Richard Dawkins is quite descriptive when he states, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” Interesting.
It’s interesting when an atheist invariably paints God as some sort of cosmic bully, yet they are unable to see His goodness. It’s not a matter of finding a balance between God’s niceness and meanness. God is Love, yet God is Justice. We, as fallen humans, have a tendency to frame the argument from a position of innocence. Can we honestly say that we are innocent?
If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that we are covetous and murderous thieves. Those are strong words, but we must remember that Jesus upped the ante when he said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22 ESV) We choose to indict God when we are guilty rather than to humble ourselves and repent.
Perhaps we want to blame God for our sinful nature. Why would a loving God make us broken, only to cast us into hell? That’s a good question, but God did not make us sinful. He created Adam and Eve without sin. The sin nature of Adam passed to his descendants. We are not direct creations of God like Adam and Eve. We are born of Adam. Sure, there is the Jehoiachin problem, but if it wasn’t for the virgin birth, Jesus would have inherited this sin nature.
We say that God is immoral for upholding His perfect and moral law. The Ten Commandments are so deceptively simple, yet impossible to maintain. Is God immoral because these rules are so hard? No. The Law doesn’t make us bad any more than it makes us good. The Law reveals our inability to be righteous on our own. The Law points us to our Savior. But we reject the Savior.
We say God is immoral when He upholds His impossible laws, yet we are upset when He extends grace to rescue us from our dire situation. We choose to remain dead in our trespasses and blame our Creator for our sins. God then offers us salvation and we have the audacity to call him a tyrant.
It’s interesting how we view and rationalize sin. Sometimes we tell ourselves that God wants us to be happy. To maintain that position we must completely throw out 1 Thessalonians 4:7. Why should we try to be holy, anyway? Joel Osteen sure makes Christianity sound easy with a limp wristed god that will give us a fancy car just so that we will bless him with our presence. How can anyone even want to submit to an impotent god that will shower us with gifts so that we will spend time with him? Oh wait. We don’t. Even people that subscribe to Osteen’s brand of Christianity probably are more concerned with what God will do for them than what God has done for them.
We can fall into another pit when we believe that God made us this way (whatever this way happens to be), so God must be pleased with our current fallen condition. As a matter of fact, since He made us this way, wouldn’t our present condition be more desirable than holiness? I have heard the argument, “I was born gay, therefore God made me this way.” I can just as easily say, “I was was born with a predilection to alcohol, so if I choose to be a drunk it is because God made me this way.” The rapist can cay that they were born with these tendencies, so ultimately, God created the rapist.
If this argument was valid, Paul would have not addressed the Church in Corinth with, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV) So was Paul mistaken when labeling certain people as deviants? Who is right? Are Paul’s words divinely inspired, or should I lean upon my own understanding? (Proverbs 3:5)
I’m also intrigued when someone resorts to pragmatism as a defense to homosexuality. Usually, the argument is meant to divert the attention from homosexuality to adultery. I agree that adultery is sinful and should be addressed, and at least in the case of my church, these matters are dealt with in a biblical manner. Notice that there is no argument that adultery is sinful. When someone who supports homosexuality by equating it with the normalization of adultery, he just admitted that homosexuality is a sin. Otherwise, he would have defended adultery as natural, or preferable, but would not assent to the fact that it is sinful. What was 1 Thessalonians again? The ESV states, “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” That sounds nothing like “adultery isn’t that bad or God reveres homosexual practices.”
From our perspective, we may try to minimize our guilt. Is lying really all that bad? If lying is okay in certain circumstances, then maybe adultery is acceptable. Afterall, illicit sex isn’t really immoral (as long as no one gets hurt and both parties want to engage in sexual deviancy). From there, it’s not a stretch to say that homosexuality is natural, and maybe even more than just an alternative lifestyle. But is this our view of sin or is it God’s view?
The only thing that matters is God’s perspective regarding sin. If sin wasn’t so deadly, we would not have continuous warnings. Paul states, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality,idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions,divisions,envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21 ESV) The issue at hand is not merely homosexuality. The problem is with all sin. We are called to be holy and we will be judged accordingly. All sin is unnatural. They are abominations, yet we try to normalize them because we believe that our feelings are more important than our God.
Today marks five years since my metamorphosis. In my Kafkaesque world, I haven’t developed into something beautiful or desirable like a butterfly, but my devolution can be more appropriately imagined as one who transformed into a cockroach. A stroll from order to disorder. A life of good health that descended into an existence of chronic pain.
Five years ago I underwent a simple elective procedure that changed my life in ways that I had never bargained. I had a vasectomy because I’m not Dick Van Patten and three is enough. After the pain didn’t subside after a few days, I sought the advice from a new urologist. It’s as if I won the lottery as he said my condition is exceedingly rare.
I told him if I had been advised of the possibility of crippling pain I may have avoided a vasectomy altogether. This doctor who performed an epididymectomy in a failed attempt to release me from the pain, made an analogy that made my apparent informed consent conundrum make sense. He humorously told me that there is a small chance I may fall off the operating table in the middle of a procedure, but the odds are so ridiculously small that he doesn’t inform his patients of the risk. I actually thought his response was hilarious.
Notice how I said his attempt to relieve me of my pain was a failure. If we fast forward to the end of the rainbow, I had some experimental procedures and eventually had an orchiectomy. And I still have pain.
Four years ago tomorrow marks the day I was hospitalized for a bleeding ulcer. For weeks prior I periodically woke up in the middle of the night with heartburn and a rotten taste in my mouth. This was the mother of all bad tastes and no amount of mouthwash could make it go away. I didn’t realize I had an ulcer until the morning I started my day with a sinkful of putrified blood. I still went to work because my wife thought I was being a wuss. I was hospitalized that afternoon and enjoyed a nice relaxing four days watching cooking shows while my diet consisted of nothing but broth and apple juice. (I like food so much that I enjoy it even when it is off limits).
I was also recently diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis. It is an autoimmune disorder that is unrelated to my original pain, but it is all too evident on days I’m only able to lurch about in my daily activities.
I completely forgot what today signified until I read Matt Walsh’s latest contribution. I don’t follow the news very closely, but I’m now aware of a woman named Brittany Murphy who has terminal cancer. She is going to commit suicide on November 1. I’ll admit that I have no idea what it would be like to have a bleak future of pain that I cannot even imagine, but I have to agree with Matt Walsh that there is nothing noble in suicide. I have lived with pain everyday for five years. Some days are so excruciating that all I can think about is putting a gun in my mouth. I get it. Pain is horrible and sometimes I don’t know how I will survive another day. Yet, my condition isn’t killing me. I’m 39 and it’s entirely possible that I may live for decades with pain every day.
Walsh made an interesting point regarding euthanasia. The assertion is that this woman is being brave by ending her life to escape the pain and indignity of cancer. If that is true, are people who choose to endure the horrors of cancer until they are removed from this life any less courageous? Or are they cowardly since their choice is the antithesis of Brittany’s brave choice? I only consider this because I live everyday with pain. Am I a coward to endure suffering? As a Christian, I know that suicide is not a viable choice, but if there is a growing consensus for euthanasia, could there be a day when the choice is not mine to make? Mind you, I’m unable to work, so I’m not a productive member of society. Should productivity be a determining factor? Will a day come when “useless” people are exterminated en masse for the benefit of society?
These are big questions that I have no answers for. I was just reminded that today is my anniversary.
The past couple of days have been harrowing as my bones and joints hurt. I don’t know if this is a side effect from my Humira injection Tuesday, or if this is just a novel approach my body is taking to share the joys that are chronic pain. Nevertheless, there are more important things in life than my discomfort. I have spent a lot of time thinking about friendships that I have, or at least perceive I have, and it appears that there are essentially two types of friends. There are those that are genuinely concerned about others (including you and your well-being) and then there are those that are wrapped up in their own little worlds that they cannot be bothered with anything other than their pity party. (I have not forgotten that I have my fair share of pity parties due to my chronic pain. I even had a perpetual pity party once.)
There are no hard and fast rules, but generally speaking, my Christian friends take the time to ask how I’m feeling. They have genuine concern for my health and show concern for others. Most of the time I don’t feel like talking about my ailments as I already have to endure them. I don’t care to suffer them again by discussing them. These are the friends I prefer to surround myself with, though. Who wants to surround themselves with a narcissistic man-child who is financially secure, yet cries himself to sleep because he cannot have his way. (I’m not trying to sound mean, I just have a tendency to be more blunt than usual when I’m in excruciating pain).
This particular friend has no foundational concept of right and wrong as I explored earlier. It’s more of a lack of conviction because he cannot take a stand on any point either out of fear of being wrong or out of hurting someone’s feelings. I also wrote about him in the Fallacy Factory because I was amused by the sheer number fallacies he invoked to support his reasons for discounting Christianity. Everyone has a right to reject Jesus Christ, just reject Him with a well-thought reason instead of rehashed fallacies you read on some half-baked atheist website.
I’m interested in his change in demeanor as I changed from a profane heathen to a Christian. We’ve probably been friends a dozen years or so, and in the years of my binge drinking and erratic behavior as a disc jockey, we got along pretty well. He even attended my wedding in some perfunctory capacity. I’ve always known him as one of the biggest God haters I ever met as he went out of his way to be offensive to anyone with any Christian sensibilities. At that point in my life, I think I just laughed. The subject matter isn’t what was funny, it was the reaction. He could blaspheme God with as much enthusiasm as he could stomp around like a five year old after a pimple-faced teenager forgot to super size his order at the drive thru.
These past five years since my conversion, I have seen a conversion of sorts in him as well. There was the time he “tried” Christianity. I don’t even know what that means. You repent of your sins, you put your trust in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit “will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 ESV) This is not something that you put on like a pair of skinny jeans. Since Christianity was unsuccessful, he has embraced post-modernism wholeheartedly, and all paths lead you to the Supreme Being (a very impersonal name which seems to assail the very personal nature of God). Let me rephrase, “All paths lead to the same place, but not YHWH, or the God of the Bible, because I have read a couple of chapters and found some discrepancies that I refuse to investigate further to see if these are just apparent inconsistencies, or they are actual proof that the Bible is errant.” In short, he has come full circle. He still rejects the one true God.
I think what bothers me is that I poured my life into him and another friend for three years so that hopefully they would come to know the truth of Jesus Christ. This friend spent every opportunity heaping abuse, and even threatened to murder my pastor because I offered to set up a meeting so he could have some of his questions answered. Looking back, it’s quite comical as he was ashamed of his behavior, but he always phrased his apologies as non-apologies.
He would say things like, “Well, things got out of hand and I said things that I shouldn’t have.” Never a simple, “I’m sorry.” It is always a rationalization, and the instant you think you might get to the moment where the friendship can heal, the conversation is deflected. I wonder how my wife would react if I told her some rationalization. When I’m wrong, there is only one thing that can be said: “I’m sorry.”
My other friend that I have spent a lot of time with is moving cross country today. I’m glad for him that he found a new job that pays better. That was the reason I was given. Normally, he would wax poetically about how this new job would help him express himself better, or how he will not have to sell out his convictions, or maybe the perks are better. This time, the pay is better. I have seen him traverse the country in pursuit of more money, more freedom, just more of something. Through my chronic pain, I have been trying to demonstrate that there is more to life than money, or fame, or [insert idol here]. He never even said he was moving for happiness. Only money. We’ve been friends for almost seventeen years and he didn’t have time for a quick lunch before he left. Packing the U-Haul wasn’t something that thrust itself upon him, either. He accepted the job two weeks ago.
I have a number of close friends, but God has burdened my heart with these two jokers. I have changed so much, I don’t think they even like me anymore. Nor do I care. My job isn’t to affirm their lifestyles or faulty belief systems, or to tell them how awesome they are when they do things that are an affront to God. My job is to be salt and light. John MacArthur said, “The world may hate us and persecute us, but the world is absolutely dependent on us being the influence and the verbal manifestation of the Gospel of God.”
I’m reminded of Luke 6:22, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” Maybe their feelings aren’t so caustic. Well, maybe one has destructive feelings with the whole pastor-murder thing. In any event, God still has not lifted my burden of unending physical pain, and He may not free me from these burdens, either. After all, “Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6 ESV) That includes me.
Before I wrote this piece, I spent a lot of time in contemplation and prayer. My intention is not to impugn my friend’s character or beliefs. I have genuine concern for him and hope my words are not misconstrued. This is simply an attempt to understand him better, and at the same time, it has been a great opportunity to consider my own views and the fallacies I cling to. This is an important matter but my arguments are often met with silence. All I can do is assume that my argument is completely valid until I’m shown otherwise.
Have you ever felt like you are wasting your time? I’m not denouncing the integrity of Candy Crush, either. We all know that is not a silly diversion, but is an important application that we use to hone our skills to effectively crush candy. Even burning ants with a magnifying glass carries more import than some discussions into which you may ensnangle yourself. (As far as I know, ensnangle has not found itself into the English lexicon until this moment. You’re welcome.) I’m reminded of something Jesus said that illustrates my quandary. He confesses, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” (Matthew 13:57 ESV) The fruitlessness of sharing the Gospel with people that know you well is apparent.
I have a number of unbelieving friends, but there is one in particular that makes me want to set my hair on fire. There was a time when he was an angry atheist who raged against anyone who exhibited any belief in God. I’m specifically discussing the Judeo-Christian God because I don’t recall any moments where he became unglued at the mention of Brahma, Dagon, Zeus, or any other false deity. He has since completely changed positions since he read some of the Bible. Now, instead of his entertaining conniption fits, discussions are loaded with fallacy upon fallacy. That’s fine, but the moment I call shenanigans the discussion is immediately terminated. (I know that some know me as Captain Fallacy, so before you pick apart my argument, I already know it is probably fallacious. I believe that statement alone is known as the Fallacy Fallacy.)
In a previous post, I explored his argument that people are basically good. You can always find someone more evil than you that makes you look virtuous. It’s an association fallacy known as reductio ad Hitlerum, or the Hitler Fallacy. Nobody thinks the idea of going to hell is very appealing, but if we rationalize our comparative goodness against Hitler’s badness, we might conclude that only Hitler deserves to go to hell. Jesus’ own words dismantle this argument when He said, “No one is good but God alone.” (Luke 18:19 ESV)
In the same discussion, my friend pelted me with the Genetic Fallacy. His belief is that the matter of faith is merely based on geography and the parents’ faith. Essentially, I am a Christian because I was raised by Christians in America (when Christianity began about 2000 years ago after the resurrection of Jesus Christ in Judea.) If we follow this logic, should I not be in Israel or should I hold a belief native to North America? It is true that faith is influenced by geography and family, but that isn’t the point of the Genetic Fallacy. The argument is to subvert any validity of any one faith over another. Instead of boldly rejecting John 14:6, the unbeliever can rely on an error in logic.
He also tells me about his new philosophy of not judging peoples’ beliefs. As you may have guessed, this includes his refusal to “impose” his ideology on others. Is this an act of respect or nescience regarding his own convictions? Perhaps he thinks that truth is relative. If truth is relative, then it doesn’t matter what you believe, so why bother discussing belief systems, right? The Relativist Fallacy is quite popular as people seem to be so unsure about their own beliefs that everyone else’s must be just as valid. In my estimation, nihilism is preferable to the postmodern nonsense in which we are subjected. Let’s reject all principles if our beliefs are so squishy they are not even worth sharing. Additionally, how do we know that judging (or discernment) is inherently wrong? The sheer fact of stating you don’t judge someone’s beliefs is a judgment statement in itself.
Finally, my friend paraded the tour de force of fallacies: he will not submit to God because of the threat of hell. (This is the argumentum ad baculum or the Threat of Force fallacy.) He actually said, “If it results in him facing everlasting damnation, then so be it.” Really? That is a ridiculous conclusion, but Christians have to shoulder some of the blame for perpetuating this argument. He should be afraid of hell as the Bible is clear as to who will go there. John, the author of Revelation, states, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8 ESV) Though true, the eternal damnation argument for those who choose unbelief is not likely to win any beauty contests. We should want to submit to Christ because of His mercy and love for His creation. We should turn to Him out of gratitude, not fear.
What is interesting is that this argument unveils logical inconsistencies. Why is submission to God so loathsome? Submission is not foreign to us. We submit to parents, teachers, the police, the government, etc., but we don’t want to submit to God. Certainly it’s not because He is unworthy as the people we submit to are definitely flawed, and in some cases, may not even deserve submission, but we do so anyway.
If we choose defiance over compliance to basic demands such as following the speed limit, are there repercussions? We are threatened with consequences, and most of us choose compliance. I, however, choose to reject authority and am inclined drive 55 mph in a school zone. Will there be consequences? I’ll have to pay a hefty fine. Again, I am determined to defy The Man and I refuse to pay the ticket. That won’t work because the police will track me down and throw me in the hoosegow. My rejection of authority did not nullify the consequences.
