Excuse my ignorance if it is recorded – but nowhere in scripture does it deal with the point of human existence.
My first point is – if God is perfect – why did he create imperfect beings such as us?
It just kills me to think that we were created to exist for a certain period on a timeline in flesh (from birth to death) in order to run the gauntlet of sin which is life as we know it – only to be damned if we didn’t run it quite so well.
But WHY create potential failure if you are capable of creating us perfectly? Could we not have been created in the image of God in the sense of His perfection too – to avoid the whole “hell scare”?
Why create human beings with free will if that free will may lead to their damnation? It just blows my mind.
Please – do no give me the simple answer of “God works in strange ways” and “His decisions and will for us is beyond comprehension” because surely that cannot be all that we have on this?
What I’m asking is – why are we on earth? Why do we run this race in flesh when we could simply be created in spirit – free of potential damnation?
Is it all a game? Are we chess pieces being shuffled around a board? Was it just for fun that we were created – like an experiment by our Greater God, being the righteous and holy being, to determine the effect of free will in spirituality?
Is there any scripture which addresses the point of our existence? It cannot simply be to love – because we could have done that in spirit too.
We are judged according to our conduct and belief during our time on earth – but we are given the gifts of logic and free will – which are overwhelming decision making mechanisms which we depend on to survive and develop. If we implemented the plan well – we go to heaven. If we sucked at life and the rules – we go to hell.
Surely, we could skip our lives on earth and just be created for the eternal spiritual life? So that our flesh cannot be bruised, torn or injured and so that we do not have to experience pain and suffering on earth? I mean, that’s just cruel?
Now, another thing that is driving me mad…
God is a God of love. He created us and assures us not to be fearful. Yet, as South Africans, every day we sub-consciously and consciously experience fear or harm to us and all of those we love. To anybody actually.
Why do such awful things happen, if God is capable of preventing them from happening? Surely – that is not love?
Again – I’d appreciate an answer which does not simply state “That’s God’s will and we cannot fathom it” if possible?
I do appreciate your time, consideration and the opportunity to ask these questions.
I thank you in advance for your response.
Thank you for contacting us. I will do my best to see how I can be of assistance in exploring your questions. Hopefully you won’t see any cheap answers in the process!
You ask about the point of our existence. I think it’s one the deepest existential questions that any person can be confronted with and therefore something of some importance!
The classic theological answer has always been that God created us to know, glorify and enjoy Him forever (see for example: John 17:3, 1 Corinthians 10:31, 2 Thessalonians 1:12, John 15:8, 1 Peter 4:11, Philippians 1:11, John 10:10b, Matthew 16:24-25, Psalm 37:4, Matthew 22:37-40). The idea is that our lives find true meaning only in relation to God. Yes, we do so as embodied persons in a physical universe, and more specifically, in the context of living our lives on planet earth (see Genesis 1:28). But it is ultimately to the extent that we cultivate a relationship with God and seek His will for our lives, that we experience true purpose and meaning.
In the creation story we learn that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God (Gen 1:26) and that God Himself announced that what He created was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). This suggests, prima facie at least, that humans were not created as “imperfect beings”, but as beings reflecting God’s image and whom God called “very good”.
But the creation story continues. It describes how human beings failed morally, that is how they fell into sin. (Gen. 3). This raises the question: how is it that a morally perfect being like God would create beings who could fall into sin, that is, behave immorally? Can we not expect that a morally perfect being will only create beings that will behave perfectly? In fact, if a being reflects the very image of God, doesn’t it suggest that they should behave perfectly?
The answer to this question is, surprisingly enough, not necessarily! To see why not, consider what it would mean for God to create a being that behaves perfectly, let’s say, a being that is perfectly loving.
What does it mean to act “lovingly”? The important thing to recognise is that the very concept of love is always related to a free act or decision. In other words, you can never make (force) someone to love, since the very concept of love determines that it be a free (unforced) act or decision. This implies that not even God can make someone do something freely (that’s a contradiction in terms, like making square circles). If God wanted to create beings such as humans who can behave lovingly, then He had to create them as beings with the ability to love (that is, they can act freely), but not even He could guarantee that they will or must, in fact, act lovingly.
We can therefore say that God created human beings as moral agents, beings who, because they are created in the image of God, are able to distinguish between good and evil, between right and wrong. The point is, however, that how these moral beings act or choose between good and evil, or between right and wrong, is totally up to them and at the same time absolutely necessarily if God wanted to create beings that are not merely programmed to behave in a certain way, but who could act morally.
