Hi Phil just stumbled across your website and found this question bit, and thought I’d utilise it!
I have always struggled with the concept that God knows everything and that God is omnipotent because….
Surely God would not have made this beautiful world if he knew man would ultimately fail.
It is a problem in my mind, because it leaves me feeling either like
a) there was at least one time when God was powerless to Lucifer (in the fall)
b) he made the world knowing that the fall would happen – which seems ludicrous.
Hummm, interesting. I know that are somethings we will never know, and that’s the whole deal with faith. Either way it would be good to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for posting a great question!
I wonder, will you accept a philosophical reply?
It’s like a “thought-experiment” and it starts with the premise that you are God, and you wish to create independent beings who, of their own volition, will love & revere you.
Why would you want to do this?
(This next bit may seem to be unconnected, but bear with me – it’ll come clear soon.)
The clue is in Ephesians 1 18 where Paul prays that we’d know “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…”
At a careless glance this could be read to be referring to how we inherit God’s richness, and sadly even some commentaries give this view. However the text is plain, it is talking about what GOD inherits, and where he inherits it from – his people.
Now hang on a bit! One of the things Christians believe is that God is the Creator of all that exists, even time and space. He made everything, and he owns everything.
OK, so it follows that he CANNOT be made richer than he is, yes? He is sort of “infinitely rich”.
YET Ephesians 1 18 tells us quite plainly that He inherits something. And anyone who inherits something gets MORE than they had in the first place.
So we are being asked to believe that God, who is infinitely rich, becomes richer still by reason of something connected with those who belong to him.
Can you figure how this might work? What is the only thing that can make an infinitely rich being richer?
Answer: The love of another, given freely and without any compulsion.
OK, so how does that help us?
If we accept that God’s purpose was to enrich himself by receiving the freely-given love of other beings, then that begs the question, “And how, exactly, could he bring that about?”
Even an all-powerful (omnipotent) being is still limited in this one respect, he cannot insist on receiving freely-given love. He cannot legislate into existence a freely-given love response.
(Is he then NOT omnipotent? No he is still omnipotent, but even omnipotence still has to conform to logic. Omnipotence cannot make one and one equal three, and omnipotence cannot achieve by force an outcome which has to depend on the freewill of others.)
So let’s go back to our thought-experiment. You are God. You want to create beings who will love you freely. How do you do that?
You create beings who have an opportunity to accept you, or deny you.
You give them enough information to make a choice which they can be responsible for.
You then have to accept their decision as to whether they wish to belong to you, or not.
Does that reduce your omnipotence? No, you COULD wipe them all into oblivion with one breath from your mouth, if you wanted to. Your “sovereignty” (theological word) is still totally unimpaired.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
If you have DECIDED NOT to exercise every last bit of your omnipotent power, that doesn’t mean you’re not omnipotent. It was YOUR decision.
So let’s look back at your points:
1. “Surely God would not have made this beautiful world if he knew man would ultimately fail.”
(That goes together with this: “he made the world knowing that the fall would happen – which seems ludicrous.”)
Well my contention, from the above, is, “Oh yes he would.” Allowing the possibility of the fall and all its consequences was the inevitable consequence of the original decision to make himself “richer”. (You might have decided not to make Man, given this, but you’re not God, and that was his preference and he had a right to make it.)
2. Here’s another of your points
“a) there was at least one time when God was powerless to Lucifer (in the fall)”
If, as above, God allowed the fall, then Lucifer’s fall was included. In other replies, I’ve explained that Angels also had freewill to obey God, or disobey. (But unlike us, their first disobedience carries no prospect of a repentance and return to obedience, because, unlike us, they lived in perfect awareness of the presence of God. So their decisions were final.)
However, we need to consider what your response (as God) would have to be to Lucifer’s fall.
Did it lessen your omnipotence?
No. You created him, you can wipe him out.
So do you?
Well here we need to realise something about the character of God. He is perfectly Just. He’s not Just because he is forced to be, he’s Just because he’s DECIDED to be. (He has freewill too!)
So when he is offended against, one of the consequences of his Justice is that he will let the offenders convict and condemn themselves to the full extent of their fallen condition. This is in order that Justice may be given for the whole of the consequences of their decision.
In aid of this, Lucifer’s come-uppance is currently deferred, but that does not mean that God is out of control and is not sovereign. It is BECAUSE he is sovereign that Lucifer’s fate is playing out on God’s timescale, not Lucifer’s.
Hope this helps.
There follow further thoughts on this subject which have been more recently posted:
“before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.”