Is God a Jerk? (Part 2)

Is God a Jerk

In an effort to decide whether or not God is a jerk, we’ve looked at who God claims to be, what He claims to do, and observed some of the world events that lead us to believe God isn’t who He said He is (a.k.a.: Jerk).

You should probably catch up with all of that from Part 1 if you didn’t already read it.

So, continuing on, let’s see if we can reconcile God’s truth-claims with our experiences.

What Do His Claims Mean?

Let us start by assuming that everything listed in Part 1 is completely true. Does it logically follow that . . .

. . . a holy being would not be able to tolerate anything that is not in line with His character (sin)?

. . . an immutable being would never change His mind concerning His stance on sin?

. . . a righteous being could not simply overlook the sin He’s cast judgment on?

. . . a loving being would only ever want what’s truly best for us; a.k.a. not to sin (whether we understand His design or not), and would be able to provide a perfect substitutionary sacrifice to simultaneously appease His righteousness and proclaim us justified?

. . . an omnipotent being is 100% capable of accomplishing exactly what we need for life and meting out judgment when we reject Him?

. . . an omniscient being would know exactly what needs to be done to accomplish His perfect will and our best interest?

. . . a sovereign being must needs be involved in our lives?

If we put it all together, doesn’t it logically follow that a holy, immutable, righteous, loving, omnipotent, omniscient, & sovereign being would forever hate sin, and not only be compelled to judge it in perfect wisdom but also be capable of judging it as He is all powerful and in control of everything, and yet simultaneously provide the perfect way to be justly forgiven for our sins in a way we could never earn because He loves us?

If you remove any one of these truth-claims about God, then we can easily see how He may accidentally or purposefully let the ball drop. But assuming He is who He says He is, some of the things we think are out of line with His character are actually a necessity of His character.

What About His Exclusivity?

Let’s use yesterday’s first two critiques of God. Some say He’s a jerk because . . .

  1. He demands loyalty to Him alone.
  2. He’s anything but tolerant.

If everything we saw above is true, God by necessity must be consumed with His own will and jealously passionate about it being accomplished above everything else (man’s plan and aspirations included). This is necessarily true because . . .

. . . if God chose to tolerate sin because man thought He should, He would cease to be holy.

. . . if God changed His mind about sin to accept a person into heaven who rejected Him as savior, He would cease to be immutable.

. . . if God simply overlooked our sin because He loves us, He would cease to be just.

. . . if God allowed things to happen that were not in our best interest because we didn’t think losing our house in a tornado could possibly be good, He would cease to be loving.

. . . if God were unable to bring about His will, He would cease to be all powerful.

. . . if God didn’t know what was best to accomplish His plans, He would cease to be all knowing.

. . . if God walked away from His creation, He would cease to be preeminent.

If any of that happened, or if God made some other plan (i.e.; man’s plan) a higher priority than His own . . . He would cease to be God. You see, God is the only one in the cosmos Who can be jealous for His plan, for it is His plan alone that matters. He can be angry when He does not receive the worship that is due Him because man has no higher calling than to worship God. He is the only one who can rightfully define terms as they are His to define. It really is all about God. If God were all about anything other than Himself, He could not biblically nor logically be God. Whatever God makes more important that His own will becomes God.

Let’s test this premise: If someone lives a moral life, constantly doing good for his fellow man, but dies without believing in God, is God a jerk for sending him to hell?

Logically, no. It would be inconsistent with His holy, just, immutable character to simply give someone a pass because they weren’t as bad as someone else. The subjectivity of that scenario would actually be extremely jerkish to those of us who disagree with his criteria. He’s especially not a jerk in this situation because He clearly stated the guidelines for a relationship with Him, and did the humanly-impossible to provide us a way to have that relationship with Him (the sacrificial death of Jesus).

Conclusion: If God is who He says He is, He cannot be considered a jerk for requiring faith in Him alone as the only way to a relationship with Him (salvation).

But what about that issue of evil and pain in the world? That’s still pretty lame, right?

What About Sin and Suffering?

