Why did it have to be this way?
Have you ever wondered why God didn’t simply take us straight to heaven? Or to be more precise why didn’t God begin by placing his elect in the new creation, so that our first and only experience of life was neither pre-fall or post-fall but a glorified creation?
On paper this plan of mine seems better than God’s plan.
God could have avoided so much collateral damage.
- He could have avoided creating so so many who wilfully end up in Hell.
- We Christians would have missed out on so much suffering, bloodshed, depression, loneliness and death.
- And best of all there would be no need for Jesus, the Son of God to suffer the horror of being scorned, stripped, beaten, and violently killed at Golgotha.
On paper my plan seems wiser and better than the one God came up with. In the words of Stephen R. Covey it would have been a win, win, win scenario.
A Redundant Creation?
The apparent problem with God’s plans is that it’s an unnecessary two-earth story.
There’s life on this earth—with its quota of sin, suffering and death—and there’s life on the new earth—which is tantalizingly called paradise. Why not go straight to the new earth and collect $200?
The core assumption of course is that “I think I am wiser than God.”
I sound like those callers on talk back radio confidently sprouting how they have a much better way to run the government, when they can’t even run their own family budgets.
The Wisdom of God
So what does the bible mean when it says, “God is wise”?
Wayne Grudem defines God’s Wisdom to mean that he always chooses the best goals and the best means to those goals.
We are all agreed that God’s goal is good. In Christ we are all looking forward to a new heaven and new earth where there is no more crying or grief or pain (Rev 21-22). In this future we see God face to face where He is given the glory, honour, and power he rightly deserves. It’s an excellent goal.
But couldn’t God have found another way—a better way to achieve that goal?
…and the Limitations of Man
Part of our problem is that God has access to all the information where as we do not. I heard someone (not a Christian) say that a fundamentalist is a person who treats a partial truth like it were the whole truth. In this sense, we often think like fundamentalists. We keep forgetting that we’re finite beings, trapped within one culture, located in one time with a singular set of experiences. We keep thinking that we’re like God.
You can’t be perfectly wise if you don’t know everything. But God does: he knows everything about every detail of our lives. In fact He knows everything about everything. As Psalm 147:5 puts it, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”
The God who Decrees
Not even the future is off limits to God. He knows the outcome to every battle, every election and every sports event. And the reason He knows what the future is because he determines the future.
In Isaiah 46:10 God says, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’”
If only we knew the future we would make much wiser decisions. If only the French had known about the last terrorist attack, how many lives could have been saved? If only people could know whether their spouse would be unfaithful to them, how many bad marriages might be avoided?
God not only knows what will happen, He knows what would have happened if other decisions were made. Philosophers call this middle knowledge.
Whether “middle knowledge” is an appropriate category for God or not, what is clear is that God knew about my plan and rejected it out right. He knew about my bright idea of placing his chosen ones straight into new creation.
For reasons known only to himself, God rejected my plan as simply not wise enough. This should not come as too much of a surprise given that this is not the first time my plans have been rejected outright.
No one is in a position to counsel God. As Paul writes in Romans 11:34, “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?"
The answer, of course, is lots of people and we are all wrong!
We need to nurture some epistemic humility: we need a clearer idea of our own limitations. Or, better still, we need to simply grasp that, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). And we need to willingly surrender to the plans and purposes of God no matter how they resonate with us.
Next week. “My plan is better than God plan” Part 2