Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Guest Post: The Love of God and Suffering- Pt1

Excerpt from the book Is This A God Of Love, by A. E. Wilder-Smith

Chapter IV
The Origin of Evil

Difficulties of the type discussed in Chapter 2 led Baudelaire, the French art historian and poet, to exclaim, "If there is a God, he is the devil!" Such a statement is the direct result of believing that man has always been as he is, good and bad, and was so designed originally. This is the Muslim position.
Theistic evolutionists cannot avoid the same difficulty when they maintain that God used evolutionary processes to produce the world of nature as we see it today. If he did, then his methods made the bad with the good, as Baudelaire maintains, and he therefore must be the devil as well as God. Everything pivots on whether we believe nature was once "good" and then subsequently ruined, whether we believe in the fall of man as laid down in Genesis. By tampering with the structural details of Genesis, we are likely to garble the whole reason for the present state of man — and the whole plan of his salvation which will take him out of the present disastrous mess. Genesis presents an integral whole on which the total plan of Scripture is firmly founded.

Let us return to the cathedral illustration of Chapter 3. It is superfluous to point out that all illustrations and analogies are imperfect and have their weaknesses if pressed too far. Our illustration of the cathedral is no exception. One of its imperfections lies in the fact that the architects who designed and built the cathedral are long-since dead and therefore could not prevent the bombing of their masterpiece. Then is God dead, too? Was he dead when his masterpiece, nature, was "bombed” into ruin?

Today many assume God to be, in fact, dead and resolve the question that way. But this is a doubtful escape exit for several reasons. Although it might explain God's creative work in the past and its subsequent ruination, it would never explain the present maintenance of nature and creation. No dead God could take care of that. Christians rightly believe that he is not only the living creator, but also the living maintainer of nature — and of us. By very definition, the "God is dead" theory will not fit in here, for maintenance implies activity and life.

Thus the question now becomes: Why didn't an almighty God who made, maintains and presumably loves his masterpiece, creation, prevent its "bombing?" Here the parable of the cathedral can do us no more service.

People who continually ask the question, "Why doesn't God stop it?" are often those who don't bother to ask what "stopping it" would entail. Some specific details must be examined before attempting to solve the greater principles involved.

Consider any virtue of which a person is capable; love, kindness, honesty, faithfulness, chastity, or any of the traits named in Galatians 5 will do. Select a virtue which pleases us all—love—and ask the following question: "What is the nature of love in particular, and virtue in general?"

Nature Of Love And Virtue

This subject of the nature of love and virtue is vitally important because the Christian way of life maintains that God himself is love. Christians in the Western world often do not realize the tremendous import of this statement. I have given other religions, including Islam, some thought, and have studied Islam's Holy Book, the Koran, which designates Allah as the compassionate, forgiving one. As far as I know, nowhere in the Koran does Allah figure specifically as an embodiment of love. He may threaten, may be merciful, omnipotent compassionate and omnipresent. He may offer the faithful a place in the gardens of paradise with as many dark-eyed hour is as they wish. But love never figures in the Koranic "revelations" of Allah's nature. A designation of God as "love" stands unique in the Bible.

Right in the center, then, of the Christian position is this virtue we call love. It must be of vital importance for that very reason. Nevertheless, I find myself at an extreme loss when I am asked to rationally explain anything at all about God's love. I know that "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." But God, even though loving, is also infinite. Therefore, he exceeds anything my thinking apparatus can handle. So I do not pretend to be able to plumb the depths of either his love or character. To think rationally about that love is far beyond me.

I suspect it is for this reason that when the Scriptures speak of God and his love, usually man's love to a woman and vice versa is used to drive home the point at an anthropomorphic level. It is like using real-life illustrations to clarify abstract and abstruse points of chemistry non-scientific people. Thus, God provides information on himself and his love in a human setting in order to really communicate with us. The information we thus obtain by "cutting down the high voltage of God's love" to the "low voltage of human love,” we will then apply to our main problem.

