Paradigm Shift Questions
A couple that was recently introduced to ReKnew and several of my books recently wrote to tell me that they are in the process of embracing the warfare worldview along with the open view of the future. They said that they “realize that these things aren’t minor adjustments but are rather all-encompassing paradigm shifts in our faith-walk and theology.” And, as is to be expected, this “paradigm shift” has left them with “some startling questions.” Their questions were thoughtful and probing, which is why I decided to share them with you.
QUESTION: It seems like [with your theology] we end up with a God that’s trimmed down in size quite a bit. Is there anything he can still do for us? Can he still protect us or answer our prayers, or are his hands tied and is he saying: “Sorry guys, I’d love to help out but I can’t”. What is there that the Lord can/will do on our behalf apart from what he did on the cross?
ANSWER: You’re correct in surmising that, in a world that God has populated with free agents, there will be times when God has to say, “Sorry, I’d love to help but I can’t.” (The alternative is to believe he says; “Sorry, I could help but I don’t want to.”) And he “can’t” because free will is inherently irrevocable. But what God can do is: a) intervene to protect you and answer prayers insofar as this is possible (viz. insofar as it doesn’t involve revoking free will); and b) while God can’t unilaterally override a free agent’s will, God can influence it. While coercion is inconsistent with free will, influence is not. Look, I’m trying to influence you right now, and I don’t need to interfere with your free will to do it.
QUESTION: If God can’t interfere with evil choices, it seems He can’t dictate/interfere with good choices either. The sword cuts both ways. God only does what He does and people and angels/demons do what they do and never the two can/shall meet/interfere.
ANSWER: It’s true God can’t unilaterally stop an agent’s choice to do evil or to do good. But that doesn’t mean that God is not involved in both. I believe God is always doing the maximum he can do to exert an anti-evil and pro-good influence in the world. Moreover, the picture I get about the world from the New Testament is that, if God were not exerting his good influence, the world would be wholly given over to Satan and there would be no good in it. Hence, “every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights,” James says (1:17). So, when I am blessed by a good thing a person did, I thank them as well as God. All goodness, in other words, originates with God (but requires agents to act in accordance with it if it is to make its way into our experience). Perhaps this is why Jesus says, “there is none good but God”?
QUESTION: Knowing all that we don’t know, knowing the complexity of the interaction of an infinite amount of agents having free choices, knowing that the tiniest change in events (the Butterfly Effect) reshuffles all the cards, what can Jesus do in answer to prayer or otherwise?
ANSWER: a) God can unilaterally respond to prayers, so long as it doesn’t involve revoking the free will he has given to agents; and b) even when he can’t unilaterally intervene, God can influence free wills as well as any other variable within the dynamic system, including the flap of butterfly wings.