Atheist Accusations Against God: He’s A Tyrant


I think the first time I heard an atheist say that God was a tyrant was at a debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens and professor of theology and apologetics William Lane Craig. Hitchens, who has since died of cancer, claimed his great concern was for freedom, and God doesn’t allow for freedom. Rather God is Hitler on steroids. If He existed. From one of my posts discussing the debate:

[Hitchens said]

It’s degrading to say that morality comes from on high. It’s servile. A kind of heavenly North Korea.

He added that he believed in free will, though he didn’t know why. But a bossy god would seem to reduce free will because then we would be accountable.

Then towards the end of the debate he said:

Emancipate yourself from a celestial dictatorship and you’ve taken the first step to being free.

. . . Above all else, it seems he wants his autonomy, even though he believes his life serves no lasting purpose and will end in oblivion.

Since that debate, I’ve encountered any number of other atheists who throw out this accusation—God is an insufferable dictator. The claim is leveled at God because He’s “bossy,” but also because of the heinous things He allows others to do.

King David, for example, committed adultery and contracted a murder, so God is heinous.

In truth, God is forgiving, though David still had to suffer the four-fold consequence for his sins which the prophet Nathan explained.

But if God had not forgiven David, if He had judged him and required his death, I feel fairly certain atheists would have used such action against God as well to prove how cruel He supposedly is. Whenever God brought judgment on people, atheists cry foul. God isn’t loving because He drowned the people for their wickedness in the Great Flood. God is hateful because He ordered the Amalekites “exterminated,” and so on.

If God does not punish sin, He is weak or wish-washy, or not sovereign. If God does punish sin, He is cruel and monstrous and genocidal.

The point is clear. No matter what God does, atheists will accuse Him of wrong doing. They don’t want a sovereign who sets down the rules and tells them to live according to His moral laws. They want the autonomy Christopher Hitchens sought.

The sad thing is, God gives them exactly what they want. Take Israel, for instance. Over and over Scripture records that God told the prophets the people who would suffer His judgment would get exactly what they earned by their actions. Here’s one such declaration:

The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice. I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads,” declares the Lord GOD. (Ez. 22:29-31, emphasis added)

Instead of rushing to judgment, God shows time and again His patience. He searched for someone to stand in the gap. If He’d found someone, I have no doubt that the results would have been different. But because there was no one, He brought their way on their own heads.

Their oppression of the sojourner, their robbery, the wrong they committed against the poor—all of it resulted in a collapse of their society, a breakdown of their alliances, and the ruin of their security as a nation.

Other prophecies spell out that the leaders let the people down. The prophets spoke words that God did not tell them to speak. The priests sacrificed to gods they’d been commanded to forsake. The kings lived willful, compromised lives. And the people went so far as to give their children up for sacrifice to idols.

But to listen to atheists, God is a horrific megalomaniac, acting against people for no reason whatsoever.

The corollary to “God is a tyrant” is “Humans are good and innocent and not deserving of judgment.”

So the “good” Amalekites who hounded the people of Israel as they made their way to the promised land, attacking their stragglers—the weak, the elderly, the children—were horribly mistreated by God for bringing judgment on their heads.

Mind you, this judgment that God ordered came some two hundred years later, when the people of Amalek had had several generations to repent, to make peace with Israel, and to seek God. Clearly, they remained as brutal and hostile and idolatrous as they had been.

And here’s the thing: an omniscient God knows exactly what is in each person’s heart. He doesn’t make mistakes. It’s not as if a “good Amalekite” slipped His notice. Just as He later searched for someone to stand in the gap for Israel, God exercised His patient restraint toward Amalek.

Further, God says He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11), that it is not His will that even one should perish (Matt. 18:14), and that He desires all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4).

In light of such statements, are the atheists right that God is not actually sovereign? Not at all. Rather, He made humans in His image, with the freedom to choose. Because of the very fact that He is not a tyrant, He does not force anyone to believe in Him or to love Him.

The fact is, some people simply want the kind of autonomy Christopher Hitchens craved. The sad thing is, Scripture informs us that we are going to be slaves one way or the other:

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

So we can be freed from sin and enslaved to God, which results in sanctification and eternal life. Or we can be slaves of sin and free in regard to righteousness—slaves to our addictions, or lusts, our fears, our words and deeds that hurt and degrade, both others and ourselves.

Simply put, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23)

God is not the tyrant. Sin is. God is our rescuer, redeeming us from the kingdom of darkness and transferring us to the kingdom of His Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col. 1:13).

