adam and Eve, we all sinned even. That put in the very same place, you and I would have done exactly the same thing.

Don’t bog down on literal days versus periods of unspecified time. Don’t bog down on whether or not the talking snake is real. Don’t bog down on why God even placed a tree in the Garden to be tempted with. Rather, look to the realities that these Creation Story details point to. Our universe came from God, who made man in His image with free will. Man chose to disobey at the prompting of an evil presence and the entire creation fell under a curse. But even in this, there is hope planted for a New Adam who would restore a sabotaged creation (Genesis 3:15), One who would come that would thwart any serpentine attempts to de-create our lives (Paul calls Jesus Christ the Second Adam in Romans).

Genesis 1-3 is true myth, but not fiction. It points to realities beyond our human comprehension, like all mythological stories do. Only this mythological story is true.

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Creation, Eden, Free Will, Genesis 1-3, Larger Story, Myth, The Fall

“Are Atheists Sent to Hell?” – No, But They Choose It Anyway

I will not deal with the nature of hell (do we eventually go into non-being?) or the duration of hell (is it eternal punishing as in conscious torment or is it eternal punishment as in consequences that last forever?) – even though I have my beliefs on these issues.

Hell is described in many different ways in order to wake us up to its reality (blackest darkness – Jude 13; everlasting destruction – 2 Thessalonians 1:9; weeping and gnashing of teeth – Matthew 8:12).

But the plea of those in hell is not so much “God, let me out, let me out, let me out.” Rather, it is “God, you get out! Leave me alone, you cosmic Sadist.” Hell is a place where people have barricaded themselves in, in order to keep God out. So hell then is a courtesy for those who insist that they want no part of forgiveness, no part of God. Hell is simply the only place left to go for those who will not accept their acceptance by grace. They are successful rebels to the very end.

Lewis held that there are two kinds of people in the world: (I’m paraphrasing) those who say to God “Thy will be done.” And those to whom God will finally say, “Thy will be done.” If you really want to walk away from life eternal and barricade me out, I have made you with free-will and will honor your choice. Hell is the greatest monument to human freedom and the choices we make. Love cannot be forced. Hell exists because love and grace can be refused.

Having tried to win them, God will ultimately say to some, “All right, have it your way.” This is not cruel or unloving at all. It’s the ultimate expression of a self-limited God who refuses to violate free will.

So yes, to the person who refuses to believe in God, acknowledge him as God, and surrender to His love, and persists in these views throughout an entire lifetime – hell is, in effect, chosen.

George MacDonald talks about the “one principle of hell” in one of his sermons written decades ago. “The one principle of hell is: ‘I am my own. I am my own king and my own subject. I am the center from which go out my thoughts. I am the object and end of my thoughts… My own glory is…my chief care… My kingdom is comprised of as many as I can bring to acknowledge my greatness over them… It is my right to have what I desire.’ (Truth in Jesus)”

But always remember when you are in any discussion on hell, that Christ says, “You can go to hell if you want, but it’s over my dead body that you’ll do it.” Love…true love…

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Filed under Atheism, Atheist, Christian Worldview, Deconversion, Free Will, Hell, Rebellion

Can An Atheist Change? Ask Ebenezer Scrooge this Christmas…

The wonderful thing about life is that we all can change. The future is not settled. We have the capacity to surprise and delight God in the decisions that we make. Even an atheist can change!

In the famous story, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge, in reference to the tombstone which he saw in the vision, asks: “Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they the shadows of the things that may be, only?” Scrooge adds: “Men’s course will foreshadow certain ends to which, if persevered in, they must lead, but if the courses be departed form, the ends will change.”

Scrooge pleads: “Assure me that I may yet change these shadows you have thrown at me, by an altered life. Oh, tell me that I may sponge away the writing on this stone.” (Narrative help from Clark H. Pinnock, Most Moved Mover)

Ebenezer Scrooge wanted to know if the future was still open; if he could in fact, shape it, choose differently, and write a new story with his life. He wanted to know if his actions could affect it. And the story goes on to answer that question.

Can people change? Specifically, can an atheist change? Can one who has built this very complex philosophical structure around their lives, abandon a worldview that is unable to answer the deeper life questions? Can one turn his or her back on rationalizations once held dear? Can an atheist actually become a theist, who honors their true Creator and live their life for Him? Can an atheist be brave enough to challenge the arguments of his or her atheistic friends because the evidence has begun to point toward theism?

Yes, a thousand times, “Yes!”

Elie(zer) Wiesel, the concentration camp survivor, remarked: “God made man because he loves stories.” I want to modify his statement slightly. “God made man with free will because he loves stories with surprise endings.” All human beings, especially atheists, have the capacity to surprise and delight God with the decisions that we make. He’s watching your story and has been for a long time.

You’ve been writing a story all your life, a story full of unique characters, some that make you laugh, others that make you cry; a story that has taken place in a variety of settings and locations, some pleasant, some not so pleasant; and a story that has had many digressions of plot which have taken you down many roads, some of which were dead-end ally-ways.

Christmas says that there needs to be a chapter written into the story of your life where character, setting, and plot all converge into a moment – a here and now moment; a moment when you realize that God has been tracking your story all along the way; a moment when you realize that you’ve had many opportunities to surprise and delight Him, to turn the plot of your life into a favorable, God-honoring direction. And for whatever reason, your life story has taken a different path.

The greatest application of what we as human beings have experienced at Christmas would be for us to turn the pen over to God and say “God, you write my story now. I need Someone who can take all the bits and pieces, all the bad decisions, and self-centered chapters, the selfish streaks, the ugly impulses, the lust and the hate and the simple ambition to make something of myself – Someone who can take all of this complexity and conundrums and weave it into an incredible, surprise ending.

Don Miller gives a wonderful talk on the subject of story. He suggests in his talk that God begins from our mistakes. We make a mistake and God says, “Well, I didn’t necessarily want that in your story, but let’s begin again from there and let me use it in some incredible, unsuspecting way.”

Time after time, because of our free will, God has pieces and characters and locations thrown at Him, and at times, we are doubtful that He could do anything redeeming with it. And yet He writes on, and creates something beautiful, even inspiring from all the pieces, even atheistic pieces. God will even take the pieces of “atheism” and weave it into a grand theme for a God-honoring life if you will, but allow Him to do it.

It’s not the evil that we do in our stories that amazes me; it’s the good that comes from the evil that we do (and this includes everybody by the way, not just atheists!). How does God do it? How does he create so much good from bad? There is no decision that God cannot use, no character beyond his reach, no plot that He cannot turn, no setting that he cannot remake and renew. Every lie told, every dollar taken, every promise broken, every bad attitude, every virtue we’ve abandoned, every opportunity we’ve wasted, God can use all of it for good in your story, but you’ve got to give Him the pen. God is a great writer, and you’ll love the surprise ending.

But can someone like an atheist change; someone who has even denied that there is even a Story-teller? You bet. Just ask Scrooge. And maybe this blog could represent a “new character” in your story, that points toward the one true God, Lover of all men, and Friend of humanity.

The future is not set in stone; you can change. Shape a better future this Christmas. Write a better story over this holiday season. And tell me about it (don’t allow your atheistic friends to intimidate you; you have a place at my table). I’d love to read your story.

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Filed under Atheism, Christmas, Free Will