The Meaning of Life: With Free Will We Can Be Redeemed in Jesus

We are investigating the meaning of life and the question: Who are we? We have determined that free choice is the explanation for why evil exists in the world. And as we look at the world around us, everywhere we turn we see one evil after another. What are we to make of it?

cs-lewisC.S. Lewis once contemplated the world’s fallen state. Here is the response he said he’d have given when he was still an atheist: “If you ask me to believe that this is the work of a benevolent and omnipresent spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in the opposite direction. Either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit.”

So is this the best possible world? The answer has to be a resounding no! But it is the best possible way to the best possible world. What is the best of all worlds? It’s what we call heaven, heaven-1described in Revelation 21:3–5 (NLT):

3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

That is the best possible world. And how do we get there? By living in this world and by believing in and following God’s only Son, Jesus.

As Jesus says in John 14:6 (NLT): “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

Belief in Jesus is an act of the will. And as Jesus also says in John 6:29 (NLT), it is a work: “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” Once that choice, that act, that work is made, the Holy Spirit, the third part of the Trinity, comes to live within us. And then he helps us discern and follow and live the Christian life in this world while we wait to enter the next.

So free will leads to evil, yes. And following evil leads to eternal death. But free will can also lead us to eternal life. Man has a choice. The Holy Spirit can guide and nudge us toward the right course, but in the end, the choice is man’s alone to make.

Next time we’ll look at another aspect of who we are: members of God’s holy household.

The Meaning of Life: We are Created in God’s Image with Free Will

In our quest for the meaning of life, we asked, “Who are we?” The biblical answer was that we are creatures created in God’s image. Then we listed some of our God-given attributes. Today we add one more item to our list: Free will.Roads Diverging

We’ll look at this thing called free will and attempt to reconcile it with God’s sovereignty—because both exist simultaneously.

Because God created time itself, he sits outside of and is unbounded by time. He knows the future before it happens. So he knows what each person will think and do before they do it. But when God created this being called man, God gave man a quality that he too possessed—the ability to choose freely.

God is, of course, sovereign and he ordered the universe for his purposes. Nothing happens that God doesn’t allow to happen. Yet fundamental to God’s plan for the universe is the free will he gave to this race of beings called man. And without free will, God cannot fulfill his plans for the universe.

So how can we reconcile the two? How can God be sovereign, while at the same time God endows mankind with free choice?

My answer to that question borrows somewhat from a 16th century theologian, Luis Molina: Because of God’s independence from time, even “before” he created the universe, he knew the nature of each person before they were born. He knew every thought and every decision they would ever make with the free will he would give them. And he knew this for a nearly infinite set of the possible universes he could have created. From this impossibly large number of universes, he chose the one universe that would accomplish his purposes. And he made all those decisions in one instantaneous “moment”. (Of course because time didn’t exist yet, we cannot talk about “moments” before time.)

Why is free will necessary for God’s grand plan? Why didn’t God just “predestine” our fates? In one sense I grant that God did “predestine” us. In our solution, God looked at the nearly infinite multiplicity of possible universes with their trillions upon trillions of individuals—each with a lifetime’s worth of thoughts and choices. Then he discarded all those that didn’t fulfill his plans. He kept only the one world where the combined set of free choices, made by all the individuals that ever were born, from the first man and woman to the last, would achieve his purposes. But I wouldn’t call that predestination, because in the end, each person still has free choice. Mind boggling, no?

Why wouldn’t a world of robots do just as nicely? Such a world, where each person’s choice was determined in advance, is an amoral world—one in which there are no moral choices to make. Such a world is obviously inferior to one in which free creatures choose God through his Son.

What was God’s grand purpose? The Bible tells us it’s this: God is creating a people for himself who will love him, whom he will love, and among he will dwell. And this people will be comprised of those who—through the free choices God gave them—believe in and follow Jesus as God’s Son. On earth this people is called God’s church, what he calls his household. And in the next life they will live on into eternity in God’s presence.

That future world will be the best of all possible worlds. But we can only get to that place through the suffering of this world.

Yet this thing called free will brought us something else—evil. We examine that in our next post.

The Meaning of Life: Who Are We?

In our quest for the meaning of life we now address our second great question: Who are we?

Of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, we humans are unique. We know who we are. And we can stand outside ourselves and marvel about the fact that we do. We can create art and music and poetry that lifts the hearts of our brethren to the highest of heights. We can build complex machines that themselves can build complex machines. We have sent rockets to the moon. We have plumbed the depths of the ocean. And we have created such death, destruction, and chaos that we recoil in horror at ourselves. Indeed, we have the ability to destroy ourselves and every other living thing—if the One who made the world would ever allow it. And he won’t, unless it’s in his plan and timing.

We can even ponder how we came to be and why we’re here. No other creature is able to do this. Thus we have the ability to worship our Creator and serve Him. And we can write symphonies in his honor and build massive cathedrals to worship him in.

What monkey or dog can say the same?

What is the biblical answer to who we are? It’s this:

Genesis 1:26–27 (NLT): 26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us… 27 Creation-hands-LSo God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

And that is why we are who we are, unique among all life on earth. We are similar to God, with some of His characteristics. To delve a bit deeper, I have borrowed the following list from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology:

  1. Morality. We were given the Moral Law. Every person is born knowing right from wrong, good from evil. This “law” did not come from society. It is innate to our character, and it came only from a superior moral being.
  2. Spiritual Aspects. We are immortal. When our physical bodies die, we will live on in one of two spiritual realms, heaven or hell. We are spiritual because we can know who God is. We can worship him. We can receive a part of God, the Holy Spirit, within us.
  3. Reasoning. Our minds can understand great complexity and solve multifaceted problems. We can reason and think logically. We can discuss abstract concepts at great length and philosophize, something no animal can do.
  4. We are aware of the future. Unlike all other animals, only man can plan for and ponder what will happen in one, three, or twenty years.
  5. Creativity. Witness Handel’s “Messiah”, Michaelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Gutzon Borglum’s sculpture of Mount Rushmore, and Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
  6. Emotions. We have a complexity of emotions like no other animal. We can love and hate, forgive and begrudge. We can experience the heights of joy and the depths of sadness. And we can do all this untethered to the external stimulus needed to precipitate similar, but less complex emotions in animals.
  7. Relationships. We can relate to others like no other creature. Some animals have a sense of community and bonding, but not like that of a human family, when it follows God’s plan for the marriage of one man and one woman. Certainly not like the relationships we can have in a church of believers. We can even have a relationship to the Creator himself.
  8. Communication. We can communicate through spoken and written language, just as God has communicated with us. The very fact I’m able to write this blog shows this characteristic we inherited from God’s image.

There is much more to how we are created in God’s image. But here we have enough to begin to answer the question: Who are we?

In the next post we’ll talk about another important aspect we received from God, one that got us in a heap of trouble—free will.