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 . . .
- He demands loyalty to Him alone.
- 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?
- He allows evil and wickedness to abound – especially to good people.
- 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.
“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?
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