Why God is more libertarian than we are

Adam and EveIn the beginning, man was created with free will. In paradise, Adam and Eve had complete freedom of action and only a single rule: Do not eat the fruit of one particular tree. They were free to obey or disobey. God warned them that eating the fruit of the tree would kill them, but God—having made them free—could not prevent their abuse of that freedom and so death came to our world.

We have heard the story so many times we do not stop to consider how odd this is. From a human point of view, this is very peculiar. When men wish to prevent something bad from happening, they take concrete steps to deter it. If it is in their power to stop something they do not want to happen, they stop it. If they cannot reliably stop someone from doing something, they declare it a crime and punish the offender afterwards.

From our point of view, God’s reaction to evil is shockingly different. Unlike man, God has the absolute power to stop evil from happening. He could have stopped evil at any stage. He need never have made men in the first place. He might have made us so that—like robots—we never acted wrongly, but He did not. He made man and woman in his own image, with the freedom to choose good or evil. He gave them dominion over the earth and then God declared that it was good.

Having made men who could choose evil, He might have chosen to punish evil instantly, whenever it occurred, but God did not do that either. While many wrong actions have natural consequences in this life, most of us are given a full lifespan before being called before the judge to account for our lives.

appleIn God’s wisdom, free will is so important that He gives it to every man, not just our first parents. Why did God permit such freedom? The abuse of our free will brings death and sorrow to every generation, so why did an omnipotent and good Creator risk the evil that often results? It seems free will is necessary to make men who are capable of sharing in God’s life. Only free men can become good men. True virtue requires liberty.

The question to ask is: Having given us free will, did God intend that some men should sit on His throne, in His stead, and enforce His will by violence upon other men? Clearly, Jesus did not commission His Church to use compulsion to make men believe or behave, or even to pay the tithe. The Church may persuade, but she does not use violence to compel obedience.

Is there any conclusion to draw from the fact that the Vatican is the only sovereign nation that does not use violence to force its people to pay taxes? No less than any other government, the Church requires money to fund its activity. How is that need met without violence? It seems that if the cause is sufficient, people will provide the resources voluntarily. This gentle wisdom comes from Jesus, who said to His apostles: “You know that those who are supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you.”

[Excerpted from Free is Beautiful: Why Catholics should be libertarian]

See alsoVenerable Fulton Sheen: No freedom, No virtue