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“Ask a Priest: Why Did God Create Us, Knowing That We Would Fall?”
Q: My heart sank when I read Genesis 6:6 — “The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” God knows everything. So, if he knew, before creating us, how we would turn out, why did he still create us? -N.B.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: You touch on one of the deepest mysteries of life: why God created us when he already foresaw that many people would reject his will and embrace lives of sin. It is unlikely that we will ever have a full answer in this life. But let me share a few thoughts.
Genesis 6:6 is, indeed, one of the saddest lines in Scripture. When it says, “The LORD regretted making human beings on the earth” (NAB version), the ancient writer was using an anthropomorphism, that is, he was attributing human qualities to God. This was a common technique; it helped the audience to understand (somewhat) things from God’s perspective. Strictly speaking, God didn’t “regret” his action, since he already knew all of history when he created man. But that only brings us back to the question at hand.
One possible explanation for why God created what he already knew would be a fallen world is this: his infinite love. The love within the Trinitarian God is so profound, so beautiful, so deep, that God wanted to share that love with beings made in his image. He was willing to do this, even though he knew not all human beings would accept his love. But that wasn’t God’s fault. Any blame is squarely on the shoulders of people who freely reject God’s love.
An analogy might help here. Imagine that a young man and a young woman want to get married. They love each other dearly, and part of their desire is to have children with whom they can share their love. They realize that those children, being human, will someday make mistakes and possibly even turn on their parents. Yet, does this awareness hold the man and woman back from getting married and having children? Probably not. Their love, in a sense, is so powerful that they are willing to take the chance of bringing children into the world, even if the kids turn out far from perfect.
It is sort of the same with God. His love “risks” raising up new lives that might turn on him. His love supersedes everything.
This analogy has its limits, of course. God’s knowledge is perfect; a couple’s is not. Still, what Genesis 6:6 says is mysterious. With the eyes of faith, though, I think it’s a passage that helps us appreciate more deeply the love that motivates God, the love that is God — a love that goes beyond our ability to grasp it. That love ultimately should leave our faith in God strengthened, not shaken.