In one of my online courses, I ask the students to think critically about the behavior of both Pilate and Judas in connection with Jesus’ execution on the cross. The students face the question as to whether the behavior of either or both of them is, to any degree, ordained by God.
It seems that however we deal with the cases of Judas and Pilate, we abandon Christian theology if we end up with a position that makes God the author of sin. God is the creator of all non-God life, but not the creator of what they do.
Consequently, would it make theological sense concerning God and evil to think of the particular moments in life as parts of a larger and more important picture – the universal purpose of all creation? The idea is that whatever sin or evil there is in the non-God world, it eventually is swallowed up by the greater purposes of God. God is in charge of the Big Picture, whereas we humans may be in charge of some of the particulars.
But, is that position coherent? On one hand, we humans, or even Satan for that matter, still only have limited input into what happens. Nonetheless, if the final picture is God ordained to happen, and all that happens contributes to the final picture, would that not make everything necessary, and if necessary, not evil / wrong / sinful, etc.??
On the other hand, if other particular events could have happened with the consequence being a different Final Picture, and if those particular events were to some degree caused by humans, doesn’t that argue against the existence of a God who has worked with an unchanging Final Picture that He drew? Does it not make human choice determine to some degree what the Final Big Picture is going to be?
It appears at this juncture that we may be stuck in incoherence, which is not very satisfying, eh? But, it is also at this juncture that another model may offer some clarity.
The other model continues with the “picture” analogy, but goes a different direction. Consider a large picture comprised of small human faces (like the face of Lincoln that is made up of small images of other people). They are called mosaic pictures – small pictures that together make up the larger picture. Go to www.isba.org/membership/lincolnmosaic for an example of a Lincoln mosaic. (use the return arrow to come back to this page)
In this model, it seems that any one of the small images could be replaced by a similar image of someone else without changing the Big Picture. If that analogy holds, does it matter if the role played by Pilate, or the role played by Judas, had been played by someone else? Perhaps, God’s Big Picture is not made up of particular individuals that were foreordained by God to do a particular evil (and thus seemingly logically making God the author of the evil), but is made up of foreordained actions, or roles, that are freely embraced by particular individuals.
God’s Big Picture, it seems to me, is in this way not incoherent with God ordained evil that is also freely chosen by humans’ evil. God writes the roles. People pick the actors.
Use the Comment feature to say what you think about this Big Picture approach?