The negligent camp leader

The good shepherd, or the negligent camp leader?

The old chestnut theodicy of free will came up again in a recent conversation. God, I was told, leaves us to take care of ourselves because to interfere with our care would limit our free will. 

This made me think of an analogy.

A camp leader looks out over his new charges. They are young kids, not yet teenagers, and they are very excited about camp.

He tells them that, over the next few weeks, they must be very careful to look after one another. He doesn’t want to quell their sense of freedom at camp by interfering in everything they do, so they need to take care of themselves.

The kids think this sounds OK, if a little unusual, and they go about their way.

A day later, one of the kids falls off the jetty down by the lake, and almost drowns. One of his friends helps him to the shore just in time. The camp leader is nowhere to be found.

That night, the kids realize that they won’t be fed unless they prepare the food themselves. They start to get worried.

A few days later, the camp leader has still not shown up. Two kids get into a fight, and one sustains a bad blow to the eye.

What follows over the next few weeks is a nightmare straight from The Lord of the Flies. The kids struggle to keep going on their own, and more fights lead to more injuries. They nearly starve.

The children desperately start reading all kinds of meaning into little things they see. A deep sound from over the hills is interpreted as the camp leader’s car returning to camp, but the car doesn’t appear. The rainbow after a heavy rainstorm is taken as a sign that things are looking up, and that maybe their desolation is coming to an end.

They start calling to the camp leader, in case he can hear them.

There is little point in bringing this story to a close, because its purpose should now be apparent*. We, as humans, are like children to God. We are not mature enough to take care of ourselves. Every day of every week, every week of every year, every year of every century, we hurt, kill, rape, steal from, and lie to one another. We have more than proven our inability to care for one other.

And, like the camp leader, God is ultimately responsible for this mess. He put us here, and he knew what our nature was. Perhaps his initial intention to give us as much freedom as possible was well meant. But, after one or two hundred thousand years of our poor behavior, it simply doesn’t make sense that God is holding back to allow us our freedom – in the same way that it doesn’t make sense that the camp leader should leave his young charges on their own.

In short, God is negligent for not stepping in and putting a stop to the mayhem.


* For those of you who like happy endings, fear not – the kids are all eventually rescued by the police and reunited with their families 🙂


5 Responses to The negligent camp leader

  1. God does step in for many who worship Him, who call out to Him for help. He appears to step in for those who may not even believe, as well, imo. He knows our hearts, so I think He makes Himself available accordingly.
    You seem to want God to be a puppet master. We would be puppets, you know, were God to manipulate everything for us as parents often do for their younger children, but when would this ever end then? At some point, we have to stand on our own two feet and run our own lives, make our own decisions as well as mistakes. We couldn’t even really love God if He controlled and manipulated everything entirely in this world. We would be dominated into that love.

    God wants us to freely choose to love Him. When we do, He is involved and in charge of our lives from that point forward.

  2. Keith says:

    Warrioress: You’re using the same false dichotomy that all free will theodicists use, namely that either we have free will or we are robots (puppets, etc.). This extremist viewpoint is entirely unwarranted. There is a continuum of states between these extremes. One of the very simplest adjustments God could make, without affecting 99% of our free will, is cause us to be born with a greater instinctual aversion to violence. Something this simple would reduce things like violent crime by enormous numbers without God having to step in to stop each crime himself.

  3. We are created as we are for a reason, apparently Keith. God doesn’t desire something programmed by Himself to interact with. God desires as exactly as we are to choose to interact with and believe in Him. What your suggesting is something that is influenced by and programmed, which I can see would appeal to the scientist within you, but it isn’t real. It’s artificial life, essentially. We are purely human without programmning. The only thing God has put into us is an instinctual knowledge of Him, according to scripture.

    “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

  4. (Gosh..sorry for the typos. I wrote that too fast)

  5. Keith says:

    Warrioress: If God created us in a particular way, this is the same thing as God programming us.

    (I have a lot of experience with computer programming, and I can tell you that programming a computer doesn’t necessarily mean telling it exactly what to do under every possible circumstance. Sometimes it means telling the computer to make its own decisions based on some underlying rules or “instincts”).

    Humans think and reason in a uniquely human way – we have no choice about it. We don’t know what it means to think in a godlike way or even in a dog- or cat- or elephant-like way. Like it or not, we are indeed programmed to think and behave in certain ways. And instinct is a big part of that.

    Of course, the source of this programming is evolution through natural selection. But even under the Christian paradigm, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that God has essentially programmed us to think and behave in certain uniquely human ways. This programming may include the ability to make choices of various kinds, but it’s programming nonetheless.

    Also, I don’t like the programming paradigm simply because I’m a scientist. I’m not a wishful thinker. I like the programming paradigm because it actually seems to be correct. It’s what the research on neuroscience actually points to. I know it makes a lot of people uncomfortable to think of themselves as glorified computers, but that is basically what we are. We are the most complex, powerful, most exquisitely beautiful computers ever observed.

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