Forget About Free Will – Power Dynamics Mean You Can’t Love God

So how is it that we can even claim to be able to truly be choosing to love, serve, and genuinely worship the being who holds such power above us?

The ceiling of the Baptistery in Florence, Italy. Imagine seeing that shit, and then “voluntarily choosing” to serve and love God.

Once again, we revisit one the hallmarks of the modern Christian – Free Will.

In response to the problem of evil, which begs the question of the presence of evil in a world created by a just god, thousands of Christians will respond to say that their god had to make a shitty world to allow people choice, or that he made a good world, and humans chose to make it shitty.

God wants us to be fully capable of loving him, and to that end, he can’t make us robots, and he can’t make a “good world.” Doing so would strip us of the opportunity to choose, and with it, the opportunity to truly love.

Except that that’s not how we think about other authority figures.

In thinking about power, we generally understand that a subject’s ability to genuinely love, obey, or genuinely do anything is partly a function of the power dynamic between the two parties. Like,

  • A teacher and a student.
  • A master and a slave.
  • Or the difference between parents and children.
  • Or the connection between a prisoner and their guard.
  • Or the hierarchy between a boss and his subservient.
  • Or the power dynamic between a soldier and their commanding officer.

You get the point.

So how is it that we can even claim to be able to truly be choosing to love, serve, and genuinely worship this being who holds such power above us? The keys to life and death, the knowledge of our future, the knowledge of every single moment of our lives, and the power to bend physics, call down fire, split seas – these are some pretty extreme and terrifying powers, and they show a gigantic gap in power between us and God. It seems difficult to claim that a power dynamic that large results in a mutually respecting, egalitarian relationship in the way many Christians describe.

And that’s not all.

I work at Best Buy, and the establishment took great pains to make sure that I knew that I was supposed to do what my boss said as a part of my job, but that they had no right to ask me to do things outside of that purview, and explicitly not allowed to connect those things to a threat of punishment or promise of promotion. For instance, my boss can’t make me pick up his dry cleaning while suggesting I might get bumped up in the company, or ask me to sleep with him suggesting that I might get demoted if I don’t.

That sounds a lot like, “You’re not allowed to offer people eternal life if they love you and do what you say, and promise that Hell is simply a consequence of choosing not to do that.”

And for a god Christians say is all about love and compassion, that sounds much more like manipulation and coercion to me.

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