Another way this question is often asked is “if God knows the future, why didn’t He prevent evil from the Beginning?”
It is important to know that angels and human beings were created to be a family of conscious beings, endowed with Free Will. I find Free Will to be the most mysterious act of God – Just how did He make something to be self-aware and have freedom of choice? I would say, the strongest force in the world is not Gravity but Free Will; the most elusive thing is not Dark Matter but the freedom to choose! Free Will is the ability to think, reason and choose. Free Will was (and is) the only way to have a real world. This real world ought to have love and fellowship. However, Free Will also creates a possibility to commit wrong or evil.
Surely God knew what a world of sentient beings would entail. He knew about the possibility of evil that would exist. Yes, He knew about the temptation Lucifer would experience to rise against God. God’s ability to declare the “end” from the “beginning” sets Him apart – “I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand” (Isa.46:9-10). But, it should be noted that His ability to know the future of a conscious being must not be confused with Him causing the being to do something (that would violate Free Will). However, God graciously (actually mysteriously) provided a way of escape to anyone who would follow His counsel. His wise counsel always stands because he knows what was, what is, and what shall be! It follows that any creature that is wise would follow the counsel of this all-wise and all-knowing God.
Price of Free Will
Some may argue that if God knows the future of something evil about to occur, He should either prevent the evil or guard a person from being influenced by the evil. Well, that cannot be. It is important to appreciate the fact that although God would be able to create such a world; a world that is void of the knowledge of evil but only populated with creatures that are programmed to do good wouldn’t be a true real world. So, despite the possibility of evil, we can say that God was willing to pay the Price of Free Will. Like CS Lewis explained:
If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will – that is, for making a live world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings – then we may take it it is worth paying.
Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata – of creatures that worked like machines – would hardly be worth creating.
So, when man later chose the wrong way in exercising his curiosity, God let him freely abandon the right way; man was free to partake of ‘the forbidden tree’ but he had to live through the ‘fruit’ (i.e. consequences) of his choice – “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices” (Proverbs 1:29-31).
Why allow Failure?
From the explanation above a question arises: What is the worth of creating something that you know will fail? Well, it may seem a vain exercise but not so when you perceive the intention of God: The presence of Free Will where the creator promises future redemption for a wrong can be rationalized if there is an intention to let the “vanity” expose the foolishness of a wrong, and hence use this process as a learning experience for the wrong doer. It can thus be explained that God’s willingness to temporarily lose creation to vanity is in hope that the sentient being will through experience come to freely choose God’s perfect will. As the Scripture says:
For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-23).
It is in this context that we can say God permits (or “creates”) evil – (Isa.45:7).
If the creature was to be made to accept God’s perfect will without learning or choice then that wouldn’t be true choice in the first place. We can see God working in the same manner with regards the giving of the Law – “that every mouth maybe stopped and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom.3:19). The learning process appears to be the way God lets people follow His Perfect Will but without infringing on their right of Free Will. They chose to follow God’s way by perceiving the goodness and righteousness of God.
So we can say that God permitted evil not as His Perfect Will but as something that was necessary for a world with Free Will. Even so, the same Free Will provides an opportunity to escape a bad end. It is for this reason that the “Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet.3:9). To understand how God knows the future of someone but yet allows Free Will for their escape seems as elusive as Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.