Kind And Merciful Or Harsh And Cruel?


Mural_painting_celebrating_Pol_PotOne of my favorite blogs is InsanityBytes. Recently a commenter there said he was “appalled” at “the deity himself.”

This is typical of those who claim God doesn’t exist. I’m not sure why they find it necessary to declare God to be “destructive” even as they say He doesn’t exist.

However, that tactic is true to the leading atheists of the day, men like Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens who referred to God as a tyrant.

Since these atheists don’t believe there is any evidence that God exists, I’m not sure it’s worthwhile to refute the appalling, destructive, tyrant accusations. But perhaps someone uncertain about what they believe might be alerted to the error of this thinking.

As an aside, I also want to mention that “no evidence that God exists” argument is circular in nature. One line of thinking goes like this. Christians can’t prove that God even exists. They say that Jesus came to earth as God in the flesh, but all they have to support that idea is His followers. They say His resurrection from the dead is evidence of His divinity, but nobody has been raised from the dead before, so why should we believe this unrepeatable event? And again, documentation. Evidence. Followers don’t count. So called eyewitnesses don’t count. Changed lives don’t count. In fact, everything you present as evidence doesn’t count because it presupposes the supernatural. And the supernatural doesn’t exist.

So, in reality the atheist has formed his position by saying, God doesn’t exist because the supernatural doesn’t exist.

Further, he dismisses one time events such as the virgin birth and Christ’s resurrection from the dead because they are impossible by natural law. Christians agree. Yes, those things are impossible naturally, but God can do the impossible. The atheist is left with only one option: deny that these miraculous events took place. Deny the book that records them. Mock and belittle people that believe them.

Back in February 2012, I wrote a response to those who leveled accusations against God that He is actually malevolent instead of good and kind and merciful. I thought it might be worth posting revised and an edited version of it today.

One argument against the “a good God wouldn’t do that” accusation leveled by atheists and some progressives against the God of the Bible is that God isn’t guilty of condoning sinful acts or thoughts or wishes simply because those appear in the Bible.

But what about the acts God not only condones but orders which seem unduly harsh, even cruel? Most often those making this accusation have in mind something like God’s command to Saul to wipe out all the Amalekites.

For someone who thinks suicide bombers or Jeffrey Dahmer or Pol Pot should not face judgment for their acts against their fellow man, I have no answer. For those who believe it’s right to hold people accountable for the harm they perpetrate, then it’s simply a matter of looking at history to understand God’s command.

The Amalekites were the terrorists of the day—a people who harassed Israel on their way out of Egypt, sniping at the stragglers who were “faint and weary.” We can surmise the people under attack, those at the back of the company, would be the elderly, the sick, and perhaps the young. For this act, which was also connected to their dismissal of God’s authority over them (see Deut. 25:18-19), they were judged.

They had some two hundred years to repent, make amends with Israel, turn to God and forsake their idols, before God brought judgment. In fact God showed great restraint and patience in dealing with them. But they did not turn from their wicked ways, so they received God’s judgment.

There are two primary reasons God gives for judging a people: 1) they are oppressing others; 2) they have taken a stand against Him.

Psalm 146:7-9 illustrates the former.

[God] executes justice for the oppressed;
[God] gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free.
The LORD opens the eyes of the blind;
The LORD raises up those who are bowed down;
The LORD loves the righteous;
The LORD protects the strangers;
He supports the fatherless and the widow,
But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

Clearly God is for the oppressed, which means He stands against the oppressor. For this, people today judge Him. In part it’s in ignorance, but it’s also an assumption–Man is good, so these ancient peoples were innocent victims of a God wanting to wipe them out.

They were not innocent.

Of course, none of us is innocent. None of us deserves to live, and in fact we won’t keep living. We will pay with our lives for the guilt that clings to us. Apart from God’s mercy, we will also pay with our souls. (But thanks be to God who sent His Son to rescue us).

Which brings up the second reason God judges people: He repays those who hate Him (see Deut. 7:10). Their hatred is most often shown in their idol worship, but also in their treatment of other people—orphans, widows, strangers on one hand and God’s people on the other.

