I’ve talked before about how bad I am at some video games and how my characters tend to suffer pain when I am in charge of them. However, instead of dwelling on how much suffering I’ve caused for the pixilated lives of my characters, I would like to dwell on their successes. If I had to put a percentage on how many of the video games that I have finished I’d have to admit only about 32. However, this means 32 sets of characters have tasted victory over the evil that befell them in their fictional worlds. Their success is really my success. I was the one with the controller. It was my effort of doing what was needed and it was my knowledge understanding of what needed to be done and doing it that gave them success. At the end of Fallout 4 my character was considered, by everyone in her known world, a hero. She is well respected and highly admired; however, she has me to thank for that. If it wasn’t for me putting in the time and effort to see her through all the fights with all the raiders and mutants that crossed her path, she wouldn’t have her reputation. She wouldn’t have been able to make the impact on her world that she did. This applies to all the characters in all of the video games I’ve played. Every success a character has to his or her name is really my doing. However, as I’ve mentioned above and throughout several posts in this blog, their failures are also my failures. Every bit of suffering my characters suffered is, likewise, my fault.
This, “your character’s success is your success and your character’s failure, is your failure” is due to you, Ian, being 100% in control of the lives of your characters. Every action and thought was your action and thought. However, does this work in the relationship between God and me? If God is in complete control of everything that I do, in the same way that I am in complete control of the choices of my video game characters, can I rightfully blame God for things that happen to me as a result of my choice or even just when life is being what it is, namely “life”? When I succeed, my video game character succeeds; when I fail, my video game character fails. Regarding the former point in the same way, when I succeed at something or something good happens to me, I should praise God because He succeeded. However, when I fail because of a bad choice or simply because life sometimes doesn’t always goes as planned, does God fail?
This problem is often brought to Christians by many non-believers. Why should we praise God for the good things that happen in our lives, e.g. we get promotions at work, but we get the blame for our choices that mess things up for our lives? That doesn’t seem fair. How can we be blamed for our actions when God was providentially in charge of them? If God is providentially in control of our actions, then shouldn’t God take the responsibility for our bad behaviours? If He took control and prevented our actions then they wouldn’t have happened. In the same way God is in control of nature. The video game Until Dawn encourages me to quickly press the triangle button on my Playstation 4 controller to prevent a character from tripping over a raised root when they are running in the woods and, if I do nothing, they will fall when their foot comes into contact with the raised root. God is not unaware of a hurricane brewing, just as I am not unaware of the up-and-coming raised root when Until Dawn informs me of it and encourages me to push the triangle button to prevent my character from falling over it. Most Christians won’t blame God for the painful aftermath of a hurricane in the lives of the residents of a seaside city, but it will be my fault if I fail to push the triangle button on my Playstation 4 controller causing my character to fumble. Because I failed to push the triangle button, my character fell over the raised root which, in turn, caused them to fail to get where they were going on time and save a person. My failure or simple choice to be inactive regarding pushing the triangle button caused immense pain for at least two characters – the character I was controlling and the character he was running through the woods to save. I am to blame for their pain and suffering. Ergo, regarding God, the question is: how can it not be God’s fault for the pain and suffering of the aftermath of the hurricane? He knew that it was brewing and He seemingly did nothing, just as I knew of the up and coming raised root and failed or simply chose to do nothing. God knew where it would strike and how much devastation it would cause and He, again seemingly did nothing, just as I knew that my failure to push the triangle button would result in heavy devastation!
At face value this seems to be a problem? However, there is no problem with this perception:
How can we human beings make genuine choices if God is providentially working in our choices in life? Free-will is a funny thing. Free-will requires the ability to do the free-will action. I, for example, am wheelchair bound. I can use my hands to type a blogpost because I have a strong upper-body, but I cannot walk because my legs and back are weak. So I have the free-will ability to type a blogpost but I am not free to walk. I am free to make stupid choices. God is free to allow me to make them or not present me with them to make. God may allow me to be presented with two choices, one stupid and one smart, but if I choose the former and something negative happens as a result, I have to deal with the proverbial bed that I just made for myself. My choice to do the stupid thing was my choice, not God’s; even though He gave me the choice. In contrast, however, my character in Until Dawn is not like me. It is a computer program, which is disabled from acting without any instruction. I have to make the choice for it. God is in control of my life and I am in control of it also, but only insofar as how much God allows me to be in control. When I make a stupid choice that has devastating effects, I am to blame, not God.
2) Nature is messed up by sin
God does see when natural disasters are going to brew and cause havoc in people’s lives. Likewise, God has control over them and the ability to stop them or allow them. However, all of nature is affected by sin (cf. Romans 8:22). A broken world will act like a broken world. Human beings are not just in a broken reality; we are a part of it. Human beings are going to act broken because we are. So God allows sinful people to act sinfully and a sin-infected world to act broken. God wants us to rely on Him to work each day through the thick-brush of brokenness, but He is not to be blamed for the brokenness.