The fundamental story of the Bible is of God’s attempts to reach out to His Creation and repair it – and of His Creation’s stubborn refusal to pay attention to the loving ministrations of a God that cares deeply about us. We have grown prideful and stupid in our insistence that we know better than our Creator – which is the root cause of every single one of our problems right now. That was as true in Genesis 3 as it is today.
On that subject – some time ago I caught up with one of my friends on the phone. (In fact, he reads this very site – that is how we came to know each other.) He had been pondering the question of why an all-knowing God could possibly leave the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. After all, surely an all-knowing God would foresee the suffering and misery and pain that would result? How could an all-loving, all-merciful, all-powerful God POSSIBLY allow His Creation to do something as stupid as eating from the fruit of that Tree?
Free to Love God
My answer to him went something like this:
First, there is good reason to argue that God actually seriously limits His powers, in the Bible. No matter where you look in the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Judges, both books Chronicles and Samuel and Kings, and all over Acts and the Gospels – you will see that God can in fact be taken “by surprise”. Just look at the way that Jeroboam displeased the Lord in Kings. God made a covenant with Jeroboam and told him that if he obeyed the word of the Lord, Jeroboam son of Nebat would receive an amazing inheritance and be favoured above all others, even above Solomon himself. Yet Jeroboam disobeyed because he feared his own people more than he feared the Lord.
Surely God could have foreseen that – yet He didn’t.
Or did He?
We just don’t know. My view on the subject is similar to that of Our Beloved and Dreaded Supreme Dark Lord (PBUH) Vox Day the Most Terrible and Merciless: God knows what He WANTS to know. In other words, God is not “omniderigent“.
Second, and much more importantly, God loves us so much that He simply will not circumscribe our free will. He does not want slaves to adore and worship Him because He says so. He never did. That is why He created the angels – many of whom rebelled against Him and His Law. Those fallen angels are the minions of Hell, and they obey the rule of Satan, the Prince of this world.
Victims of Pride
God permitted rebellion and disobedience because He wants companions and friends, NOT SLAVES. He wants us to love Him because WE WANT TO, not because He commands us.
And that is the simple truth as to why He permits suffering and sin to run rampant on this Earth – because without it, what is the point of seeking to love God freely? It is a fundamental, axiomatic truth that there can be no growth without suffering and pain. No man is ever grateful for that which he has not earned.
God gives us His love freely. But to appreciate it, we must earn it, through making really dumb mistakes and repenting of them and coming back to Him.
And remember that God loves us so much that He will not force us to come to His presence if we do not want to. That is why those who reject Him outright will be cast into Hell – and that is not quite the place of fire and brimstone that we usually think of.
In fact, Hell is far worse than that.
The Realm of Eternal Desolation
To get a rough idea of what Hell is really like, read Jonah 2, especially verses 3-6. As the prophet Jonah states in those verses, he sank down into the very depths of Hell itself, and he was utterly and completely alone.
That is what it is really like – a place of utter nothingness, of stillness, of darkness without reprieve, without light, without hope. Hell is a place of eternal and complete isolation, of utter loneliness, of desolation more severe than you can POSSIBLY imagine.
And actually, we’ve all had rather more contact with Hell over the past year than any of us would have liked.
Remember what you went through during the lockdowns? No contact with your loved ones? No going outside, in some cases? Absolutely no fun, relaxation, joy, or hope? THAT, my friend, is a mere foretaste of what Hell truly is.
There is a reason why solitary confinement is the most feared form of punishment in prisons these days. It involves total isolation from outside stimuli.
For those of you familiar with Jim Caviezel, you know him as the man who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, and St. Luke in Paul, Apostle of Christ. He is a devout Christian and a man of great personal character and faith. But one of his better, if less well-known, roles is that of Edmond Dantes in the 2002 adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo. (Which, incidentally, also starred a ridiculously young Henry Cavill at the time.) I highly recommend watching the scenes in which Dantes is imprisoned in the Chateau d’If. The relentless and terrible isolation breaks his spirit over the years, until he tries to commit suicide:
This, then, is Hell – a place without light, warmth, space, freedom, or hope.
And now do you understand why those who have condemned themselves to it, are in for a truly horrendous shock when they get there?
Smashing Down the Gates of Hell
Those who go to Hell, do so of their own accord – because they reject God utterly and completely. If we choose not to be near Him, He assuredly will not force us to do so.
Nor, however, will He save those who pridefully and stupidly insist on rejecting Him.
That should terrify each and every one of us, now that we know what is in store for those who actively refute and refuse the hand of God. Take it from someone who knows, who repeatedly swatted away that hand when He offered it – the cost of doing so is extremely high.
Yet, even as we confront the ultimate price of this terrible problem of evil that we have created for ourselves, we also have the solution.
We know what that solution is. We celebrated His glorious resurrection just this past Sunday. And it is the ONLY possible solution, for reasons that I have elucidated elsewhere.
This brings us back to the original issue: what was God thinking when He gave us the capacity to sin and to do evil? Surely He could just erase evil in an instant? The same God who created everything around us, who put forth this magnificent Creation, surely can wipe out evil with but a mere thought?
Certainly. He could. But then… how is His creation going to fulfil its potential?
For the fundamental truth of evil is that its power is actually quite limited. Oh, certainly, that power is far greater than anything we mere mortals can comprehend. But it has limits. And it can only take over and destroy you if you let it.
Conclusion – Resist and Bite
As I have stated before, freedom is a choice. You have to choose to live free, and to accept the consequences of that decision. This is why slavery is fundamentally evil – because it robs men of that right to be free and make righteous choices.
If those around you refuse to make choices that set them free, or enslave themselves to evil, that is their problem. It is not yours until and unless their choices interfere with your own freedoms. At that point, you must fight back. You cannot accommodate them – do not commit the sin of Jeroboam. We are not commanded to tolerate our enemies – we are commanded to LOVE them. And that is an altogether very different, and vastly more difficult, commandment.
Approach those in your own family who commit sin on a regular basis with love. You may have to be stern and commanding, but do it you must. If they continue to reject your help beyond a certain point – and only you know what that point is – then you must leave them alone. They have chosen to be human trash, and they have chosen their destination accordingly.
That process of letting go is wretched and painful for all of us. But it is necessary. You cannot force people to go away from Hell. They choose to go there of their own accord. And they will seal the gates shut behind them – because they chose to be there. They almost surely do not want to be there – but they chose it nonetheless.
Instead, focus on being an example to those who depend upon you. Build your life, sanctify your life, justify yourself before Christ the Redeemer, and glorify God Almighty in all that you do. Your lot in life may well be to serve as an example of failure for others to learn from – that certainly was, and perhaps still is, my own purpose for a long time. But understand that your life serves a purpose nonetheless.
Find that Sacred Purpose, and do not deviate from it when you have found it. The rest will take care of itself.