The Details are in the Devil

The orthodox Christian tradition contains the idea that Lucifer, God’s chief angel, who dwelt in heaven with God, in God’s immediate presence, exercised his free will, rebelled and was cast out of heaven. Thereafter he was known as Satan, and many believe he is the serpent who tempted Eve in the garden of Eden and continues to taunt human beings to this day. While a novel idea, the story is inconsistent with a number of other orthodox Christian traditions. It is widely believed in evangelical doctrine that God does not reveal himself to humanity because if he did so his mere presence would take away our free will. Free will is imperative to the orthodox position because without it human beings would not be able to sin. The ability of humans to sin is an imperative doctrine in Christianity. Without free will all of the blame would rest with God. Free will is also necessary to Christian theology because it is Christianity’s best explanation as to why evil exists in the world. The argument goes that God has to allow evil to exist in order to make room for human free will, which he apparently values extremely highly.

Problem number one is that if indeed Lucifer did exercise his free will and sin against God it shows us that it is possible for someone to be in God’s direct presence and still have the free will to sin. Putting aside how stupid this would actually make Lucifer, it debunks the first orthodox position noted above that people cannot have free will while in the presence of God. The second problem for Christianity is that Lucifer was able to exercise free will in heaven, which is supposed to be a place of perfection directly in God’s presence. If this is the case then there exists a possible world (heaven) in which there is free will but also no evil. This debunks the second point listed above which is that God has to allow evil to exist in order to make room for human free will. Clearly according to this particular passage God could have created a world in which there was room for both free will and the complete absence of evil. This is incredibly important. If God could indeed create a world which is both perfectly good but also provides the environment for free will to exist, then why didn’t he do that with us? Please don’t gloss over this argument, it is of profound importance! The Christian position holds that we currently live in a world which is fallen and full of evil precisely because it is the only environment in which God can allow us to exercise our free will. But it is clear from the story of Lucifer that this is inaccurate.

Another inconsistency in this passage is that it shows Lucifer committing evil in a place in which there is supposed to be no evil, right in the presence of God. If indeed Lucifer, an awesomely perfect creature, can sin and rebel against God while in heaven, what hope do mere human beings have of not doing the same. So according to what we understand from the devil, human beings should be able to arrive in heaven and still sin. This undermines all of the lovely things that Paul had to say in the epistles about people being saved forever. Because it is crystal clear from Scripture that God is not able to forgive anyone,[1] it means that a person can arrive in heaven, commit a sin and God will then condemn them to eternal death. Eventually, we should expect that everybody will end up in hell.

The conclusion is simple. There are two options available: firstly, you can acknowledge that the biblical story is flawed, and that the theology presented in the book is incorrect and cannot stand up to scrutiny. Secondly, if you accept that the biblical story is accurate you must reject the notion of a good God, or at least of the idea that free will is of any importance to God. Following on from this you must be able to explain where evil came from without employing any arguments from free will. If you accept the first option you acknowledge that the Bible is inaccurate and can therefore not be from a perfect divine source. If you accept this then the Bible cannot be trusted as a reliable source of God’s message and must be thrown out. If you accept the second option then there are no good arguments for the idea of an omni-benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent God. There is no explanation for the presence of evil in the world.

This is one argument which provides a serious conundrum for Christianity. There are many others like it, some of which I will explore in time. If you are a believer and you genuinely respect truth and want to know whether or not your faith is actually plausible, you must engage with these arguments. If you cannot come up with a satisfactory answer then you should reject the belief system. And let me clarify that by satisfactory, I mean satisfactory to a rigorous test of logic. The burden of proof is upon the Christian as extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Dismissing such arguments with the exclamation that “God is mysterious” or “we can’t know everything” is pathetic. In this instance we are talking about one of the most important claims of the Christian faith: the purported answer to the existence of evil and free will. If you cannot find an answer to this then you must accept that your belief system is entirely based on blind faith and not plausible from a logical perspective.

[1] Hence the need for vicarious redemption through a sacrificial host.

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