I marvel at times at the logical gymnastics which are employed to justify Orthodox theology. For instance in order to refute the idea of a universal salvation in Christ, some claim that universalism deprives mankind of the exercise of free will and therefore cannot be valid. The reasoning goes thusly- God would not force people to go to heaven against their will. This is strange reasoning from the same folks who have no apparent problem with God forcing these same people to spend eternity in torment. Even odder to me, is the often stated contention that God doesn’t send anyone to Hell; instead, men send themselves somehow. Who supposedly prepared Hell? Who supposedly decides who goes there? Who actually places men in Hell? If the answer to each and every one of these questions is not God, I guess I don’t know Orthodox theology as well as I thought.
God’s stated desire in the Bible is that all men be saved. Yet, somehow within the orthodox understanding, man’s “free will” trumps God’s stated will. How did man’s free will become sacred and God’s will become impotent? Some might claim that God desires our love but only if it is freely given, therefore He must allow mankind a choice, a free will. In other words a constrained love for Him would be meaningless. This reasoning falls apart immediately when the doctrine of eternal punishment is introduced, producing the “love me or else” theology. Given the analogy between the Heavenly Father and our earthy ones, I believe God created man to be loved, not to love Him, at least not directly in the traditional sense by following arbitrary commandments.
Did God violate Pharaoh’s free will when He hardened Pharaoh’s heart against Moses? Since God supposedly decided to base salvation on certain knowledge, did He violate the will of those who desire a blissful eternity but never receive that knowledge due to their historical setting or other random life circumstances? Attempting to explain any of this by making man’s will supreme, makes no sense to me. The alternative idea, that God’s stated will wins, reflects perfectly His complete knowledge, absolute power, and Love that never fails.