Continuing on the wisdom of God I want to introduce you to one of my favorite Germans (and no, it’s not Luther even though He is a hero of mine).
The German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz describes many things about God that I find very correct and intriguing. In his ‘Discourse on Metaphysics’ he made an argument that says God has created the best of all possible worlds, and I think it is very well said.
So here’s how Leibniz made the argument: God possesses infinite wisdom, therefore when God does something He always does it in the wisest, most perfect, and most desirable way possible. Therefore, when God created the world that we see before us today we can know that this world exists as the best of all possible worlds, because it was made, and if since God made it, He did so in the wisest way possible. If we were to say that God did not create the world in the wisest way possible, we would be saying that God could have created the world in a wiser or better way. To say that is to find fault with God, and this is the essence of folly.
Leibniz is on to something here that many in our modern day do not embrace when he goes onto say God ‘does nothing for which He does not merit being glorified.’ This means that God’s greatest desire is to be glorified, and because of this, everything He does serves the end of His glory being made much of. This includes the grand drama we find unfolding throughout Scripture of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. Therefore if God were to create a world in which He was not fully glorified or treasured, that world would be lacking in the most fundamental way possible. Therefore the logical conclusion of this thought is that God is fully glorified in this world, because this world exists, knowing that this world would not exist unless it was the best possible of all worlds, because God does all things in the most perfect and desirable manner possible.
But this brings up the question of evil doesn’t it? Yes it does. If God created this world as the best of all possible worlds, and everything serves the purpose of glorifying Himself, than what do we make of the evil in our world? Does that evil serve God’s glory? If God made the world in the wisest way possible was the evil we see everyday part of His ‘wisest possible plan?’ Leibniz says rightly that God must be glorified more because of evil in the world, ‘than if none of the evil had (ever) happened.’ Again the logical conclusion is this: we know God acts for His own glory in the most perfect and desirable manner possible. Therefore everything that was made was made in the most ‘wise way possible.’ Therefore if evil (or anything!) exists we know that God had a wise purpose and design in allowing it to exist. Therefore, I agree with Leibniz, that we do live in the best of all possible worlds. Everything that exists serves the purpose of God’s glory. If anything didn’t serve the end of God’s glory, God wouldn’t have allowed it to exist.
The Danger of Philosophy
Now, let’s come back from Philosophy excursion and be reminded: we’ve just said some very true and glorious things of God, but see here the danger of philosophy – arriving at truth apart from the revealed truth of God – the Bible. I was a philosophy major in college. I’ve experienced how this works firsthand, and if we aren’t aware of it we can find ourselves in loads of trouble. So let’s ask the ever pressing question: does the Bible agree with this? Well let’s look into it to see these things to see.
In Romans 16:27 out of the things Paul could have attributed to God he says in His benediction, ‘To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ!’ Job says God is ‘wise in heart’ (Job 9:4) and that ‘with God are wisdom and might’ (Job 12:13). Psalm 19 and Psalm 104 put the wisdom of God on display through creation saying ‘In wisdom You have made them all.’ We even have en entire section of the Old Testament (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon) called the ‘Wisdom literature and in that portion of Scripture wisdom is even personified in Proverbs 8. More so, we have Solomon the epitome of Old Testament wisdom. 1 Kings 4:32-33 says Solomon wrote, ‘3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He also spoke of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish.’ Solomon was so wise because God made him this way. He asked Solomon for anything, and out of all the things Solomon could have asked for (wealth, fame, and fortune) he asked for wisdom, and God gave him wisdom and everything else along with it.
Keeping Solomon in mind we find it no surprise when we see Jesus say in Matthew 12:42, ‘Someone greater than Solomon is here.’ When we think specifically of redemption in Christ God’s wisdom comes squarely into view. After spending 11 entire chapters detailing rich and robust doctrine concerning the nature of God’s work through His son in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he explodes into praise in 11:33 saying, ‘O’ the depth and the riches of the (what?) wisdom of God…’ Later in 1 Corinthians even though the cross is seen as foolishness to the world (1 Cor. 1:18) Christ is the very ‘wisdom of God’ (1 Cor. 1:30) to those who’ve been saved. In fact the whole scope of ‘redemption as wisdom’ is defined for us in 1 Cor. 1:20-31 (read). In many ways God pits His own wisdom against the wisdom of the world and He shows how His wisdom, though seen as folly and weakness, is actually where true strength and truth is found. Even later in Ephesians 3 Paul is speaking of the wondrous reality that in the gospel racial barriers/tensions are broken down (specifically the context is Jew/Gentile, but we can see how easily it applies to the racial tensions in our day) and from seeing such things put on display in the local church, Paul says the entire watching world see’s the wisdom of God. Eph. 3:10 says it, that ‘through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.’
To come back to Leibniz we must say that though the Bible never outright states his conclusion about ‘the best of all possible worlds’ it does seem to be a logical implication of what the Bible has to say about the wisdom of God. But let’s use caution, rather than beginning with Leibniz, let’s be safe and go to the Scripture first, yeah?