Interestingly, God most often gives those who are against Him what they want. He lets them experience the consequences of their own actions:

Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. His mischief returns upon his own head (Ps. 7:14-16a, English Standard Version – emphasis added)

The bottom line, I believe, is this: those who hate God can’t accept the fact that He is their judge. They don’t want a judge, any judge, but particularly one who is righteous, as the Bible reveals God to be. See the following, for example:

  • “God is a righteous judge” – Psalm 7:11a
  • “In righteousness He judges and wages war” – Rev. 19:11b
  • “[Christ] kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” – 1 Peter 2:23b
  • “For I, the LORD, love justice . . . and I will faithfully give them their recompense” – Isaiah 61:8a

Those of us who accept God as the one who rightly and righteously judges all He has made, trust His judgment.

Of course, God’s judgment gets muddled with pain and suffering. Suffice it to say for the sake of this discussion, that not all pain, suffering, and death is a particular judgment handed down by God. Job’s children, for example, didn’t die as a result of God’s judgment.

So the question, is God kind and merciful or harsh and cruel, hinges upon the understanding of Him as a just judge. Someone being oppressed who He rescues, someone lost who He finds, sees Him clearly as abundantly kind and merciful.

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Published in: on January 5, 2018 at 6:09 pm  Comments (9)  
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Whose World Is It? Part 1


I know I won’t get far in this topic in this post. I’ve been putting off bringing it up because it’s pointy and layered. It isn’t easily dissected and less so, digested.

So what am I talking about exactly?

A little while back on another blog, a commenter said this, in part:

this is an objectively Christian world regardless of what people think and regardless of whether anyone ever points that fact out. The truth of the Trinity blazes forth from the very creation, so much so that people have to forcibly repress it (Romans 1). Since this is the case, simply presenting the world just as it is – as a broken, warped, redeemed place of buzzin’, bloomin’ confusion – we are actually presenting Christ, because we are subversively attacking those repressing instincts.

… We don’t have to choose religious topics, or even include one second of overt Christian theology in our work – if we are presenting the truth about the world. Like the Dutch painters who began to simply paint ordinary houses and people, rather than saints with halos, they could also present truth, even True Truth, without a single word of religiosity. (emphases mine)

Ordinary houses decay

A Christian world, really? A redeemed place? Is that what Scripture says, or does it refer to this world as a place that is decaying because of sin that goes unchecked more and more each day?

I replied, and received this answer, in part:

Christians can relish and depict the world as it is without the agenda of making Biblical truth obvious because the world as it is happens to be a Christian world. We can present truth, even the Truth itself, simply by reveling in this world.

I have a tremendous problem with the idea that an ordinary house does not proclaim Christ. It is true that Romans 1 teaches God is known through what He has made – and this includes His Trinitarian being (Rom. 1:20). Unbelievers repress this. Yet the rocks and trees all proclaim “God made me! I love God! God is Three in One!” Jesus Himself even said that if there was not a single person left to proclaim God, the very rocks would begin to cry out. Even if we lived in a world where no one was a Christian, it would not change the fact that God made it and everybody knows it. It would not change the fact that the world is suffused at every moment with Trinitarian grace. That ordinary house is a Trinitarian house, regardless of what anybody thinks about it. Every molecule in that house is screaming at every second that God made it, and actively upholds it at every moment.

The implication (at least, the one that I hear!) is that if the house itself cannot proclaim Christ just by being, then the Christian cannot present that house as it is and it be a Christian painting of a Christian house. This then also implies that one must tack onto reality some sort of super-nature in order to make the house able to be presented as Christian like the refried gnosticism of a Thomas Kinkade painting (emphasis mine)

Setting aside the idea of gnosticism in a Thomas Kinkade painting, there’s a lot of truth in these comments. Certainly Scripture teaches that God can be known in what He made. Definitely Jesus said, if need be the rocks would cry out to praise Him.

Does that make this a Christian world?

I don’t think so. Rather, I think this world is the marred image of what God intended. Because of sin it is sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, obscuring God’s face more and more. Scripture says our iniquities have made a separation between us and God. That separation is real. It is not perception — as if this world was Christian but most people are blind to that fact.

This world was never Christian. It was good because God made it good, but sin soiled that goodness and it has not been good since. In fact it is less good today than the first day Adam and Eve stepped out of the garden. Scripture makes it clear, we’re in a process in which this world is failing further and further into disrepair.

Is it Trinitarian that the sex trade is flourishing? That abortion is practiced worldwide? That homosexuality is considered by many to be acceptable?

These things are direct results of sin, as Scripture makes clear:

God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. (Rom. 1:28-32 – emphasis mine)

I have more to say on this subject, but this is more than enough to get the conversation started. What do you think? Who’s world is this?

Published in: on November 3, 2011 at 6:07 pm  Comments (21)  
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