Saturday, October 10, 2009

Choice, and its various shades of grey

Choice. Its a word you often find in Christian discussion, commonly used to articulate beliefs such as "free" will. Many Christians like to use it in attempt to sort of cleanse God's hands of any responsibility, regarding His creation and their deeds(particularly choices that determine ones afterlife destination). They may use it in a sentence like "Well God loves everyone, but He loves them so much that He gives them a free will choice!" or "God nor anyone else causes people to do bad things, they choose themselves to do bad things! He wants them to do good, but its their choice!"

And of course that sounds all warm and fuzzy, and seems like a simple enough concept to grasp. I certainly accepted it for many years. But once I really dived into some of the variables surrounding "choice", I found that it appeared to lose its supposed "black and white" simplicity, and gain various shades of grey.

Lack of Information
One of those shades of grey, is lack of information about the very choices being made. For example, I typically love Asian food, so I may be given the chance by some friends to try sushi for the first time. Lets say however, that I am unaware and uninformed that sushi has raw fish in it which has a higher chance of food-borne illness...and lucky me ends up getting some sort of stomach virus from it. Would it therefore be logical to say I "chose" to have a stomach virus by eating sushi? Probably not, since no one even bothered to inform me on the contents of sushi or the risks. You could say that I probably should have investigated a bit further on the food before hand, which may be true...but regardless is not rational to say that I chose to have the stomach virus, being that the possible result was unknown to me.

In the same way, I don't think its fair to make the deduction that people choose Hell and separation from God, merely because they chose to eat the "sushi" in life(aka sin). People with lack of information on the consequences of sin, do not choose the consequences themselves; they chose the sin in ignorance.

Going back to my sushi analogy, if I eat the sushi and contract a virus from it, what is the likely-hood that I'm going to eat sushi again? Probably not very high. If I do, I can certainly tell you it would eventually lose all appeal to me; if getting sick was a constant result of me eating it. Hindsight and often regret is the result of many of our choices in life, but thankfully we have the capability to learn from them(even if that takes a long while, haha). Thus, it seems like an enormous assumption for mainstream Christianity to say that most of human kind will never learn from their mistakes (in choosing something other than God), and will continue their unrelenting rebellion for all time. I personally cant accept that as a reasonable conclusion to make, especially in light of verses such as Philippians 2:10-11,
"in order that in the Name of JESUS every knee should bow, of beings in Heaven, of those on the earth, and of those in the underworld(wouldn't that be "Hell"),
and that
every tongue should confess that JESUS CHRIST is LORD, to the glory of God the Father."

I don't know about you, but the picture of everything in the universe bowing and confessing to Jesus...just doesn't scream "unending rebellion against God" to me. Obviously there must come a point where, in hindsight, everyone and everything realizes and confirms that Jesus is LORD!

This is a big one. If someone tells me that a crappy looking bridge is safe to cross, can I merely choose to believe them without any confirming evidence? If its breaking apart in certain areas and looks extremely old, chances are I'm not going to personally see the reason to believe that it is safe. Try as I might to believe this person, something needs to cause me to believe that the bridge isn't going to give way and let me fall to my death, after taking 5 steps across it.


That belief isn't something I can just "drum-up" out of thin air and choose to have, it is caused into existence by something else. That something else could be watching other people cross that bridge and not die, or perhaps reading the results of a safety inspection regarding the bridge. So its not a matter of whether I chose to believe the bridge is safe, but whether something convinces me that the bridge is safe...and therefore my belief in the bridge is born.

On a more solemn note, I remember reading something very disturbing once. It said that above the doors to the gas chambers the Nazis put Jews in, read "Christ killers". Regardless of any pre-conceived notions those Jews had about the person of Jesus, do you think reading that had a positive effect on what they thought of this Christ and those that supposedly claimed to do His "work"? Do you think they were any more likely to accept Jesus into their heart in their last moments after reading that? No, of course not. The disgusting actions of Hitler and the Nazis, presented those Jews with a false representation of Christ and His followers...thus marring and probably destroying any hope of those people coming to Christ before they died. And it isn't just the Nazis who have presented people with a false representation of Christ; its happened with the KKK,the Westboro Baptists(God hates fags), "Turn or burn" preachers, Catholic priests molesting children, and even some of the most well-meaning Christians who present God as an ever angry, unsatisfied deity.
Misrepresentation and misinterpretation on who God is and how He views us, radically impacts our Earthly choices to serve and obey him. It also radically impacts whether a love for God is fostered within us. If I'm a Jew hearing about that "Christ killers" story, its very likely that I'm going to think the Christian view of God is a very-antisemitic and demented sort of God... I wouldn't love him or want to obey him based upon that false interpretation.

Choice shouldn't overshadow safety

Its really kind of puzzling to me when I hear other Christians say,
"God loves us SO much, and respects our ability to choose SO much, that He will let people rot and writhe in Hell eternally if they so choose."
As if God letting us toss and scream in our own sin forever, was somehow an ultimate demonstration of true love. If God truly loves anyone, I would sincerely hope that His respect for our choices would never be placed above His will for our eternal safety.

If I had a son who was drowning in the ocean, and I had the means to save him, I somehow doubt it would matter to me if he screamed "NO!!!". My love for his life and well being would be greater than whatever ignorance he was undergoing to think that he can either save himself or that dieing would be better. In the same way, I think there comes a point where God values our eternal well being above our choices. For him to do otherwise, would speak of a far more disturbing evil than the Christian "no-no" of God interfering with our choices.

There are really countless other variables I could bring up(and have in some blogs) that constantly effect our choices both big and small. Choice is not some black and white, free of influence decision, as Christianity would like to paint it. And I truly believe that God is smart enough to realize that as well.


  1. Man, Eric! This is one of the best things I've ever read. I hope some people who disagree comment here. They need to read this.

  2. Sorry Keith, it won't be me disagreeing. Every time I come read here, I'm impressed with his thoughts and how well he expresses them. Even if I disagreed Eric, I know I'd have to think real hard to decide if I had just overlooked something.

    Just remember to stay close to the one you're always thinking about because it's so easy to let the thinking replace the true love.

  3. Excellent post, Eric, and the sushi analogy is right on the mark!