God Is Great


Lookout_Moutain_West_View

When I was younger, I heard a little poem prayer people sometimes quoted before meals—usually when they wanted to get started eating right away:

God is great
God is good
And we thank Him
For our food.

Amen

Since the purpose of said prayer was to quickly dispatch the necessary requirement of thanking God for our daily food, I didn’t think much about how profound those four lines are.

But the truth is, they give us some of the essentials of the relationship a Christian has with God. Not all the essentials, certainly, but there are some key ingredients, starting with God’s greatness.

ElkmtsThat’s where all people start, according to Paul in Romans. We look at the world around us—the vastness of the heavens, the power of the ocean, the majesty of the mountains, the intricate beauty of the rose—and we’re looking at the evidences of God. Everywhere we look, there’s the mark of greatness. Nothing is done half way.

Colorado_beautyOh, sure, in our urban society today, we may have to work to reach a place where we can see the sky at night, or the ocean, or the mountains. We may need to calm our busy lives in order to notice the roses or the bougainvillea or the tulips.

But when we look at our world, we see things we can’t make, things we can’t control—not in the ultimate sense. The incredible thing is, as apologist William Lane Craig has pointed out, the more we learn about the make up of our universe, the more remarkable it becomes. The heavens are far more vast than what we knew, the life-sustaining balance between energy and matter more precise, the make up of our bodies more complex.

Whether we look in our ignorance or look in our knowledge, we see greatness:

For since the creation of the world [God’s] invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that [men] are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

V_4_above_Ice_Lake (13,500 ft.)It’s really astonishing to me that anyone can look at our world, as atheists do, and think it came about by chance. The reality is, that those holding to a “big bang” origin of course are not dealing with origin at all. They must presuppose the existence of something that came together somehow, in a random manner, for no planned purpose, to create the greatness of the universe.

Apparently there is no attempt to explain the existence of that supposed matter or energy credited with setting in motion the creative process. There’s no attempt to explain how order could come from disorder, in contradiction to known laws of physics.

The greatness of creation, in fact, does not inform the understanding of those bent on denying God:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.Professing to be wise, they became fools (Rom. 1:21-22)

Regardless of man’s denials, God is great. Great in His creativity and originality and design. Great in His power and strength and might. Great in His purity and holiness and sinlessness. Great in His justice and righteousness and impartiality. Great in His love and mercy and forgiveness.

Published in: on July 7, 2014 at 7:15 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , ,

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.

God Exists, But Is He Good?


In last Saturday’s debate with apologist William Lane Craig, atheist Christoper 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 have and believe the special revelation God gave, namely the Bible. Simply, I find the Bible to be consistent with what I see in the world. It fills in the gaps and makes sense of the confusing. And there is lots of evidence to support the claims of the Bible.

Yes, at some point, the veracity of the Bible needs to be considered. But there are some other indicators 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 then 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 they 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.

Since God is not indifferent, since He does care, He didn’t leave Mankind in this quagmire. 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.

The restoration of communion with God is the very point of Jesus’s death and resurrection. The saving we need is the saving of our relationship with our Creator. Without Him we are undone.

So is He good? He actually defines the word.

Published in: on April 10, 2009 at 11:37 am  Comments (5)  
Tags: , , , ,

Does God Exist? And What Does Sin Have To Do With It?


In Saturday’s debate, held at Biola University (and co-sponsored by the students and Biola’s Apologetics Department), between Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig, I found it interesting that, as near as I recall, the only time the word sin (actually “sinner”) came up, our atheist proponent, Mr. Hitchens, used it (and even then, in my notes I may have used the word, not he, to indicate what he was describing).

I believe the occurrence came in his rebuttal. Essentially he said that the Christian belief is extraordinarily contradictory. On one hand we believe that we are so despicable and wayward, in fact that we are sinners in need of God to rescue us by dying a painful, bloody death. On the other hand, we believe that this same God designed this incredibly vast and complex universe over billions of years just for us. In short, that prideful position stands in stark contrast to the Man-as-worm view.

Well, bravo! He got it. There is a contradictory chasm between the two views. And if Mr. Hitchens would follow that train of thought, he’d get to the truth.

His primary focus, it would seem is that religion is bad for society. He points to things like the Crusades and the Inquisition, to religious terrorist bombers.

The truth is, sin is bad for society. And Satan, who Mr. Hitchens undoubtedly also does not believe in, masquerades as an angel of light. How Satan must love to see people fight and kill in the name of God, or in the name of their religion.

Did God initiate any of this? Someone might immediately point to places in the Old Testament where God’s people were commanded to annihilate other nations. But that’s missing the point. Sin was already in the world, and God didn’t bring it.

