Manlyfesto 5 — God’s Power & Man’s Will

When I was a kid, my pastors and school teachers had a very hard time teaching me the story of Job. To the non-​Christian, Job is one of the oldest books of the Bible, so it is understandable that it sounds more mythological than most of the other books — kind of like old Greek myths with Gods making wagers with each other and descending upon the sphere of men to play their games.

But to an evangelical, who believes every word of the Bible is true, Job poses a rather difficult problem. In the book, God is seen making a wager with Satan. The result of that wager is that all of Job’s children are crushed to death, his property and wealth is seized by raiders, his physical health deteriorates, and his own wife tells him to curse God and die. All for a game between God and Satan.

Let the day perish on which I was born,
and the night that said,
‘A man is conceived.’” – Job 3:3

job-tormented-by-satan

Now, if you had the rather holy-​roller upbringing that I did, you probably believe a version of Christianity known as Arminianism by theology geeks. You may be a Pentecostal, Methodist, or Baptist, but they all believe a form of Arminianism. Arminianism, to briefly sum it up, states that man has the free will to choose his own eternal destiny, and that man, regardless of God’s wishes, can choose heaven and Jesus, or hell and sin.

God, according to the Arminian, wishes that we all got saved, followed Jesus, and went to heaven. But, sadly, God isn’t going to get his way, because of a pesky thing called human free will. Because so many humans will choose death, of their own free will, only a handful of Christians who walk the “straight and narrow” will ever reach paradise, which apparently places God in the position of a grieving parent who has lost his prodigal sons forever.

Since humans have free will (according to the Arminian), it would be unfair for God to cause tragedies, like the kind found in Job. For example, if God killed the mother of a young boy, one could say that the boy’s free will has been violated, and his choices from then on were far from free. Because his mom was killed, he was placed in the foster care of a drug addict who got him addicted to cocaine. He therefore never graduated high school and now makes his living begging on the sidewalks and digging used needles out of a garbage can. Had his mother lived, he would have had a vastly different life — thus, in order to respect free will, God doesn’t intervene.

In order to explain the death, pain, and misery we find in the world, Arminians give God a passive role in the world. God doesn’t cause these terrors. Instead, he protects us from them. You see, because we sinned and rebelled against God, death and eternal damnation are what we all deserve and it is simply by grace that we see any joy in this life at all. When bad things happen, God isn’t actively causing them. He is simply removing his protection, usually due to our own sin.

This brings us back to the pesky book of Job. In the book, God specifically allows Satan to inflict the worst torments a man can experience upon Job, in order to see if Job was really as faithful as he appeared to be. God’s only restriction was that Satan could not kill Job. So, Satan does just that, and takes everything from Job — his family, his health, his wealth, his reputation, and his friends.

And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.’ So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.” – Job 1:12

You can see where evangelicals, like me, who believe every word of the Bible is true, have a tough time with Job. If God allows Job to be tormented and robbed, it must be because Job sinned. However, God describes Job as a good and righteous man. Indeed, this whole game came about because God was bragging to Satan about how holy Job was. “Look at my servant Job”, God says. As a reward for Job’s righteousness, God allows him to be smitten by Satan.

And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’” – Job 1:8

I have heard every sort of explanation out there for Job. There is the classic, “Well, that’s just the Old Testament”; the go-​to crutch when an evangelical doesn’t understand an Old Testament verse. I’ve also been told by ordained pastors that Job’s sin was that he was a bad parent. The argument goes that Job’s children were not simply feasting in the stone house that Satan leveled to crush them. They were in fact getting drunk. I even had one youth pastor tell me that the siblings were engaging in incest. Job’s sin, then, was that he was a bad father who raised rotten kids, and this sin forced God to remove his protection, allowing Satan in to wreak havoc.

Now that's a hedge of protection.

Now that’s a hedge of protection.

Of course, none of this is in the Bible. Every last bit of it is a guess — an addition to the Bible, which is strictly forbidden in Revelations. The simple truth is that the Bible recounts no sin on the part of neither Job nor his children, nor anyone else in his family. Instead, we see an omnipotent God who owns Job, and can do with Job as he sees fit in order to further his own Glory. And so he does.

Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?
Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” — God, Job 41:11

Which is why we’re talking about it to this day. It worked. By throwing all of Satan’s tricks at Job and causing him more grief than most humans will ever bear, God proved that men can survive anything the devil throws at us, and still love Jesus. By doing what he did to Job, he proved to the universe that man loves God, not because God is good to man, but because God is God, and man was designed to love and serve God. Through Job, God’s own glory was magnified, and that was the point of it all.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” – Job 1:2022

By killing Job’s family, God didn’t passively remove his hand of protection from Job. He actively gave Satan orders to destroy Job and everything he ever loved, sparing only his life. In the book of Job, we don’t see God as the blind and deaf ancient wise man depicted by popular Christian myth, who loves the whole wide world and wants to save every last one of us because he’s just the nicest guy. Instead we see a divine and omnipotent ruler who is master of all, including Satan, and is praised by even the most afflicted on earth. We see a vibrant God in the might of his own glory, defeating Satan and getting the last laugh.

Then came to [Job] all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him.” – Job 42:11

Who brought the evil? God. God is all powerful. God is an active God. He doesn’t just allow things to happen. He makes things happen. Tragedies don’t occur because people were sinning and God removed his protection. Tragedies occur because God wills them to occur, so that he, in the end, will be glorified. This is the clear message from the Bible in every last book of it.

Take Saul, the Christian slayer. The man voted to kill Christians, and persecuted them at every opportunity. Then one day, God appears as a beam of light in the sky and knocks Saul on the ground, blinding him, and changing his name to Paul. “Rise and go into the city,” says God “You will be told what to do.” Where is Paul’s choice in that? “You are a chosen instrument of mine,” says God. Again, where is Paul’s choice? As Paul clearly writes in Romans, we are the clay, and God is the potter. He can make us as he sees fit, and then use us for his own purposes. Paul did not become a Christian because he wanted to. He became a Christian because God made him.

paul-damascus-small

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is best known as his alter-ego Oxhorn, author of popular machinima movies. When he's not wearing suspenders with a certain sort of finesse, he's reading, writing, blogging, doing web design, making movies and more often than not enjoying a classy drink with an even classier cigar. Watch his movies at oxhorn.com and feel free to stalk him on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted in Essays, Faith, Manlyfesto
14 comments on “Manlyfesto 5 — God’s Power & Man’s Will
  1. damekage says:

    Interesting take on free will to say the least. This is very thought invoking and I might just have to do a philosophical response to this next week on my deviantART.

    Job has always been the most difficult book of The Old Testament for me as well.

    To say the least one thing in this stood out to me more than any other:
    “By doing what he did to Job, he proved to the universe that man loves God, not because God is good to man, but because God is God, and man was designed to love and serve God.”

    Now breaking this down I have to say that yes what God allowed to happen to Job was simply to prove that no matter what Job would worship him. I have to say it does not mean that it does not interfere with his free will.

    Job could just as easily forsaken God after all that Satan did to him. He however did not. The Bible does not say that God compelled him to worship him; he simply does it.

    Philosophers have discussed the idea of free will for centuries, there is a quote I have come to help me define both my existence and my free will.

    Cogito ergo sum.” ~Descartes
    “I think therefore I am.” ~Descartes

    • Oxhorn says:

      Great thoughts, thanks for sharing! I believe in mundane free will, not eternal free will. By mundane, I mean “everyday”. Since we only know 3 dimensions, it appears that we can make free choices using our free will. However, God, who is beyond our limited 3 dimensions, sees past, present, and future. He’s the omnipotent author of our lives and our will. He not only knows what we will choose, but by omnipotently placing obstacles and graces in our paths, he actively crafts our choices. Therefore, we cannot truly have free will, even though it kinda looks like we do.

      This fits in with Paul talking about how some of us are “elected” by God to be saved, while many more are “elected” by God to not be saved. There is no free choice in God’s election.

      But this is a topic for another blog posts.

