Friday, 29 December 2006

Criticisms of God's Character

In my discussions with atheists, several have referred to God as “arrogant, paranoid, egomaniacal, egotistical, schizophrenic”, or as possessing some other disparaging characteristics. This is an interesting point of view that I would like to examine.

The first thing we must assume, of course, for purposes of this discussion, is that God does indeed exist, for how can something non-existent possess the attributes these people ascribe to Him. If the belief of people applying such personality traits to Him is that He does not exist, the argument stops there. There is no point in continuing. However, if this is the case, there is still the question of what kind of delusional people consign even negative traits to something they don’t believe exists. On the other hand, if He’s not real, but just a nice thought, a human invention, something to keep us comfortable and about whom believers are deluded, then why do people become so angry at Him.
When people object to God, I think what they are really objecting to is the idea of God, not God Himself. Either they do not believe He exists, or they do not know Him. If they do not know Him, how can they object to Him so passionately. If they did know Him, they would not carry on as vehemently as they do.

Now, either a Supreme Being exists or doesn’t. Merely for traditional purposes will I refer to God as ‘He’. In fact, God in His true existence is surely beyond gender, or even beyond pronouns, at least any pronoun ever conceived by the mind of man. But let’s assume, hypothetically, for the sake of argument that the God of the Bible does exist.

So let’s say this God is sovereign and all-powerful (which He would have to be, or else what would be the point in having Him at all). He wouldn’t be much of a Supreme Being if He weren’t. The Creator must, after all, be greater than His creation. If He created the universe, the world, and everything in it, then He would get to set the rules. We could not apply our puny human standards to Him. He would answer to no one. He would be accountable to no other person or being. We cannot measure God by our standards, because His are infinitely greater than ours. If He created the world and set every one of us in it, and if He then said, “Do as I say”, surely we would have no just cause for complaint if we refused to do as He said and then suffered the consequences of our refusal. God’s standards apply to us, not the other way around. If God declares that a person or people must be punished because of their rejection of Him or His principles, so be it. It’s not as if He’s being unfair about it; everyone has had plenty of warning. Everyone has been made aware of the rules. Everybody has made his or her own choice. All are without excuse (Rom 1:20). The trouble these critics have is that they are attempting to apply their standards to Him. A god who was compelled to live by our standards would be a wimp, and completely irrelevant.

I hear someone saying, ”What about all the children, and other innocent people who died in the OT?” First of all, I happen to believe in an age of accountability and I think there’s a good biblical argument for it. I don’t believe God will allow anyone unjustly to endure an eternity of suffering who has not the opportunity or ability to make a choice for or against Him. What about the children then? Well, if they are in heaven with Him, they are in a far better place than if they had stayed here on earth. Who knows what kind of a life of suffering was spared those children who were taken in their childhood. If God is the God we believe in, He knows what is best and humans don’t. Again, if there is a Heaven, anyone who dies and goes there is in a better place. And because existence in Heaven continues for eternity, what little suffering occurs here on earth is minuscule and pales in comparison with what awaits. On the other hand, if there is no Heaven, if death is the end of all existence, then what does it matter whether we live here for ten or twenty or thirty or even a hundred years. When it’s over, it’s over and that’s that. The death to birth ratio is and always has been, one to one. Nobody gets out of here alive. If heaven exists it is a far more wonderful place than here. If it doesn’t, what does it matter? If you don’t believe that, then you don’t have that same hope I do. In fact, you don’t have any hope at all.

What about other innocents, someone may ask? Believe me, no one “innocent” will perish. “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25b) Many of us see goodness, morality and proper behaviour in our relations one to another. God sees these things in relation to Himself. Murder, theft, adultery, et al are wrong, not because people thought them not nice, or even because they go against the “Golden Rule”, which, after all, came from Him in the first place. They are wrong because He said they are wrong. No one is truly innocent.

I wonder, do these diagnoses of a god with various psychological disorders arise out of a professional examination, or are they merely ‘verbal flailing’ out of a sense of anger for whatever reason; perceived injustice, personal disappointment, or just thinking it unfair to have to be accountable to any thing greater or higher than oneself? Every true law carries consequences for non-compliance, even, indeed especially, the laws of God.

Like an ant shaking its fist defiantly in the face of an elephant; like a person standing on a railway track, daring a speeding train to run him down, convinced it would be very unfair of the train to do so; like a person convinced that the law of gravity is unfair, and so assuming the right to step off the top of a high building with impunity, and cursing the law when it makes no exemption for him, these critics are merely spitting into the face of a hurricane. One can only shake one’s head at the futility and foolishness of it all.

Even God Himself is probably amused, in fact, I’m sure He is. (Ps 2:4)

Take Care

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