Reprise: Have We Neutered God?


Aerial_view_of_damage_to_Kirikiri,_Otsuchi,_a_week_after_a_9.0_magnitude_earthquake_and_subsequent_tsunamiThe day after the 2011 earthquake in Japan, a couple Christians started taking bets on when the first Christian “leader” (the qualification is theirs) would say something about God’s judgment on this Buddhist nation. Undoubtedly they had in mind what Pat Robertson said after the Haitian quake in January 2010.

As reports came in about the tsunami that same day, every TV station seemed to have a segment of their earthquake coverage devoted to a geophysicist with a diagram of the Pacific Ring of Fire and a second diagram of two tectonic plates under the ocean moving toward one another with one slipping under the other (subduction). The resulting movement, one expert said, displaces water, sending waves surging to shore.

On one hand, a good scientific explanation from the media about what causes an earthquake and a tsunami.

On the other, a backhanded repudiation from Christians that God would “send” the earthquake against Japan.

That’s it then. We’ve moved God aside to let Nature take its course. Nature, we understand. After all, the experts have studied these tectonic plates. They’ve created devices to measure the energy an earthquake releases. They can pinpoint where the epicenter is, and the hypocenter, and how deep within the earth’s crust the event occurred.

God? We can’t study Him. Don’t know what He might be thinking or why He would choose Japan over, say, Libya, or, for that matter, the U. S. Besides, God just wouldn’t do something so randomly devastating. I mean, good people undoubtedly died in the quake and its aftermath. How could we possibly believe this event was something He sent? It would be unjust, cruel, not something a loving God would do.

Or so we think as we peer through our world-colored glasses.

For the moment, set aside the fact that Scripture records God using a natural disaster to wipe out the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, expressly because of the extent of their wickedness. Instead, ask this question. Supposing the geophysicists are right and the quake happened because one tectonic plate slipped under the edge of another, what caused the slip?

Subducting tectonic plates

Scientists have a number of theories. One idea is that the variation in topography and density of the crust result in differences in gravitational forces that drive the seafloor away from the spreading ridge which combines with drag (think, water drag against a speedboat) and downward suction.

A second explanation is that different forces generated by the rotation of the Globe and tidal forces of the Sun and the Moon create movement.

A third idea suggests that mantle convection (“the slow creeping motion of Earth’s rocky mantle caused by convection currents carrying heat from the interior of the Earth to the surface” Wikipedia) is tied to the movement of the plates.

Behind these possible explanations, however, is the question, what causes the convection currents or the tidal forces or the drag or the downward suction or the variation of the topography or the thinner oceanic crust? In other words, in a cause-effect scientific study, what is the first cause?

Ultimately, those of us who believe in God will answer, He is that first cause.

But are we saying that He, in watchmaker-like fashion, started the processes and has since, stepped back and is looking on to see what will happen next?

Or do we believe He who created the world and understands all its make up and function, who set down in Scripture the fact that the earth divided (something corroborated by the continental drift theory now widely held), and who has prophesied an increase in seismic activity as the day of the Lord draws nearer and nearer, is intimately involved in this world?

Sadly, throughout time man has declared that God is dead or irrelevant or nonexistent. But perhaps worst of all is this Christian version of this theme—that He is, but He is not powerful. He might have something to say about spiritual things (and then, only if it’s related to love and forgiveness), but the physical is beyond His reach.

This view, of course, contradicts Scripture. First is the clear revelation of His nature—He is omnipotent. He demonstrated this by His act of creation:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
– Gen 1:1

Since then, He has sustained what He made:

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
– Col 1:16-17 [emphasis mine]

How He holds things together is coincidentally similar to how He created the world in the first place:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
– Heb 1:1-3 [emphasis mine]

And yet we are to believe He is standing by, wringing His hands, grieving over the uncontrollable events foisted on the human race by nature?

If God is God, that idea is absurd. And if God is God, we had better start paying attention to what He’s said in His word, because acts of God are not accidents of God. He has a purpose, and it would be wise of us to start talking in an intelligent way, informed by Scripture, about what that purpose might be.