  1. He allows evil and wickedness to abound – especially to good people.
  2. He allows destruction, pain, sickness, and suffering (again, often ravaging the good of the world).

Again, assuming that God is who He says He is, is the “problem of sin and suffering” really a problem? The people who invented football designed rules for how it would be played. They paid referees to enforce the rules. When players broke the rules, there were consequences. No one struggles with this illustration.

The very first rule laid out in Scripture is that Adam and Eve not eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. What happened? They ate. Evil is now in the world by hereditary right. So, how many of you would be happy if the ref decided to let the other team keep the touchdown they scored while their player was clearly out of bounds? How’s that sitting with you?

Evil is a consequence of sin. Suffering and death are consequences of sin. Both of these realities are explained in the first few chapters of Genesis.

Once again,

“If God made some other plan (i.e.; man’s plan) a higher priority than His own . . . He would cease to be God. You see, God is the only one in the cosmos Who can be jealous for His plan for it is His plan alone that matters.”

His justice requires that the consequence of sin stand, but His love allows that He provide a righteous substitute for the punishment we deserve.

Let me quickly address the concept of bad things happening to “good” people. Given God’s definitions of sin/holiness/evil/good, can someone who rejects God’s perfect truth be good? The biblical answer is, “No.” Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our best good is the same as soiled menstrual rags. Eww. Philippians 2:13 tells us we need God Himself to do (and even desire to do) good as He’s defined it. Furthermore, if I reject and rebel against the only perfectly good being in the universe . . . can I really say I’m good?

Conclusion: God is not a jerk because He allows sin and suffering in the world. It is an unfortunate reality that is consistent with His nature. We are not good, and therefore deserve the consequences of our sin. And if we are going to critique His truth claims, we cannot conveniently neglect how extremely loving He is to make provision for our salvation even though we have done nothing to deserve it!

We men mess-up every day. We selfishly work all day to fulfill our own desire, all the while ignoring God’ truth and love, and then we get mad at Him when bad things happen to us, or we’re incensed when someone suggests we’re making bad choices by rejecting God. How dare He give us the punishment we deserve for rebelling against His revealed truth?!

Is God a jerk?

No.

When we take Him at His Word we see that His expectations and our experiences are both perfectly consistent with His nature.

But have we truly concluded this mined this question for all of its worth?

I’m going to publish Part 3 tomorrow where I hope to address any comments you may leave which challenge my conclusions. I’d love to have you join tomorrow!

Is God a jerk?

Continue to Part 3

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6 thoughts on “Is God a Jerk? (Part 2)

