In Response To: A Harlot's Homecoming

Doing Things the Hard Way

How can a God who sent his only son to save humanity from its sins[1] be the same God who sent a flood to exterminate all of the living creatures on the earth?[2] Understanding the multi-faceted nature of God is discussed by Michael Ruan in his article “A Harlot’s Homecoming.” Yet, this tension between a gracious, kind God and one who is vengeful and destructive can seem off-putting and inconsistent. A related paradox is the tension between free will and predetermination, the idea that the trajectory of our lives and our actions was decided before birth. How are Christians supposed to reconcile God’s gift of free will with his ability to predetermine all? Furthermore, how are Christians called to interpret God’s enforcement of his will when it seems harmful?

Free will, the ability to determine one’s own fate, is present at the beginning of human creation in the Bible. Eve, the first woman, was tempted by the serpent to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (the only act expressly forbidden by God in the Garden of Eden), which she chose to eat, and was followed by her husband Adam[3]. Not only does God know everything[4], but he also has authority over everything. Yet, he gave humans the choice to obey him. The exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden serves as a quintessential example of people’s natural inclination to disobey God. It is so much easier to put one’s own desires ahead of another’s. But that doesn’t mean God still can’t carry out his own desires. The Bible also acknowledges that people are completely at the mercy of God.[5] In this light the agency of humans is insubstantial next to God’s will. In Exodus 9:12 God hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that he wouldn’t listen to Moses’s petitions to free the Israelites. The question this passage raises is, “was Pharaoh’s heart already hardened or did God harden Pharaoh’s heart to serve his own person?” I think the answer is a combination of both. Pharaoh was a sinful man who most likely wouldn’t have listened to Moses anyway.  God used Pharaoh’s disposition toward evil to serve his desire to see the Israelites set free. Would it have been easier for everyone if God had melted Pharaoh’s heart instead? Probably, but as discussed above that’s not the way God works. He won’t make someone love him, but he can use anyone he wants to enact his plan. This plan is part of an overarching narrative of redemption that began in the Bible, continues today, and will continue until Christ returns. When humans turned to sin they were doomed to live in the darkness forever, but through Jesus Christ, humans are brought by God into the light.[6] I believe that God has a plan for my life. I think of it as a maze, one where there is only one way out, but there are many paths I could take to get there. Some of these paths may contain more hardships and grief than others.

It’s hard to understand why God doesn’t just prevent all trials in the world from happening. Using the example of Hosea that Ruan describes in his article as a case study that addresses this difficult scenario, it becomes clear that God sometimes feels it is necessary for people to suffer in order for them to draw closer to him. This concept is difficult to comprehend because if Satan is pure evil and God is the enemy of Satan, then God must be pure goodness.[7] If this logic is played out then God doesn’t make bad things happen, nor does he make people sin which leads to bad things happening. Humans had their chance in the Garden of Eden to live in a sin-free world, but they failed God with the responsibility he gave them. God turns every human moment of suffering into an opportunity to grow closer to him. Even though humanity chose to turn away from God, God wasn’t finished with humanity; instead, his plan was to redeem humanity from its sinful nature through Jesus. This is best carried out by the death of Christ, the death of God’s son as man to save humanity from eternal death. Jesus died in a very real, painful way so that humanity could be saved from the eternal death it had doomed itself to when it disobeyed God. [8] This desire of God to bring us back into his loving embrace despite our rejection of him and resulting proclivity to sin reveals that God really is good.

Emma is a junior at the University of Penn. She hopes that on her path through the maze of life she gets the chance to earn her PhD, write a book, and finally finish a series on Netflix.

[1] John 3:16.

[2] Gen. 7:1-24.

[3] Gen. 3:1-24.

[4] Psalm 147:4-5.

[5] Romans 9:15-16.

[6] John 1:1-18.

[7] Ephesians 6:11-13.

[8] John 3:16.