With some minor changes this article is a reprint of one that appeared in March 2011.

Have We Neutered God?


The day after the latest earthquake in Japan, a couple Christians started take bets on when the first Christian “leader” (the qualification is theirs) would say something about God’s judgment on this Buddhist nation. Undoubtedly they had in mind what Pat Robertson said after the Haitian quake in January 2010.

Subducting tectonic plates

As reports came in about the tsunami that same day, every TV station seemed to have a segment of their earthquake coverage devoted to a geophysicist with a diagram of the Pacific Ring of Fire and a second of two tectonic plates under the ocean moving toward one another with one slipping under the other (subduction). The resulting movement, one expert said, displaces water, sending waves surging to shore.

On one hand, a good scientific explanation from the media about what causes an earthquake and a tsunami.

On the other, a repudiation from Christians that God would “send” the earthquake against Japan.

That’s it then. We’ve moved God aside to let Nature take its course. Nature, we understand. After all, the experts have studied these tectonic plates. They’ve created devices to measure the energy an earthquake releases. They can pinpoint where the epicenter is, and the hypocenter, and how deep within the earth’s crust the event occurred.

God? We can’t study Him. Don’t know what He might be thinking or why He would choose Japan over, say, Libya, or, for that matter, the U. S. Besides, God just wouldn’t do something so randomly devastating. I mean, good people undoubtedly died in the quake and its aftermath. How could we possibly believe this event was something He sent? It would be unjust, cruel, not something a loving God would do.

Or so we think as we peer through our world-colored glasses.

For the moment, set aside the fact that Scripture records God using a natural disaster to wipe out the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, expressly because of the extent of their wickedness. Instead, ask this question. Supposing the geophysicists are right and the quake happened because one tectonic plate slipped under the edge of another, what caused the slip?

Scientists have a number of theories. One idea is that the variation in topography and density of the crust result in differences in gravitational forces that drive the seafloor away from the spreading ridge which combines with drag (think, water drag against a speedboat) and downward suction.

A second explanation is that different forces generated by the rotation of the Globe and tidal forces of the Sun and the Moon create movement.

A third idea suggests that mantle convection (“the slow creeping motion of Earth’s rocky mantle caused by convection currents carrying heat from the interior of the Earth to the surface” Wikipedia) is tied to the movement of the plates.

Behind these possible explanations, however, is the question, what causes the convection currents or the tidal forces or the drag or the downward suction or the variation of the topography or the thinner oceanic crust? In other words, in a cause-effect scientific study, what is the first cause?

Ultimately, those of us that believe in God will answer, He is that first cause.

But are we saying that He, in watchmaker-like fashion, started the processes and has since, stepped back and is looking on to see what will happen next?

Or do we believe He who created the world and understands all its make up and function, who set down in Scripture the fact that the earth divided (something corroborated by the continental drift theory now widely held), and who has prophesied an increase in seismic activity as the day of the Lord draws nearer and nearer, is intimately involved in this world?

Sadly, throughout time man has declared that God is dead or irrelevant or nonexistent. But perhaps worst of all is this Christian version of this theme — that He is, but He is not powerful. He might have something to say about spiritual things (and then, only if it’s related to love and forgiveness), but the physical is beyond His reach.

This view, of course, contradicts Scripture. First is the clear revelation of His nature — He is omnipotent. He demonstrated this by His act of creation:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
– Gen 1:1

Since then, He has sustained what He made:

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
– Col 1:16-17 [emphasis mine]

How He holds things together is coincidentally similar to how He created the world in the first place:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
– Heb 1:1-3 [emphasis mine]

And yet we are to believe He is standing by, wringing His hands, grieving over the uncontrollable events foisted on the human race by nature?

If God is God, that idea is absurd. And if God is God, we had better start paying attention to what He’s said in His Word, because acts of God are not accidents of God. He has a purpose, and it would be wise of us to start talking about what that purpose might be.

Published in: on March 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , ,

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)  
Tags: , , , , , ,