In the six-disc DVD collection of Yes, Your Question…A Collection of the Best Questions From Top Universities, produced by RZIM in 2012, a person from the audience in the DVD disk recorded at Columbia University…asks Ravi Zacharias the following question:
“If God is all powerful, and all knowing, why would He still choose to create a world where it’s going to fall apart, where we are going to have atrocities now…when He knows that is going to be the outcome of what we choose?”
Paraphrasing…Dr. Zacharias gives the standard apologetic response to this question, saying that when we deal with the effect, when we deal with what we have now in the world, regardless of the initial cause, we basically have four options for the possible worlds God could have created.
The first option is best rephrased as a question: “Would it have been better to have no creation at all, than to have this one?”
The second option is also best rephrased as a question: “Would it have been better to create people who would only choose the good?”
The third option in the form of a question for a possible world is: “Would it have been better if God created a world where there was no such thing as good or evil…an amoral world?”
The fourth option is this world…where there is a possibility of good and evil…knowing that we would still choose evil, with all of the negative outcomes this entails, being the only other option as far as we know.
Ravi Zacharias goes on to say that when this question is raised, it metaphysically introduces a moral framework in the form of: “Would it have been better?”
He elaborates by saying that if it would have been morally better to choose one of these other options…the only reason behind the question is that it must first assume there is such a thing as good or evil…otherwise what is the point of the question?
He concludes his answer by saying that we cannot invoke a moral question in an amoral world, and the ultimate ethic in a moral world is love…which none of the other three worlds would have made possible.
In this essay I would like to posit a fifth hypothetical option, of the possibility of God creating billions of junior gods in lieu of human beings, also created in the image of God…but having the added features of possessing divine timeless foresight and absolute goodness.
This fifth option would alleviate the sticky problem of evil and suffering in this world, but introduces some new realities that make this option from a practical standpoint implausible and untenable, bringing us back to the original answer to the question of why God chose to create this world…that this present world having free-will choice is the only reality wherein the ultimate ethic of love can actualize
Assuming that it is possible for God to create multiple junior gods possessing timeless foresight and absolute goodness…one obvious difficulty here is the fundamental question of: what is time.
The creation of the fourth dimension time, at the Big Bang beginning of the universe, is an extraordinary invention that we take for granted. We have clocks, wristwatches, and mobile phones that tell us what time it is, and we have our lives scheduled around business meetings and luncheon dates…but we have no idea what time is.
Centuries after Isaac Newton, we can use his equations regarding motion and gravity to put men on the moon…but even today we have no idea what gravity is.
Physics, chemistry, and mathematics are rife with equations describing heat, motion, acceleration, friction, momentum, and energy…but we have no idea what energy actually is.
The notion that God could create beings like Himself who possess divine timeless foresight…bipedal, human-like junior gods walking the earth today…who would have no previous idea about the basic design and production issues involved in the creation of time in our universe, then going about their lives using timeless foresight but not knowing what time actually is…being created persons but not being creators themselves of fundamental things like time, gravity, and energy, of not having the Creator’s database of insider information and knowledge to take them the rest of the way to complete and total divinity…might turn-out to be a half-way exercise in futility.
This might be asking too much of God…to create beings having partial divinity…but not giving them “the whole enchilada.”
One interesting observation in this new Age of Information, is that the Intelligent Designer God did not merely use a pre-existing database of information in crafting the universe, in the same way that an architect or a structural engineer would utilize the received wisdom of an existing database of information for the design of a new building.
In the case of the Big Bang creation of the concrete physical universe at a moment of time about 13.7 billion years ago, out of nothing that was previously material, out of the mind of God who is a Spirit Being…the interesting realization here is that the very information used in creating the universe was invented “from scratch” for this one singular purpose.
This would be like an architect or an engineer inventing 4×8-inch wood posts, structural steel columns, glass windows, granite countertops, and wood casing trim…from scratch…with all of the accompanying chemistry, physics, and mathematics, at the start of the design of a new house, office building, or shopping mall.
The idea that God could create numerous, full-feature junior-gods possessing the ability to invent information from scratch exactly like He can…may not be possible…or even advisable.
Likewise, with the attribute of absolute goodness…the first question here is what exactly is: “goodness.”
In the essay “Where Does Good and Evil Come From”…I try to explain good and evil in terms of a vertical spectrum-line of light…making the case that evil is an absence of good, like varying shades of darkness are defined by the absence of light.
