“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Conclusion: The Best of All Possible Stories

My conclusion, then (which I also stated in “Jonathan Edwards on the Two “Wills” of God”), is that despite evil’s temporary existence, this is the best of all logically possible realities,* and the Story told by means of evil the brightest of all possible revelations of God – the best of all possible stories that God could write into existence. Indeed, with a God who is totally knowing, can do anything he wants, does all things for a purpose, and has a standard of what is good and right, we can be certain he will create the best of all possible worlds and write the Story that functions to express his character most fully, thus bringing back to him (who alone is worthy) all the glory and honor and bringing the greatest joy to creatures.

The curious thing about this best of all possible worlds, which will, in the end, shine God’s light most brightly and be marked with his ways most perfectly, is that God accomplished it by withholding his full power and light and allowing freedom for man to take a path away from him. C. S. Lewis compares the “giving” of free will to death and resurrection (“the very pattern of reality”), describing it as “a deathlike or descending movement” (Miracles, ch. 14). Paradoxically, a God who is inclined to pour his goodness and wisdom into creation (in this respect, Jonathan Edwards compares God to a fountain) did so precisely by initially holding back that divine light. Perhaps it was not only at the cross (although here supremely), but throughout the entire history of his creation, during which God gifted his creatures with freedom of choice, that God experienced a “death” of some sort – the “death” of letting all creation run its own course, a ruinous course away from him. The coming final joy and revelation of God might then be described as a resurrection of sorts on the scale of all reality. The whole world – all of reality – is raised up again to new life.

*One might object that the best of all possible worlds demands that God relinquish his power in giving free will, and that consequently the result may not be the absolute best possible. This is a fair objection, but I think we have to recognize that God, the maker of the universe, would be wise enough to find a way to integrate all free choices towards his purposes. And indeed, since he foreknew all that would happen, there is no room for any freely made creature choice to escape his purpose in perfecting reality. Free choices made by creatures cannot mar God’s Story or dim his revealed glory.

One might also object that there is no best possible reality – either there are multiple equally good possible realities, or there is, for every possible reality, a better possible reality (an infinite number of possible realities), and thus no “best” possible reality. The latter seems to conflict with God’s nature. If God is inclined towards “better” realities, it would seem to be a restriction on his creative power if no reality could be created that was not far inferior to other possible realities. Rather, one would expect the potentiality for a truly “best” world would seem to be inherent in the character of the God who prefers “better” worlds.

Perhaps it is possible that there are multiple equally good possible realities; indeed, this idea fits well with the free will of creatures discussed above. Free creature choices, not predetermined by God, would affect reality – the course of history is not fully set by God. One would expect, though, that a God of infinite power and wisdom would be able to integrate free choices into reality in order to prevent a less perfect reality. Creature choices may alter the course of events in small ways, but God, foreknowing everything, would have no difficulty planning things out so that history was completed in the same way and the same Story was told – the story of the victory of God, centered on the cross.

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