If we will be spiritual, if we believe in existence of a spiritual realm, it is rational to believe in existence of an invincible Creator whom, as conventionally is the case, we refer to as ‘God’.
If God really is benevolent, He created us with capacity for choice. In absence of capacity for choice, we are nothing but God’s playthings. If we are to arrive at an intelligent choice of depiction of God, we would do well then to choose depictions that respect our capacity for choice. We do well also to choose depictions within which choice in of itself generates it’s own consequences. After all, if good choices do not in of themselves produce good outcomes, what exactly is point of capacity for good choices?
The depiction of God with which I am most familiar is found in Christian Scriptures. If we take Christian Scriptures for granted, the fact that Adam and Eve exhibited capacity for sinning against God is clear evidence both possessed free will. But if God endows mankind with free will, yet punishes for demonstration of free will, free will in reality is a fallacy. If free will indeed is free will, free will merely yields different paths, does not attract punishment from God.
So then, how about God’s response to demonstrations of free will by Adam and Eve? Do we find any evidence that God respected Adam and Eve’s choices — the decision to choose deception of the serpent over love for and faith in God?
Well, let us explore God’s responses to traitorous actions of Adam and Eve? With respect to Adam, God told Adam that in order for the ground to yield food for himself and his wife, he would have to work the ground. God told Eve pregnancies would not come easy. Also, given she and her husband had disobeyed for different reasons, as such no longer were of the same mind, in order for order to be maintained in their relationship, in presence of any disagreements, she would have to defer to her husband.
The serpent? God changed the body structure of the serpent from a creature with legs who probably walked erect to the slithering creature we find today. We find then that the serpent was punished. More on this later.
So did God respect choices of Adam and Eve?
Once Adam and Eve sinned, inclusive of the soil and their bodies, all of nature was thrown into imbalance. Whereas prior to their sin, the soil served naturally to produce food (fruits, grains, and legumes) for Adam and Eve, now the soil was tainted because Adam and Eve had chosen to share authority over the earth with the devil. It would turn out fruits, grains, and legumes no longer would be sufficient for maintenance of a body that now had become more earthy than spiritual. The body having become more earthy, it would require more of earthiness for it’s maintenance, hence, Adam would need to induce new types of food — crops and vegetables— from the soil for proper maintenance of bodies of himself and his wife. In order for the soil to behave, to yield crops to Adam, Adam would by working or tilling the soil have to wield authority over it.
So Adam continued to wield authority, but the authority then could be challenged. The soil could yield useless stuff — weeds and thistles — as opposed to useful stuff such as wheat and rice.
In so far as Eve was concerned, having desired to know good and evil, Eve would find out what it meant to bear children in her own strength, that is, without what would have been a spiritual epidural. In recent times, it would appear God in His mercy has provided wisdom for development of medicinal epidurals that render child bearing less painful, more successful. I do not know the statistics, but I would guess mortality rates in context of child bearing have decreased consequent on availability of medicinal epidural. Since God is merciful in context of administration of His justice, and since God relents of His anger at sin over time, arrival of medicinal epidurals is not inconsistent with God’s character.
While feminists may be upset at God, with the biblical account taken as given, appointment of Adam as head of the family was arrived at via application of meritocracy. Eve allowed herself to be deceived. Adam ate the fruit so Eve could be saved — a loving thing to do, yes, but still sin against God. Eve refused to trust God by believing the serpent, Adam refused to trust God that if he obeyed God Eve somehow could be saved. Both did not trust God’s benevolence, but one was more distrustful of God than the other.
Who then of the two was weaker spiritually? Eve. Who then deserved to be head of the family? Adam. But note designation as head of the family was for well functioning of the home, for resolution of disagreements. It is well documented that all attempts at installing of two CEOs within corporations always have failed miserably. Citigroup resides in recent memory, a failed experiment. God in His omniscience knew then what man eventually has discovered by experimentation, which is, boats captained by two persons either are bound to capsize and lose cargo, or bound for shipwreck of lives and cargo.
The answer from the creation account? All that Adam and Eve experienced subsequent to their sin were natural consequences of the decision to tread a path different from path directed by God. We conclude then that as depicted in Christian Scriptures, God really does respect man’s demonstrations of free will.
Much like any responsible government, firm, or society, however, demonstrations of free will do not imply absence of consequences. For the path chosen, there were adverse consequences. It was not long before adverse consequences arrived. First, there was deprivation of access to the tree of life and loss of their beautiful garden home. Next was loss of their first two sons, the younger to murder, the older to vagrancy in attempts at avoidance of facing his parents over his actions.
As noted earlier, God indeed did punish the serpent. But if God would not punish Adam and Eve, why would He punish the serpent?
God punished the serpent for the exact same reason He punishes people who commit murder, who steal others’ assets, who perjure themselves against others, who desire, lay traps for, and sleep with others’ spouses, which is, free will only is towards God. Mistreatment of others is not free will, it is demonstration of ill will towards fellow men or women, always is punished by God.
