Alan Smith

A World Without Love


A lot of people wonder why there’s so much pain and suffering in our world. If God is in control (and he is), why doesn’t he prevent more pain? Why has he made a world in which evil, not only exists, but seems to often go unchecked?

 One possible option is to think of God as a sovereign puppet-master. He pulls all the strings. If this is true, then evil exists because God wills it to exist. Evil, pain, and suffering are tools in the hand of a sovereign God who uses them to accomplish his purposes. In this view, creatures have no genuine freedom, for every choice is determined by God’s own sovereign will. My choices. Your choices. Everyone’s. If God truly pulls all the strings, then I think this is the only intellectually honest explanation available to us.

But what if he doesn’t pull all the strings? That’s the other option.
Some will immediately object to this view, arguing that this possibility undermines the sovereignty of God.

It doesn’t.

In fact, quite the opposite is true. To propose that for God to create a world in which he doesn’t pull all the strings would undermine his sovereignty is to make one of two statements about God’s sovereignty: either God can’t make such a world, or merely that he hasn’t made such a world. The second option simply begs the question. The first, that God can’t have created genuinely free creatures, directly challenges his sovereignty.

I recognize that many strongly believe that God hasn’t granted genuine freedom to humans. They are free to think that way, thus affirming my point.

If it is true that God has given free will to creatures (men, angels), then there are certain concepts that follow from this. Choices require options, alternatives. These options must be real and proportional. If God gives me the very real capacity to be a powerful source of blessing in my children’s lives, then, at the same time, there are few people with a  greater capactity to harm them. It is nonsensical to consider a world in which I have genuine freedom to bless with no option to do otherwise.

It is feasible to consider a world in which creatures have no capacity to harm, only to bless, but not while maintaining genuine freedom. In this hypothetical world where nothing bad ever happens, God must be pulling all the strings.

Either …
    The first option (1) is clearly not the case. The following two options (2) and (3) are the only viable alternatives.

    If we hold to (2), then we must determine that God, as the source of evil, is either (a) evil, or (b) good, but using evil to accomplish a greater good. Many believers who hold that God pulls all the strings actually balance these two options. Theologically, they affirm (b), while inwardly they retain a non-verbalized resentment toward the God they blame for their pain.

    If we embrace (3), then we see that God is not to blame for evil, he is not the source of evil. Instead, we find that evil exists because free creatures have chosen it. This is the only option where moral responsibility of creatures makes any sense.

    Once option (3) is chosen, another question follows. Why? Why has God made a world in which creatures have the capacity to cause so much suffering and pain?

    The answer, I believe, is love.

    Love is the kind of thing that must be chosen. You can have love-like behavior that is compelled, but you cannot have determined love. It is in the choosing that love is given. A world in which creatures cannot choose is also a world in which creatures cannot love. Pain and suffering in my life are a direct result of my choices, the choices of other men and women, or the choices of other creatures like fallen angels.

    Could God have prevented all this? Yes. He is sovereign. But he hasn’t.


    It’s not because God likes to use pain to teach me lessons. That’s not it. It’s because God values love. A world without choices is a world without love. Yes, it also could be a world without pain, a world of well-behaved robots. I don’t want that kind of world. I’m convinced God doesn’t either.

    Having said all that, I’m continually amazed at God’s resourcefulness. He has an amazing knack for redeeming, healing, and restoring. He doesn’t ever waste my pain. He brings good from it.

    He doesn’t choose it, but he has chosen to make a world within which such things occur. And when they occur, he doesn’t merely explain my pain, he enters into it; he takes it upon himself. He chooses. He loves.
    “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” ” (Matthew 26:39, ESV)

    Alan Smith