  1. @atheist_deity

    Hi Aaron,
    I enjoyed reading your piece as I have enjoyed our conversations on the subject but, as I pointed out, you have missed a number of key points and failed to address the critical point. Allow me to elaborate:
    The key point of the argument is that there are only two possibilities; ether there is a god or there is not. If there is no god then, in theory, however you live your life and the choices you make have no ultimate consequences. There is no retribution for the wicked and no paradise for the righteous. No reward in heaven for loving god or living a life of denying yourself the things you desire.
    This is not to say that we are then free to act any way we wish. The fallacy that without god we would be without morals is demonstrably ridiculous since there are atheist nations, such as Denmark, which have far less violence and more advanced, inclusive, just laws and morals than nations who claim to hold ‘Christian’ values. We as humans have evolved to have a sense of right and wrong, we feel guilt when we hurt others, pain when we are hurt ourselves and we question our actions regardless of a deity or their potential judgment. We have empathy, sympathy and camaraderie with others. The social rules we live by evolve over time as we learn to communicate, empathise and understand each other better, to know that wherever in the world we come from we have shared desires and questions, whatever religion people may hold.
    So, in this reality the reward comes from the fact that we feel good when we help others. It pleases us to please others and have them care for us and be in our lives. Yes, there are psychopaths and those who are disadvantaged for whom the rules don’t apply, but where people are content, well fed, have somewhere to live and are protected by law, they tend to act well towards each other. If someone who does not believe in god still lives a good life then they will be rewarded throughout that life by feeling fulfilled, content and having close relationships. Those who live badly and hurt others tend to be shunned or end up in jail.
    The argument is therefore, if there IS a god, then why would that deity who created a universe of near infinite proportions be so small and childish as to demand love and respect from each and every person who lives on one planet in one solar system out of billions upon billions of planets? If the aim of the Jesus story is to preach tolerance, respect and being good to thy neighbour then someone who lives by those values without believing in god would be more worthy of entering heaven than a sinner who believed and repented before death. A god who rewards those who love him but act against him more than those who live well despite not believing is not an entity capable of creating a universe or guiding billions of years of evolution. That creature would be jealous, insecure, demanding of attention and petty.
    In the extreme example, you have a man who rapes, steals, kills and lives a terrible life but who repents, is truly sorry for his crimes and accepts the lord into his heart, he will go to heaven. Bill Gates, whose software changed the course of human history, whose company has helped give communication to the world, whose charity tirelessly works to help those in need but is atheist will be sent to hell because he didn’t believe in or love god. That is not a god WORTH believing in or loving.
    Finally, to address the crucial point re the ‘specifics’ of what god did or didn’t say; you quote numerous examples but as I pointed out, each and every one of them was written down by men, not god. There has never been a single recorded incident of a group of more that a few people claiming to have heard the voice of god so there is no corroboration. If someone told you today that god spoke to them and told them a new set of rules, or even just a single rule, would you believe them? Would you accept what they said? So why is it more valid to believe what was written down 200-300 years after the supposed events of what one person claimed to have been told by god over 2000 years ago?
    I submit that none of the statements attributed to god can be verified, and indeed many are entirely suspect since they seem to serve men in power more than they are to be for the people who god supposedly created all of and love equally. Why would god decree some of his children should be slaves rather than that all should be free?
    The question was: is god a jerk; I feel that it’s obvious the answer to that is yes. He allows evangelists to take money from poor, needy and desperate people while preaching in his name. He does nothing to stop the mass killings in CAR or Rwanda or the famines of Africa. He performed miracles to help one group of people get away from another but will not act in anything other than mysterious ways in times since we stopped believing in witches, wizards, unicorns and goblins. The fantastic, the supernatural, is simply not believable or evidenced and god has not acted in thousands of years despite supposedly meddling quite frequently for the first few thousand.
    Is god a jerk? No, because there is no god. But if there WAS a god and it was the god of the bible, then yes, he’s an asshole.

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  2. AMBrewster

    Thanks for taking the time to craft such a great reply. I appreciate your honesty and the fact that you have given real thought to this. I’ve quoted Burk Parsons before when he’s said “I’d rather be an atheist than a nominal, passionless Christian.”

    If I read you correctly, your thoughts broke down into two big buckets. 1. God does not exist. 2. But if he did, and he’s the God of the Bible, then he’s a jerk.

    My plan is to touch on your first observation tomorrow in Part 3, so I’ll save it for then.

    But I have two critiques for your second main point. The first critique is that you’ve demonstrated that your understanding of what the Bible teaches is slightly misinformed. That’s not surprising. Why would you want to know any more about the Bible than I do the Quran? So, firstly, your argument breaks down because your understanding of the Scriptures is incorrect in places. If what you said about the Bible’s teaching were true, then I would agree with you that God is a jerk. But, as I said, part of the reason you see Him that way is you don’t really understand what He’s said.

    Secondly, I’m interested if you would show me where my logic breaks down. For example, I made the observation that “A [perfectly] righteous being could not simply overlook the sin He’s cast judgment on.” and “A [perfectly] loving being would only ever want what’s truly best for us . . . and would be able to provide a perfect substitutionary sacrifice to simultaneously appease His righteousness and proclaim us justified?” Assuming they are both true – and, yes, I realize that flies in the face of your first point – where is the breakdown in the reasoning?

    A. He hates all that is contrary to His nature (holy).
    B. He must judge wrong (righteous).
    C. Yet He loves us enough to provide a way to escape the wrath we rightfully deserve for doing the wrong He’s commanded us not to do (loving).

    How does that not make sense? Thoughts?

