God doesn’t ask for much
He really doesn’t. Atheists and skeptics sometimes portray God, if he exists, as overly demanding and petty, poised like a lion ready to pounce on any poor soul who, through no fault of his own, happens to commit an infraction. Or as a legalistic tyrant requiring blood for every innocent, little misstep. But he’s not like that, and I strongly suspect that most folks who settle on this caricature of God instead of investigating further to see if it’s accurate, don’t really want to know him.
I recently stumbled upon this blog Weighing the Evidence, like mine a defense of the Christian faith, and eavesdropped on an exchange the blogger Seth had with a skeptical reader. First of all, I was very impressed with Seth’s congenial, deferential tone as he carefully avoided volleying back the same arrogance and scorn he was being lobbed. But also, I discerned that perhaps this commenter really did want to know why we need to be saved, despite his slightly condescending attitude. And it got me thinking about how best to boil down the salvation apologetic into its most basic, bite-size bits.
So let me see…
- God created us to be in a love relationship with himself…to love and be loved by.
- Because he is our maker, and so incredibly greater than us, he calls the shots. It can’t conceivably be otherwise.
- True love cannot be coerced, so God gave us the freedom to choose or reject him and his ways. Rejecting him is sin.
- God would be a complete wussy if he failed to exact consequences for sin.
- But because he is merciful, loving, and compassionate, he paid the consequences himself.
It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. ~ Romans 3:26
And all we have to do to have the payment applied to our account is believe in and submit to him.
That’s it. That’s all he asks of us to be restored to a proper relationship with himself and be with him forever when this earthly life is over…believe that he exists and submit to his authority.
Objections regarding certain Christian doctrines, which are often misunderstood, can be addressed and overcome. But what can’t be overcome or denied is the fact that each of us fails to perfectly and consistently live up to the standard we intuitively apprehend. We sin. And God says,
Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. ~ Isaiah 45:22
It seems to me we can divide up “all the ends of the earth” into four categories. Those who:
- are unable to believe in God, i.e. babies and the mentally deficient
- are unwilling to believe – those who dismiss the evidence because of an a priori commitment to naturalism or resistance to an ultimate authority
- believe but are unwilling to submit – either they fool themselves into thinking if they simply acknowledge him they’re in, or they just don’t care and insist on doing things their own way
- believe and submit – those who humbly acknowledge and revere God, however he has revealed himself to them, who “turn to him” and recognize and embrace their position as his servants
The first and the fourth receive the salvation God desires for all. The others forego it of their own choosing.
God, in his love, has gone beyond what we deserve to make a way for us to enjoy him forever, even though we have, and continue to sin. Please…don’t be among those who miss out on eternal joy for the sake of temporal independence and self-satisfaction.
Your categories don’t include “willing to believe but unconvinced”. Even if you don’t believe that describes me, surely you believe that describes someone; I think it was CS Lewis who said ” a little study makes you an atheist… A lot of study leads you to God”. (I don’t agree, but clearly CS Lewis believes in people willing to believe but unconvinced; he was one.
I also ponder your use of the word “coerce”. We have the freedom to not believe in God and to not love It. We have that freedom in the same way a victim of domestic abuse has the freedom to leave their abuser; we have the physical freedom, but we are blackmailed and threatened into staying. There may not be physical restraint involved, but it is still coercion.
Another word to focus on here is “exact”. You exact a punishment in proportion. That is not what God does; It offers permanent damnation for finite crimes. That is not exact. That is disproportionate.
The last thing I find strange is the 5 bullet points clearly show a set up: free to chose, but be wary the massive horror that awaits the wrong choice (but I love you!). And despite that you are still willing to call that loving.
My dog is free to sit or not sit when I give the command. It sits if it respects me, and respect cannot be coerced. I would be a wuss if I didn’t take a colt .45 and blow out the brains of a disrespectful dog. But I love dogs, so I killed one yesterday to allow new to forgive dogs that lick my face (but only those dogs).
I can accept your suggested fifth category, but only as a temporary one. My unmentioned but assumed perspective was where one would fall in at the point of death. I acknowledge that many if not most of us spend some time on a journey to faith when we are yet unconvinced. But I believe the evidence we have in creation, conscience, and Christ is sufficient and God knows our hearts. If he sees that we are honestly and humbly seeking the truth, he will make sure we discover that it is to be found in him.
The remainder of your comments, Rhys, demonstrate the caricaturing of God that you and others seem pleased to attack, once you’ve set him up as a mean-spirited tyrant. Obviously, I don’t really know you, other than how you’ve expressed yourself in our exchanges over these last three years, but I do believe if you honestly and humbly seek to know God as he really is, he will reveal himself to you. I pray that you do.
I don’t understand how I am supposed to come to the conclusion you have come to about God’s nature. As far as I can tell, I can making sincere interpretations from the data points you offered in this post.
I don’t expect you to come to the same understanding of God that I do from reading my blog, or anyone else’s. They may help, but if you really want to know him, I suggest you check out his blog…well, it’s a book. But if you read it without any presuppositions, the record of Jesus in particular, you might just be surprised at what you find.
I’ve read it. And Jesus isn’t awful. But Jesus doesn’t need to be God to say anything he said.
The majority of God’s blog isn’t about Jesus, and is awful.
I’ve expressed my concerns about the resurrection before. No amount of reading it makes it okay.
Jesus claimed to be God. And I’m sorry, but I don’t know what your concerns are about the resurrection.
Throwing your sins on the only innocent person to absolve yourself from your guilt. And being judged by virtue of thinking that’s a good thing instead being judged by acts.
