HOME HOME MEDITATIONS MEDITATIONS
“And the Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Him asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He answered and said to them, ‘When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.” Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.’ And He left them, and went away” (Matt. 16:1-4). Faith and Free Will One of the most challenging questions about faith is why God has not done more to make Himself known and put His existence beyond the possibility of doubt. It is not that hard to imagine what God could have done, but did not do, to cause faith. He could show Himself directly. He could also stand people on the precipice of hell or show them the splendor of heaven. He could eliminate suffering. An omnipotent God is capable of doing a thousand things to eliminate unbelief. Yet, it not only persists, it prevails. This idea that people will believe if God will just meet their conditions for faith also presents itself in the Bible several times in one form or another. When the Pharisees asked of Jesus a sign from heaven, He refused their demand (Matt. 16:1-4). The (formerly) rich man in Hades assured Abraham that, if he would just send a risen Lazarus back to his five living brothers, they would believe and repent (Lk. 16:27-31), but his request was also denied. The Jewish leaders assured Christ that they would believe in Him if He would but come down from the cross (Matt. 27:41,42), but He remained there and died. So, why does the God who wishes for all to repent and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) not do all He could do to effect the salvation of every individual? Anyone who would have had the kinds of experiences in the previous examples, could do nothing other than acknowledge God. Yet, that is exactly what would make these experiences inadequate as solutions to the problem of unbelief. Any approach which would correct unbelief by leaving people no choice but to recognize God, by definition deprives them of free will. Faith must be a choice, not a compulsion even an intellectual compulsion. If it is not free, it is not faith. Paul expresses this idea, though he applies it to hope, when He says, “… Hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?” (Rom. 8:24). The Bible distinguishes between what a person knows by seeing and what he believes by inferring a conclusion from evidence consisting of something less than direct experience of the unseen God. Paul said, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Also, the writer of Hebrews said that faith consists in “the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). To appreciate this distinctive and necessary feature of faith, it might be asked, “Why does God wish for one’s faith to be something he freely chooses?” It is because it is the fact that faith is a choice that it is valuable. Recipients of gifts freely given from love readily understand this. So, the evidence God provides is enough both to produce faith and to preserve free will , and the only way that God can arrange for faith and free will to co-exist in the same mind at the same time is to give a person as much evidence as he needs but not as much as he might desire . That way, he gets to decide whether he will believe. God wants people who are with Him in heaven, not because they had no choice, but because, though they could have done otherwise, they freely chose to believe in Him and love Him. When Christ’s bride, the church, joins Him in heaven, it will not be by virtue of a celestial “shotgun wedding.” “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come .… And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17, KJV).
SCRIPTURE SCRIPTURE
HOME HOME
“And the Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Him asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He answered and said to them, ‘When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.” Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.’ And He left them, and went away” (Matt. 16:1-4). Faith and Free Will One of the most challenging questions about faith is why God has not done more to make Himself known and put His existence beyond the possibility of doubt. It is not that hard to imagine what God could have done, but did not do, to cause faith. He could show Himself directly. He could also stand people on the precipice of hell or show them the splendor of heaven. He could eliminate suffering. An omnipotent God is capable of doing a thousand things to eliminate unbelief. Yet, it not only persists, it prevails. This idea that people will believe if God will just meet their conditions for faith also presents itself in the Bible several times in one form or another. When the Pharisees asked of Jesus a sign from heaven, He refused their demand (Matt. 16:1- 4). The (formerly) rich man in Hades assured Abraham that, if he would just send a risen Lazarus back to his five living brothers, they would believe and repent (Lk. 16:27-31), but his request was also denied. The Jewish leaders assured Christ that they would believe in Him if He would but come down from the cross (Matt. 27:41,42), but He remained there and died. So, why does the God who wishes for all to repent and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9) not do all He could do to effect the salvation of every individual? Anyone who would have had the kinds of experiences in the previous examples, could do nothing other than acknowledge God. Yet, that is exactly what would make these experiences inadequate as solutions to the problem of unbelief. Any approach which would correct unbelief by leaving people no choice but to recognize God, by definition deprives them of free will. Faith must be a choice, not a compulsion even an intellectual compulsion. If it is not free, it is not faith. Paul expresses this idea, though he applies it to hope, when He says, “… Hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?” (Rom. 8:24). The Bible distinguishes between what a person knows by seeing and what he believes by inferring a conclusion from evidence consisting of something less than direct experience of the unseen God. Paul said, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Also, the writer of Hebrews said that faith consists in “the conviction of things not seen” (11:1). To appreciate this distinctive and necessary feature of faith, it might be asked, “Why does God wish for one’s faith to be something he freely chooses?” It is because it is the fact that faith is a choice that it is valuable. Recipients of gifts freely given from love readily understand this. So, the evidence God provides is enough both to produce faith and to preserve free will , and the only way that God can arrange for faith and free will to co-exist in the same mind at the same time is to give a person as much evidence as he needs but not as much as he might desire . That way, he gets to decide whether he will believe. God wants people who are with Him in heaven, not because they had no choice, but because, though they could have done otherwise, they freely chose to believe in Him and love Him. When Christ’s bride, the church, joins Him in heaven, it will not be by virtue of a celestial “shotgun wedding.” “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17, KJV).
SCRIPTURE SCRIPTURE MEDITATIONS MEDITATIONS