I Never Signed Up for the Great Controversy



Without Consent

As Christians we are told that there is an ongoing battle between Good and Evil. This battle is not merely an abstract philosophical tension, but a real, visceral conflict between real and personal forces that are good on one side and evil on the other. We are also told that each one of us – indeed, all humans – are a part of this conflict, for better or worse. We are told that we cannot sit on the fence; that we are either on the good side or on the bad side.

As Christians we understand that we have chosen to enlist in the camp of God and His unfallen angels. But whether we are Christians or not, we are inescapably embroiled in this cosmic conflict. How and why did we get involved?

As far as we recall, we never signed any agreement to enter hostilities with any cosmic force before we were born into this world. We never signed up for any benefits in either party, and we certainly never enlisted as soldiers in either army. If we are truly autonomous human beings with free will, then why has no one sought our opinion on the matter? Why are we forced to take sides in a conflict we were never warned about before we entered the world?

Most democratic constitutions guarantee freedom of association, and you would expect the cosmic order to be just as respectful of our rights as free-willed beings as our human laws. Indeed, you’d expect it to be much more so. On the contrary, however, we are apparently coerced to participate in the so-called Great Controversy regardless of our will.

Does this square up with the notion of a God who invests us with free will… the real thing, and not just a cheap platitude? The answer lies in a fundamental difference between the human state and the Heavenly one.

Citizenship of earthly nations differs from the heavenly paradigm in very fundamental ways. We will explore only one of them. Much has been said about the role of worship in the balance of loyalty within the Great Controversy. Certainly it is a key part of the answer.

But let us consider something that I dare say is more basic. Something that hinges not on anything we do, but on what and whom we are. Looking at the question from this perspective will hopefully shed some light on how Omniscience thrusts us into the Great Controversy without compromising our free will, or necessarily endangering us.


God’s Love For You

Imagine the antelope that says to the lion, “From this day forth I renounce my antelopeness and all things antelopish.” Somehow I am not inclined to believe they would then shake hands and agree an eternal peace.

Perhaps one reason is that you are truly loved. As it happens, God loves you more than anything else in the world. In fact, it can be argued that in the cross we have proof that God loved us even more than Himself. As one deep thinker has observed, “The parable of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls has a double significance: it applies not only to men as seeking the kingdom of heaven, but to Christ as seeking His lost inheritance. Christ, the heavenly merchantman seeking goodly pearls, saw in lost humanity the pearl of price.”[1]

In Christ’s parable of the hidden treasure and pearl of great price, Christ is depicted as collecting “all the riches of the universe and laying them down in order to buy the pearl.” No doubt, what Ellen White calls “all the riches of the universe” amounts to none other than the life and glory of Christ himself, whom Paul affirms laid down the glory of His Divine estate not to only become one of us, but to die for each one of us.[2]

Christ died so you could live. He took on ultimate risk for your eternal security. Resurrection was not a guarantee, or else Satan would not have killed Him. A sinless life was no forgone conclusion; otherwise the intelligent Devil would not have tempted Him. His humanity, His vulnerability was real. That is why His victory is real too, and effective for the cleansing of sin and the giving of eternal life. God loves you.

What’s more, His love is initial and unconditional[3]. God’s love is not a response to ours; it is original. He loves first[4]. He cannot help it. He is, in His very essence, a loving God.

If constitutions are voices, then the constitution of any earthly nation is at best the voice of the collective self-interest. It is a highly conditional, self-serving interest in chiefly, the preservation of the nation by maintaining the apparatus of government, and promoting the prosperity of at least many of its citizens. John F. Kennedy’s famous correction “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country” epitomizes this posture well.

This has real implications. God is bound to care more deeply about your destiny than your country.

The state will not make certain sacrifices for you. For example, it will never go bankrupt to protect your innocence, let alone your guilt. The state will never jeopardize is security to save you from losing yours, unless its own existence depends somehow on yours. Your country does not love you; it needs you. When it protects and helps you, it is because it helps itself in doing so. And the state is not likely to make even small sacrifices for a not-so-upstanding citizen.

If you ever want to leave the citizenship party, you are very welcome to do so. If you have renounced your citizenship, the state’s friends do not have to be yours, nor must you hate her enemies. You can wash your hands from all her controversies, but get this: it will not be because you don’t care, but because the state doesn’t care; at least not enough to want to keep you at all cost.

On the other hand, God actually loves you. He actually cares. And He is invested in you through this love and through his morality embedded in your conscience and psyche; you are in His image.

For better or worse, then, you are a prize of God in the eyes of His friends, but also in the eyes of His enemies. You can renounce your citizenship of your earthly country, but you cannot wash away the resemblance of God in your essential constitution – your ontology.

Imagine the antelope that says to the lion, “From this day forth I renounce my antelopeness and all things antelopish.” Somehow I am not inclined to believe they would then shake hands and agree an eternal peace. Their enmity is a natural one. It has nothing to do with what either has done to the other, but everything to do with what each is. As creatures so dearly loved by God, we are the natural enemies of the Devil. In the eyes of Satan we will always remain an abhorrent image a God he is sworn to hate. There is no neutrality in the matter.


The Real Issue

The real issue is not that you don’t want to be on either side; the real issue is that you find it difficult to be on the good side. You naturally tend towards sin, towards disappointment, all the while desiring to be righteous and at peace with God. It is the sense of guilt and shame created by this conflict that is the real issue.

Once we realize this, though, we see that it is not God’s fault after all. Those who say that we are automatically plunged into the Great Controversy once we are born by the fiat of God do not consider the reality that sin did not have to dominate our race. God did not create a world in which sin was inevitable… only possible. It may not be your fault that we are naturally depraved, but you certainly cannot blame it on God. That our first parents sinned… and that we do… is proof that God made us truly free. But to argue that doing so guaranteed sin is rather dubious. Don’t forget, there are still countless free, unfallen beings.

And there is no need to be overwhelmed by the guilt of sin, no need to drift hopelessly into the carnal blackhole of moral rebellion. How come? Because once you become aware of the Great Controversy, you also become aware of the Great Protector, Redeemer and Saviour. The lions are still your enemies, but they can never harm you while you abide in Him. They may snarl about you, but in Him you have no need for fear.



Free will remains intact. But the limit of your free will is the sphere of things you can affect. Things you can choose to do or not to do; to say or not to say; places you may or may not choose to go. Free will has no usefulness when it comes to what we are. In other words, we cannot will ourselves into any form of existence, whether inanimate, animal or human. In fact, free will itself is a function of what we are.

You are involved in the Great Controversy simply by virtue of your existence as a human being. You are an exemplar of the good side – the God side – of the controversy. To desire no part in it is to desire to not exist as a human being, unconditionally loved by God. In that you may actually renounce heavenly citizenship. But that will earn you no treaties with the other side. There is literally no fence to sit on. Even then, God is not likely to let you go so easily. And it’s a good thing, because God wins in the end.

[1] Ellen White. Christ’s Object Lessnos. P.

[2] Philippians 2: 6 – 8

[3] Romans 5:8

[4] 1 John 4:19

Agana-Nsiire Agana is a theologian, communicator and writer. His passion is for communicating eternal truth in a contemporary context which is influenced by postmodern, secular thought. The gospel, though unchanging, can and should be expressed in terms of the challenges, philosophy and language of the present day.
  • Dorcas Asante

    I love the fact that God wins in the end.

    • Agana Agana-Nsiire

      So do I :-D!