I’ve often wondered how the universe really works… how God works… how the world works. Is there a plan? If so, can we influence the plan by our actions? Do good actions create good results invariably, or are the times that good follows good just a coincidence?
Science shows us that the part of our brain responsible for decision-making only fires with electrical activity AFTER we’ve already done something. Does this mean we’re simply acting based on chemical reactions in our brain and then just rationalizing after the fact?
Many churches teach predestination… Calvinism. God preset everything that was ever going to happen from the beginning. Those who go to Heaven are already chosen from the beginning of time, and those who choose to believe are merely the ones that God already predestined. They aren’t really choosing, they’re programmed to do what they’re doing.
Other churches teach the importance of free will, that God granted to all people from the beginning. Although God knows what’s going to happen, because he’s all-knowing, He doesn’t influence decisions or free will. People choose to do whatever they want, and if that happens to affect some third party, so be it. God won’t interfere in free will.
These two concepts are completely at odds, yet both are taught in mainstream Christian denominations. Both can’t be right. Perhaps neither are right…
If the bad decisions of other people exercising their free will causes some kind of pain or suffering to someone, doesn’t that influence the decisions of the injured party? Is this God interfering, or is it random interactions of poor decisions?
Why do bad things happen to good people? Are there really good people? If bad things happen to good people by design, what’s the motivation to be a good person? Is Heaven the motivation? If so, are we saved by faith or by grace… or by good works? If we’re saved by faith or grace, what’s to prevent a person from living a life of utter depravity, and then repenting in the moments before death?
From my own life, I’ve formed opinions on all of these questions. I was taught to believe certain ways, but life has changed many of those beliefs. Here’s where I stand right now: I believe that God is all-knowing, and knows exactly what every person is going to choose to do. I also believe that God granted humans free will. For Him to interfere with free will would be to destroy the value of faith, because we’d be nothing more than robots.
I also believe that on Earth, chaos reigns supreme. I don’t believe it’s because God is absentee, or doesn’t care, or is a sadist… all popular opinions. Chaos reigns because people who have free will often choose to go down the wrong path. Their bad decisions affect people who are good… a child killed by a drunk driver… did the child deserve it? No. Did they have a choice? No.
But people’s bad decisions also affect people who are bad… a serial killer killed by a drunk driver… did the serial killer deserve it? Yes.
It’s all random interactions of people making decisions…good and bad… which creates the chaos we all see every day.
So if bad things are equally as likely to happen to good people as bad, what’s the motivation to be good? The Golden Rule only works if everyone follows it. Aside from “rewards in Heaven,” I struggle to find an answer to that question.