God and free will

Interesting post on connexions by Mike: Gods great game.  Go read the whole thing in context, I picked these paragraphs out because they made me stop and think what I believe.

Maybe I'm looking at the issue on too large a canvas; surely I have to believe that God is active in the world today?  Well, no, I don't.  It's something I can't believe.  Yes, he dwells in the hearts of all those who have faith, and he gives them strength and guidance.  This is where the comfort of God's grace lies, not in believing that everything is happening as he wants it - it's not.  But if I have to believe that God has the ability to save the life of a teenager who's fallen fifteen stories out of an apartment building window, or to plant a bullet within a hymn book so that it underlines a sentence highlighting his own sovereignty, then I have to believe that God has the ability to prevent the slaughter of child soldiers in Africa, or even to stop me getting angry at people once in a while.  If he has the ability to do so, but doesn't, then who the hell was Jesus Christ, because I can see no similarity there.

I do believe God is active in the world today.  I think he won't over-rule our choice to mess up on an Olympic scale, but there are small mercies every day.  Silly example: On Saturday I ran out of petrol.  My car was merrily chugging away when everything stopped, and there was just enough momentum to slide off the road and get halfway into a parking space at a garden store.  This happened opposite a petrol station.  Stupid thing, but I was very grateful.  It was my fault for driving too far with the low fuel light on.

But why would God allow a person to gun down innocents?  That person made a choice, an evil one, but a choice.  We do have free will, including the option to sin, otherwise what's the point of us being here at all.  Without free will the whole thing could play out in God's imagination, totally predictable and boring, without all the messiness and hassle of creation.  I don't know why God doesn't stop all the grief from happening, and it bugs me.  But I do believe he's still around, still on Earth doing stuff.  I don't believe everything that happens is God's will, or his plan.  That requires serious mental gymnastics.  It's not going according to plan, that's the problem.  We keep messing it up.  There's a tension between God's sovereignity and our free will.  How do both play out at once?

To place events in this world - be they good or bad - under God's direct control is, in my belief, to undermine the nature of human beings.  First of all, it removes the fact that we are sinners, as it's not us doing the sinning; Second of all, it removes the fact that we can be redeemed.  I can only believe that God no longer moves over the face of the waters; this is our domain, good and bad.  Through God's guidance, with God's spirit and - I won't refrain from saying - through a good bit of initiative of our own, we can change the face of this world, but as far as I'm concerned God did his bit on Calvary; the rest is down to us.

I agree with the first half of this paragraph, but I think God still "moves over the face of the waters."  We do have to take responsibility for our own actions, there is no divine get-out clause, no "God forced me to do it!"  Thoughtful post indeed.

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