God’s Existence And Goodness

westcoast sunsetNearly four years ago apologist William Lane Craig debated the late atheist Christoper Hitchens at Biola University here in SoCal. Mr. Hitchens said at one point that even if God did exist, there is no evidence that He cares about His creation, that He isn’t indifferent to humanity.

It’s hard for me to entertain such thoughts because I believe the special revelation God gave, namely the Bible. Simply put, I find it to be consistent with what I see in the world. It fills in the gaps and makes sense of the confusing.

There is lots of evidence to support the claims of the Bible. While its veracity needs to be considered at some point, there are other, extra-Biblical indicators which point to the fact that God is good, that He cares, that He isn’t indifferent.

One is Beauty. A sunset, the glint of light captured in a drop of dew, a horse galloping across the plains, a gnarled tree atop a mountain crag, an icy-green lake at the bottom of a glacier, white-capped waves crashing onto a beach, and on and on and on.

But not only is Beauty in this world, apparently humans, and humans alone, have this appreciation of Beauty.

Then there is pleasure. The joy and pride a new father expresses as he holds his infant son for the first time. The taste of apple pie that floods the senses and reminds one of visits with Grandma, now long gone. The swelling music that pierces the heart simultaneously with longing and elation. Again, these emotional pleasures seem to be for Mankind alone.

How about love or hope or truth or courage or generosity? The very existence of these traits indicates a Creator who embodied them.

Another evidence that God cares is the existence of objective morality. Yes, this is an evidence of God’s existence but also of His goodness. An amoral first cause would not have the capacity to instill in Mankind that which it does not possess.

But, you might say, what about the evil? What about the atrocities Man commits against Man. Do these then indicate a cruel creator?

No. They indicate contradiction. Because there is hate in the world doesn’t mean there isn’t love. Because there is death in nature doesn’t mean there isn’t life.

So either God is a contradiction or there is another cause for the evil and cruelty around us.

To understand the contradiction, I think Special Revelation is necessary.

Cultures throughout time have feared God or gods because of the destructive power in nature they saw and couldn’t explain. Today, scientists explain this destructive power, so many people no longer fear God or gods. They dismiss the notion of the supernatural by way of solving the contradiction.

But of course that opens up another set of unanswered questions. Why don’t animals hate? Why do humans worship?

The “most evolved species” seems capable of both greater evil and greater good than any evolutionist ought to expect. And apart from God, there is no reasonable explanation.

But God is not indifferent, and He does care, so He didn’t leave Mankind in this quagmire of confusion. From the beginning of time on earth, He communicated with humans one way or another–first, person to person, then through messengers, including His Son. In addition, He provided spirit-breathed written revelation. And He gave the incredible gift of His Spirit’s presence in the life of every person who confesses with his mouth and believes in his heart that Jesus is Lord.

Finally, God shows He cares by His plan to restore our communion with Him through Jesus’s death and resurrection. He understood that the saving we need is the saving of our relationship with Him. Without Him we are undone.

So is He good? In truth He is the definition of the word.

The article is an edited version of “God Exists, But Is He Good?” posted April 10, 2009.

If God Were Not Just

Most of the regular visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction are likely unaware that a discussion cropped up a couple weeks ago on an unrelated post, centered on God’s justice. I’ve retitled the original post, “Why I Love Fantasy,” so that it now reads “God – A God Of Judgment?” The heart of the discussion, as I see it, lies in this comment I made to sometime-visitor and emergent-church conversationalist Mike Morrell:

You have stripped [God] of His right to judge, of His sovereignty over those who take a stand against Him, of His righteousness in doing so.

To clarify: some in the emerging church, as do atheists like Christopher Hitchens, regard God as He revealed Himself in the Old Testament as a tyrant, a genocidal maniac, a murderer. Therefore, they try to “explain” him in a number of ways. One is to reduce the Old Testament to the status of myth. Another is to suggest that God is evolving—becoming “nicer,” as Jesus demonstrated.

Seemingly the one thing these professing Christians cannot abide is that God is a just Judge, that He actually has the right to mete out punishment to those opposed to Him.

But this brings me to today’s topic. What would the world be like if God were not just? What if we had no sovereign judge?

First, I think it would be fair to say that a god who is not just would consequently also not have one of two other attributes: either omnipotence or goodness.

Here’s my line of thinking. If God were not just, then evil would be without recompense. If he were not just but still good, then it seems the only reason he would not act on behalf of good against evil would be because he lacked the power to do so. But if he retained all power, then his refusal to act against evil could only be understood as a lack of goodness which would necessitate him to redress wrong.

Secondly, if God were not just, then he also would not be righteous. A moral, principled, ethical individual could not look on the atrocities of man against man and take no stand.

