After his road to Damascus experience, Saul/Paul could have said to Jesus that yes, he had been entirely wrong and mistaken about persecuting the early Christian church, but that he was too offended that God had allowed him to go this far in error, to then step into this new mission-calling to preach Jesus as the risen Christ.
After his exceptional education in Jerusalem under the acclaimed teacher Gamaliel, Saul/Paul could have complained to Jesus that God should have told him earlier about looking both ways before crossing the street, before being allowed to proceed in ignorance to create so much havoc in attacking the Christian church in Jerusalem.
Saul/Paul could have reasonably responded to the new calling of Jesus to go out into the larger sphere of the Greco-Roman world to preach the gospel truth of a risen Christ, that he was both too mad at God and at the same time totally unable to forgive himself for being ignorant about the preeminence of faith in the biblical narrative stories, and in the proper role of the Law of Moses in Judaism.
Saul/Paul could have justifiably complained that God should have given him the needed discernment upfront to be able to recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, without the extreme measure after-the-fact of a revelation by way of a blinding light on the road to Damascus, to learn this truth the hard-way.
But this reveals possibly the whole point God is making in the creation of this physical universe, that in the Garden of Eden we were unable to parse the malicious half-truth that eating a piece of fruit from a specific tree would render us into gods having the knowledge of good and evil.
God did not rescue us at that critical juncture because non-divine, free-thinking beings lacking timeless foresight are susceptible to the persuasively clever arguments delivered by a charismatic, outwardly beautiful liar…and this particular truth has to be demonstrated over time through human history in a variety of laboratory-type, empirically investigated lessons-learned.
Whether it is Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Jim Jones of Jonestown, Guyana, or Satan in the holographic guise of a beautiful talking serpent, in the vast eternity of reality some of the moral concepts in the knowledge of good and evil are difficult to nail-down without the benefit of first-hand field research.
The divine brilliance revealed in the method of the calling of Saul/Paul through the road to Damascus experience, was that God was able to flip Saul into Paul the apostle in a moment of time, creating in an instant an exceptionally qualified rabbinical Pharisee yet having the super-humility to engage with the Gentiles without looking derisively down his nose at their ignorance about God.
Without Saul/Paul’s colossal blunder in persecuting the early Christian church in Jerusalem, within the environment of a world having evil and suffering, there is no Paul the apostle to the Gentiles, and no Paul a new creature in Christ beloved widely in the early Christian churches he was instrumental in founding, as revealed in Romans 16.
This conversion story of Paul the apostle displays at the very heart of the matter our deep need for Jesus Christ to be “the way, the truth, and the life” in our lives, to approach the deepest meanings in the broad array of moral concepts at their end-points of understanding.
These arguments are not subservient to the factual empiricism of science, but are humanly understandable to be at the higher level of ultimate and eternal reality.
The reason why Jesus the Son of God and the Second Person of the Trinity, the humble God/man from the obscure town of Nazareth, was on the cross that fateful Friday as the Passover Lamb of God sacrifice for sin, was missed by everyone including His disciples.
The fact that we all missed this as a group is one of the main points God is trying to make through the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
We need God to tell us to look both ways before crossing the street, and to show us how to use the brakes on our bicycles.
We need this broken world with all of its evil and suffering, for exceptional goodness and brilliant virtue to immerge.
This is epitomized in the cross and resurrection of Jesus that inaugurates at the highest imaginable level God sacrificing Himself so that we can embark on a guided research program into the knowledge of good and evil, through the lens of a fallen yet redeemed, imperfect moral character.
Even Peter has difficulty with discernment as he tries to figure-out his right course of action at the night trial of Jesus (Mt. 26:34-35, 69-75).
Before Damascus, Saul/Paul could not conceivably have imagined a way that God could extend to the undeserving, totally misguided, polytheistic and idol-worshipping Gentiles, salvation by grace through faith.