The first question in analyzing human love is: "How did this love between bride and bridegroom originate?" The history of most such relationships provides the answer. The young man met the young girl one day and sooner or later began to feel attracted to her. The attraction is better experienced than described. Very often the girl feels attracted to him at the same time, although she might at this stage be more hesitant to display her feelings. Often, he begins the action side of the relationship by looking for suitable ways to court her. But until wooing is begun, the whole affair is lopsided. A one-sided relationship in which attentions are not returned can be extremely painful. Certainly it is neither happy nor satisfying to either party.

At this stage there is one burning question which every prospective bridegroom would like answered as soon as possible: "Does she love me?" Is my attraction to her reciprocated?" One purpose of courtship is to give the girl a chance to settle the question in her own mind. For, once she notices the man's attentions and, therefore, attraction towards her, she has to make a momentous decision: "Can I return his affection?" If she thinks that she may do so, then she must decide if she can love him. Here she must rely on her own heart as well as on her common sense and the principles of life to which she adheres. After due consideration, she may decide she does. An understanding is reached between the two. Aradiant couple emerges, and great are the happiness and joy of two hearts that have entrusted themselves to one another in mutual love and faithfulness.

In order to answer the question why a God of love just doesn't "stop it” we must analyze this process of falling in love more closely in order to draw some reason out of what often appears to be an entirely unreasonable happening.

First the young man must court the girl of his choice. She will be unhappy if he doesn't and he will be unmanly if he doesn't know how. Now, courtship is a very fine art besides being a very necessary one. Some of our finest poetry, music and art have arisen as its by-products! Most important perhaps, is that it is a so called gentle art, which brings us to a cardinal point in our analysis.

The moment force takes the place of wooing, both love and the joy of love cease. They are often replaced by hate, recriminations and misery. For the whole structure of love is built on absolute mutual consent and respect for the character and sovereignty of the loved one. In other words, the structure on which human love between a bride and a bridegroom is squarely based is freedom to love.

Most civilized societies recognize precisely this structure in their marriage services. The two persons intending marriage are both given the public opportunity of making a free-will consent in saying "I will" before the assembled congregation. Old Testament cultures stand for exactly the same principle, as the following well-known story emphasizes.


When Eliezer, Abraham's servant, asked Rebekah to become Isaac's wife (Gen. 24), he became so assured that he had found God's choice for his master's son that he was ready to cut comers in the process of taking the bride home. The evidence that Rebekah was God's choice was so overwhelming that he wanted to speed things up, intending to take off immediately with the girl and forget about all the formalities or ceremonies.

However, Rebekah's relatives saw immediately that this was no basis for marriage, even though the Lord might be in it. What a good thing it would be if young couples saw this point too, instead of just starting to live together with no ado or ceremonies. It is to emphasize the necessity of mutual public consent before love and lifelong married joy, the greatest relationship in our earthly life, that Rebekah’s relatives got together and said that even though God might be in it all, Rebekah must first be publicly questioned on the matter. She had to give her own decision and opinion before they would let her go to Isaac. So they called her in before the family and their friends to ask whether she wanted Isaac. Only after she had given public consent based on her own free-will decision, did they agree to marriage. They knew that no other basis was good enough, even though it was obviously God's will even without such public decision-making.

The Amnon And Tamar Affair

Thus, the first point arising out of this analysis of the basis of bride-bridegroom relationships and love is that such a partnership is based firmly on public mutual consent or free will.
The second point deals with the consequences of neglecting the above point. The shocking “love affair" between Amnon and Tamar (2 Sam. 13) illustrates this danger in a crass way. Amnon fell madly in love with the king's beautiful daughter Tamar. He was so infatuated with the fair girl that he just could not wait to woo her and win her consent. By guile, Amnon arranged to be alone with the girl. Feigning sickness, he received the king's permission for Tamar to come and cook for him in his apartment. Having got rid of everyone else, he proceeded to force the poor girl because he was so madly "in love" with her. "Love" that cannot wait to woo is abnormal. It often metamorphoses before our eyes into “lust.”