Atheists know this. One of their accusations against God is that He takes no stand against the Hitlers and Stalins and Idi Amins and Osama bin Ladens of the world. Little do they understand that His action was and will be. He sent His Son and He will judge righteously.

The enclave of emergent thinkers accusing God of “genocide” in the Old Testament when He brought judgment to bear on nations, apparently think evil requires no action. Or else they believe evil does not exist in the heart of man, in which case, some other evil—society or Satan—is running around unchecked by an uncaring god devoid of righteousness.

Third, God’s love would not be magnified. If Man’s sin did not require payment, if Man was not destined to die, if sin would be solved simply by overlooking it, where then is the love of God? What love does it take to reward a good person, someone deserving of praise and adoration? Love shows best when it stoops to the unlovely, to the one who has nothing to give in return.

God’s love shines most brightly because He came and died to cancel the insurmountable indebtedness for each of us—not after we’d cleaned up a bit and earned a nod from our Creator. He made the supreme magnanimous sacrifice while we were yet sinners. He didn’t simply wave off our debt, though. He paid for it.

If we owed nothing, if there were no reckoning day when all accounts would be squared, then God’s sacrifice might be seen as a really nice gesture, but so unnecessary. People might actually cluck their tongues and say, What a waste, that he went through so much so unnecessarily.

How small God’s love looks if He is not also just.

Thankfully, thankfully, that notion is far from the truth.

Published in: on December 27, 2010 at 6:48 pm  Comments (19)  
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None Righteous, No Not One

A former student of mine wrote the line in the title above on Facebook as a comment to my blog post yesterday – “Do The Good Go To Hell?”

According to the Bible, she’s right, though I think we might all admit it’s a hard truth. The problem is, we measure Man with Man, and as such we see that there’s a wide range—from Jeffery Dahmer and Joseph Stalin to Mahatma Gandhi and Bill Gates.

From our perspective, the man willing to die to bring peace is a good man. The one bent on giving away his massive fortune to those most in need is a good man. The cannibalistic serial killer, not so good. The murderous paranoid tyrant, not so good.

But reality is, God does not measure us one against another. He Himself is the standard and we, all of us, no matter how we compare against each other, fall short, far short.

The sad truth is, we are all deserving of hell.

Again, our cultural thinking makes this fact hard to grab hold of. Our inclination is to think, if everyone is doing it, then no one is guilty. Like speeding. Cars whip by going eighty when the speed limit is sixty-five. So if I go seventy, I’m really doing good, aren’t I? And none of us will be ticketed because all of us are exceeding the limit.

None of us may be ticketed, but the truth is, all of us breaking the law deserve to be ticketed.

For some reason we expect God to act like a traffic cop and let us all go, either because He’s off somewhere else and doesn’t see us breaking His law, or He doesn’t care, or He’s just such a nice guy, He’s decided to give us all a break.

But God is not the traffic cop. He’s the just judge.

Funny how we all want a just judge to preside over the trial of a heinous criminal or one who has wronged us. But do we really want a just judge to preside over our trial regarding the crimes we have committed against God? Wouldn’t we rather have a merciful judge?

The truth is, God is both, just and merciful. He will not violate His justice to extend mercy and He will not violate His mercy to exercise justice.

I think understanding this point is at the heart of understanding hell.

God’s actually very up front. He lays out for us what His standards are and He tells us the consequences for falling short. There ought to be no surprises.

Yet some people kick against these basic parameters. God’s standard (perfection) is too high, His punishment (hell) too harsh and too long lasting (for eternity).

But it’s this very kicking that is the problem. Who is Man that he should try to tell God how to run things? That’s like a three-year-old trying to tell Sully Sullenberger how to land a plane.

God, by nature of … well, His nature, is the only one who gets to make the rules. He is perfect so He knows what real righteousness looks like. He is good, so He knows what true goodness looks like.

We’re operating in the dark from a collapsed mine a half-mile deep, and we’re trying to direct our own rescue efforts. Or more accurately, telling everyone how we’re planning to pull ourselves out.

We’re telling the One Who provides the only way of escape we have no intention of confining ourselves in such a restrictive capsule for a twenty minute ride to the surface. We don’t deserve such ill treatment. In fact, come to think of it, we don’t really need rescuing at all. We’re fine where we are, thank you very much.

How is it we are so shortsighted? so unwilling to let God tell us what’s what?

The great, great news is, He not only wants to tell us how far short we are of His standards and the horrible consequences for that condition, He also wants to tell us about His love and mercy. Of course, only guilty people need mercy, which means all those people confident in their own goodness will turn down God’s offer. They’ll harden their hearts and go their own way—the way that leads to destruction.

Published in: on October 14, 2010 at 5:57 pm  Comments (5)  
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