Is God a Cosmic Puppet Master?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, May 24, 2014 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

So, I will just ask this up front – If there is a God, are we just His puppets? If God is all knowing, and all-powerful, and all present, do we really have the ability make our own choices? Can we choose to accept, or deny God? Or is it already pre-scripted no matter what we do?

Within Christianity you will find extremes of people who believe we have absolute free choice, and those who believe God pulls every string of our existence. Most of the time, even the strictest believer of either doctrine struggles with living it out, because they miss a big piece of the puzzle.

Is God a puppetmaster? Well, if you choose to put your hand on a stove and burn it right now, is God going to stop you? He might. He might not. As human beings we do not have the perspective to predict God’s action or inaction, because we lack the information He has in forming His decision to act, or not. That’s not a cop-out, it is the truth – we cannot fully see life from God’s perspective, so we cannot predict God’s moment-by-moment interactions with us.

The big problem with the question of “free will” is we often make it overly religious and strictly transactional. We saturate it with other tightly formed and systematic belief statements, and then focus “free will” on the ultimate judgment from God – Heaven or Hell. When we do that, we remove the context of relationship between God and His creation, and we diminish two beautiful aspects of God’s character – self-restraint and sovereignty.

So is there an answer to the question?
Let me share two reflections from the Bible (God’s Word), and let you decide.

The first reflection is out of the Book of Genesis chapters 1-3. There is a lot in there, but here are the highlights for you to reflect on. God makes humankind. He gives them a choice to accept everything as He presented it, with the blessings of freely having/using everything. He puts one limitation on them – and that is not to eat from the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil.” There was only one “no” in a world full of “yes.” Adam and Eve were tempted and chose the “no.”

Did God know they would? Yes.
Why didn’t He stop them and destroy the snake (Satan) right there?
Well think about that for a second. How would that have turned out?

Can you really have relationship with someone, without the choice not to? And if someone chooses to reject you, and you care about them – does a healthy relationship override their choice? Or does it work through the consequences, as a steady and healthy companion – seeking healing and restoration?

If one thing is absolutely clear in the Bible, it is that God desires relationship with His creation. He desired it so much so, that He gave us the choice to reject Him – and He chose (and chooses) not to override our choice. In love and respect, He lets us face the consequences of our choices, and lovingly provides opportunities for us to see more clearly and choose again (and again, and again, and again).

The second reflection is from the following passages: Romans 8:28-30 and Ephesians 1:5, 11.

In each of these passages the word “predestined” is used to describe God’s plans for believers. If you read carefully, you will see the passages all say that those who are in relationship with God are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ, or to become sons and daughters of God. The challenging part is the word “foreknew” in Romans 8:29. It means “to know or to choose in advance.”

Here is an alternate (and completely supported in the text) way of reading Romans 8:28-30:
“And we know that in all things God works together with those who love him, to bring about good with those who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew (chose in advance) he also predestined to be conformed the image of His son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.”

Look at this passage carefully and ask yourself – Did God choose in advance who is going to Heaven or Hell? Or did He choose in advance who He would start His mission with? Is this “choosing in advance” everyone who will ever live, or is Paul simply directing it toward those God chose to get things started?

Which brings me back to the original question – is God a cosmic puppet master over us? Whether you choose it, or He chose it for you, the purpose is relationship – not control. God cannot force us to love Him freely. To have faith in Him is an issue of love and relationship, not a transaction for hellfire insurance. So, if relationship is intended and necessary in God’s plan… you decide if God is pulling every string… or not…