The consequence of this haste and trickery was that Amnon’s "love” turned in a twinkling into hate for her. The eventual result was murder, for her relatives had Amnon murdered later for his brutality and treachery. Tamar suffered heartbreak and "remained desolate in her father's house" (2 Sam. 13:20).

Free Choice

In order to love in this sense — not merely physical union, which can result from lust—we must experience the mutual attraction and union of body, soul and spirit in an exclusive personal relationship.

If the basis of mutual consent in the love relationship is removed, if there is no freedom to love, if freedom is replaced by force, then all possibility of loving is removed. Love can be replaced then by its opposite — hate. This implies, of course, the further step of logic: Where there is true freedom to love, there is also freedom not to love. If this freedom to say "no" were not really present, there would ipso facto be no freedom to say "yes" and to love. The ability to say "no" must be just as genuine as the ability to say "yes" if true mutual consent is to be achieved as a basis for love.
As we have seen, the Bible teaches that God himself is love, and his love is often likened to the bride-bridegroom relationship. Our third conclusion is that, if his love to us is to be compared in some way with our human nuptial love, then the principles governing the two loves can be expected to be comparable in some ways. We should expect God, on this basis, to be the grand wooer. That being the case, we should expect him to be awaiting our response to his wooing. To receive and experience his love we should expect the mutual-consent basis to decide everything — my consent to him in answer to his "attraction to and love for" me.

Thus, we conclude that if God is love in this sense of the word, he will be looking for answering love from me. Love is only satisfied if it is returned. He woos us by many means, mainly by having sent his Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, to justify us by dying and being resurrected for us.
Being love, we would not expect him to demand or attempt to force love. That would be a contradiction. The very attempt to do so would destroy the basis of all love. As our true lover he does everything to show the true nature of his love— even to becoming a fellow man, heir to our lot as well as bearing our sin. Jesus was serious about his love — serious even to death.

The Case Of The Robot

Consider one more vital point. What would have happened if God had so constructed man that he could not make a true free-will decision himself, but was only capable of automatically doing God's will, just as a lock opens when one turns the correct key in it? If man had been so constructed that, when a certain "button" in his mind was depressed he delivered "love" automatically, would real love be in fact delivered? Of course the answer is negative. Such a person would be "congenitally” devoid of free will and therefore incapable of love and virtues in any real sense of the word.

None of us would be interested in "loving" the outward form of a partner who, every time we touched a certain "button," put chocolate in its mouth or stroked its hair or automatically intoned the sentence "I love you." If such a system were conceived or constructed, it would have to be subhuman or machine by nature. For to try to construct it so that it delivered "virtue" or love" on command would of necessity mean that it be devoid of humanity, and therefore personality, and as a result it could deliver nothing of the kind. Assume that God, in order to be sure of our love and to make sure that we were "virtuous" in every way, made us like marionettes. He would have taken from us the possibility of really exercising our free will in order that we might not exercise it wrongly. Wanting to be so sure that we loved him and our fellow men, he would have made us so that we could not do otherwise. Whenever he pressed a button we would "deliver the goods," just like a vending machine. How could such a setup involve real love in any way?

The Grand Risk

This brings us right up to the great principle. If God wanted creatures that really loved him and their fellow-beings, then he was, by the very intrinsic nature of love, obliged to recognize the fact (though it sounds strange to us to use such phraseology and maintain that God was forced to do anything — his own moral nature brings with it the consequence that he will or must act according to that nature) that love and virtue demand absolute freedom to love and exercise freedom. Such a necessity lies in the very structure of love and, indeed, of any other true virtue. Thus, to create the possibility of love, God had to create free personalities just like himself, for he is love and he made us to love.

