A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“When you are talking about God – i.e. about the rock bottom, irreducible Fact on which all other facts depend – it is nonsensical to ask if it could have been otherwise (p. 184).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“Could God have…made a world without cancer… made a world where children never die before parents… made sin less addictive… made nine day weeks so I could get everything done, etc…?” What you want to add to the list probably comes immediately to mind.
The answer is – it’s a broken question. It is most often a very innocent question, like the child who asks their parent, “Can’t we just stay on vacation forever?” or “Can’t we move our house next to Grandpapa’s?” The child misses the implications of his question and, therefore, deems it reasonable.
The brokenness of the question makes the parent or God seem like the bad guy. The parent is assumed to want vacation to be over or to live far from grandparents. God is assumed to, in some perverse way, enjoy cancer because He is going to bring some “greater good” from it.
The question is worded in such a way that it necessarily erodes trust. Either God could have made things better and didn’t (mistrust of God’s character) or God couldn’t have made things better and is powerless over certain evils (mistrust of God’s ability).
But this type of question-brokenness is based upon a more foundational error in the questions – it assumes that God’s will is like our will. We could have majored in computer science, history, English or business. We considered each, picked one, and now sometimes ask “what if?”
Our will is fickle, short-sighted, and exists inside of time. God’s will is unchanging, eternal, and exists outside of time. Our will is based upon preferences that change as we age. God’s will is rooted in His character that is unchanging. Our will has unforeseen consequences. God possesses all foreknowledge. Our will guesses at the future. God’s will is the foundation of history (past, present, and future).
So when we ask the question, “Could God have [insert action]?” we are actually asking, “Could God be different than He is?” If the answer were yes, then we (who are made in His image) would be so different that the question would no longer be relevant.
We now realize that we only recognize these things as wrong because they offend the character of the God in whose image we are made. We get a finite taste of the offense these effects of sin bring against an infinite God.
We begin to realize what it was like for Jesus to live between the “shame” of bearing the effects of sin and the “joy” of bringing its remedy (Heb 12:2). We realize our question is more personal to God than it is to us. God does not silence our question, He sympathizes with us (Heb. 2:17-18).
Like children who want to stay on vacation because we enjoy the time with our parents, we come to realize that it our parent’s love that compels them home to provide for us. Similarly, we realize that it is God’s character in us that allows us to experience a fallen world as “wrong” instead of “normal” and that it is His image in us that prevents us from being content this side of heaven.