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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Is God a Jerk? (Part 1)

Is God a Jerk

A few days ago I shared that someone tweeted that God must be a complete jerk if He would send “good” people to hell just because those people don’t believe in Him. Other’s have made the same statements concerning the presence of evil and pain in this world.

Is that true? Is God a jerk? Is He selfish, is He jealous? Is @Atheist_Deity right to question the thought,

“so you live a good life, look after your fellow man & never act in an evil manner but don’t believe, god will send you to hell?”

kill everyoneI’d like to look at this question from a bibliological perspective. I want to do this because someone who reads this but does not believe in God will not take anything the Bible has to say as truth. But they do hold their own reasoning skills in very high regard. This, of course, make sense if absolute truth doesn’t exist.

So we will evermind the biblical data concerning God’s supremacy, rule, and reign of the universe, and then we will use logic and human reasoning to see if His truth makes sense given what He’s disclosed and how He’s acted (if at all) in this world.

Please note: While I encourage conversation and debate, I would ask that it be done in a spirit of mutual-respect. This does not mean that we have to agree, it simply means that we do not stoop to name-calling.

Who Does God Say He Is?

I believe this is an incredibly important first step because if we’re going to judge God, we should do it by two things: 1. What He says about Himself, & 2. What He does as compared to what He said He’d do. At this point, it really doesn’t matter what other people say about Him.

Of course, I  don’t desire to be exhaustive in answering the question “Who is God?” because the whole of nature and Scripture is a testament to His person. But I do want to highlight a few key attributes and passages that are relevant to this discussion. I’ve turned to Ryrie’s Basic Theology for concision.

  1. Holy – God is not only separate from all that is unclean and evil, but also that He is positively pure and thus distinct from all others (Leviticus 11:44; Joshua 24:19; Psalm 99:3, 5, 9; Isaiah 40:25; Habakkuk 1:12; John 17:11; I Peter 1:15; I John 1:5; Revelation 4:8).
  2. Immutable – God is unchangeable and thus unchanging (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). A Twitter acquaintance of mine brought up the common rebuttal that if God doesn’t change, why does the Bible say He “repents.” Ryrie explains, “Most understand these verse as employing anthropomorphism; i.e., interpreting what is not human in human terms. However, this can only be said to be so only from the human standpoint, for His eternal plan is unchanging.”
  3. Loving – God seeks the perfection of holiness and all that the concept implies for the object loved (I John 4:8).
  4. Omnipotent – God is all powerful and able to do anything consistent with His nature (Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:3; II Corinthians 6:18; Revelation 1:8 7 19:6).
  5. Omniscient – God knows everything, things actual and possible, effortlessly and equally well (Acts 15:18; Psalm 147:4; Matthew 11:21; Psalm 139:16).
  6. Righteous – God is just; there is no law, either within His own being or of His own making, that is violated by anything in His nature (Psalm 11:7, 19:9; Daniel 9:7; Acts 17:31).
  7. Sovereign – God is in complete control of all things, though He may choose to let certain events happen according to natural law He has ordained (Psalm 135:6; Proverbs 16:4; Acts 15:18; Ephesians 1:11, 1:14).

What Does God Say He’ll Do?

Again, this question is one that can only be fully answered by the completed cannon, but I believe these are the three most important considerations:

  1. He promises to provide everything we need for life and godliness in His Word (II Peter 1:3).
  2. He promises to do everything for our greatest good if we love Him and follow His Word (Romans 8:28).
  3. He promises to save us if we ask, and punish us if we don’t (Romans 10:13).

What Does It Look Like God is Doing?

Now isn’t this the stinger? It’s one thing for someone to tell us they love us, but if they don’t act like it . . . we won’t believe them. Why do so many people believe that God is a jerk? Here are a few reasons (I’m sure some of you could easily add to this list):

  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).

In partial conclusion, if God is to be judged, we must first understand what He claims to be, what He claims to do, and then we need to compare that to what He’s actually doing (or allowing to be done).

Tomorrow we will see what His claims necessitate, and we’ll discuss the logical and reasonable end of these attributes. Therefore, I ask of you two things:

  1. Be thinking about this today. Does what God says about Himself line up with our experiences in this world?
  2. Come back tomorrow as we continue to consider whether or not God is a jerk.

Continue to Part 2.