    • matthias says:

      you remind my much of J.R.R Tolkien in that way: He also was very catholic; too conservative for my opinion and with a little bit antique World-​Sight (whats “Ansichten” in english?) . But Tolkien was a genius in writing and a brilliant mind (and also very classy, may i say) as you was brilliant in video-​making and in writing down your thoughts.

  2. Justin Sauro says:

    First off this is a lovely and well-​written take on free-​will, thank you for taking the time to write this :). However I feel it is difficult to grasp this concept while still remaining true to the idea of the justice or fairness of God. While I agree that God has the right to overrule our free-​will I find it personally at a conflict with my idea of justice to condemn someone to hell for not accepting Christ when they couldn’t accept the gift even if they wanted to. It’s sort of like taking control of someone’s body and causing them to murder (or allowing them the impulse, word it however you like) and then blaming them and punishing them for something that they could not help.

    The only response to this that I’ve gotten is the “God knew who would believe in him beforehand” argument. Which may be correct but to be honest I’d like to hear your opinion on this sort of problem.

    Anywho if you have time to respond then I would greatly appreciate it, if not then I totally understand :)

    Thanks again for the wonderful blog and the time you put in your posts.

    • Oxhorn says:

      Thanks Justin, great insight. I also have heard the “God knew who would believe beforehand” argument and I find it weak, because it denies God his omnipotence (ala, a man can rebel against God and God can’t save him, no matter how hard he tries, because he can’t violate free will.)

      Instead, I explain it much the way Paul did in Romans 9:21.

      Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?”

      Some translations swap the word “common” for “dishonorable”, but the message is clear: God is the potter and we are the clay. God can mold us into something good and worthwhile, and God can mold us into something dishonorable. At the end of the day, God is the one who molds, not us.

      I think that the Christians you’ve chatted with were constrained by mankind needing free will to “choose” God, which is why they explained the problem of pain and suffering like they did. Instead, the Bible clearly shows us that God has made some of us to be his adopted children whom he will love and glorify, not because we deserve it, and not because we have chosen God, but simply because God wants to. Likewise, God will make some of us to hate him, to love sin, and to love rebellion. These he will allow to do as they please on earth, and he will allow Satan to destroy some, and God will sometimes intervene personally to destroy some. And then, at the end of time, God will destroy all of them forever by throwing them, along with Satan, into the lake of burning sulfur.

      I of course realize that this sounds cruel and petty, but only if we “theomorphize” God into a man. If we think about God like we do other men, and force him to exist under the same laws we do, then yes, it would be cruel, because men ought not to kill other men, and if we see men harming themselves, we ought to intervene to try to save them. We ought to do these things because God commands us to love each other, which is the source for doing all sorts of good to each other.

      But God is not man. While men have no right to murder each other, God, as creator, has the right to snuff out any man he chooses.

      He always acts to demonstrate his grace or his justice, so that he will be glorified by creation. You see, in the human world, we’re all bad. We were made to be bad, and to be fallen, but that doesn’t change that we are very bad. We’re commanded by God to be good, because goodness doesn’t come naturally to us (alternatively, justice does come naturally to us. But that’s for another blog post). Because goodness is an alien concept to us from birth, we must be instructed.

      But God is goodness. Outside of him, nothing is good. Any goodness man does on earth, is simply a quick glimpse of God himself, for God is good. This means that all God does is good. Every time God saves a man he is being good, because it is gracious. Every time God destroys a man he is being good, because it is justice.

      God is always just. The men he crushes really do deserve it. God may have made them to deserve it, but it doesn’t change the fact that they really hate God, they really hate other people, and they really do deserve eternal death. Likewise, the men he saves really don’t deserve it. He saves us to show creation that he is gracious – and he is glorified for it. He crushes others to show creation that he us just – and he is also glorified for it.

      Think of it like this: I craft for my house two things – a toilette and a dining table. Now I made each for specific, yet different, purposes. The toilette does not become good just because it’s functioning as I made it to function. It’s still disgusting, because I made it to be disgusting. If my toilette gets so disgusting that I finally destroy it, no one will blame me that I chose to destroy it.

