Monday, 24 April 2006

Did God risk man?

Some great comments on the 'Does God risk public transport?' post below seemed to be worth a couple of posts in reply (i.e. my reply got way too long for a comment).

The first was quoting C S Lewis:
CSL spoke of God taking a 'risk' in creating man, a free being who could rebel against Him:

Man is 'the "weak spot" in the very nature of creation, the risk
which God apparently thinks worth taking' (Problem of Pain)
So did God take a risk in creating man? From a human perspective this is understandable. With us, what God did was a risk - we think that God stood to 'lose out'.

But this ignores 2 aspects of God's sovereignty.

The first is briefly that he is sovereignly and powerfully free to work all things to good: to his glory, so he was never going to 'lose out' even if it was a risk by any other estimation.

The second is to question if it could have been a 'risk' anyway. Without wishing to attribute more to CSL than he intended, or to play semantic games, as Troy said in his comment, "...risk requires that the outcome of a situation be in question. Risk requires a lack of knowledge. Of course, God knows all, so it cannot really be called a risk." A risk is a risk because we don't know the outcome. It could be good and we gain; we could lose out. God knew the outcome. He knew the humans he made as the pinacle of his creation would fall - we know this because he had already planned to give his Son and his Son had already agreed to it from all eternity, before the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1.20), and moreover the Father had in him chosen the church before the foundation of the world (Eph 1.4). He knew that it would, as it were, look like he was losing, but would work all things to the glory of his grace in the end - thereby showing not only his eternal power and divine nature in creation but his manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, through his redeemed people. That is mindboggling and one can imagine the angels being agape at the temporary apparent 'losing out', but it's not risk: God wasn't hanging around to see which way it would go of various possibilities to which he would respond differently. He was planning and bringing everything about for his glory (See also Amos 3.6, Gen 50.20.)

God didn't take a risk in creating man. An omniscient and omnipotent God cannot take risks.

Parenthetically, just in case someone chokes on having the words 'omnipotent God cannot' in any sentence, allow me to quote CSL's Problem of Pain! On the subject of 'Can God make a rock big enough so that he cannot lift it?':
"You may ascribe miracles to him but not nonsense. This is no limit to his power... You have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two words "God can." It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God that for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.


mama said...

Isn't CSL *good*!

If you want to say God didn't take risks (being too Reformed)(God or us? hmmm...), you would certainly have to say that He can't have regrets either. But see Gen.6:6 -

"And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth."

We must not out-theologise God. He expresses Himself to us in terms we can understand. Therefore, while agreeing with all you have said, I think it is still acceptable to speak of God taking a risk in creating man, and to speak of Him regretting having done it.

étrangère said...

"He expresses himself to us in terms we can understand." Absolutely, but as Andy noted in a comment, he does not in Scripture express himself in terms of risk. That was sorry that he had made man on the earth does not mean that he hadn't foreseen the fall or that he would be sorry to have made man. It wasn't an unforeseen and uncontrollable possibile outcome to him, and is never expressed as such. It's God's non risk-taking which frees us to take 'risks' for him!