John tells us two things: “God is love” and “Greater love hath no man than this, that He lay down His life for His fellow man.” These facts present an obvious problem for traditional theology, which would have us believe Christ laid down His life for us only because we sinned and required saving. His decision to lay down His life for us was not logically prior to our decision to sin. I believe this is incorrect. Let us consider: What is love's greatest joy? Its highest prerogative? It is to give. But not only is it to give. It is to give at a cost. The greater the love, the greater must be the gift; hence the greater must be the cost. And the greatest cost is to lay down one's life. But what would be the point of laying down one's life for no reason? In order for this gesture to mean anything, it had to fill a need; it had to serve a purpose.
Now, God could have made us perfect from the start, thus assuring we never fell into sin and never needed saving. So why didn't He do it? Typically, we look to the creature for the answer. But this is a mistake. Christ is the lamb slain from before the foundation of the world. He did not decide to die for us due to unforeseen, unexpected, or even unwanted events. It was not His plan B. God made man liable to sin with the intent of rescuing Him from it. Or, as Romans 8:20 puts it: He subjected us to vanity, not willingly, but in order to release us from that very condition. He made us sick in order to make us well. The reason is not to be found in the actions of the creature, but in the design of the Creator, for our actions proceed from that design, and in accordance with it.
God did not just have a plan for man. He also had a plan for Christ. He was to be perfected through suffering. Are we to believe this plan of God's for His Son was contingent on how man used his free will? In other words, did it all unfold this way by a happy coincidence, in which man just happened to behave—or misbehave—in such a way that afforded God the opportunity to demonstrate the greatest love possible, namely, to lay down His life? This is what I call the Happy Coincidence model of sin and salvation, which, according to Calvinism at least, goes something like this:
- From eternity past God intended that the most vivid and profound demonstration of his glory would come in the form of His work of salvation on the cross of Christ.
- God then made man to punish him
- He made him perfect and thus unlikely to ever need punishing, or, for that matter, a savior
- By a happy coincidence, and against all the odds, this perfect man sinned, thus allowing God to fulfill His purposes for both the man and Christ
- When he sinned, God, who is suddenly confronted with the prospect of being able to fulfill all of His original plans, becomes furious
The Arminian model is not much better, for they still must allow that unwanted events afforded God the opportunity to express His love more fully than He otherwise would have. A truly Christ based Christology, in which our purpose and destiny are subservient to His, does not allow for a plan which substitutes contingency and coincidence for purposeful design. The reason for evil--however you define it--is to be found in the very nature of God and of love.