I’m sure the concept of sin is something Mr. Hitchens has a hard time with since he doesn’t want to be accountable to a higher being, since he doesn’t want a “celestial dictator” telling him what to do.

But there’s the problem. This blatant rejection of God’s authority is the problem, and the wars and brutality and inhumanity Mr. Hitchens cites are the symptoms, regardless if the people involved claim to be religious or not. I don’t care if a “Protestant” terrorist or an Islamic terrorist explodes a bomb. At the heart, both are sinners acting sinfully, in need of a Savior.

The Protestant can claim he knows the Savior, but his actions say otherwise. The societal “Does God exist?” debate is muddied by the existence of false religions and false teaching within Christianity.

During the cross examination phase of the formal debate, Mr. Hitchens asked Dr. Craig if he thought there were false religions. He said yes, Then Mr. Hitchens asked if he thought there were any false Christian denominations. Unfortunately, after answering yes, Dr. Craig hedged when asked which ones. He turned the question to doctrines he disagreed with. Instead he could have stood up for the truth and named heresy. If he didn’t want to say Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses or health-and-wealthers, he could have said something like any who add or detract from the inerrant, authoritative Word of God.

A missed opportunity. I think it’s time Christians separate from pseudo-Christians. Instead, because a social agenda seems to have dominated our goals in the last few decades, it seems like we are more apt to pander to anyone with morals like ours.

The fact is, morality doesn’t win us points in Heaven. We are no closer to reconciliation with God if we go to church or live a monogamous, heterosexual lifestyle.

Don’t get me wrong. I do think having a relationship with God will effect our behavior and certainly our lifestyle. But we must not give the impression that abiding by a list of do‘s and don’t‘s increases our standing with God and makes us more acceptable.

I think that’s what the people who go to war in the name of religion are all about. They think their standing up for “the cause” earns them special consideration. It is false.

But because one form of religion is false, a thinking person should not conclude that God does not exist. Sin accounts for it. So does man’s pride. Which, by the way, seems to also be at the heart of anyone saying he wants to be emancipated from a “celestial dictatorship.”

Does God Exist? – The Debate Continues


In the debate held Saturday at Biola University between atheist Christopher Hitchens and Christian apologist William Lane Craig dealing with the question Does God exist, Dr. Craig made what I thought was a brilliant debating tactic. In his opening statements he undercut what I surmise is Mr. Hitchens primary position. He said, and repeated from time to time throughout the evening, that the social implications of belief in God were not part of the discussion about His existence.

Mr. Hitchens, having written god Is Not Great and Is Christianity Good for the World?, certainly seems to have strong opinions about the social implications of belief in God.

I suspect that’s why much of the debate settled on the discussion of Dr. Craig’s moral arguments for the existence of God. Mr. Hitchens did begin, however, addressing some of Dr. Craig’s other arguments.

He said first that atheism, being a position against a particular belief, can’t disprove God. Rather, atheists believe there is no plausible or convincing evidence for the existence of God.

However, he also said that a test of a good argument is that it can be falsified. [Which seems to me to undercut his view that atheism can’t disprove God]. The idea of a designer starting the evolutionary process can’t be disproved and therefore isn’t a good argument.

Further, he said that even if you did believe in a designer, you can’t get from that position to belief in a being who cares. He then said that if there was a God, He was a poor designer because the universe takes up so much space and so much time passed before He made Himself known to save any humans at all. Such waste shows that if there was a designer, he did a poor job or just doesn’t care.

In fact, he said, all the evidence Christians point to for God can be explained without God. He stated that extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence, and he doesn’t find any.

Interestingly, I though Dr. Craig, in his rebuttal, had a great answer to the suggestion that God was ineffectual or wasteful. He said efficiency is only important to people with limited time or limited resources. God, having an infinite amount of both time and resources, wouldn’t have any need to meet some finite definition of efficient.

Back to Mr. Hitchens’ positions. I thought he came to the heart of his views toward the end of the debate, but let me back up. When he was introduced, the host said something about him being an advocate for freedom. I didn’t understand that until the end.

Mr. Hitchens, you see, when discussing the idea of objective morality said this:

It’s degrading to say that morality comes from on high. It’s servile. A kind of heavenly North Korea.

He added that he believed in free will, though he didn’t know why. But a bossy god would seem to reduce free will because then we would be accountable.

Then towards the end of the debate he said:

Emancipate yourself from a celestial dictatorship and you’ve taken the first step to being free.