      Similarly, we also know instinctively that the toilette should never be used as a dining table, or a dining table as a toilette. This is our justice instinct. When someone uses the dining table as a toilette, we know that something very unjust has just happened. A dining table has been ruined, but we wouldn’t say that for a toilette. Justice needs to be done and the dining table needs to be redeemed, for it is a dining table, designed for other purposes.

      The dining table doesn’t deserve to be eaten at. I eat at it because I choose to eat at it, and I made it to be eaten at. Likewise, the toilette doesn’t deserve to become a dining table, for I made it to be a toilette. It’s good and just for me to eat at and care for my dining table, just as it’s good and just for me to destroy (literally and figuratively) my toilette. Doing either does not make me “unfair”.

      Some ask me, “Well, if God makes some people to love him and others to hate him, how do I know which one I am?”. I heard it explained like this once: if you even care, you likely love Jesus. Those who hate him don’t think or talk about these things.

  3. Justin Sauro says:

    Once again I thank you for such a eloquently written response. I have gotten the Romans 9 response as well from some of my more “Calvanistic” friends and I had even struggled with this until about now. After all I would be a foolish Christian if I did not heed the words of wisdom from so many and from the bible itself.

    As for God always being just, I’ve always understood the concept but your have cleared it up in a way that (within the context of this conversation) has helped me understand it much better in its totality or practicality (not quite sure the word I’m searching for here). I thank you for that.

    P.S: I like the humour of your diner table/​toilette example, very light and yet very good to illustrate the point as well.

  4. ahmsab says:

    Hey oxhorn , new reader and old fan of your videos here.I have read all the posts so far of the Manlyfesto and I found them quite interesting .It has been more than a month since this post was written so pardon me for the late reply and lengthy post I’m about to write ‚which I hope would be of interest to you regardless =).

    The idea I believe in , in regards to free will , is an idea presented by many theologists in Islam (being a muslim myself) , namely that god’s will encompasses every single event that has occurred and will occur , and that includes human actions . How? it is because the system that god has created , which allows us free will simply works that way . God has willed ( its close to saying permitted) for us to be sinful and do evildoings even though he hasn’t wished for it . The critical difference is the belief that God is all-​mighty even in regards to human will . He has many measures of preventing us from doing(through perfectly explainable means within the laws of creation ) , and these are just the ones we are aware of .God is not evil , but he has willed for us to be able to do evil because if it was otherwise , the whole meaning of test and judgment would become go away (if all humans were good , how is god to judge us, and what meaning is there to create us?) .

    As for the story of job , I believe he only permitted Satan to do to him what he did because he knew that he would not break under the test , but will thank him instead. I therefore believe we have no right to speak about God being evil just from the story of Job as he was not only content , but thankful (in Islam it is pious for one to thank god even at moments of misfortune) for this test (which brought him closer to god).

    • Oxhorn says:

      Great thoughts, thanks for the reply. As different as our faiths are, I think we are mostly in agreement on this point. I don’t believe God is evil, but scriptures clearly say that God “brings” evil – or, if you prefer, “permits”, though I think the idea of bringing evil has more of an active understanding than simply permitting.

      I believe the Bible clearly teaches that God hates evil and that God is the only good, but that he also uses evil as a tool to magnify himself.

      For example, no one was happy when Caylee Marie Anthony, a 2-​year-​old girl, went missing for 31 days and was later found dead (likely killed by her own mother). However, because of this event, Americans passed what’s called “Caylee’s Law”, making it a felony for a parent not to report a missing child, which has been adapted as law in over half a dozen U.S. states. In this example, Americans used evil as a tool to pass a law that will likely do much good.

      Similarly, God uses evil to do good – whether that be good for humans or good for God.

      • OldIronbark says:

        I have to mention that by stating that God is good and nothing else is also limiting God; it is placing one condition upon God. God can be good or evil or anything in between or anything unknown by man; it is up to God to be what God wills God to be. If God created everything then everything is a part of God. It seems to me that if one looks at God in that way, it becomes clear that God is conflicted as man is. God has the characteristics of man. God is good, evil, sinful, righteous, hateful, loving, lawful, unlawful, just, etc. By stating that he is only one of these things is limiting God, and as it is mentioned numerous times, God is omnipotent and omnipresent.

