#TBTB #TBT – “Why I’m Not a Christian”

ThrowBack ThursdayIn his review of Bertrand Russell’s “Why I’m Not a Christian,” Jeremy Larson does a great job pointing out the inconsistencies that exist in Russell’s (and most other atheists for that matter) thinking.

All Christians must be ready to take back the Bible by preparing to give every man an answer for the hope that dwells within us. For this reason, it’s wise to acquaint ourselves with the atheist’s thinking, but then arm ourselves with God’s answers.

AMBrewster provides a few thoughts as a preface to Mr. Larson’s article here: “Why I’m Not a Christian.”

Why I'm Not a Christian

Is God a Jerk? (Part 3)

Is God a Jerk

In Part 1 and Part 2 we looked at who God claims to be, what He claims to do, and compared it with our common experience. Through that study we saw some of the necessary (and logical) conclusions do not allow us to view God as a jerk (or whatever word you fancy most).

But I stated at the end of Part 2 that we had not yet mined all of the necessary observations from this discussion. I would like to tackle two of those today and start by saying . . .

Don’t Fight Allah With the Allah

Two or three times in my life I’ve heard people (who say they believe in God) judge God as being unfair. Once I heard someone (who claimed to be a Christian!) call God a very inappropriate name which can be loosely interpreted as “jerk.”

But most of the time I hear people refer to God in less than favorable ways, it’s coming from self-professing atheists. They’re the ones who will frequently cite the four life experiences we discussed earlier as evidence that the God of the Bible isn’t everything Christians say He is. The four experiences I’m referring to are:

  1. He demands loyalty to Him alone.
  2. He’s anything but tolerant.
  3. He allows evil and wickedness to abound – especially to good people.
  4. He allows destruction, pain, sickness, and suffering (again, often ravaging the good of the world).

But the thing that stupefies me the most is that they even bother. Let me explain.

A Poor Choice of Weapon

I’ve never wasted a moment of my life being mad at Allah. I’ve never blamed him for anything. And when I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people about the fact that Allah doesn’t exist, I didn’t waste my time quoting passages from the Quran to point out its inconsistencies (of which there are plenty).

Allah isn’t real. He has no effect whatsoever on my life, and though I think belief in Allah is wrong and destructive, I’ll probably never try to argue away his inexistence with the Quran. I have better weapons at my disposal.

My point it this . . . if you say you don’t believe in God, don’t use His Word to argue He doesn’t exist. It doesn’t make sense because any and all of the potential doctrinal, textual, and/or logical inconsistencies of the Scriptures have been repeatedly shown to be erroneous by professionals in every field. Every word of the Bible is consistent with who God reveals Himself to be in Scripture, and there isn’t a shred of verifiable evidence that the world isn’t functioning exactly how He said it did and would.

An Inaccurate Handling of the Weapon

If two people are dueling with swords, and one of them has no idea what he’s doing, is it possible that he may wound his attacker? Yes. But that neither means he’s any good at what he’s doing or that he’s going to win. Furthermore, the more competent his attacker, the more impotent his own defense will be. To the same degree, if someone’s going to argue against God using the Bible, they had better use it correctly.

It would be completely inappropriate for me to argue that the U.S. government is flawed because the constitution celebrates anarchy. Why? Because the constitution doesn’t make that claim.

The Bible also doesn’t say what many of its detractors attribute to it. @Atheist_Deity commented on Part 2 by saying that . . .

“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.”

I would agree with his observations about God if, in fact, the Bible taught what he claims. But nowhere is it the ultimate aim of any part of Scripture to teach tolerance, respect, or even merely being good to your neighbor. If that were true, then God would be unjust to condemn tolerant, respectful people who are kind to their neighbors. But, that’s not what the Bible says.

So, why do atheists choose to wield a rusty weapon they’ve had no legitimate success with?

Don’t Fight Teapots with Negativity

Prove that God doesn’t exist.

Every debater knows it’s a rookie mistake to be tricked into trying to prove a negative.

Russell’s Teapot addresses this issue. Bertrand Russell wrote in an unpublished article that . . .

“Many people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”

On the surface, this quote may seem to be working at cross-purposes to me, but it’s not.

The fact of the matter is that no person in the cosmos can prove that God doesn’t exist. Oh, some try, but atheists much smarter than they know it’s impossible. Yet despite this insurmountable task, the ones dead-set on proving God never existed still grab at any weapon they can to swing around. And the only weapon they have to discredit God is the one marked “Proof the Bible’s Wrong.”

You will find that every argument against God’s existence is a direct attack against the validity of Scripture. Sometimes it takes the form of, “The Bible says people were created, but we know scientifically that people evolved. See, the Bible is wrong.” Or sometimes it’s, “The Bible says you shouldn’t kill, but then God commands the Israelites to kill a bunch of people. See, God’s a jerk, and that type of God isn’t worthy of our worship.” A little harder to recognize is the, I’ve-just-used-a-reasoned-argument-to-disprove-his-existence-weapon. Nevertheless, like its dented cousins, this blade attempts to clang away at the foundational precept that reality is what the Bible says.

Unfortunately for its wielder, these weapons are quite dull and ineffective against a skilled swordsman. There isn’t a single claim made by atheists that legitimately contradicts the Bible. Even the evolution argument falls flat, since there are many atheistic scientists who argue that the theory of Darwinian evolution is “spurious” at best.

In Conclusion

If Russell were right, it’s my responsibility to prove that God exists instead of demanding the atheist to prove He doesn’t.

And that is what all of this has been about.

  1. When you take the Bible for what it actually says and actually means (use the proper hermeneutic), and
  2. Compare what it says to life and the experiences in it,
  3. You find that it is 100% reliable and consistent.

But that would be impossible for a book written . . .

over a period of roughly 2,000 years by 40 different authors from three continents, who wrote in three different languages.”

So, if it did happen that one Book could be written that would stand in the face of whatever attack was brought to bear on its pages – and which is completely unified, consistent, cohesive, and accurate – one may start to think that such a thing is impossible. In fact, there would be no other legitimate, logical explanation than the Bible is exactly what it claims to be . . . the infallible words of an infinitely perfect God.

Well, we’ve just found our proof that God exists.

And He’s not a jerk.

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

“Why I’m Not a Christian” – Jeremy Larson

Why I'm Not a Christian

I appreciate Jeremy Larson’s handling of Bertrand Russell’s philosophies in his blog post Why I’m Not a Christian.

I have found that atheists are incurably inconsistent. It is true this is a common problem among humans, but it is not an issue with God. That is why when we argue from Scripture, inconsistencies cannot abide. But for the atheist, whose sole ground of authority lies in human reasoning, their arguments are fraught with inconsistencies and holes.

But, praise God, between those inconsistencies I find that God’s Word fits rather nicely.