Friday, January 15, 2010

Big questions

The big question that haunts me is, "Why did God create us, knowing all the pain and bother and mess we were going to cause? Why would anybody do that?"

We know from 1 Peter 1:20 that God chose Jesus to be our redeemer before the creation of the world. That means God knew everything that was going to happen before He even lifted a finger to create the first ray of light. He knew that humans would sin and require redemption. He knew everything. He knew who would be His children; in fact, He chose us before He created the world, according to Ephesians 1:4.

He knew that we would be born, and He knew where we would live and what our names would be, and who would share the gospel message with us. He knew that I would be Ruthie Rainbow from Anoka, Minnesota, and that I would grow up and marry a man named Shawn and move to New York and have four children. He knew on what day all of my children would accept Him as their personal Savior, and He still knows, even though I never bothered to write it down.

It makes perfect sense, when you ponder on His attributes. He is all-knowing, so how could He not know? He is eternal, so the future is not hidden from Him. He is all-mighty, so He is the great orchestrator of all that happens. He is sovereign, so He has everything perfectly within His wise and holy control.

And yet, knowing all this, knowing that we would sin and that to save us from the consequences of our sin would require the excruciatingly painful death of part of Himself, knowing all that, He went ahead and created us.

Some people say it is all about contrasts, about how the diamond of grace shines so much brighter against the backdrop of black velvet sin. I myself have used this illustration, but I have never felt comfortable with it. It seems sort of sado-masochistic, sort of like the guy who was banging his head against a brick wall, and when they asked him why he was doing it, he said, "Because it feels so good when I stop." God isn't like that. I just know He isn't.

I have never bought into the phrase, "Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved." I am all about avoiding pain. I do not think the same is true of God, but neither do I think He would inflict pain merely to enable us to celebrate when it goes away.

On Wednesday, during our small group, I think I finally gained some insight into all this.

We were watching a Colin Smith DVD, and he was teaching about creation and the fall. He alluded to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and said something like, "They already knew good, the only thing they didn't know was evil, so when God told them not to eat of the tree, He was not keeping them from anything good. They already had everything that was good. God was only protecting from the knowledge of evil."

One of our members was stymied by this. He said, "If they already had the knowledge of good, why were the two bound up together in the tree? Why wasn't it just called the tree of the knowledge of evil?" Which I thought was a very good point. Another member said, "But it was the knowledge of good and evil..." And we did not quite explore this idea, and I wish we had, for I believe we were very much on the right track, and I think this same track leads back to the explanation of "Why" concerning the creation of the entire universe.

I am going to tell you a story now, and I am not really digressing. A few years back, I worked with a volunteer group for our school district. We arranged arts programming for our elementary schools, so that the children would be exposed to plays and concerts and the like, even those children whose parents would never be in a position to take them out to attend a performance. Of course, this sometimes involved busing the children to various venues where performances took place. If everything went off without a hitch, we never heard a word about it. But if a bus was overcrowded, or a group had to walk two blocks through inclement weather, or somebody had trouble finding their bus in the bus-line after the performance, you can believe we got an earful then.

My point is that when everything goes well, it is merely going "as it should." It is only when things go wrong that we notice that it is "bad." (Incidentally, this is a bit of a corollary to the point C.S. Lewis makes in Mere Christianity, about how all bad is merely a perversion of good, and therefore it is obvious that good was the original condition).

This led me to realize that, while Adam and Eve had every good and perfect gift that the Father could possibly give them, they had no knowledge of good, because the knowledge of good only shows up when there is bad contrasted against the good. In other words, they had good, and they experienced good, but they did not know that this is what they were experiencing, because they didn't know about the possibility of anything else (namely, bad).

This, I believe, may be why God created us, knowing full well that we would sin and in so doing require the demonstration of mercy whereby His only Son poured out His very lifeblood for our salvation.

Before God created, everything was good, but it wasn't a known good, it was just a sort of bland, meaningless good, like a comfortable temperature in which one may exist without ever noticing, as opposed to how wonderful it feels to warm up in a soft blanket in front of a fireplace after sledding in the winter, or to cool down in the shade with an iced drink on a hot day.

In a way, creation brought meaning to the goodness of God. God was always good, but in creating the universe, He gave His inherent goodness meaning and purpose, and provided Himself with an opportunity to share His goodness with others, with us, for our benefit and His glory.


ruth said...

This is a test

shannon said...

mahahaha what are you testing? your ability to receive comments?

I will read this entry again when I feel like my mind is capable of digesting things again! and then maybe I will say something meaningful. but I think, without reading it again and with only a half-formed idea in my mind, that it all comes back to the idea of not knowing dark without light, or happiness without its absence.

So I think the knowledge of good and evil had a lot to do with the sudden understanding that 'good' was not just the way things were and had to be, but that there was certainly a choice. Maybe it was a sort of sudden UNDERSTANDING of the MEANING of free will. Certainly not just a knowledge of evil because human nature at the point of corruption could clearly see the allure of evil.

I think that, since the sin had been committed BEFORE the realization of the gravity of the sin, that the tree was certainly not evil or just the knowledge of evil, but the juxtaposition of evil against good so that Adam and Eve could clearly see, before God sought them out in the garden, just exactly what they had done and why it was so terrible. Or something.

Like I said, I'll read it again when my mind is functional.

PS: I hope this proves that I read your blog.

shannon said...


ruth said...

Hey Shannon,
I am trying to get the comments stuff figured out on this blog. Also, since both my old email accounts have been shut down and I am trying to learn a new computer (my birthday Mac), things have been kind of mixed up around here lately. Here's hoping I'm back on track now!