Would you really rather be judged by your acts? Why is it so hard to accept the offer of forgiveness that the only One who has the right to decide how best to judge gives?
Because that’s bollocks. It only has the right if it is granted the right. If It is demanding the right, it is enforced by power, not rights, and is an authoritarian tyranny.
And God has used Its assumed right for personal gain (i.e. praise and worship over deed).
Who would grant him the right…you?
I recommend doing some research on how rights work. It’s not done deontological abstract.
C’mon….if there is a God who created everything, including you and me, he owns everything and has the right to do whatever he wants. Just as you have the right to do what you want with whatever you may own and create.
I created a flesh eating virus that discriminates on the genetic level to attack men of Asian descent disproportionately. And I thank you for your permission to do as I please.
You did not create nor do you own the Asian men to whom you are doing harm. That is different. Let me clarify…you have the right to do what you want to whatever you own and create.
So I can just release the virus?
You know, Rhys…sin is very much like that virus, except it infects everyone no matter their ethnicity. God has provided a cure, but you have to choose to receive the treatment. He has made you aware of it but he will not force you to submit to it. I have prayed for you, and will continue to, that God lets you live long enough to come to your senses and be healed.
You still haven’t explained how I can come to a different sincere conclusion from the one I have.
Rhys, a bit ago you implied that Jesus wasn’t God and I replied that he claimed to be. You did not respond to that. Perhaps you are not sincerely engaging with the evidence.
Find me chapter and verse of when he claimed that. He didn’t. And even if he did, that doesn’t solve the problem I’m discussing here.
You just confirmed what I surmised, friend. You may have read the Gospels but they need to be studied if you hope to understand them and really know who Jesus is. You present yourself as someone who has honestly considered all the evidence and found it unconvincing, but I am unconvinced of that. Easter Sunday is near. Have you ever really wrestled with the evidence of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead? Biblical scholars of all stripes affirm the historicity of the empty tomb, the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples, and the dramatic conversion of his disciples from strict Jewish monotheists to believers in Jesus as God, the Son…to the extent that they willingly died for their beliefs. What is your hypothesis explaining all these facts and the origin and spread of Christianity?
About Jesus claiming to be God, here are a few references. In John 8:58 he says to the Jews, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” “I AM” was the very name God gave Moses for himself. They understood him to be identifying as God; that’s why they tried to stone him. They also accused him of blasphemy in Matthew 26 when Jesus answered in the affirmative their question regarding his deity.
In numerous verses equates himself with God the Father. Here are a few:
• For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” – Mark 8:38
• All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” – Luke 10:22
• So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” – Luke 22:70-71
• For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. – John 5:21
In many verses Jesus calls himself “the Son of Man,” a reference to the divine, messianic figure in Daniel 7. And in others he ascribes powers and rights to himself that only belong to God. Such as in Matthew 16:27: “For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. And Matthew 25:31-32: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Also Matthew 28:17-19: “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'”
That’s just Matthew. There are more.
In others he accepts worship and affirmations that he is God:
• And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” – Matthew 14:33
• Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” – John 20:27-28
Of course, there are records of him doing things that only God could do, like having power over the elements by walking on water and stilling the storm.
The claim that the disciples ascribed to Jesus a divine nature that he never would have accepted crumbles under the weight of the evidence.
We need to put a pin in the question of whether Jesus claimed to be God and whether the Bible really needs to be studied; why would Jesus only imply it and why would God’s perfect word need careful analysis instead of being clear.
My question is how is this: how is it that when you describe God I necessarily arrive at extremely different conclusions. You claim love and free choice whereas I see coercion through threats and force, and a self-concerned God demanding worship (or perfection) instead of sincere evaluation of deeds.
Rhys, again…you are only confirming my contention that you are not honestly engaging with the evidence. Just dismissing its relevance and throwing out red herrings.
Your question cannot be why you “necessarily” conclude differently. That seems to be a fall-back position for you – that somehow you can’t help but disbelieve. I have my suspicions, which I’ve probably expressed already, about why you don’t believe. But only you…and God…know.
I don’t intend to respond to you anymore on this post. But I imagine we’ll go at it again eventually. Know that I will continue to pray for you as I think of you.
Why do babies and ‘mentally deficient’ get a free pass? Are you saying those who are neutral- who no not believe either way- get the benefits of an eternal life? What happens when they do, do they then get an adult body, or fully functioning brain? What happens if they then decide against Gods fate for them? Or does God programme them in a way that they then do not get a choice? Lots of questions I know. But that’s religion for you!
Hey, there. Welcome. Babies and the mentally deficient are not “neutral.” They are unable to comprehend and believe. God will not punish them, or anyone, for not doing what they are unable to do.
Thanks for the reply. So what about children of other faiths? Afraid of eternal punishment that the religion they are brought up in threatens also? Do they suffer as a consequence as they are capable of believing in the same God as you?
I’m sorry…I don’t understand what you’re asking. Would you clarify please?
Which, of the four categories, would children that live in societies worshipping other Gods fit into? 1,2,3 or 4?
According to my understanding, until they are old enough to comprehend their own culpability and believe and trust in God – and I can’t say when that is, but God knows, and it will be different for each individual – they would go directly to heaven.
But if the child in question sticks with the religion he/she believed all along they wouldn’t make it to heaven, right?
God has revealed himself to everyone everywhere in creation and conscience. Each person is judged individually for how they respond to what they are able to discern about him, by a God who knows their heart, their consequences, what they would do in any situation…everything about them. He is good and just, and will not unfairly condemn anyone.
Thanks for the shout-out, and the kind words 🙂
You’re welcome. 🙂
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