But here also the fundamental question still stands: “What exactly is goodness?”
Like gravity, energy, time, and light…we can describe goodness…but we have no real idea what it actually is.
Creating billions of junior gods would involve the input of things that are certainly abstract, spiritual, and non-material, but would have essences inherent in absolute goodness and divine timeless foresight, substances that might not be fully or even partially transferable from one living being…God…to another living being.
It appears within the four dimensions of this world, at least for us, that goodness and foresight are realities that are obtained experientially, through the course of the events and circumstances of our lives…entities that are again intangibly abstract and spiritually non-material…purchased by fallible human beings within the context of the fourth option of possible worlds mentioned above, containing good and evil, and providing the opportunity for experiencing love.
But even with a multitude of individual junior gods…having absolute goodness, divine timeless foresight, and all-power…someone would still have to assume the role of leader…someone would still have to be in-charge.
Imagine for a moment a nuclear submarine…with all of its officers and crew members having the equal rank of admiral. The cooks in the ship’s galley would all be admirals…along with the captain, the navigator, the engineers, the gunnery mates, and the other officers.
But the chief cook in the galley cannot do two jobs at the same time…to cook meals for the crew, and to serve as captain of the submarine. One person has to assume the role of captain…no matter if the captain and everyone else on board the submarine also have the equal rank of admiral. If each and every sailor aboard the submarine possesses absolute goodness, divine timeless foresight, and a perfect knowledge of submarine navigation and warfare…each sailor would still have to perform their precisely distinctive function aboard the ship…to the exclusion of other duties performed by their shipmates.
The hypothetically shared rank and title of admiral becomes superfluous…washes-out as being unimportant, in this reality of the various duties of manning a nuclear submarine.
Imagine a professional football team in the NFL, in which every player on the field and sitting on the bench, along with all of the assistant coaches and support staff, all have the equivalent rank and title of Head Coach.
Even if every person on this football team had the divine capacity of a god, possessing divine timeless foresight, absolute goodness, and a perfect knowledge of football regarding every position on the field, and all of the possible plays to call for every imaginable situation…there would still have to be only one person making the play-calling decisions…making play-calling decisions in-the-moment by mass-committee being too cumbersome and time-consuming.
This is one reason why the rebellion of Satan is even more ill-advised for us humans. Whatever good attributes Satan once had and enjoyed as the “covering cherub” in heaven (Ezek. 28:11-19)…the idea that his beauty and charm justified his ambition to usurp the leadership position of God, epitomizes the error of the self-sovereignty of going our own way apart from God (Isa. 53:5-6).
An eternal heavens…where everyone is a divine god…is difficult to imagine even with the universally shared attributes of absolute goodness and divine timeless foresight, without one key person still being the leader, without one key person still being in-charge.
But much more important…on the most fundamental level…is that a world and a heavens in which everyone is a perfect divine being, has the potential for creating the bizarre environment of absolute autonomous individualism, where everyone could and would go their own separate ways, being equally qualified to do so, eliminating the capacity for engaging in personal relationships at the depth of intimacy that could create genuine love.
Someone might ask the insightful question here, that if the Godhead Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit enjoy absolute goodness, divine timeless foresight, and perfect love, why could this not telescope out to billions of junior gods created in the image of God…possessing the nearly complete attributes of God?
Wouldn’t people be more lovable if they were perfect?
Or does being morally perfect and possessing divine timeless foresight, but not possessing the complete package of the totality of the attributes of God…like the ability to create a universe and a planet earth, like the ability of God to create life…does this simply make partially divine beings who are better equipped to drift apart into autonomous individualism more perfectly…doing their “own thing” apart from God?
Theoretically, without hitting this nail with a hammer too many times, if the God of the Bible could create numerous equivalent junior gods having the complete package of divine attributes, in possession of the vast database of information and the ability to create life, their own universe, and the laws of physics to match this universe…then we really would be looking at the possibility of the many worlds, “multi-verse” scenario.
But what would be the point of having an endless series of equivalent universes and planet earths like ours…all managed by enumerable junior gods equivalent to the God of the Bible…all being omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, and possessing divine timeless foresight and absolute moral goodness, producing a reality of gods all being in the same selfless giving mode of divine love?
Where then would the varied realities of faith, trust, friendship, fidelity, and love be? What would be the variation of context for the broad array of moral concepts to actualize?
