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As Christians, we believe that God is omnipotent (all-powerful) and that “nothing is impossible” for Him (Luke 1:37). Yet Lewis reminds us that God is constrained by two realities. First, God cannot do what is intrinsically impossible or what Lewis terms “nonsense.”7 The law of noncontradiction—a basic law of logic—applies even to God. God cannot grant free will to humanity and not grant free will at the same time and in the same way. Holding God to a standard of applying two mutually exclusive alternatives is essentially meaningless.
Second, God allows us as human beings to be free agents with free choices. We cannot desire freedom to choose and yet hold God responsible for not preventing our choosing of evil. Either we have freedom or we do not. Either we choose or we do not. We cannot have it both ways. We cannot blame God for our evil actions when we freely chose them. We cannot excuse ourselves and accuse God when freedom was truly granted to us. Our understanding of what it means for God to be all-powerful must be viewed within this informed reality. We must not “think things possible which are really impossible.”8 In other words, we cannot have our cake and eat it too.
This perspective does not, in any way, compromise God’s sovereignty or power. Granting free will to humanity, to love self more than God or to love God more than self, is the ultimate power by which a Creator can grant freedom to His creation. The natural, fixed order of the universe provides a stable framework in which freedom, and the possibility of pain and suffering as well as love, is viable. Lewis soberly reminds us that if the possibility of suffering is excluded, life itself is excluded.9 God, in His omnipotent power, allows us the greatest amount of freedom to choose for or against Him and our fellow man. Pain is a consequence inherent in this sovereign design. Without this freedom, the full extent of goodness, joy, or love cannot be authentically known.
As believers, we also believe in a God who is completely and utterly good; He is all-loving. It is argued that if God was loving and good, there would not be pain in the world, that He would not allow evil to perpetuate and invade our lives. Yet suffering is an inescapable reality. Jesus affirmed this in John 16:33, saying that we would have trouble in this world. In light of this fact, we recognize humanity’s free contribution to suffering. What’s more, as Lewis instructs, we must take another look at our understanding of what it means for God to be good. He insists that God’s idea of goodness is different from ours, vastly better, higher, greater—although not wholly different altogether.
Our popular conception of love and goodness has more to do with kindness, tolerance, and “a desire to see others . . . happy.”10 We tend to see God’s love as more like a kind, doting grandfather who likes to see his grandchildren contented than as a father who genuinely loves and desires to see the best character developed in the child through discipline. Lewis insists that love in its truest, deepest sense is “more stern and splendid than mere kindness.”11 A loving father will take endless trouble to foster growth in his child, will discipline to make him more lovable rather than leave him to follow his own natural impulses, will be “pleased with little, but demands all”12 God is an intensely interested, loving, all-consuming fire who deeply loves the objects of His love—us. His goodness demands that He make us more lovable. Lewis, again, reminds us:
We were made not primarily that we may love God (though we were made for that too) but that God may love us, that we may become objects in which the Divine love may rest ‘well pleased’. To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable.13