For God to plan at all for true love involved the built-in risk of the proposed free partner-in-love not loving at all. To have built the love-partner so that he would be congenitally obliged to respond would have been to destroy the whole purpose of designing a creation where love could reign. God wished—and still wishes —to set up a kingdom of love on earth and in heaven. But to do so involves the above outlined risk of the free partners choosing not to love, but to do the opposite of their own free will — or even to hate. The practical result of being indifferent to or hating is the same from the divine partner's point of view. For there is no positive response to his love in either case. And love aims at a response of love. Thus, either love grows by responding, or it dies.

Almsgiving And The Socialist State

Exactly the same risk is involved in planning any and every virtue. Take, for example, the virtue of almsgiving. In Turkey one sees hundreds of needy beggars. There are the blind holding certified photographs of their suffering wives and children needing support. There are those lying in the gutters, with their misshapen bodies uncovered so that all who pass by can see they are not counterfeiting. There is the poor man who has his feet where his shoulder should be, loudly and slowly repeating selected passages from the Koran. There is the old man suffering from Parkinson's Disease, whose saliva continually runs over his poor old dirty face as he holds out an empty trembling hand all day long. Seeing this misery causes one to exercise compassion and give a coin so that they can eat a slice of good Turkish bread. Naturally one is convinced that something much more fundamental should be done for these thousands of people so representative of suffering humanity. But a coin will at least guarantee that the immediate plague of gnawing hunger will be assuaged.
So one gives something to the poor mother sitting in rags underneath the mailbox at the post office, with her week old, unwashed baby on her ragged lap. In so doing one exercises a virtue — that of almsgiving. The immediate reward is an extra-fervent prayer to Allah for the giver's salvation. The joy on the recipient's face would be reward enough. To exercise any virtue is a free-will operation which brings joy to the giver and to the receiver.

If, however, beggars are cared for by taxes, and the city authorities send me a tax bill to help support the poor and needy, then I must pay. It may be a good thing to organize matters in this way. Many maintain that this method is less degrading for the poor and that the burden is more equally distributed. I agree with them in this respect. But let us be clear about one of the overlooked consequences.

In paying my taxes which are used to support the poor and the needy, I no longer exercise the virtue I did when I gave the alms to the poor young mother. I might have paid about 10 dollars in taxes for the poor, or I might have given the young woman 10 dollars to buy her baby something better than dirty rags. The sum of money involved is irrelevant. In one case I exercise the virtue of almsgiving (and reap a blessing) while in the other case I must pay my taxes, grumbling perhaps about the waste perpetrated by the bureaucracy of the tax office, with no consequent blessing, even though I may be perfectly right.

In one case I exercise no virtue. In the other case, where I give of my own free will in almsgiving I exercise a virtue—simply because I do not have to act. Therein lies the difference: “forced charity" is no charity—and "forced love" is no love. Love and virtue melt in the grip of force just as ice melts under the pressure of a vice.

If I force my children to be "good" when we are out visiting, they may be outwardly exemplary — sometimes they are! I am thankful for this, but I recognize the fact that most parents will be familiar with — that this "goodness" may not be even skin deep! Force itself, unaided, can make no one good and virtues tend to fade away in its presence.

These considerations disclose one of the fatal weaknesses of our increasingly socialized world. All "charity" and "works of love" tend to become organized by the state, which rightly wishes to eliminate the humiliation to which the poor are subjected in accepting certain kinds of "charity.” The joy and virtue of true charity and love disappear immediately when the forced tax replaces the free-will offering. The Lord Jesus Christ himself remarked that it was more blessed to give than to receive, thus emphasizing the "blessedness” or happiness accompanying the free act of giving.
The exercise of any real virtue ennobles and enriches the character, giving real joy and radiance to those practicing it. Thus the socialized state often robs its citizens of the flights of exuberance to which free exercisers of love and charity are heir.

