Growing Pains

Dear Renea,

My 14 year old asked the question, If God knows that someone is not going to choose to follow him, why does he make them in the first place. If he loves us so much, why does he allow some people to even exist if he knows everything, and knows they will not follow him anyway. So does he know everything or does he NOT love some people as much at others? I answered by reminding her that Satan has rule over this earth, God gave us free will to choose, and we will not understand all of his ways, etc. It was a much longer conversation, but that is the basic question in a nutshell. She was CRYING huge tears and I could not give her an answer she was satisfied with . Please offer some direction where I can turn in the pages of my Bible to help me explain. I have been in lots of Bible studies and LOVE Jesus more than life itself. My daughter has had a very strong faith in God, but has lots of questions and I suddenly feel ill equipped.

Dear C,

Thanks for writing. This is one of those questions for which there really isn’t a “silver bullet” answer (no big question has one). Firstly, Christians throughout history have always held varied views of God’s foreknowledge, and up to a point, this is something we can agree to disagree about. Your daughter’s question assumes a position leaning toward Calvanism or Reformed theology, which is the most widely held view of the Midwest (and the Southwest, including Dallas, where we I am!). At the other end of the spectrum, there’s Openness theology, and while I ultimately have to reject Open Theism, I am sympathetic toward it, especially certain aspects. Personally, I find myself somewhere in the middle.

All that to say, each of these positions wrestles with the question your daughter has tearfully come to you with in different ways, but none of them provide that silver bullet, all-encompassing answer that completely satisfies. From each position (and there are several that fall in varying degrees between Open Theism and Calvinism) the mystery of God can never be fully unveiled… and if it were, I’d be worried. In fact, it seems to me that when over-simplified and/or extreme positions are held, that’s exactly what we end up doing: subverting God’s “godness” to assuage our discomfort; we end up (though often well-meaning) putting ourselves in God’s place by presuming we can understand as completely as he does. But that’s another email for another time. The point is, it is good that your daughter is working out her faith “in fear and trembling” in this way. It’s very good your daughter feels the freedom to come to you with these kinds of questions. That kind of security within her own home is invaluable. That, coupled with the biblical base you’re providing, and perhaps most importantly, the prayer you’re surrendering her up with, are what research shows to be the best recipe for raising a well-balanced, thoughtful follower of God.

I can really appreciate where your daughter is coming from. 14 is an angsty age. I remember having very emotional conversations (often with tears of anger), like the one you’re having, with my mother when I was your daughter’s age. I remember crying myself to sleep for nights on end in conversation with God about these kinds of questions: How do I know the Bible is true/right? What if God doesn’t really exist after all? How can evil exist in the world if God is good?… These questions she has are good questions, and an important part of her growth and development as a person and as a believer. As your daughter struggles and wrestles and agonizes over these issues, she is beginning to make her faith her own. And this question in particular, about people and Hell and God’s sovereignty, shows a tenderness in your adult-becoming teen. It shows compassion for people. This is a good sign. But it’s scary isn’t it? Because what if instead of her faith being stronger as a result of the struggle she rejects her faith for a time… or forever? and that’s when we have to take our own advice and trust God’s sovereignty when we don’t understand it; when we hate it. All good parents feel ill-equipped, especially during these teen years. You’re in good company; and again, I see good signs in the small glimpse I have of your relationship with Christ through Scripture and in turn your relationship with your daughter. So I hope you are encouraged.

Finally, allow me to point you to a few more resources on this topic. Along with my colleague Rick Wade’s article on Open Theism, Rick’s article The Sovereignty of God is helpful. I also appreciate Erwin McManus’s sermon series called Life’s Toughest Questions: “Is There a Hell?” will be most closely related to the particular question your daughter is asking right now.

Many blessings to you and your daughter.

Renea,

I am just reading this today as I was not expecting such a quick reply!  Your encouragement is so helpful and with tears in my eyes, I have to say “THANK YOU” for your insight, your encouragment, and most of all your heartfelt compassion for my daugther and I.  A complete stranger, yet a sister in Christ who feels and understands me.  I thank the Lord for this wonderful kinship that he brings us through Christ.  I was expecting a generic response and I received this very personal reply – I just can’t even begin to tell you how meaningful that is!
The resources and links to these other articles will be so helpful I am sure.  I love Probe ministries and all that you do.  May God bless you and your ministry ABUNDANTLY.
Many thanks,
Your sister in Christ,
C
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