We had finished reading Genesis 2 and were beginning our discussion of its expanded account of the creation of man, comparing it with what is revealed in Genesis 1:26-31. “Wait, I have a question.” “Uh-oh”, I sensed a rabbit trail coming. I had arrived for our weekly breakfast meeting with an agenda for our time together. I was prepared! My plan was to lock down my friend’s thinking on the first two covenants of the Bible. Something told me, “Arlie, you’re not going to get ‘er done today.”
He continued, “Do you believe God knows everything that is going to happen before it actually occurs? I mean, God created man with free will, right? God, as the Sovereign of the Universe, knew that Adam was going to choose to go his own way and sin. Why would God create what He knew was going to be a problem?” I’m thinking to myself, “There it is, the big can of worms. This is the gazillion dollar question. How does one from a human perspective reconcile sovereign and free will, apparently contradicting doctrines both of which are clearly taught in the Bible? I knew that what I had to offer in response was not going to satisfy him.
Humans are pretty much all alike in one respect. Here in America, when you check out at the grocery store you will almost always see a rack of tabloid magazines. One of the most popular used to be the National Inquirer. Their tagline said, “Inquiring minds want to know.” This is certainly true of my questioner. He definitely has an inquiring mind.
It was then that something very compelling happened. As I looked into my friend’s face, his eyes were tearing up. He continued. “My wife struggles with the hard questions and that’s really why I am meeting with you, to get some of the answers so that I can give them to her. I watch her trying to work through the things that we are discussing, and I just want to help her deal with her doubts.”
Wow, what honesty and also what love! How different would the Church be if all husbands who claim to be believers in Messiah Jesus made the same kind of effort to be the servant leaders that their wives and children need? It was at that moment that I realized his honest question deserved nothing less than an honest answer. His need was too important to try and fake my way through it. All that I could say was, “I don’t have an answer to your question. I don’t know, I honestly don’t. You’re asking me to explain how the concept of God’s sovereign will, which the Bible clearly teaches, can be reconciled with the fact that God has given man free will, which the Bible also clearly teaches.”
There, I said it. For all the things that I do know about the Scriptures, there are questions that I simply do not have answers for. Once it was out of my mouth, I experienced a great sense of relief. I also began to recognize a still quiet voice giving me direction, repeating what I myself was hearing for my friend. “You and I both know the One who has the answer to this question. I don’t think we will ever be able to satisfy our human desire to know how all of this balances out. Perhaps, not even in eternity. I am OK with that, how about you?”
Every person on planet earth is a finite being, born with a God complex. At the deepest core of our common humanity, something is desperately wrong. We are not God, but we all really want to be. We delude ourselves into thinking that we have the ability to grasp the great complexities of all creation. With each answer we find, dozens more appear. We are all forced to come to grips with the fact that with all of our great learning, we are still not God. He will never share His position with anyone.
Our eternally existent Creator stands outside of time. Thus, His reasons are far beyond our limited ability to understand. There are some things that we can know for certain, things He wants us to know. For those, God has given us His Word. The Word is ours to read, study, understand, and apply where it is applicable to us. The Word also became flesh, dwelling among men to explain what it is that God wants us to know, and nothing more. What we can know about God should give us tremendous confidence that He is in control and glad that we are not. We should make every effort to become serious students of the Bible, attempting to answer all of the hard questions that we can. I don’t want to be ashamed when others ask me the knowable questions. Do you? Having said that, we should all be very comfortable with saying God’s ways are way different than ours. In fact, they are out of this world. Most of His thoughts are way beyond our ability to understand. I, for one, am OK with that. In fact, I’m grateful.
If Messiah’s followers living today on terra firma became brutally honest with one another concerning these big unknowable questions, we would find unity in the Church. I don’t expect this to happen on any grand scale until “every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord”, and that we are not.
Oh, just one more thing before I forget! I want to thank my young friend for the “can of worms” question. But next week, can we please get back to the covenants?