George Muller's Orphanages

Over a century ago in Bristol, England, George Müller set up his orphan homes which were run and staffed entirely by the free-will offerings and services of Christians in sympathy with his aims. Witnesses of Muller’s work said that these homes full of the victims of suffering were real havens of love, joy and rest to thousands of orphans. Today many such orphanages (not Muller's) have been taken over by the state. The state institute is often merely a matter of rates and taxes, and the person in charge is sometimes a career person who makes no attempt to be a "mother" or a "father" to the children. Often the atmosphere of such an institution is as cold and devoid of love as the concrete bricks of which it was constructed. Scientists have shown that children in such institutions die from lack of love as often as they die from disease.

The welfare state, in taking over everything to remove a few real abuses, too often kills love and the other virtues which make up the atmosphere of a home. Removing the freedom of service, the voluntary basis, causes love to evaporate. Not only do the children or inmates of these institutions suffer. The ennobling of character which the voluntary staff members would themselves receive by free-will service is lost by their becoming merely career people. The more the world loses this right to freely exercise true charity, the harder, colder and more bitter it must become.

This disastrous effect is seen in the character of most socialized nations. In fact, it is producing just what Hitler produced in Germany by the same means: de-personalization—people who may do their duty, but who will not raise a finger to help close a concentration camp if it involves personal risk. Their characters have not experienced the ennobling, strengthening effect which results from the exercise of freedom. Hitler was a living example of a man naive enough to attempt to demand and command the love and affection of his people. He may have realized at the end that love evaporates under just such pressure. The strength of character necessary to withstand any tyrant is not likely to be built in any generation without the ennoblement of character resulting from long exercise of the various human virtues we have discussed. Such strength will also overcome the various vicissitudes of life which often complicate the career of anyone strong enough in will to be ready to suffer for his own conscience's sake.

The tendency today is to push everything onto the community, resulting in private character impoverishment. We all know the person who "doesn't want to get involved." The second tendency, contingent partly on the first, is to bring up every child to conformity, so that only the will of the community and majority counts. Thus the steel of a private conscience, independent of conformity to the mass, does not develop. In Hitler's Germany, this was seen at its extreme development. People saw corpses dropping out of vans coming from a concentration camps as they passed through a big city. But fear had so eroded characters that no one did anything — it was too dangerous to get involved!

In Chicago a few years ago I was walking from the Chicago and Northwestern Railway Station as I saw a man in a car literally plow his way through a group of old ladies as they crossed the street on a pedestrian crossing with a green light. He knocked one old lady down, injuring her. I took the license number of the car, which did not stop, and asked for witnesses. Many young women and men going to work in a neighboring shoe factory had seen the incident. But all backed away, muttering something about not getting involved. I didn't get a single witness.
The idea of the community providing for everyone's need "from the cradle to the grave" may be excellent from a purely humanitarian point of view. But, insofar as it takes away personal initiative, the realization of the scheme will never provide sterling characters ready and willing to suffer for conscience's sake and to stand alone, if necessary.

The Creation Seen And Unseen

The Bible reports that when God contemplated the creation of the worlds seen and unseen he wished to construct them so that they reflected his very own nature and character. To do this, he had to build on freedom of action. He is free, so he had to make man and angels free too. Man was made “in his image"—that is, as a free personality, just as God himself is. For even "his service is perfect freedom” and therefore founded and maintained in love. Accordingly, the angels who serve him, including their chief Lucifer, the light-bearer, were given natures capable of genuine love to their Creator and toward their fellows. They were capable of wooing his love and being wooed by him so that the perfect joy of love could reign in that kingdom. But this very possibility had to include the option of rejection. They were no puppets.

