The Unsolvable Paradox
Premise One: God is omnipotent (all-powerful, or a being than which none more powerful can be conceived).
Premise Two: Sin is definable as “acts which violate God’s will.” In short, God hates sin, and sinful acts, by definition, represent violation of God’s will.
This question unleashes the paradox: Can God’s will be violated by man?
If one answers Yes, then God is not all-powerful—not a being than which none more powerful can be conceived. Indeed, I can conceive of a being that possesses all God’s qualities but, beyond those, also possesses the power to ensure its will never is violated. If the answer is Yes, then God is not omnipotent after all.
If one answers No, then sin does not exist. If humans cannot violate the will of God, then all human behaviors are executions of God’s will. Every behavior I have displayed, and all behaviors everyone ever will display, are simply the carrying out of God’s will—never violations of it. As indicated by this answer, God’s will is inviolable.
I can envisage no genuine escape from this paradox. But, of course, some do try....
Nearly every time I read a would-be refutation, it is related in some way to the concept of human “free will.” Free will, indeed, is the magical elixir with which Christians think they can defeat sound arguments such as the above. Although I realize the free will debate has been done to death on the internet and elsewhere, I believe it continues to warrant thoughtful consideration. Before returning to the paradox, I shall provide some general concerns about free will in a Christian world.
The first problem with free will relates to God’s alleged omniscience. When God is in the process of creating a new human, he, being omniscient, immediately knows every single act and deed that human eventually will do. For example, when God fashioned Ted Bundy, God instantly had comprehensive knowledge of every act Bundy ever would commit. In what sense, then, does Bundy really have free will, since his deeds elaborately were mapped out before he even was birthed? Could Bundy have used his free will to disprove God’s own foreknowledge? If not, then in what sense could Bundy have been considered free?
I shall relate an associated point: God fashions each of us with certain preferences and tastes, certain compulsions and fetishes. Most psychologists and doctors agree: Serial killing is an innate compulsion in some people. If that is the case, then the source of that innate compulsion only could be our creator—God. How could God—an omnibenevolent being in the minds of many—implant sinful compulsions into his “children” and then punish them for following the very compulsions with which he, himself, saddled us? An analogy I have used is apt: God is a deranged toymaker who makes faulty toys and then blames the toys for being faulty.
Returning more explicitly to would-be refutations of the paradox, the main free will “explanation” with which I have been confronted is the following: God is omnipotent—able to make everybody follow his will all the time—but he sometimes chooses to let people violate his will. Ergo, God is omnipotent, but humans can violate his will and, thus, sin does exist. Of course, this is closely linked to the idea that God does not want people to follow him because they are forced, but rather because they genuinely want to. Sin exists so man can embrace God voluntarily.
Before showing why this does not solve our paradox, I submit a related objection: Why would God place more value on human free will than on the elimination of hellfire-caused human agony? In the world’s current incarnation, according to many Christians, a large percentage of our fellow humans will spend eternity being burned, tortured, speared, crushed, annihilated and skewered in Hell. Why does Yahweh find this more desirable than a world of God-loving Christian humanoids, none of whom ever will taste hellfire? Preferring human agony to human determinism seems rather sadistic, on the part of the Lord.
In any event, the free-will-worshipping God does not solve the paradox because such a deity is less powerful than a God whose will cannot ever be violated. A being than which none more powerful can be conceived accurately can be defined as a being who always gets its way—always. Our definition is antithetical to any type of will violation. In any case, the free-will-worshipping deity is internally inconsistent. According to proponents, this deity is omnipotent, but uses that omnipotence to allow humans to violate its own will (because it loves human freedom). But is that very act not an execution of the deity’s will? This invites the question: Can that will (the will that humans can violate the deity’s will) also be violated, or is it somehow inviolable? Such brain-melting gibberish is the result of primitive theology confronted by contemporary rationality—the intellectual equivalent of a messy car wreck.
Before wrapping this up, I want to provide the Christian God—if he exists—with a great solution to his long-pondered problem: Preserving free will while still saving every soul.
Say there are 1000 potential humans in God's queue at some particular moment in time. God, being omniscient, already knows how each one's life would turn out.
Of the 1000, 200 would be atheists and never accept God. So, God aborts those creations-in-waiting.
Of the remaining 800, 550 would follow religions other than Christianity. So, God aborts them, too.
Of the remaining 250, 200 would be Christians in name, but live sinful lives that would displease God. So, he summarily aborts them.
Finally, we have 50 viable potential creations. These 50 people-to-be enthusiastically would embrace Yahweh and Christianity of their own free will and under no divine force.
I conclude with a question to which I hope you’ll give thought: Why is God not a cosmic abortionist—only “letting through” those people-to-be who happily would embrace Christianity of their own free will? With this, God would have neither Christian humanoids nor crowded pits of hellfire agony.
This simple solution—no omniscience was required to reach it—continually escapes Yahweh. A curious occurrence, indeed.