Earlier this week, I had an interesting discussion with a very intelligent guy who simply does not get my Christian faith. In fact, he is driven to oppose it. We had a great discussion. What stood out starkly afterwards is that the God he opposes is not the God I’ve come to know.
“More atheist than agnostic, but leaving a crack in the door” is how my friend (I’ll call Tom) describes himself. He has a lot of problems with the God of scripture. Why would God be so petty and authoritarian? The Bible describes events that simply cannot happen. How can the world be a perfect creation when nature is so full of flaws? If “God” made the universe, why would such an infinite being be so concerned with me [my conduct]?
These are awesome questions. Questions are good. The prospects of seeing someone find God seem dimmest when there are no questions. That last question is straight from scripture:
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4
Notice, even though the question is essentially the same, the viewpoint of the one asking is substantially different. The Psalmist, David, is wondering why the Creator so intimately cares for us. My friend, Tom, seems to wonder why God would hate us so much.
This nuance is the essential mistake of men. We accuse God of wrongdoing. (Ironic, since right and wrong exist because of God’s authority to establish and define right and wrong.) What I call the salvation click occurs when this incorrect assessment of God is turned on its head in our mind and heart and we realize the Psalmist was right. God LOVES us. He created the whole universe, but he LOVES us.
Why do we accuse God? God made everything. He knows how everything works. He knows the outcome before an action takes place.
We accuse God because he is infinite and perfect and we’re not. We don’t want to hear “cursed is the ground because of you.” We don’t want to hear that a single bad choice leads to destruction. Who wants to be condemned?
God does not make mistakes though. He thought it was important enough to make a world, put us in it, and give us free will, despite the repercussions. He knew in advance what would happen. If he had left things there, then he might indeed be the horrible God my friend Tom seems to think lives in the Bible. Instead, the infinite creator planned to become one of us and save you from death because he LOVES you.
The thing with scripture is there are lots of things that could not possibly happen without an actual infinite being entering the equation. No sun, no moon until day four? Not possible. Stopping the sun in the sky for hours while a battle completes? Not possible. Surviving a fiery furnace, virgin birth, walking on water, rising from the dead? Not possible.
Creation came to be at the spoken word of God. God is not subject to its rules and he can manipulate them or ignore them at his discretion. Thus is the end of all scientific understanding whenever God enters events. Except for one thing… while God himself cannot be seen directly, we can observe his actions. Further, we have the Bible as a historical record from witnesses that claims to be a message from God. And God is not limited at communicating in other specific ways to each of us. We can compare the claims about him with what we ourselves observe.
The cross is the ultimate expression of God’s personal, direct love for us.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-25
So what is left to disdain about God? Is it really too hard to believe that God loves us this much? Perhaps it is the fact that God left us with the freedom and responsibility to make a choice. It doesn’t seem like much of a choice when destruction is the alternative. But maybe the one who is infinite is wiser than the finite. He can project the outcome before the choice. The motivation is love, not domination. What interest would God have in dominating man?
1 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory
above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!