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  3. @atheist_deity

    Hi Aaron,

    I should point out that I was raised as a catholic, I went to a Catholic primary school, went through baptism, first communion, first confession (and a few after that!) confirmation, the whole shebang, I chose St Peter for reasons I can no longer remember but it was something about the clover. I went to church every Sunday until I was around 15 (ish) so I am aware of the teachings of the bible, the stories of the old and new testament and I had to study some of the bible, though I freely admit I have never read it cover to cover.
    My understanding of the god of the bible is the jealous god who demanded his people follow his rules and love only him. Until then there were literally thousands of gods but mono-theism was a relatively new concept. It is easy to see how a rebellious and fractured people who believed in many gods could be best controlled by suggesting there was only one god and he would be angry if they did not follow the new rules.
    The story of genesis was clearly written after the introduction of the idea of this new god to strengthen the god and suggest that Moses was a direct descendant of Adam. The flood story was also appropriated from other religions and it is clear that the whole book is put together over a long time to create a compelling narrative. The very fact that god contradicts himself in the bible is evidence that he is not infallible and therefore the argument for god being perfect falls apart. To go from the jealous god of the old testament to the new Jesus version as though god was forgiving us for past and future sins was supposed to be a way to assuage some of the guilt while retaining the threat of hell, but it represented a departure of god from his original incarnation. If he is changing then he is not unchanging and therefore open to being wrong and changing his mind. Similar with the concept of prayer, if god has a plan then why pray for him to change it for you? If he would change his plan just for you then he is not perfect.
    You speak of a perfectly righteous being, but this perfectly righteous being allows innocent children to starve in Africa while American children are obese. He allows drug dealers, twisted, criminal people to live happy, well financed lives creating untold misery for hundreds, thousands of people with only the threat of eternal damnation for the perpetrator. What justice is that to the victims? What form of righteous is that? The argument would be that the lord moves in mysterious ways or that we cannot understand the mind of god, but religious people are very quick to thank him when things go right.
    So god is responsible for all the good things that happen but when thousands of innocent people die after a tsunami that’s just unfortunate, The god of the bible razed Sodom to the ground and performed many other acts of retribution in the early bible yet with all the depravity and injustice we see around us he remains silent and inactive.
    I submit to you that the god of the bible is not perfectly loving. I am not perfectly loving, I have prejudices, faults and dislike people on occasion. But if I was god I could not watch as millions of children cry themselves to sleep from hunger while others have too much food. I would not allow the mass murder of innocents or the rape of women as a tool of war. If I was omnipotent and was able to intervene in the ways that the god of the bible did then I would certainly intervene in this world we live in.
    To argue the counterpoint of wanting what’s best for us and that struggle makes us stronger, that is simply a way to justify continuing to believe when ever fibre of your being tells you no god would allow that to happen.
    People of faith always have a time when they question that faith. Once they decide that faith and god is real they must chose to submit their life to him. That makes it all the more difficult to then accept anything which contradicts the teachings of the bible since if one piece is removed the entire structure falls apart. Take the fact that in the earliest bible the resurrection is mentioned but the story of Jesus appearing to the disciples isn’t’ in it. Without resurrection Jesus is not the son of god and just a man so everything collapses.
    So if the bible is fallible and god is fallible then why should any of it be believed as true. Again, if god does not exist then it’s all down to us to make this world the world of Eden that we know we need to get back to i.e when we lived in harmony with nature, before we had true sentience (which is the source of the ‘tree of knowledge’ story)
    If god does exist then he is either unwilling or unable to intervene in horrific atrocities against innocent people, children. If he is unable, he is not god. If he is unwilling, he’s a jerk

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    1. AMBrewster

      I am going to reserve the remainder of my thoughts until tomorrow, but I would like to agree with you on one thing. If the Bible is fallible, then there is no reason to believe that any of it is true.

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    1. AMBrewster

      I wonder if you would mind reading Part 3 when I post it tomorrow. I have some things I’d like to mention, but I’d like to save it until then. Please check it out and feel free to comment.

      Like

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