When God thus asked Adam and Eve to obey Him (Gen. 2), and they chose to disobey Him (Gen. 3), it wasn’t because they were created imperfectly, but precisely because they were created as moral beings in the image of God.
According to Scripture, everyone born into the world since the fall were and are born in a fallen state (in contrast to the state of innocence that Adam and Eve enjoyed before they fell into sin). This means that every person has a predisposition towards acting sinfully and have a natural tendency to rebel against God. The whole of Scripture, however, is one big testimony to how God remains involved in the lives of sinful people and how He made it possible to be reconciled in a relationship with Him, culminating in Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross.
The point is that God has made it possible for every person to get to know Him (by responding to the testimony of His Holy Spirit to the hearts of every individual) and in so doing they can find true meaning and purpose. The unfortunate fact, though, is that not all people are interested in knowing God as He truly is. So while God wants every person to come into a relationship with Him (see Acts 17:27), not every person will accept the invitation. In the end God will grant them their own wishes – to exist in a state where God is not (see 2 Thessalonians 1:9), which is ultimately what hell is all about. It is simply not the case that anybody is scared into a relationship with God by being threatened with hell. A relationship with God is entered into freely, simply by accepting God’s invitation since He desires a relationship with every person.
But, you ask, why create beings with free will if that free will may lead to their damnation? Of course, having free will doesn’t lead to damnation unavoidably, not if God actively pursues a relationship with people even if they then reject it freely and deliberately. It also seems there is a logical reason for why God cannot just create those He knows will accept Him. Since the tapestry of life is woven in such an intricate way, it seems to be the case that for God to prevent certain people from being born who He knew would not accept Him, would at the same time prevent other people to be born that would have accepted Him if they would have been born from ancestors that rejected God. But then why should people who would freely reject God, be ‘allowed’ (by saying that God has some sort of obligation not to create them) to prevent other people from knowing and enjoying God? (See Why Did God Create People He Knew Would Reject Him?)
(Interestingly, something of the interconnectedness between believer and non-believer can be seen in the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30. God allows the wheat and the weeds to grow up together, for to dig up the weeds would also put the wheat in danger of being destroyed.)
When you consider the importance and centrality of the idea of a relationship with God then you should understand that it’s really not a matter of how well you play by the rules, or how well certain conduct or mere belief measure up, but rather how much you desire to know God and live according to the purpose He has made you for. Right conduct, and to some extent right belief, comes as a result, involving a process of growth, of being established in a relationship with God – it’s not the precondition for a relationship with God. And ultimately heaven is a place for people who desire to be in a relationship with God for ever and who have been changed to be the kind of people that truly reflect God’s image. Hell, by contrast, is simply the place and state of existence for those who desire to be where God is not.
Your final question has to do with why God would allow pain and suffering. Intuitively people feel that an all-loving and all-powerful God could and would want to prevent any and all bad things from occurring in a world that he has created.
It might again be surprising to realise that such is not necessarily the case. For example, if God created moral beings with the ability of acting morally, then it is simply illogical to say that God should or could have made people to do only what is good. It has nothing to do with God’s inability or unwillingness to prevent evil, but everything to do with the kind of beings He chose to create: beings that can act freely and morally. To demand that God prevent all people from ever acting immorally (to hurt other people for example), we are actually demanding that He prevent people from being moral agents in the first place. If we are unable to make bad moral choices, then we are at the same time unable to make good moral choices – and such a being is ultimately not human, but robotic and amoral.
It might also be the case that God knows that many of the conditions under which pain and suffering occur, are also the necessary conditions under which specific goods are ultimately realised, such as for instance, that some people will come to know Him. In other words, there might be circumstances of pain and suffering which lead to or were the result of a complexity of events that are simply beyond human capacity to have calculated or predicted, but which an all-knowing God allows because He knows what the ultimate outcome will be. Hopefully you can see that this not an appeal to mystery, but merely a recognition of the infinite nature of an all-knowing God compared to limited human capacity for knowing things.
What God knows about what specific outcomes will ultimately be, is something that we as humans often second-guess and downright mistrust, but I don’t see why this is reasonable if God is indeed all-loving and all-wise. We trust an omniscient God, precisely because we recognize our inability to see the bigger picture of why we should experience specific instances of pain, suffering and evil. We also trust an all-loving God despite our pain and suffering, not because God is a God of love merely in theory, but because the person who has a relationship with God has experienced Him as loving and trustworthy over a period of time.
Please feel welcome to interact with me further on any of these issues. There are a lot to wrestle with.