A Robot or an Alive Human

Posted: May 18, 2018 in Christian Life
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Is your life designed by God and unchangeable by any decision or choice you might make? If it is, you must be like a robot? Robots don’t write their own codes; rather, they follow the pre-determined design of the programmer. A yes answer to this question might mean that the only control we have over our own life is to surrender control to God. Once surrendered, the rest of life follows a predetermined map. To pursue any creative exploration off the defined path would be sinful disobedience.

In times of crisis phrases like “God is in control” are affirmed, and the writer of the letter to the Christians in Rome is quoted: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NRSV). Apparently, it makes little if any difference how the robot messes up—intentionally, or because internal computer chips malfunctioned—the programmer will work it out for good for the robot, and ultimately, the programmer.

In good times, when the robot performs exceptionally well, the programmer treats the robot with a little oil for its joints and congratulates him- or herself for having programed such a well-performing robot, maybe even receives recognition in trade journals. “God has truly blessed you” are the words of approbation often heard when good fortune falls on someone who has received accolades for a performance well executed.

Does God control his creation? Dos he orchestrate every movement? Are we the proverbial game pieces moved by the master player on the game table of life? Is there any independent thought, desires, or creativity, and the freedom to explore them? Is there really any true freedom for a Christ-follower?

Here are some options:

1. God has predetermined all things. Everything is under his sovereign control. Our lives are programed by God and will play out according to his unchanging plan. Our lives have been predetermined and we live out that particular life design.

2. God, in his knowledge of all things past, present and future, knows what decisions—good or bad—and creative enterprises in which we will engage even before we “choose” them.

3. God draws up a contract (covenant) with us the moment we make a focused commitment of our lives to him. If we will be this kind of person and do these kinds of things, he will take care of us and bless us. If we break the contract or falter at any one point, God will correct and discipline us. Our life design is set in the contract God makes with us.

4. God is dynamically active in our lives. God creates us and sets our lives in motion. As we face life’s moments, God says, “I wonder what he/she/they will do.” We choose and God applauds and encourages the good we choose and discourages when we mess up. He wants followers who volitionally are committed to him and follow him. He interacts with us in the designs of our lives.

I subscribe to Option 4. The relationship I have with God is dynamic and alive. The ancient story about Abraham and his son Isaac is a powerful story describing the interaction between a human being and God whom he worships. The story becomes insipid, devoid of compelling interest, if it is a story with a predetermined outcome, or even one in which God’s foreknowledge knew what Abraham would do. The story goes like this (see Genesis 22:1-19):

God instructed Abraham to take his son to the top of a mountain and offer him as a sacrifice. What is Abraham going to do? Will he follow through on such an inhuman act? Is this some kind of test? If it is a test, it’s a terrible one. Would a just, kind, loving God make such a request of the human being he created? Abraham is caught in the crosshairs of obeying God and loving his own son. (I also wonder if Abraham told his wife Sarah what he was going to do.)

As the story unfolds, Abraham proceeds with following the commandment of God, takes Isaac and everything needed for the sacrifice—except the actual offering itself, according to Isaac, who did not know the sacrifice was to be himself. At the last moment, when it was clearly apparent that Abraham was going to slay his own son on the altar, God intervened by staying Abraham’s had while simultaneously providing an animal for the sacrifice.

I believe that everything was possible in this story. God would have taken another course of action had Abraham refused to sacrifice Isaac. If that were not a live option and everything in the story had been predetermined, Abraham has become a robot following programed computer chips in his internal computer. I believe Abraham truly had an option to follow the command or disobey it.

Furthermore, I believe that God had the option of not staying Abraham’s attempt to slay his son. Once again, if that option was not there, where is God’s moral integrity. God remained true to his character as a just God of love by not allowing Abraham to kill his son Isaac.

One more illustration: God’s creation failed at the point of human choice and rebelled against God. God entered into his created order himself in the Christ event in which we see God making decisions and choices. The ultimate choice was when the person of the Redeemer cried out to the person of the Creator “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NRSV).

To be alive is to make choices. Not only is that true for humanity, it is also true for the living God we serve. If it were not true, and everything was predetermined, God would have set his creation in place, all the batteries charged, flipped the switch on, and sat back and watched it unfold as he designed it.

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