A true tragedy within contemporary culture is the great amount of people, some even claiming to be Christians, who do not understand the character of God. In some cases, their animosity does not seem to be based in mere misunderstanding, but in strategy. Willingly or unwittingly, they create gods of their own choosing, what I will call Straw gods (small “g”). Like straw man arguments, these ideas are formed in order to defeat a god who is fallible, limited, not all-powerful, not holy, or all-knowing. Below, I would like to give a few examples of just such questions or statements that confuse a Straw god with the God of the Bible, explain the inherent problems with them, and even try to answer them in a way that will not support their faulty premises. To do that, I will humbly borrow the theological gravitas of Arthur W. Pink and his book, “The Attributes of God”, from which I will quote extensively.
Before we begin, I want my readers to know that I sampled these questions from various atheist/ Christian Facebook groups. These are real questions that should demonstrate to us the magnitude of our culture’s inability to understand who our Good Good Father is.
Question #1. Shouldn’t a god who commits mass murder be held accountable?
The answer is yes. But a god who commits mass murder cannot be the God of the bible. The questioner, here, posits a Straw god who can be convicted of a crime (murder) and then be held accountable for said crime. The holiness of this god is called into question, as well as his sovereignty. One is moved to ask if this god that isn’t all good or all powerful or all moral is worthy of our praise? Truly, the one named in this question is not.
The Bible tells us that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John1:5). Certainly, a being without darkness would not be a murderer. Such diabolical claims are most often made in relation to Old Testament commands to utterly destroy enemies of Israel, punishing them for their grave disobedience. Either way, it is our sinful world that deserves God’s punishment. Punishment, not murder. These deaths occurred due to the despicable things done to one another and done to a people who had been warned, but remained in direct rebellion against their creator. Pink explains:
“Because God is holy he hates all sin. . . It follows, therefore, that he must necessarily punish sin. Sin can no more exist without demanding his punishment than without requiring his hatred of it. God has often forgiven sinners but he never forgives sin; and the sinner is only forgiven on the ground of Another having borne his punishment . . .” (page 54)
Other times, questioners may conflate the existence of natural disasters, like hurricanes and tsunamis, with a murderous god. After all, aren’t God’s decrees the “counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11). The problem here is that these “acts of God” seem to be the only acts attributed to Him. Isn’t a beautiful warm summer day an act of God? A cool refreshing breeze? Rain for the farmer’s crops? But when we see an event happen that, with our limited knowledge, we deem to be negative, doesn’t it seem that these are the only acts God must be responsible for? Pink offers:
“O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to children of men” (Ps. 107:8). Gratitude is the return justly required from the objects of his beneficence; yet it is often withheld from out great Benefactor simply because his goodness is so constant and so abundant. It is lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the common course of events. It is not felt because we daily experience it.” (page 77)
A page earlier Pink talks about examples of God’s goodness revealed in our human experiences:
“With comparatively rare exceptions, men and women, experience a far greater number of days of health than they do of sickness and pain. There is much more creature happiness than creature-misery in the world. Even our sorrows admit of considerable alleviation, and God has given to the human mind a pliability which adapts itself to circumstances and makes the most of them.” (page 76)
Truth is, the proof of God’s eternal goodness cannot not be explained by the results of a temporary existence. Exiting the material world does not mark the end of the human experience of those who love God.
Still, they will call Him a murderer or genocidal. If we are to accept this characterization of our Good Good Father, we also must ask ourselves the following questions:
How is it possible for the creator of the morality to be immoral since immorality is a deficiency of perfect morality? It is not. God is the maximal Being. He cannot exhibit traits that are not perfect.
By what standard can we judge a being who made us? It is one thing to pass judgement upon someone who resides on our same footing, a coworker, friend, or neighbor, but it is an entirely different story to act as judge over a being of infinite perfection.
The question then asks shouldn’t God be held accountable. Whom could He possibly be held accountable to? If there is one, to which, our God could be held accountable, that being would then be God.
We, as believers, rejoice in the fact that our holy God has absolute authority over creation. Clearly, the Straw god in question #1 is about one that is unholy and not good and without authority.
Question #2. Why would a loving God send anyone to hell?
So the Straw god put forth is one that cannot reconcile his loving nature with his nature of wrath. This is not the God of the Bible worshiped by Christians. According to His word (1 John 4:8, Ps. 7:11), God is all loving and yet the wrath of God is another perfect facet of his Divine character. To infer otherwise, as this question does, misunderstands both attributes.
In his book, mentioned above, Pink lists several qualities related to His perfect love and makes the point that “it is not simply that God ‘loves’, but that He is love (1John 4:8). Love is not merely one of his attributes, but His very nature” (page 98). So because He is love and He is sovereign, infinite, holy, immutable, and gracious, it stands to reason that so is His love.
After having defined God as love itself, the skeptic might propose that His reaction to the rebellion by His creation to His face should also be loving, which is in keeping with his identity. To this, I would say that God’s response to those violating the law is wholly loving. His response is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Folks that are moved to respond to this supremely loving act are saved, given eternal life. For those who are unmoved by Him, He respects their will to remain separated from His presence. Moreover, “How could he who is the Sum of all excellency look with equal satisfaction upon virtue and vice, wisdom and folly?” (page 106) In other words, how should a being whose every nature is perfect respond to what is “impure and vile”? Wouldn’t not judging evil be, in fact, unloving and violate His divine character? In effect, wouldn’t it also be a “moral blemish” attributed to a morally perfect God? Pink says, “Indifference to sin is a moral blemish, and he who hates it not is a moral leper” (page 106).
Clearly, in order for God to be God, He must be able to reconcile all his Divine characteristics. That is the Good Good Father that deserves our worship.
Question #3. Can’t god get rid of evil?
It should be noted that often the same skeptic who has asked questions #1 and 2, at another time, may turn around and ask question #3. Which creates a no-win situation. One where God can neither punish evil or let evil reside without accusation. And clearly, if this questioner is one that adheres to materialist belief, it should be asked of them how their concept of evil is grounded, since if material is all that exists, they cannot possibly believe in such a thing as evil in the first place.
But back to the subject. The question is really the first part of a famous quote of ancient philosopher Epicurus:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?” Of course, He is able. Pink opens his chapter entitled “The Power of God” with this:
“We cannot have a right conception of God unless we think of him as all-powerful, as well as all-wise. He who cannot do what he will and perform all his pleasure cannot be God. As God hath a will to resolve what he deems good, so has he the power to execute his will.” (page 58)
It’s really this simple. Any god who is limited in any way cannot be the God of the Bible. The question most people get hung up on, and I suppose rightly so, is why He would allow evil. Please remember though that with His power, as Pink comments, comes wisdom. God is not like a bully on the playground who does not know his own strength. He has reasons, perfect reasons, even though we do not know what they are at every moment. But, ask yourself, why would we know the absolute motivations of a perfect being when we are as we are? We are woefully dependent upon Him and His providence.
Admittedly, the information above does not prove or serve as evidence for the existence of God. It is to serve as somewhat of a guide for your conversations with seekers or non-believers about our Good Good Father. With this culture war, we cannot allow skeptics to reintroduce the Him as a less than perfect being. We must defend the true God of the Bible, instead of the Straw god promoted by a secularist culture whom is simply set up to fail.