The Bible reports, quite as a matter of fact, that a large proportion of the unseen host showed that it really was capable of the joy of that kingdom of love and—by a very real proof— of rejection! Therefore, Lucifer did, in fact, show that he could love, in that he began, for reasons of pride, to reject the one perfect lover, his Creator. Turning his back on Him, who is the sole good, Lucifer became the epitome of the bad. So arose the cursed, loveless and hateful ones who, in the exercise of their characters now turned away from the good toward the bad and proceeded to destroy the good creation. Men become "devils" by exactly the same process. Obviously God, his nature being love, did not immediately take away all freedom of action and choice from his creatures, thus removing the possibility of our turn to love. He allowed them still further freedom of choice, which meant in their case, still further destructive activities being permitted. If he had taken away this possibility of freedom of choice at the first sign of rejection of love, he would have destroyed any further possibility of a return to love. So he has given us all a long time of freedom of action, that is, freedom to love, so that the kingdom of love can still begin again to rule, if man and angels want it. To have "stopped it all" at once by the strong hand of "dictatorship" would automatically have destroyed the very purpose for which the Creator had created his universe — in order to set up a kingdom of love in the seen and the unseen.

Therefore, this very existence of evil in a world created by an almighty, but also a loving God actually illustrates that the good and the virtue in it are genuinely good. Love in such a kingdom really is love and not anything else. Sometimes it is taught that love is a covert form of egoism, etc. The state of our fallen world really shows this to be impossible — the love of God in a world of blood is genuine enough!

Destroyers and haters usually want company in their activities. So when the chief, Lucifer, the light-bearer, had become the destroyer and the hater, he immediately approached Eve to make her and her husband become a part of his company of destroyers. The pair was also capable of true love. They possessed true freedom of choice, as is shown by the actual choice they made. They, too, turned their backs on the good, automatically becoming polarized to the chronically bad. So the whole seen and unseen creation of love became a creation of the wrong choice —the choice which turned its back on the source of all ultimate good. In leaving open a chance for seen and unseen creation to return to the ultimate good, God did not "stop the bad.” The free choice was still left open, leaving ruination and its cause still intact. That is the reason why God allows it — to provide a genuine chance for the return of love in general.

The Dignity Of Man

But does not all this lead to one main conclusion? Does it not all go to show the truly high esteem in which God holds his creatures, man included? It means that God really takes our decisions, our thoughts and our selves seriously. He even goes to the lengths of wooing us to make our decisions ourselves. He does not so construct us that we are puppets who have all decisions programmed — even though many physical processes within the body are pre-programmed. True love is, in this respect always the same—it always esteems and respects its partner. It takes the partner seriously.
The same thought also expresses why God bothers to woo men by the “foolishness of preaching" and not by sending, as he could, mighty angels with his message. Perhaps they would only succeed in terrifying poor humanity if they appeared in their supernal splendor. God's purpose is to win man's simple trust and confidence, to win our devotion and genuine love. Therefore, he uses the natural methods available to win our decision for him. If he overawed us in any way, that might make craven slaves of us rather than wholehearted sons. If he were to browbeat us into submission, he would only gain what Hitler did — the abject, groveling fear (if not secret hatred) of his would-be partners.
Thus a God of love avoids like the plague the dictator's methods in dealing with man, the object of his love, and uses the lover's better method. It is very fundamental to see that one cannot terrorize people into love. Consider the miracles Jesus performed in this light. He never used a show of divine power in healing to frighten people into belief. In most cases, after doing some mighty healing deed, he admonished those who had seen the deed or experienced it to keep very quiet about it Jesus' warning "tell no man" is almost proverbial in this respect. The fact is, God does not wish to force our intelligence or our will to reduce us to the state of cringing slaves. He wants redeemed sons, who, of their own free will, love, respect and gladly serve him.

The Degree Of Man's Freedom

Thus we conclude that man must be free indeed if he is ever to be able to love indeed. There is a consequence to all this which the reader will have surely noted already. It is this: Is man so free that God has abrogated all authority over him? Can man do exactly and precisely as he likes as long as he likes so that he can be said to possess a totally unfettered freedom in all directions as far as he himself chooses? Need he never fear that his Creator will intervene — all in the interests of man's ability to love and exercise virtue?

