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When God created the earth, the sons of God sang with joy. In biblical thought the act of creation was a joyous event proceeding out of a God of Love. In the beginning all things were in harmony, each species having its specific purpose within the whole.
Other religious traditions have looked at the later problem of sin and evil as being inherently built into matter itself. The Greeks concluded that the creator was the Demiurge, a devil-like figure who was and is eternally evil by nature. Others simply thought that the universe always existed. Both views settled on the idea of Dualism, drawing a line between spirit and matter, good and evil, light and darkness, and even God and the devil.
Their view of the beginning of things then determined their view of the end as well. If spirit and matter coexist for eternity, having equal strength, then there can be no ultimate victory for good. We can only choose sides. At times God wins, bringing prosperity and justice; at other times the devil wins, bringing devastation, adversity, and injustice.
Bible Truth and Church Teaching
The Bible, of course, begins with God and a good creation. It ends with the reconciliation of all things, where all of creation, undivided, returns to its original state of harmony and peace.
The non-biblical view of pessimistic beginnings also gives religions and entire populations an ingrained view that life inevitably is a time of suffering and pain. To some, the solution is to endure with Stoic resignation; to others, the solution is to avoid the suffering by some escape route.
Much of Christianity has been affected by these non-biblical ideas, although few truly understand this. The bulk of Christian thought has recognized that God created all things and that He is a good God. However, many have also taught that, in view of man’s sin, God was incapable of restoring all things to that original good order.
Many thought that Adam’s sin took God by surprise (making Him less than omniscient). Many affirmed that God did indeed have the power to have prevented Adam from sinning, but that He valued “free will” so highly that He subjected His own will to man’s will. The result, of course, is that the end of history sees the universe eternally divided into good and evil, God and the devil, heaven and hell.
The helplessness of God in the face of man’s “free will” means that God gave sovereignty to man and retained for Himself mere authority to act under man’s will. Man’s will is supreme, and God is forced to go along with man’s decisions, lest He violate the sacred right of “free will.” But this goes against Genesis 1:26, where God gave man authority, retaining sovereignty for Himself. Biblically speaking, the foundational issue is not about man’s “free will,” but about man’s authority under God. Authority has both power and rights but is subordinate to the Sovereign Power that authorized such authority.
The idea of man’s “free will” means that God could never truly win in the end. Though He created all things and therefore owns all things, man’s free-will sin (they imply) has caused God to lose most of creation in the end. By any standard of measure, that means the devil wins and God loses, for the devil started out with nothing and ended up with most of that which rightfully belongs to God. Likewise, such an outcome admits that Dualism was the truth after all.
Such a conclusion has far-reaching effects in our daily lives, because our view of God determines how we live and how we order our lives. If the devil is equal in power to God, then God should win half of the universe at the end of the contest. If God has given His sovereignty to man, then God will be lucky to win two percent of the universe, making the devil the clear winner by any normal standard.
Our view determines whether we are pessimistic or optimistic about our future. It determines whether we have hope or despair. It also raises questions as to the nature of God Himself. Dualism would subject both God and the devil to a higher law that somehow makes them equal in power, ensuring that neither of them can eradicate the other. Church philosophy, teaching that God gave up His sovereignty to uphold the idea of man’s “free will,” raises questions about His wisdom and love.
In other words, if God is love, as 1 John 4:8 says, would a God of love institute a plan that would surely lead to eternal torture for most of humanity?
Would an all-wise God institute a plan that would ensure His failure? Is eternal torture for 98 percent of humanity really a wise plan? Could He not figure out a better way to ensure His ultimate success and to save His creation from never-ending torture of the worst kind?
The simple answer is that the Church needs to change its philosophy and its view of God. It needs to recognize the sovereignty of God that is derived from His rights as the Creator. A Creator owns and is responsible for that which He creates. When the Church gives sovereignty to man in the guise of “free will,” it makes man ultimately responsible for his own destiny. In other words, man sinned by his own sovereign will, rather than by his God-given authority.
This view attempts to remove the responsibility of man’s sin from God and place it squarely upon the shoulders of every man. But such a view comes with a huge price tag, for God loses control of the situation and loses most of Creation in the end. The Bible, however, teaches no such outcome.