At last, the notion that Mr. Hitchens was an advocate of freedom made sense. Above all else, it seems he wants his autonomy, even though he believes his life serves no lasting purpose and will end in oblivion. He would rather be the master of his fate and the captain of his own … well, I doubt that he believes he has a soul.

And how is he a master of his fate when he himself states that the end is oblivion?

So it is only in the here and now that he wants to be in charge. Apparently he wants to be the one to say what is right and what is wrong. For although he believes there is a right and a wrong, that any atheist can do any moral act that any Christian can do, he wants to be the one to say what is moral.

The acts of religious people down through history are clearly immoral, according to Mr. Hitchens. And the good that religious people have done can be duplicated by anyone without a belief in God. So what good is he if he existed?

Tomorrow more of my thoughts on Mr. Hitchens’ assertions, because obviously I’ve reported his views with some of my reactions woven in.

By the way, if you would like to read other detailed reports on the debate, I recommend Doug Geivett’s Blog and Wintery Knight Blog (this latter gives you a play-by-play account, next best thing to an actual transcript).

Does God Exist?


Saturday night atheist author Christopher Hitchens (god is Not Great and Is Christianity Good for the World?), pictured on the right, and theology professor and author Dr. William Lane Craig (Reasonable Faith), on the left, met in a formal debate of the question, Does God exist? The two-and-a-half hour interchange took place at Biola University in La Mirada, CA. And I had the privilege, thanks to fellow blogger, Mike Duran (who also posted on the event), of attending. For those of you interested in a brief, fairly objective overview, I suggest you read the front page article that appeared in the Whittier Daily News this morning.

Demand for good seats was high. I stood in line for over two hours, then sat another hour waiting for the debate to begin, but the time was well worth it. Actually this was the first formal debate I’ve every attended, and it was a good one.

After opening remarks by the host (including a caution against raucous or rancorous audience response—a caution wonderfully observed) and the introduction of moderator Hugh Hewitt and of the two participants, the debate began with opening arguments. As I recall, Dr. Craig and Mr. Hitchens each spoke for twenty minutes.

Round two consisted of rebuttals followed by cross examinations in which each debater had a set number of questions to put to the other. Round four consisted of a response to the points made during the cross examination, followed by closing arguments. The debate ended with several students asking questions which both men answered. Afterward they participated in a book signing.

So what did they actually say?

Dr. Craig spoke first and presented five arguments for the existence of God based on deductive reasoning (if point A is true, that leads logically to point B. If B is true, then logically C). As he explained, in order to dispute the logical conclusion of such an argument, a person would necessarily have to disprove the premise.

His first argument was cosmological. He stated that whatever begins to exist has a cause and reasoned from this premise to the existence of God.

His second argument was teleological, or the argument for the existence of God from the evidence of order. In pointing out the incredibly small margin of error that allows for life on this planet, Dr. Craig stated that, if the universe was in fact a result of chance or of some law of nature, there should be observable evidence of an ensemble of finely-tuned worlds such as our own.

I couldn’t help but think that much of space exploration may be driven by the desire of atheistic scientists (not all scientists are atheists) to find just such evidence, much as there used to be a determined hunt for the missing link to prove evolution.

But back to the debate. Dr. Craig’s third argument centered on morals. The premise he reasoned from is this: If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. His position reminds me of Mike Duran’s post more than a year ago about atheists and thanksgiving. If God does not exist, then moral values do not exist, so what prompts an atheist to be thankful?

The natural conclusion of a-morality is that whatever a person does is right, therefore one act is no more heinous or virtuous than another. Lions are not accused of murder or pedo-cide, not branded as cannibals because they may eat their young. They are what they are and there is no good or evil attached to their actions. So too should be the truth about Man, if God did not exist. But, of course, it is not the truth about Man. Atheists as much as Christians or Hindus or Jews believe there are virtuous acts and attitudes as well as heinous ones. In fact, on many points nearly all groups, religious or otherwise, agree.

Dr. Craig’s fourth argument surprised me. He stated that the resurrection of Jesus is proof of God’s existence. I had thought that such a miraculous event wouldn’t be convincing to an atheist, but Dr. Craig reasoned from historically verifiable positions:

There are three established facts concerning the fate of Jesus of Nazareth: the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of his disciples’ belief in his resurrection.

Dr. Craig’s final evidence for the existence of God was “The Immediate Experience of God.” If a rational, non-delusional person claims he experiences God, his experience validates his belief if said belief does not rest solely on the experience but is grounded in other rational argument.

Well, obviously I have more to write about this event. Tomorrow I’ll give some of the things I gleaned from Mr. Hitchens’s side of the debate.

%d bloggers like this: