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.
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.
We live in a world where everyone is hypersensitive and we expect everyone to be nonoffensive. That sounds great. Who wants to be offended anyway? These expectations have culminated into full-on demands where it appears that nobody is permitted to have an opinion about anything. At least no one is permitted to have a dissenting opinion.
Where did this come from? Generally speaking, there are two positions: right and wrong. Left and right. Up and down. Creation and evolution. Abortion and pro-life. Gay and straight. Maybe my memory is failing, but wasn’t there a time where you could hold a view contrary to another and not be labeled as a hater?
Our society used to have a sense of right and wrong. Now, we embrace some distorted pluralist view that there is no absolute right and wrong, or worse, it doesn’t even matter. I recently had a religious discussion with a friend. I was explaining how pluralism does not apply to Christianity as Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) It’s pretty straightforward. Either it is true or false. You agree or disagree. He easily could have said, “You’re wrong.” It would have been refreshing to receive such an honest response. Even saying, “I don’t know” would have been acceptable in this case.
Instead, I received some vapid postmodern double-speak. I still don’t know what to think of it. His response was something like this: “I have searched and am no closer to knowing if God is real or not [fair enough], but the First Amendment guarantees everyone freedom of religion and I’ll defend that 100%.” That’s like saying, “I don’t know if you like Cocoa Puffs, but let’s think about the Monroe Doctrine.” I know why he brought up the First Amendment, but it had nothing to do with the conversation at hand. Let’s leave the fallacies to the professionals, please.
I can understand if someone is unsure of their religious views. It is a very lofty subject that has eternal implications. I also agree that freedom of religion is terrific, but the First Amendment was piggybacked onto the former statement which only confounded the issue. I asserted that John 14:6 is true, and instead of telling me I’m wrong, I get some noble Voltaire-ish rhetoric, except the quote that is misattributed to Voltaire begins with, “I disapprove of what you have to say…” There is a judgment statement attached to it. Instead, let’s not judge because truth is relative, or more appropriately, truth is irrelevant, and I’ll defend it anyway.”
Whaaaat? This is an exercise in absurdity. There is no truth. There is no falsehood. It’s all immaterial. I’m reminded of the Esurance commercial when the lady exclaims, “That’s not how any of this works!” This isn’t mere apathy, it’s propping up the virtue of ignorance.
“That’s not how any of this works.”
We aren’t discussing ice cream flavors. These are important matters! Is Jesus the only way? Is abortion murder? Are Trix really for kids? You can’t give a neutral response and wrap yourself up in your Enlightenment superhero cape. In a world where far too many refuse to take a position of consequence, it is admirable to encounter someone who has the courage to take a stance even if he is in peril of being wrong.