The Laws of Authority and Responsibility
The law of God makes it clear that a man is responsible for that which he owns. If a man, by his labor, digs a pit, he owns it (Exodus 21:33, 34). If he fails to cover it and an ox falls into it, the owner of the pit is held liable. He cannot simply blame the dead ox on account of its “free will” decision or stupidity.
If a man’s ox gores a neighbor, he may discipline or kill the ox, but he himself is still liable to pay damages (Exodus 21:36). Why? Simply because he owns the ox and is ultimately responsible for its actions.
If a man lights a fire, he is its owner (Exodus 22:6). If the fire gets out of control and burns a neighbor’s field, the owner of the fire cannot escape liability by claiming that the fire has “free will.”
Hence, divine revelation has come to us in the law of God, by which we understand the truth of His nature from which stem all of His actions. Because God is the Creator, He is responsible for the ultimate outcome of all things. No amount of “free will” philosophy can change this fact.
Hence, we must shift our view from the world’s philosophy of “free will” to the biblical laws of authority. Man does not have “free will.” Man has authority. This preserves God’s sovereignty, and this also ensures that God will win in the end. Though sin pervades creation at the present time, the wisdom of God has devised a plan of ultimate reconciliation of all things. God is love, and His passion is to save all mankind from iniquity. He will not fail to fulfill His passion, because He did not give up His sovereign power, which alone is sufficient to ensure success.
Therefore, while others may have reason to be pessimistic about life, we have every reason to be optimistic. While others may reduce the sovereignty of God, either by giving His sovereignty to man or by making God equal to the devil, we ourselves worship a God of Power, Wisdom, and Love.
The Nature of God
While others may worship an indifferent, uncaring and impersonal god who does not and cannot love them, we worship a God whose nature was manifested on earth through the life of Jesus Christ. While others may be enslaved to gods of fear and terror, even to the point of sacrificing children to them in a show of devotion, we ourselves worship a God who was willing to die for us, thereby ending our slavery to the dictates of sin in the flesh (Romans 7:24, 25).
Furthermore, we love not only God but also our neighbors as ourselves. By serving mankind, we serve the God who has called and sent us to be a blessing to all families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). When others are in need, we do not view their situation indifferently as well-deserved karma from their deeds in a previous life. By serving a loving God, we take steps to alleviate suffering where it is in our power to do so.
Believing that both heaven and earth were created by God, we understand that these are two halves of His Kingdom and that the earth was created to reflect the nature of God in heaven. We do not despise the material creation, nor do we agree that it is inherently evil. Hence, we labor to bring it back under the feet of Christ, who is the rightful King of creation (1 Corinthians 15:27).
We are optimistic about the future, for we do not believe that the devil will have an equal share of the inheritance, and we certainly do not believe that the devil will end up with 98 percent. Our hope is that Christ will take His rightful place over creation and that God will be “all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Hence, we seek not to escape the earth but to overcome the current human condition, once the lawful judgments of God have run their course. We see the current state of the earth as a temporary condition, that Adam’s sin has brought about a six-day period of slavery and labor—a prophetic period of 6,000 years. That slavery then must come to an end, according to the law (Exodus 21:2) and in a greater release at the Creation Jubilee, where every man returns to his lost inheritance.
The judgments of God are very real, but they are also temporary, for their purpose is to bring repentance and change until all things are put under the feet of Christ. Though men have mistranslated olam and aionian judgment to mean “everlasting” and “eternal,” we know that the Hebrew root word of olam is the verb, alam, which means “to hide.” Olam is the noun derived from alam, and it means “hidden, unknown, indefinite.”
In other words, divine judgment varies from person to person, because the judgment must always fit the crime (sin). Hence, the sentence for a sin varies according to its severity, and so the actual time of judgment is unspecified. Yet no man can commit so much sin in his life time that it would warrant an eternal sentence. True justice is neither too short nor too long. And in the end, the law of Jubilee is the law of grace, which ends all debt (liability for sin), even if part of the debt remains unpaid.
If we indeed worship and place our faith in a God of Power, Wisdom, and Love; if we understand the relationship between God’s all-powerful sovereignty and man’s limited authority under God; if we believe that God was wise enough to devise a plan where He would be sure to win; if we believe that all of God’s actions and judgments are subordinate to His love-nature; then our own lives, actions, behavior, and ethics will reflect this in the earth, and we will find ourselves full of hope, optimism, and enthusiasm in pursing our calling and purpose.