“If there IS a God, and if He DOES care how men act, why doesn’t He just MAKE men obey Him?”
“If these rules of His are so all-fired important to Him, why is He allowing men to break them? Why not just FORCE all mankind to obey His laws?”
This has to be one of the chief arguments of a sincere atheist. If there WAS a God, He’d be here – not off someplace, hiding, letting a bunch of self-styled preachers “reveal” Him to the world! Right?
The logic is flawless. But the premise is wrong. The premise being that God is after obedience and nothing else. If that were the case, then God would indeed be standing beside you right now with a whip, making sure you don’t sway from the straight-and-narrow.
But that’s not God’s goal. It’s not your goal either, as I’ll soon demonstrate. … Mankind has reached a stage in his collective wisdom where he has conquered the computer. We are the masters of a vast slave empire, and our wishes are carried out to the letter by these little silicon servants. Yet despite our best efforts at creating Artificial Intelligence, we have thus far failed to create even a reasonable facsimile.
Which … is probably for the best, if science fiction movies are to be believed. Because one definition of artificial intelligence is a computer that is able to choose to disobey us. And despite that fact, we spend billions of dollars across the world, desperately trying to create AI solely because we want to build something that is able to disobey us.
Bear in mind that we already have billions of electronic slaves, devices that cannot help but do our every bidding. They are forced by their programming to obey us, and they don’t even have any desire to do anything but obey us. And yet we toil away, avidly seeking something else – hoping against hope to create something that can disobey us and choose for itself. Why? Why is it so important to us to give computers free will? When we answer that question you’ll know why God isn’t forcing YOU to obey Him.
Take the Arabian horse for instance. Widely accepted as one of the greatest breeds of horse on Earth – if not the greatest. Good specimens can bring millions of dollars and few animals can compete with their magnificence. But they are known for their high-spirited nature. Their pride, especially in the stallions. To put it simply, they are able to choose to disobey us, and frequently do. And yet they are loved.
There are many other breeds of horse which are much more obedient by nature. Many quieter breeds that are content to plod along under a rider or in front of a plow, without paying much attention to their surroundings or doing anything but exactly what their master insist. Yet these horses are called “nags”, and are a dime-a-dozen.
But along with the Arabian’s spirit comes an intelligence that some say exceeds other breeds. Yes, he is able (and perfectly willing) to disobey you, but he is also able to learn what you want and then anticipate what you want. He is able to not only do what you ask, but do what you want before you ask it. If you treat him with respect he can be one of the best natured horses – but he can also be one of the worst. So why would people pursue such an animal, when an old nag could easily be asked to do exactly what you wanted and would never consider disobeying you?
Or take a common stereotype of a traditional oriental wife. Tradition says that to show respect she must walk three steps behind her husband in public. Never having been to the orient I’m sure that what we hear in the west is distorted and I know it varies by country and it’s all changing with increasing westernization… but let’s go with it for the sake of the principle.
That type of wife appalls most western men. We don’t want a wife like that – we want someone more like Xena or that girl from Tomb Raider. Why is that? Why is it that a completely obedient wife who would make it her life’s work to wash our feet and clean our house is less desirable than a headstrong amazon queen bent on world domination?
For the exact same reason that God feels the same way about His wife. The wife analogy is most relevant because the people God intends to save will collectively become the bride of Jesus Christ. Figuratively speaking, of course.
Revelation 19:7-8 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
So back to the beginning now. God could easily force man to obey. But what would that produce? You can whip a dog until it whimpers at your feet and scurries away at the first harsh word, terrified to disobey you – but who wants a dog like that? You want a dog who will walk alongside you, work with you, sleep at the foot of your bed, be man’s best friend, right?
And that’s all God wants from you. Take Abraham for instance; God was going to destroy the city where Abraham’s nephew lived. Now an “obedient” servant of God would have said “fine, if God wants to kill them, go ahead, God be praised!” or something like that. If God was forcing man to obey Him, that’s certainly what Abraham would have said. It’s what my computer would have said – if I programmed it to say it. But Abraham didn’t say that.
Genesis 18:25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
Now think about that! Abraham, a measly ant of a human, demands of the God who created Him and the very dirt he stands on – “Shall not the Judge of all the Earth DO RIGHT?” Abraham is accusing GOD of not doing RIGHT! Abraham is CHOOSING to defy God! And you know what? God LOVED HIM FOR IT! God even called Abraham His FRIEND!!
James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
The friend of God. Think about that. Someone who defied God, someone who could choose to disobey Him, was actually LOVED by God. Why? Why do you love an Arabian horse? Or an Amazon? Or a loyal dog? Because they can CHOOSE to disobey you – BUT THEY DON’T! There you have the key to the whole question!
God doesn’t WANT a universe filled with automatons who are hardwired to obey Him! He doesn’t want to have to stand over every person on Earth with a big stick to make sure they obey Him every second! He doesn’t want his wife to have the demeanor of a whipped dog, following three paces behind Him!