Natural consequences of actions cannot be construed to be punishment from God. God’s dealings with Adam and Eve reveal respect for mankind’s exercise of free will.
Mankind is not conferred with free will in respect of treatment of fellow men or women. Deliberate mistreatment of others always will incur punishment from God.
In the creation account, free will was exercised in context of an act of worship or trust demanded by God. But how about when God sets an agenda and it is resisted by mankind. In this case, we are not dealing with sin or worship necessarily, but with how to get things done, with choices of paths towards a mutual objective.
Again, taking the Scriptural account as given, when it came to governance of nation of Israel, God refused to institute a kingship system of governance. From Moses all the way to Prophet Samuel, every leader of Israel was a leader only, not a king, did not have an army, did not have a palace, was not a ruler. Whenever there was a battle to fight, people were called out by well defined conscription. If a man was within one year of a new marriage, he could not be called up. If a man had just planted a vineyard and had yet to eat of it’s produce, he could not be called up. And then of course there were age limits. In absence of a professional army, Israel did not have any incentive for attempts at subjugating it’s neighbors. Every war fought was a defensive war, not an attempt at subjugation of others.
Leaders lead but do not subjugate. Rulers lead yet rule, combine leadership with subjugation of their own people. In presence of professional armies, some war always is inevitable. Who amasses assets but never wants to use them?
But then somewhere along the line, the nation of Israel asked for a king to rule over them.
So what did God do? He acceded, allowed them the sort of king for which they clamored, told Prophet Samuel he now was decommissioned as leader of the people. From that point on, Samuel was prophet only, no longer leader of the people.
If the people had not demanded a king, Samuel would have remained leader of the people. The people having demanded a king, Samuel now only was prophet to the people, albeit a rejected prophet, a prophet who no longer had the ears of the people. Regardless of office within which Samuel found himself — leader or rejected prophet — Samuel was in obedience to God. Pivot of Samuel’s role was occasioned by the people, not by Samuel’s rejection of God’s path. Samuel would suffer no personal loss in his relationship with God.
Whenever a person who represents God’s agenda is rejected by the people, whatever pivot God institutes in response to His respect for people’s free will becomes part of His will for the rejected person.
So then what happened? Well, Saul, the king appointed for nation of Israel fought Israel’s greatest enemy, the Philistines throughout his kingship of 40 years, eventually lost the war, dying on the battlefield in 40th year of his reign. For many years during Saul’s reign, Israelites would live in caves out of fear of raiding bands of Philistines.
Whenever people reject God’s path, God respects their free will, yet consequences of a different path are brought to bear on people’s circumstances.
In the choice of a God fearing young man, David as successor to Saul, again we find demonstrations of God’s mercy for nation of Israel. But did the nation of Israel accept David as king without a fight? Absolutely not. While his own tribe accepted him as king right after the death of Saul, it took 7 years of warfare for all other 10 tribes to acknowledged David as king. Saul was a huge man, David not so much. For the people who belonged to other tribes, David did not quite fit profile of king. After 7 years, the other tribes realized David was best for them, accepted David as king over entire nation of Israel.
Over the 40 years of his reign, David also would battle Israel’s greatest enemies the Philistines. But by end of David’s reign, the Philistines were subdued, began paying homage to David as more powerful king. While Saul, who represented what the people clamored for was defeated, David who was smaller in stature attained to victory.
God’s choice led to many years of peace and prosperity for Israel. The people’s initial choice led to many years of warfare and fear for the future.
By the way, while lineage of Israel remains preserved to this day, lineage of the Philistines no longer is decipherable.
So are David and Saul parables or true stories? Historians say they are real kings of the historical nation of Israel who ruled around times stated in Christian Scriptures. If you doubt this, check out the evidence for yourself from reputable historical sources.
In accounts of lives of Saul and David, and choices made by nation of Israel, God attempts to let us know that refuting of His paths, which always are in our best interests, engenders ill will, puts us in situations worse than He envisions for us. Consider that a nation chose rulership over leadership because they desired to be like other countries around them.
Holding characters of a leader and a ruler equal, can rulership ever outperform leadership at improving of a people’s welfare?
While there exist many more examples or illustrations, the two stories discussed demonstrate very clearly that God respects demonstrations of free will by mankind. God also has made clear, however, that while He respects our free will, no one ever can escape natural consequences of their choices.
Given God respects our demonstrations of free will, we are not robots, we truly have capacity for choice.
Whenever I watch a gangster movie and a gangster affirms he has killed people to stay in business, and expects that if he lives long enough, his own day will come, while I do not believe in such lifestyle, do not practice such lifestyle, do not celebrate such lifestyle, I at the very least respect the cognition evident in acceptance of potential consequences of chosen path of life.
The worst of mankind are those who exercise free will, yet are unwilling to live with natural consequences of choices. Granted, God always is merciful, yet to attempt by manipulation to escape natural consequences of deliberate well thought out choices is cowardice of the worst sort.