It all has to do with free will. Sort of.
The standard belief by many—not all—Christians is that while salvation is a free gift (aren’t all “gifts” free? Isn’t something that one has to pay for a purchase not a gift? Never mind.) from God, we do have to accept it.
If we didn’t have to accept it, then we would lack free will because it would be God’s forcing His will on us, you know, the doctrine taught by a lot of Christian denominations: Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, and Irresistible Grace: the ideas that God chooses who will be saved and the Atonement only works for those whom God chose and we have no say in the matter. These are three of the five points of Calvinism, from which Baptists sprang. The other two are Total Depravity of Humans and Perseverance of the Saints (those chosen by God cannot fall.
And while most Baptists and virtually all evangelicals sprang from this tree, they also believe that we must freely choose to accept the free Gift of God, must have a conversion experience and speak the Sinner’s Prayer, asking Jesus to come into their life—because to believe as Calvin taught is to deny free will, which must be present because. . .this can go around in circles forever. One just has to make a decision what they need to believe and interpret the Bible using that lens.
How does the concept of free will imply that God favors evil?
The argument goes something like this:
God is omnipotent and has interfered in the lives of people if one believes the stories in the Bible to be true and if one believes that God has a plan for each life. This goes all the way from the casting out of Eden, the Flood, to Jesus healing lepers and raising the dead. When something bad happens, if one believes this way, then it must mean that the bad something was in the will of God.
- Joe is a gang-banger, who sells dugs and robs people
- Mary is an emergency room nurse and volunteers at the Homeless Shelter every Sunday.
- Joe rapes and murders Mary
- God could have chosen to interfere, but did not because that would have infringed on the free will of Joe.
- He allowed Mary to be raped and die, which, most likely, was not consistent with Mary’s will. Again, because God won’t muck around with free will.
- If Mary was an atheist, having never said the Sinner’s Prayer and asked Jesus to come into their life (many evangelicals view Catholics and other mainline Christians), then she—in the mind of many evangelicals—will go to Hell and be tortured for all eternity. She chose, used her free will to not choose to go to Heaven.
- If Joe, convicted of the heinous acts, is sentenced to be executed but has a conversion experience and asks Jesus into his heart, then he goes straight through the Pearly Gates of Heaven. Joe accepted the free gift wisely.
In this scenario, Joe’s exercise of his free will is more important to God than Mary’s life, even though by exercising his free will, he prevented Mary from possibly using her free will later in life to choose to act and pay the price for the free gift from God.
Head spinning yet? It gets even worse if one believes, as do the Calvinists. Which is close to what many far-right evangelical say they believe because many do believe that God truly does have a plan for each life, which led to this exchange with an Oklahoma Republican:
On Tuesday, bill HB1549 was passed in Oklahoma which allows for the punishment of doctors who perform abortions on fetuses with genetic disorders. And, of course, as tends to be the case in issues related to abortion, the debate in the House got weird in a hurry.
Religion became the central issue as the GOP Representative who brought the bill into being was grilled over his views. George Faught was asked by Democratic Rep. Cory Williams if rape or incest was God’s will, according to Raw Story.
First up, the question of rape. Is this the “Will of God”? The answer:
“Well, you know, if you read the Bible, there’s actually a couple circumstances where that happened. The Lord uses all circumstances. I mean, you can go down that path, but it’s a reality unfortunately.”
Oh man. Ohhhh man. Ya, he really said that.
Second up, the question of incest. Is this the “Will of God” as well? The answer:
“Same answer. Doesn’t deal with this bill.”
Actually, no, Mr. Faught, it does. And that’s what Williams told him point blank and repeated his question, “This body wants to know — and myself personally — whether you believe rape and incest are actually the will of God.”
So, Faught gave him and answer. And it was mindboggling.
“It’s a great question to ask. And, obviously if it happens in someone’s life, it may not be the best thing that ever happened, but — so you’re saying that God is not sovereign with every activity that happens in someone’s life and can’t use anything and everything in someone’s life and I disagree with that.”
Of course, Faught wasn’t the only one weighing in with the religious reasons why the Oklahoma House of Representatives should put restrictions on abortion. As KFOR-TV reports, Rep. John Bennet also played representative to God on the floor of the House.
“Abortion offends God, plain and simple. I heard statements of ‘why are we wasting our time on a pro-life bill up here? We need to worry about the budget.’ Let me ask you this, what is more important to you? Money or life?”
Barry Goldwater was right when he said:
“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.
The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are NOT using their religious clout with WISDOM. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are?… I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”
Many believe that the disdain many Christians seem to have about the poor—as evidenced by their support of people like Paul Ryan and Donald Trump—is an outgrowth of another perversion. the Prosperity Gospel taught by the Televangelists. Put this together with the God-has-a-Plan folks, and real problems are caused.
For the record, I believe in a God who does not get involved with the day-to-day activities of individuals (which is pretty much consistent with the belief of most of our Founding Fathers), and that good and bad stuff happens to good and bad people, and that giving seed faith money to Joel Olsteen will not help at all.