One or more of these perfect junior gods might say that a time had come in their created universe to produce non-divine human beings having free-will and the advanced capacity for intellectual and moral reasoning…yet then introducing the possibility of the entrance of good and evil, and the further introduction of the disruptive appearance of a liar and a con-man…a corrupted being…able to bring corruption into an otherwise perfect past existence.
This would merely create an endless repetition of the present condition we are now in.
Is the true reality…in however many number of universes we might theoretically imagine…that good and evil are eternal, stand-alone, and self-existent realities, timelessly inescapable entities that fall on the vertical spectrum-line of light and darkness, of good and evil?
Borrowing from a statement made in another essay in this book…that it is pointless to enter into a debate with a liar…if God would have confronted and challenged Satan the rebel and usurper during the temptation in the Garden of Eden, God’s word alone would have had no more weight behind it than that of Satan, disguised in the spiritualized form of a beautiful talking serpent having the feature of beguiling speech.
This is one partial explanation for why God created this physical, material universe, and why the Second Person of the Trinity…Jesus Christ the Son of God…was incarnated into a human body (Isa. 7:14; Lk. 2:8-14; Jn. 1:14).
The real truth is that God does input absolute goodness and divine timeless foresight into human beings, by giving us some of Himself in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit, through the process of spiritual rebirth…of salvation by faith through grace (Jn. 3:5, 16-17).
But because the knowledge of good and evil cannot be purchased on the cheap by merely eating a piece of fruit hanging from the branch of a very special tree…the same free-will choice now flushed-out within the physical material environment of this world, provides the opportunity for God to input some of Himself into human beings.
This also fleshes-out the rebellion element of the deceptive temptation put forward by Satan in the Garden of Eden, questioning God’s credibility through the hollow use of unsubstantiated words alone, of God’s qualifications to be the captain of the nuclear submarine or the Head Coach of the football team…to be the divine King and Ruler of the eternal realm of heaven, while imparting to us the free-will choice to accept the input of some of His divine nature and essence, through faith in Jesus Christ.
This unique world we inhabit offers the potential for experiencing love, but also the potential for experiencing suffering as the outcome of evil…as the only possible option to expose Satan as a liar and a rebel…and at the same time set-up a fair and reasonable way in this broken world context to voluntarily want the input of absolute goodness and timeless foresight that God is offering to us, obtained by the faith through grace of free-will choice (Num. 21:8-9; Jn. 3:14-15; Eph. 2:8-10).
Finally, if the God of the Bible is everywhere (omnipresent), all-knowing (omniscient), and all-powerful (omnipotent)…and possesses divine timeless foresight and absolute moral goodness…then the idea that He would need to set-up a police state having an intricate spy network, is superfluous and nonsensical.
There would also be no point in creating robots programmed to always do the right thing, because God is already in a position to be an affectively dominating tyrant and autocratic ruler…if this was His choice…being everywhere, all-knowing, and all-powerful.
John Lennox gives a great answer in his debates with atheists who object to the idea of a “Big Brother” God always looking over our shoulder…that in his home he has someone always looking after him 24/7 with caring love…his wife.
For a God who possesses perfect virtue, justice, and divinely selfless love at the peak and pinnacle of brilliant pure light and absolute goodness, the only thing that He needs to work with is the faith and trust of His created beings…if He is going to have meaningful relationships with them.
This is like the old adage: “What do you get…as a gift…for the person who has everything?”
Creating junior gods as perfect in every way as He is…may be an impossibility for God…like creating square circles, married bachelors, or one-ended sticks.
God does not want to be a policeman constantly looking over the shoulder of everyone all the time…although being everywhere, knowing everything, and being all-powerful…He does.
God wants people who will freely choose virtue, who can be self-governing in the liberty of wanting to do the right things, who are open to the reception of His love and fellowship, the gift of Himself…of a perfect God living in the giving mode.
This is the redemption and deliverance from sin that Jesus purchased for us on the cross and through His resurrection on Easter morning.
This also might be a reasonable answer to why the Second Person of the Trinity…Jesus Christ the Son of God…was incarnated into a human body and now inhabits a new resurrected body in heaven, contained within a bodily form that we can see, listen to, and speak with, which is not the case with God the Father still in His original Spirit form, along with the Holy Spirit, being omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent…but unseen.
“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man. That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love. May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:16-19)