Friday, September 21, 2007

The Offensive God

I spend much of my time thinking about irrational kinds of faith. The reason being that Biblical Christian faith is completely rational. It is evidential. This is not to say that everyone believes the evidence. But facts are just facts whether anyone accepts them or not.

It is like not believing that the Declaration of Independence was ratified on July 4, 1776. Fine. Don’t believe it. Make up a conjectural story of how it came about. Rant and rave and stomp your foot and insist that your conjecture is “history”, that is is “scientific”. That people who take the document literally are “Neanderthals.” You might persuade a lot of people. You might get your view taught in the school system to the exclusion of the historical, documented, position. By only allowing one view to be taught, and by castigating, excluding, or firing those who present the evidence against your position, eventually your little story may come to be accepted as true “because so many people believe it.”

But your little story is just that. You might as well include “The Three Little Pigs” in a textbook outlining the history of home architecture. Your little story is not true. The documentation and the principles of evidence are all against you. The “faith” in the historical events stated in the document (The Declaration) is a rational, evidential faith. The “faith” in your little story is contra-rational and contra-evidential. It is the kind of faith that Mark Twain meant when he said that faith is believing in something that you know damn good and well is not so. He actually aimed this little remark at Christianity. It actually applies to all of Christianity's rivals including Evolutionism (which is a faith).

The particular belief that I though about this morning while I was doing some patient related task, was the Atheist belief, or the Atheist Faith. I was listening to someone say that human suffering is one of the strongest arguments atheists use to show there is no God. But that only amounts to saying there is no god like the one they imagine there would be if they were God.

An aside: This complaint assumes there is something wrong in the world. But if the Atheist believes that there is no Creator, and that the world is just the product of random chance events over time, then it he can’t say something is wrong. He would just have to say something is. But there would be no distinction about things being right or wrong in any sense. Some atheists have tried to argue for morals starting from their position. But these arguments are only circular reasonings that come out to pragmatism. So there is no difference, absolutely, in whether I help a crippled person or kill him. What ever is expedient to the person who has the most power is “right” at that moment for that person.

So, back to my thought, if one rejects the Atheist proposition and concludes the obvious, that there is an all powerful, all wise Creator, then what does the existence of human suffering say about Him?

If we are, as the Bible says, rebels against God, unclean, unthankful, sinful, evil in the very core of our nature, then the answer should be repugnant to us.

And it is!

The Biblical answer is that these things are an expression of God’s wrath. They are perfectly just. God is not giving anyone any grief that is not the just portion of every one of Adam’s children. In this light, what does all the good and beauty in the world say about this God? It says that He is merciful, and that for the most part, He is holding His wrath in patience. The suffering that appals us is both a warning of wrath to come, and an opportunity to do righteousness on God’s behalf.

The fact that this answer wins no popularity contest is an indication that it is true. “There is none righteous, no, not one, there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone away, they are together become unprofitable, the poison of asps is under their lips. Their feet are swift to shed blood, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” Yep, that’s me. It’s us. All of us. How unflattering. And if we don’t admit it, we are also liars.

However, the scripture goes on to say that although the wages of sin is death -- the loss of eternal life, the free gift of God is eternal life in the world to come through the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. (All of the above paraphrased from Romans chapter 3.)

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