Although the Bible teaches that man has a bona-fide free will and can certainly say no to his Creator's will and plan (the very state of our poor world shows that this is de facto the case), yet it teaches too that there are limits to that freedom just as there are limits to God's wooing activities of man. These wooing limits, it will be remembered, were founded in God's counsel from his side and, in time, from man's side. In the first place, God in his inscrutability sets a time limit for his wooing of our free will. Thus it cannot be said that we have perfect free will to accept or reject his wooing at any time. Our free will interacts with his free will to woo us and if he chooses to stop the courting process, our free will can do precisely nothing about the new situation. Here it is no longer unfettered. Second, repeated rejection of the goodness of God's courting sears the psyche of man, rendering it less and less receptive. This, too, is a process we cannot alter; it is like the second law of thermodynamics at work in our inward man, and our free will cannot alter it.

The same principle applies throughout man's kingdom in its relationship to man's Creator. Man can say no to his Creator for a certain time by expressing free will. But this process of saying no of our own free will to God interacts with God's free will and may produce a no from his side. For us dependent creatures this is the same thing as judgement supervening after grace. We all can turn our backs on him and run away from him and his goodness — until we reach what may be looked upon as the end of our tether. The tether represents the change in God from grace to judgement. How long that may take in each individual case of God's dealings is unknown to his creatures. This state of affairs is well seen in the case of the apostle Paul on the Damascus road. Paul had enjoyed perfect unfettered free will to rebel against Christ and had done so very successfully, until even he reached the end of the tether God had allowed him. Then God intervened severely, blinded him and reduced him to the dependence of a child in his helplessness. But even in a drastic intervention of this type, the judgment of God was mixed with great mercy and it led to Paul's seeing the grace of God in restricting his field of unfettered free will. But perhaps his free will in the strictest sense of the term was not touched. Perhaps his knowledge was increased.

If we do not recognize some definite limits to our freedom, we risk abrogating God's ultimate authority and, indeed, sovereignty. Yet these limits in no way alter the conclusions we have drawn about the vital nature of freedom if we are to be able to love — or to rebel. One reason for this fact is that we ourselves do not know where the limits we are talking about lie. Therefore we are, to all intents and purposes, unlimited in our freedom from our own perspective. From our own point of view we are free to act wander, rebel or love as under-sovereigns within a small area of God's sovereign kingdom. It is just within this area of real unrestricted freedom that real love and virtue can and do rule in us. Outside these unseen limits are areas of judgment and no-freedom. But since they are unknown to us, they are, for practical purposes, fictitious for us and thus of no concern in our decisions to rebel or to love.

The very fact that man has never succeeded in devising a formal proof of God's existence shows how completely God can and does hide himself and his limits from our eyes. This being the case, most men act within the area of their own lives as completely free agents as far as their intelligence is concerned. This makes their decisions in that frame of mind completely free will and therefore valid from the point of view of exercising true virtue. We conclude, then, that the limits God has set for all mankind do not alter our decisive free will and its accompanying power of love or rebellion. These very limits maintain God's sovereignty while allowing man free agency in the area of his own consciousness.

One more thing deserves mention at this point. The "tether" we have referred to as God's restricting hand on our free will should not be regarded as something fixed or static. It is not of a set permanent "length.” It is my belief that the more devoted a man is to God's will for him, the longer the “tether" will become. That is, the greater will be the radius of freedom of action. To stick to our analogy of a tether, we might say that its elasticity depends upon our will being congruent with his divine will. To use the words of the apostle Paul, to "win Christ" and to attain to his confidence in us is the same thing as saying that the more we attain to the width, depth and breadth of God's will, the more we attain to his sovereign freedom too. As one prayer book has it "His service is perfect freedom.”

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