This brilliant creativity of imaginative insight in crafting this life-script for the apostle Paul to enable him through super-humility to become the missionary evangelist to the larger Greco-Roman world at this time-period of the start of the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19-20), to my thinking is uncannily similar to the brilliance of the Big Bang creation of the universe, the origin of life, the nanotechnology inside living cells, and human thought that we examine through science.
Saul/Paul made the right moral choice independent of the Law of Moses he knew so well, because the law that he revered so much had little to say about the right choice to follow Jesus Christ into an adventure of faith that was so profoundly at the outer edge of the knowledge of good and evil, beyond anything Saul/Paul could have previously imagined.
Laws, rules, and precepts can only take Paul so far in contrast to the discernment of subtly shaded right and wrong in thinking he was in God’s will when he persecuted the early Christian church.
Again, we need the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth including parsing the subtleties in the broad array of moral concepts contained within the knowledge of good and evil.
The revelation on the road to Damascus that Jesus was the Christ was a priceless gift to Paul that was beyond the human perception of one of Jerusalem’s young rising stars within its tight rabbinical group.
This need for God’s light in this critical area of discernment was not lost upon Saul/Paul as he took the gospel message out to the Greco-Roman world in the first-century, that Jesus as the truth active in our lives will set us free beyond our wildest imagination.
People have to want to do the right things from the heart.
Create humans with free-will choice, and the bent of the heart then becomes key.
Paul the apostle is the epitome of the Christian salvation by grace through faith message to the world, because he more than anybody recognized that he should have known better, but missed it.
This revelation on the road to Damascus eliminates forever for Paul the program of self-salvation through the effort of performing good-works, because with all of his education and knowledge about the Law of Moses, he lacked the needed discernment to see that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Christ (Mt. 5:17).
The fundamental question having eternally cosmic implications is why isn’t reaching the truth much easier than it is?
This is why Jesus says to Nicodemus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jn. 3:3).
This is why modern science is a search for truth regarding phenomena in the natural world.
This is why God-composed, adventure of faith life-scripts displace our ways with God’s higher ways and thoughts (Is. 55:8-9), a concept that is anathema to the philosophical worldview of humanism.
This is why, to be able to adjudicate the question of the competence of either Satan or God to be the King and ruler for an eternity of time to come, God has given to the believer the indwelling of His Spirit as a personally accessible PhD theology and life-coach professor, guiding believers through our research program into the knowledge of good and evil (Rev. 3:20; Heb. 11:6).
This is why there must be a fallen, broken world that contains evil and suffering, that with tragically unavoidable consequences is nonetheless necessary to separate-out the outcomes between self-sovereignty versus God-sovereignty, being the fundamental, primary issue within the broad array of moral concepts, first introduced at the temptation in the Garden of Eden.
The materialistic worldview has no explanation for the existence of good and evil in the human experience, and no explanation for the universal existence of imperfect moral character in every human person who has ever lived (with the exception of Jesus Christ), which the Bible calls sin, which is defined as missing the mark.
Redemptive salvation by grace through faith in Christ, that provides the impunity of being able to enter into a research program into the knowledge of good and evil, utilizing the lens of an imperfect yet redeemed earthen vessel to comprehend the subtle nuances contained within the broad array of moral concepts…to my thinking is the epitome of the concept of being an inference to the best explanation, based upon the evidence currently on the earth today.
The cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ enables believers to surgically investigate the knowledge of good and evil without ruining ourselves or the world.
The bottom-line in the Bible is that we need God to craft life-scripts for us to lead and guide us into all truth (Jn. 16:13), assisted by spiritually born-again, new hearts and minds that have eyes to see and ears to hear (Jn. 3:3; Mt. 11:15).
From the Christian viewpoint, this is one of the reasons why God created the universe.
This is one of the seemingly inexplicable mysteries within human intellectual and moral reasoning for why some people succumb to the deceptive appeal of personality cult leaders (2 Sam. 15:6; Rev. 12:9).
This is an excerpt from my book Pondering Our World: Christian Essays on Science and Faith.