He wants a bride that has every opportunity to reject Him, but DOESN’T WANT TO! Something that CAN choose to hate Him, but instead LOVES HIM! Someone who will stand up to Him if she thinks He’s out of line, and who will stand beside Him to the death to support Him when He’s right!
Your parents love you from the time you’re born – most parents anyway – and yet that love means very little to most children. Whether they realize it or not, it’s largely because parents and family have no choice – they more or less HAVE to love their children. And so because the love is an obligation on the parents, it means very little to the children.
But when the child grows up and meets friends who like – and perhaps even love – him, that friendship means many times more than his parent’s friendship because his friend’s DIDN’T HAVE TO LIKE HIM! THEY CHOSE TO LIKE HIM! And THAT means something! Because it was a FREE CHOICE to love him!
God can fill the universe up with yellow pencils in three-piece suits, he could create trillions of yes-men to flatter him every minute of eternity! But He wants you to CHOOSE to love Him! Choose it in a world where there are other options, other churches, other beliefs – where your only reason for choosing His way of life is because it makes SENSE! And because God’s way brings happiness for you and everyone around you!
Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
If God were to force you to obey, He would ruin all of that, rob you of the chance to choose of your own free will to obey Him, and reduce you to a timid, frightened wretch, who would be totally useless to anyone.
But that said, God cannot allow the universe to continue indefinitely as it is today; if it were, we’d carry the same depravity and suffering out into the stars as mankind multiplied into the quadrillions. No, God can’t let that go on forever; for our own sakes, that cannot be permitted. We have wreaked havoc on the Earth since understanding the warlike potential of the atom and germs, imagine what we could do with gene splicing, cold fusion and room temperature superconductors!
Mark 13:20 (BBE) And if the Lord had not made the time short, no flesh would have been kept from destruction; but because of the saints he has made the time short.
As I said before, you want a dog, or a horse, a wife, or anyone else, to be your friend. It is what we were designed to want, since we are made in God’s image. But their comes a point in training a dog, where you have invested countless hours trying to train him, and he is still a vicious cur. When the costs in terms of time and damage begin to outweigh the potential rewards; when that happens, you have to cut your losses and “settle”. You won’t have the “man’s best friend” that you wanted. But you might still have a useful animal if you abandon your policy of free choice and force the dog to obey.
Matthew 23:37 (BBE) O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, putting to death the prophets, and stoning those who are sent to her! Again and again would I have taken your children to myself as a bird takes her young ones under her wings, and you would not!
So often God has tried to offer the way of happiness to man; always as a free choice, never in an attempt to cram His law down our throats. But man as a whole has rejected it, even though a few men did follow it. And so God has allowed man to do his own thing for quite some time.
Verses 38-39 (BBE) See, your house is made waste. For I say to you, You will not see me from this time till you say, A blessing on him who comes in the name of the Lord.
But there has to come an end to that tolerance at some point, just as at some point you can’t put up with your dog’s rebellious behavior anymore. It just isn’t worth it. And so if all else fails, and your dog simply will not take correction from you, and just won’t stop biting everyone… you might have to put him down. Many such dogs are out there. And many such people as well, from God’s point of view.
Revelation 19:15 (BBE) And out of his mouth comes a sharp sword, with which he overcomes the nations: and HE HAS RULE OVER THEM WITH A ROD OF IRON: and he is crushing with his feet the grapes of the strong wrath of God the Ruler of all.
And so God will come and rule the balance of humanity, those who refuse to be His friend, with a rod of iron. This will never produce the same quality of friend as the other way would, but eventually, with proper correction and patience, most animals will come around, just as most people probably will. One way or another, God wants everyone to come around to the way that will make them happiest.
2 Peter 3:9 (Weymouth) The Lord is not slow in fulfilling His promise, in the sense in which some men speak of slowness. But He bears patiently with you, His desire being that no one should perish but that all should come to repentance.
But there will be some that just cannot be trained; some that, no matter how much time and effort are expended, just can’t be molded into a workable part of society. In order to change these people, God would literally have to suck out their free will and replace it with His own – something He refuses to do, knowing that if He did, it would be no better than a computer programmed to do His will. And in fact worse.
Just as it tears your heart to see a dog or a horse or a wife with no spark in their eyes, no independent life, seeing that they have nothing but an empty life committed to serving a goal they don’t understand and obeying a master they hate, with no possibility of escape or parole… God won’t look at that for eternity. The only merciful action is to put the creature out of it’s misery.
But God will never force you to do His will – He will correct you, punish you for disobedience, and ultimately kill you if you plant your feet in the ground and positively refuse to be led – but if He ever takes away your free will, He will destroy the very thing He wants most to create.
John 15:15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
The short answer to why God doesn’t force man to obey? God wants friends. Not slaves. And to be His friend, you have to be able to choose to disobey Him – and yet choose not to.