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Here’s my answer to this week’s challenge:
It is as common today as it was in Isaiah’s time, for people to shake their fist at God. What if we didn’t have the Bible that tells us God does care for mankind, but that God really did create us for His pleasure to torture, kill, bring diseases, etc., and there was no mercy? Or if evolution is true, you’re pretty much in the same boat anyway—whatever circumstances bring—well, that’s life! You would do whatever it takes to bring yourself as much comfort and pleasure as possible—regardless of what you have to do to get it in this world. It’s only with what the Bible tells us, that He’s merciful, cares for humanity, and hates sinful behavior. We have His actions towards His creation documented, and He does whatever it takes to rid the world of the sin that destroys His creation— in His time, and when and where He chooses. If He wanted to create Adam and Eve, and kill them the next day, that would be His choice, and He’s the one who gives us the mind to even think there’s anything wrong with that! We are in HIS image—don’t try to make Him into our image. He’s God—-we’re not! It’s the unbelief, rebellious heart, that the Bible predicts would occur, as it did over and over in the O. T. after he brought blessings and the “good life” to His people. It’s now happening to the U. S. A., very rapidly. Rebellion is contagious, as the enemy, the spirit of this world, captures the hearts and minds of many.
I think the grounding issue is kinda irrelevant. If the person posing the question adopts atheism or some other naturalistic view in place of theism, then I would press the issue. But I don’t think this is a necessary assumption. The person could be a vague kind of deist for all we know. Or it could be a former Christian gone apostate because he couldn’t trust a God like the one portrayed. That would make this an internal question for us Christians.
I would say that the views of the other person should remain irrelevant, unless asked or already given or already known, and the point about moral grounding should be discarded. I mean, I think it’s an important question, but not one that needs to assume the questioner is a naturalist of some sort. This is more of someone from the outside, looking in and saying “Wait, that kinda doesn’t make sense.”
I mean, look at the wording, “how could YOU believe” “even if I thought he were real” “YOU do follow him” “he’s commanding YOU” He’s pointing to an internal problem, and I think that’s the real thrust of the argument.
I am a Christian, don’t wanna give off the wrong impression.
You bring up an important distinction, Adrian. This objection COULD be raised as an internal conceptual problem for the Christian worldview but it would have to be stated something like this: “The Christian conception of morality includes law A, B, and C. The Christian God violates those laws. Therefore, there is an internal contradiction in the Christian worldview.” This kind of challenge attempts to point out a logical contradiction in a particular system of thought. And you’re right, if this kind of challenge is being offered, the other objector’s views are completely irrelevant. Further, if the argument succeeds, it renders your system impossible, so arguments dealing with logical coherence are powerful. However, their strength is also their weakness because the defender of Christianity only has to show there is no contradiction and NOT that the particular worldview is true.
However, notice how this week’s challenge was stated: “The God of the Bible is a monster. How could you possibly believe in a God that commands genocide…” This is not merely an attempt to show a logical contradiction within Christianity. The claims entail a particular view of morality. To say God is a moral monster is to assume some moral standard by which to measure God’s action. So this person is committed to some moral system and therefore, it’s legitimate to raise the grounding question.
The author of life has the right to take life. Taking into account the abundant iniquity of mankind it seems to me that the question is not why God ended the life of these peoples. Rather, the question is why we are still here. In order to understand God’s love one has to grasp God’s justness.
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One thing I’m afraid of when saying God can take life (or take life back) when He wants is that some people who hear that may have lost someone precious to them and it could come off as terribly cold and unsympathetic. I can’t empathize with those who have had terrible things happen to them or lost loved ones and I have no idea how I’d react to God when those things happen. These things are easy for me to say now, but what will I think when I lose a loved one tragically? I’m not sure what stories other people on this blog have, but I bet there’s much greater wisdom in this area that I have.
I realize I’m talking about something personal and individual, whereas this challenge is more about large scale acts done in the past, but it’s a thought that struck me.
I’m one who would say they’re right for asking the question. Brett, when you say they ask unfair questions, I disagree. How could a person not ask such a question? How could a Christian not ask about God punishing children for the sins of their fathers or God punishing the innocent in place of the guilty? These are proper questions.
To be fair the answers we usually give are based on our perception of how we understand God and none of us totally agrees on that. We all approach the text from a certain point of view and there lies a great dilemma.
To illustrate, suppose the following:
A jihadist comes to your door with explosives packed and strapped to his vest; he holds a detonator in one hand and a Quran in another. And suppose that you answer the door to be greeted with greeting and exhortation to join Islam. Now I believe it’s proper for the person at the door to ask “Why?”. The Jidadist might give a reason like – Because Allah is great and compassionate.
Now is it proper and right for the person to ask him how Allah is compassionate and yet very violent? Why would anyone just accept the proposition to follow Allah if in fact he claims that killing your neighbor and loving them are all part of his commands? So the Jihadist answers “you’re a cancer if you don’t and thus I’m doing right/justice and something loving overall”.
At this point we would argue – but your text is not true but ours is. And that is where we Christians need to be learned on – WHY IS OUR TEXT TRUE.
The problem I see with Dawkins and such objections isn’t that the questions are unfair – morally grounding issue, but rather understanding how he interprets scripture and has he ever thouht that Christians often are mis-interpreting the message of God themselves. Even if Atheists don’t have grounds for morality, that does not make our propositions true.
Like the Jihadist at the door, we Christians need to be more into the word of God and MEDITATING on it day and night – thinking and praying about God’s word. When we come to this place of being honest and open, I think we find our objections are not so different.
This leads us to a fork in the road:
Either we will become like the Jihadist who accepts that Allah’s word is true and therefor he cannot allow his human intuition to guide him away from the truth – leading him to hitting the detonator.
We question our understanding of the text, humble ourselves, and ponder the possibility that we might not be reading the text correctly (including our pastors/philosophers/theologians).
I love Christian Philosophers for this reason. Men like Plantinga, Craig, Wells and Talbott to me all exemplify what it is to come to the text in real ways. And I have never seen any of them get angry or condascending at people for what they believe. They simply attack the logic where they see it fail BUT they allow for hard questions and give the best possible answers in hopes WE ALL might learn something.
My guess is we do believe God is both Violent (hateful) and Compassionate (loving). Leading us to explain to the world – What does is mean God loves me if he can also hate me? So we explain – “no, God loves you – but he might just kill you and your baby because you’re a terrible cancer.” And we find we’re not that different from the Jihadist.
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