        The reason I have had and still have difficulties with the Bible is because I perceive the Bible as being written by man to understand God, but how am I to know whether or not to trust all the words in the Bible since God has the power and the right to change anything God likes? It has been 2,000 years since Jesus Christ walked the earth, and how are we to know what elements, if any, are still accurate from the Bible? The times we live in are much different than the times in the Bible. Jesus died for our sins; or did he die for the sins of mankind at the time? In the Bible, God wipes out humanity (almost), brings plagues, etc.

        To say we have to trust in the Word of God limits God because it states that God has a linear plan for man. Why would an omnipotent being need a linear plan, and could God not change it if God willed it to change? God will do as God wills. Perhaps man places so many restrictions on God because there is no way that man could ever truly comprehend true omnipotence. I believe that each and every person knows God because God is all things, so even the most wretched person knows God. I also no longer believe in the free will of man, but I instead believe in the free will of God. God will do as God wills, and man has no control over what that is, unless God wills him to.

        • Brandon says:

          You’re right, God is what God is – and God is good. We’re not placing a condition upon God, for God has already placed it upon himself. He has told us that he is goodness.

          And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Mark 10: 1718

          Since Jesus claims to be God, and here calls God the only good, then God is calling himself good.

          I believe the Bible is true on faith, and that it has never changed on evidence. We have proof that the Bible has not changed since it was written, including silver Hebrew charms with scriptures on them, dated as early as 3000BC that match what we have today word for word; letters from early Christians to each other where they quote scripture, which again matches what we have verbatim. It is a very popular myth that the Bible has changed over the years, written and rewritten by man, but this belief comes from ignorance about the subject.

          As for who Jesus died for, the Bible says that he died for all Christians. If he didn’t mean past, present, and future Christians, then Peter wouldn’t have used the word “all”.

          The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

          You’re right, many men place restrictions on God, but with the Bible, God is restricting himself. Christians believe that the Bible is God-​breathed, meaning that though it was written by the hand of men, that hand was directed by God. In essence, God wrote the Bible, using man as his tool to do so. Thus, when we read a promise from God in the Bible, we believe it more than what any random end-​of-​the-​world false prophet says, and certainly more than what we with our three pounds of human mind might feel or believe in any given day.

          Yes, when God says in the Bible that he is good, and that he wants to save all Christians, he is restricting himself from being not good, and from only saving some Christians. But, since he’s God, he can do that.

  5. Raznor says:

    Free will does not exist. Despair!

    The Abrahamic God does not exist either. Rejoice!

  6. AukRester says:

    Very interesting post, sorry for the late response but I just came upon this after being a big fan of your videos for the last many years.

    I agree with many of the ideas brought forth here, but I do disagree on some points. I do not think that the Bible should be taken completely literally, because the Bible was written by men (and several hands at that), it may be divinely inspired, but that doesn’t mean it is written by God or that everything written in it is true.

    Human hands have written, changed, and distorted parts of the Bible, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. God has made it so we are free to make our own conclusions, and because no two minds are similar, I don’t think the Bible can be 100% literal because that would be restricting on our own abilities to interpret, and the message in the Bible is not completely the same for any two people, God tests us all in our own ways. The mistake comes when people use their interpretations of the Bible and insert those into the text, no matter how good the intentions, because our own interpretation is ours and ours alone it will therefore be incompatible with others, so this is why I am skeptical of taking the Bible completely literally.

    As a Unitarian I also disagree with the Trinity aspect, but that is a story for another day.

    As part of free will we are free to make our own choices in life, and along the way God will constantly be testing us and all the others around us, we have no way of knowing what our true purpose is in life, only God knows, and there are likely many purposes and reasons behind our actions that we will never understand in our lifetimes.

    God has granted us what appears to be free will, but in truth most in the world is determined from your own perspective, and these challenges are where you will make decisions with your free will. So from our perspective, free will exists in all regards, and on many levels that is true, but we are also part of a deterministic future challenge for another individual somewhere somehow, whether that be through a distant statistic, a chance encounter, or a lifelong friendship.

    This is a very intriguing discussion nonetheless and I enjoy reading what everyone has to say.

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