Yesterday, I was traveling in rush-hour traffic behind a car with a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t worry – God is in Control.” And as we crawled along we passed a fender-bender, pulled over to the side of the road. I couldn’t help wondering if God was in control of that!
What if it wasn’t just a ding in some metal? What if it was a pile-up, with hurt people, and severe, life-altering injuries? Would God still be in control of that?
How much is God actually in control? Does He care as to who is elected President of the United States, or Prime Minister of Great Britain, and get actively involved in politics? Does He monitor the finances of Christian corporations, to prevent embezzlement?
One of the catch-all excuses for why the world is the way it is, is the claim that God holds Free Will as the highest precept. The reason we even have a hell, is that God does not want to interfere too much, thus eliminating faith. He needs free will to reign supreme. It is over love, over communication, over evil, sickness, disease and death.
Why did God even have that awful tree in the Garden of Eden? To give Adam & Eve Free will. Why do we have the problem of natural evil, such as tsunamis? Because, in order to protect free will, God must allow such events to happen. Time and time and time again, I am assured by the theist that the reason God won’t communicate directly with me, is that it will somehow impinge on my free will.
But as God is in control, doesn’t He impinge on Free will all the time? Theists that pray actually hope that God will force his way into a life, and set aside their Free will. Think of the simple prayer, “God, help the doctors that do this surgery. Guide their hands. Give them strength, and wisdom to perform their work. Amen.” How many 1000’s of times have I heard that prayer!
Yet the theist is directly asking God to impose himself on the doctor’s free will. That doctor has the ability and freedom to slip with the scalpel, cutting too much, or not admitting the surgery is beyond his capabilities, or perhaps not getting enough sleep the night before. What the theist is asking is for God to set aside the doctor’s free will, preventing the knife from slipping too far, giving him a quick kick in the seat of the pants to wake him up.
Deists, of course, don’t have this problem, but most brands of theism have their God intervening all the time, crushing free will. The story of the tower of Babel is a great example. Humans had the free will to communicate in one language. God couldn’t have that, so he stepped in and deliberately caused confusion.
In order to take blame away from God (who is in Control) and impose it upon humans, the free will excuse will be employed. But if a person starts to worry that free will may eliminate their brand of theism, the God is in control excuse is brought out. It is the best of both worlds. However, a pattern comes forward that becomes suspect.
As we watch these arguments unfold, amazingly free will is always, always, always happening just at the moment it is most convenient for the theist’s position. When we inspect why God would let children die, free will is handy to let the children stay dead, and keep God from being implicated. God didn’t want it that way, it just had to be, to protect free will. When we attempt to use reason to investigate God, free will becomes most inconvenient, and God’s sovereignty is brought out. Who are we to question a God?
Yet this is unconvincing to an atheist. Why? Because we realize the theist is in no better position to determine what is free will and what is God-controlled. And by constantly defending God in the most favorable light, the theist’s credibility is compromised as being biased. No theist is going to state, ever, “There you got me. God shouldn’t have imposed his will against the humans in that situation.”
Look at this minor automobile collision. Was it just God, letting two drivers use their free will? Or was it God, attempting to have two drivers meet, so that they could show love toward each other? Was God preventing a much more tragic accident? Or was God sending a message to other drivers in the area? Or did God, not caring, never even know about the accident? Was he in control, or was it free will?
There simply is no way to determine this.
I can read all the fancy philosophical arguments on whether humans have free will or not. I can read them on whether God has free will or not. The one thing I do not read is a method by which we can determine, “Here God is restricting free will and here he is not.” And if we cannot determine it on any occasions, how can we say He ever does, or never does?
What would a world look like, if God sat back and never interacted at all? What would a world look like if God interacted at every decision, no matter how slight? As we have no basis of comparison, either prospect is a guess. I, obviously, think the world would look like it does without God’s interaction, but a theist would equally obviously disagree. O.K., but with this “sometimes in, sometimes out” theory, we are left with pure speculation.
If God is in control, then why do people get traffic tickets? Can’t they state that God is the one that was driving at the time?