But, “Why?” isn’t going to go away completely, is it? We are, again, irrevocably human and are going to keep asking this question whether it is the most pertinent or not.
And in my experience, one of the reasons we do this is because we believe God can stop or change anything He wants to. We believe God can do this because we believe God can do anything, that there is nothing God can’t do. Since there is nothing God can’t do, so God can (we thing) stop or change anything He wants to stop or change. He can prevent all the bad things that happen to us and thus at least indirectly if not directly responsible for everything that happens to us.
I believe this is how we think. I know it is how I think and I imagine that it might be how you think, so I believe this is how at least some of us think and thus the reason many of us continue to ask the question, “Why?”
And what we don’t realize is that this is completely wrong.
The fact of the matter is that God cannot do anything. The fact of the matter is that there are things God can’t do. Masie Sparks identified this fact in a little book called 101 Things God Can’t Do. I read this book when I was fresh out of Bible college. I found out this week it is has been updated to 151 Things God Can’t Do.
And strange though it sounds, the premise of this book is true. There are things the almighty, omnipotent God can’t do.
There are things He can’t do if He is to achieve His goal, that is. There are things He can’t do if He is going to bring His art to its grand conclusion. I think of God as an artist; I style myself as an artist (an author; I write or at least try to write novels and stories) and I accordingly think of God as an artist as well. I think of Him operating as an artist. I think of the universe He made an not only His art project but His unfinished art project, His work in progress.
And one thing I know about art is that it has limitations. Art is about choices, and once certain choices are made, they by default eliminate other choices. Say an artist decides he’s going to make a sculpture, going to sculpt a figure from clay or stone. That’s great. Notice what he has immediately done, though. He has immediately eliminated the possibility of his art being in color. He has also eliminated the possibility of his art moving. He has opened the possibility of his art having three-dimensions and being touchable, but he has eliminated the other things.
Say he decides to paint. Now he gets color, but he loses three dimensions.
Say he decides to make a movie. Now he gets color and motion and sound, but again loses three dimensions as well as touch.
Say he decides to write. Now he loses touch and sound and color and image altogether, but gains the ability to directly communicate thought.
And on and on it goes. Once an artist makes one decision, he limits himself from the ability to make other decisions. And you find that not just in art but in other fields as well. You find the same phenomena in engineering, by the way; once you decide to make a diesel truck you lose the ability to run it in the Indy 500.
We find these same limitations in God’s artwork, God’s engineering, God’s creation. Once He chose to make us a certain way, He was naturally limited from doing certain things. He can’t make a square circle (to use a childish example) because in the medium He chose things have definite shapes. Maybe He could do that in a different medium, but He can’t do that in this medium. He also can’t “break the fourth wall”. If He does that, the work is ruined. Nobody likes to see the artists in his work. We wouldn’t like it if Van Gogh painted his thumbs into one of his paintings. We hate it when we see a boom mike in a movie shot.
It is the same with God. There are things He can but can’t do, things He has the ability to do but is kept from doing by the nature of His art. He talks about this Himself in one of Jesus’ well-known parables:
“I can’t destroy the tares,” God says here. “I could, but I’d destroy the wheat in the process. So I could but I can’t.”
For some of us, this is a disappointment. For others, it is an argument against God’s existence or goodness:
The reality, though, is that this is just the nature of art (or engineering or any other creative feat). And the best thing for us to do is to understand and accept that. The best thing for us to do is submit to the artist in the knowledge and faith that He is making something wonderful.