The same is true with God. We have sinned against Him and we have a fine to pay. We can allow Jesus Christ to pay our fine for us, or we can pay the fine ourselves by going to hell. Unbelief in God is a sin that condemns an individual to hell, but even if we set that one sin aside, we still have to answer for a lifetime of sin. Yet we still insist that we are good when, in fact, we are utterly depraved. Paul said it best in his letter to Corinth, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)
Life is much easier when you can pick up your toys and go home. I can be defiant by withholding the Gospel. It saves me grief. I can shorten my prayer list. Besides, my friend is intelligent. He might figure it out. He might embrace the cross. He might not. Even Penn Jillette, an atheist, believes it is exceedingly unloving for a believer to withhold the Gospel. He states, “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” Jillette’s appeal to emotion may be fallacious, but that doesn’t abrogate our responsibility to share the Gospel.
It’s interesting how people like to place limits on the sovereignty of God. It is something that is impossible, because if God has limited authority, He is not sovereign. Yet, some are not comfortable with the idea of a sovereign God. You can see this as books of the Bible are ignored, concepts such as justice are glossed over, and you are left with a spiritless, plastic, bumper sticker god. The bumper sticker says, “God is Love,” or more appropriately, “god is love.”
What is interesting with “do it yourself” religion is that you can add or subtract components to make your faith truly unique. God does some pretty scary stuff and the Bible promises some scary stuff for unbelievers, so it is easy to dismiss the Wrath of God because it sounds mean. Now that eternal punishment is off the table we are free to do as we wish. At least that’s what we want to believe.
Let’s assume that this bumper sticker is true. Does it mean that God is only love? Or is He more? What about righteousness? What about justice? What about mercy?
As I was exploring this concept I focused on 1 John 4. It’s very compelling that the first verse of the chapter exhorts the reader to test the spirits as there are many false prophets. Nevertheless, we are adhering to the assertion that “God is Love.” One noteworthy verse mirrors John 3:16. It states, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9 ESV) Is this saying that we all will live through Jesus? It says we might. John 3:16 was also a conditional statement. The verse doesn’t say that everyone will have eternal life, but “whoever believes in Him.” So we are left with two groups of people: those who believe, and those who do not. So far, I don’t see evidence of unconditional love.
If believers will have eternal life, what happens to the unbelievers? John 3:18 leaves no room for interpretation when it says “whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” If we take the Bible seriously, how can we synthesize this with our newfound belief that “God is Love?” We can’t.
I read a post recently that said God cannot execute wrath because it is sinful. I searched the Bible to find if there was scripture where someone might come to that conclusion. Granted, it is a stretch to use the Bible to assail God’s character at all, but if we believe that God loves unconditionally, we can believe whatever we want.
Colossians 3 teaches the believer to seek Christ, not his sinful nature. It also mentions God’s wrath. But is His wrath sinful? In verses 5-8, the reader is advised to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:5-8 ESV) In one short passage we have God’s wrath and man’s wrath. But are they the same?
To learn the original intent it is best to read it in the original language. Regarding God’s wrath, the Greek word is όργή (I’m aware the markings aren’t quite right, I just can’t figure out how to type them). This is #3709 in Strong’s Concordance and it defines this word as fixed, controlled, a passionate feeling against sin. Man’s wrath is θυμόν in Greek. This is #2372 in Strong’s Concordance and is defined as rage which is a flaw not present when the Lord expresses intense anger. We see that God’s wrath is controlled and purposefully executed without sin. Man’s wrath is not righteous, rather it is an impulsive fury.
God is Love. But is that all He is? He is also Just. God could be a Just Judge and be unloving. He could be like the Pharisees and carry out the Law to the letter. God cannot be Love and not be Just, though. It seems counterintuitive, but if you love someone you also hold them accountable. This is what people don’t like. Accountability. We want to sin as we please but we don’t want to reap the consequences. The consequences are real. The Bible says, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV) “And such were some of you.” Paul was addressing true believers who repented of their sins.
We all worship a god. Do you worship materialism? Do you worship a god that turns a blind eye to sin? Do you celebrate a god that affirms a sinful lifestyle, like the god of this age? Or do you worship the Living God of the Bible who detests sin? 2 Peter 3:9 says that God is patient so that we can come to repentance. This is where people quote John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” I agree with that statement wholeheartedly, but are we loving if we avow or even encourage a sinful lifestyle? That is most unloving as we are spreading lies from hell when we promote happiness over holiness.