I was watching a video the other day where an atheist was debating a Christian. The atheist made the argument that if there is an all-powerful God, who sees and knows everything, then this inherently means that humans don’t have free will and can’t make real choices. He attacked Christianity, saying that this kind of controlling God is horrific and unjust because He punishes and blesses on the whims of His emotions, without letting people choose.
This is a very common line of reasoning among many atheists. It comes from a belief that what being powerful means is the ability to control other people. Unfortunately, many Christians hold a similar view of power, which tends to drive people like this young man in the video from Him.
The Scripture, however presents a different view of power. Proverbs 16:32 says, “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that rules his spirit than he that taketh a city.” We tend to think that someone who could conquer a city is very powerful. They seem powerful because they are able to overcome the will of all of the people fighting against them and dominate them. If we extrapolate this line of thinking, an omnipotent being would be someone who bent the will of everyone to His own.
This scripture, however, says that a person who is in control of himself or herself is more powerful than a conquering general. The scripture defines power in terms of self-control, not “others control.” This means that scripturally, a God who is omnipotent is not a God who is in control of other people, but rather a God with iron-clad self-control.
The omnipotence of God is actually what leaves space for human will and choice. Without it, God would rush in and change every poor decision you make before you make it. He’s a loving God, and doesn’t want people to suffer, but He also intensely values your free will and your desire to make choices.
We might think that we want God to violate other people’s will to help us, but few people honestly want God to turn them personally into a robot. What we don’t recognize is that if God were to step into situations all the time without our consent and cooperation, what we would have is a very different type of creation than humanity.
Humanity is a stunning creation capable of terrible evil, but the same capacity that makes space for evil (choice) also makes space for incredible good and beauty. For your or my choice to serve and love God to mean anything at all, we have to be free to choose to reject Him. Rejecting the source of all life and love bring many hardships and suffering into the earth, but it’s not the will of God, nor is it His fault.
The greatest proof of humanities free will is in the fact that people can choose not to accept the sacrifice of Jesus. They can willfully blind themselves to the love of God and His desire for relationship with them and go to hell. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that specifically that this is not the will of God (He doesn’t want anyone to perish), and yet people do perish.
If God protects our freedom of choice in that most significant moment, we’d be foolish to think He’s violating it in a thousand small ways every day. The reality is much of what we experience is the result of human choice, ours, those around us, and those who’ve come before us. As we learn to recognize this, we can take our place as powerful people, control ourselves, and partner with God to see more of His will accomplished on the earth.