Last week, I addressed the first of the seven reasons Deborah Mitchell cited in her controversial CNN article “Why I Raise My Children Without God.”
Mitchell’s 7 Reasons “Why I Raise My Children Without God” were, as follows….
- God is a bad parent and role model.
- God is not logical.
- God is not fair.
- God does not protect the innocent.
- God is not present.
- God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good
- God Teaches Narcissism
This Week: 2) God is not logical.
How many times have you heard, “Why did God allow this to happen?” And this: “It’s not for us to understand.” Translate: We don’t understand, so we will not think about it or deal with the issue. Take for example the senseless tragedy in Newtown. Rather than address the problem of guns in America, we defer responsibility to God. He had a reason. He wanted more angels. Only he knows why. We write poems saying that we told God to leave our schools. Now he’s making us pay the price. If there is a good, all-knowing, all-powerful God who loves his children, does it make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind? Doesn’t this go against everything Christ taught us in the New Testament?
The question we should be asking is this: “Why did we allow this to happen?” How can we fix this? No imaginary person is going to give us the answers or tell us why. Only we have the ability to be logical and to problem solve, and we should not abdicate these responsibilities to “God” just because a topic is tough or uncomfortable to address.
What About This Statement Is Wrong?
In all honesty, I’ve read this point from Mitchell about a dozen times and I have a hard time seeing it as a legitimate argument that God is not “logical.” I feel like I, even as a Christian pastor, could come up with a better case against the logic of God. Attack his triune nature. Attack the hypostatic union (i.e. Jesus being both true God and true man). Attack the notions of God as eternal or omnipresent. But to suggest that God (or the idea of God) is illogical because there is pain and suffering in the world is such a weak argument that it has essentially been dismissed by over 90% of the world throughout history, who do, in fact, believe in some form of “higher power.” Let me explain.
Last week I challenged Mitchell’s assertion that God, as the Bible presents him, is not a loving “parent” or “role model.” I’m going to do so again by asking a simple question: Is it logical for a parent to ever allow their child to go through pain?
I remember reading the story of a Christian father who was talking about the growth of his children. He mentioned how one day he was watching his little daughter, who had been wanting to learn how to sew, working at threading a needle in her room. He said he had observed her without her knowing. He saw her prick her finger and a little drop of blood came to the surface on her finger. She winced a bit and shed maybe a tear, but persistently kept plugging away at trying to thread that needle. He said it was everything he could do to not rush into the room and take care of his precious daughter’s little finger. But he gathered himself and went and sat down in the other room, observing her from a distance. A minute or two later, the girl came running to him, shouting, “Daddy, Daddy, look what I did!” He reasoned that if he had immediately intervened and threaded the needle for her, she wouldn’t have pricked her finger, but she also wouldn’t have learned how to thread the needle. And by the daughter’s own admission, the pain she went through to become “greater” was well worth it.
I understand that parents don’t want their children to go through unnecessary pain. But is it possible that there is such a thing as necessary pain and suffering and discomfort in this world? Well, to get in the best physical shape that you can, to train for a marathon, for instance, every athlete knows it requires some personal discomfort to get there. Every serious student knows that to get your degree from any reputable academic institution requires hours upon hours of personal, occasionally uncomfortable mental discipline. Physical and mental greatness seem to come at the cost of some pain. I’m certainly not trying to trivialize the pain of great tragedies in the world, like the Newtown massacre, which Mitchell pointed to. If you presume so, please check out the recent article I wrote on it. I’m simply trying to establish a point that the world seems to view as fairly obvious – that greatness generally comes at the cost of blood, sweat, and tears.
If that principle is indeed a universal truth – that pain and adversity, if handled properly, creates a better you – then wouldn’t it be true of humanity not just in physical or mental endeavors, but also psychologically, morally, and spiritually. The Apostle Paul certainly seemed to think so. “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Rom. 5:2-4)
If God is indeed as much or more wiser than us in the same way that a parent is wiser than his/her child, wouldn’t it be safe to say that we, as God’s children, don’t always understand God’s logic? Does a child always understand the logic of a bedtime? Does a child always grasp the importance of a balanced diet and why cookies for dinner doesn’t work? Of course not.
The problem is not so much that we can’t grasp the logic of God. The problem is that most of us are not humble enough to admit that there might be a being out there who actually knows us and what’s best for us better than we ourselves do.
Is it possible then that we humans are so flawed that we screw the world up to such a degree that, at points, God needs to either discipline us or at least do some occasionally painful damage control? As one who believes that I’m one of those children, I’m not arrogant enough to suggest that I know why God allows the specific tragedies that he does. I’m simply suggesting that it’s not that far-fetched to imagine that they may be, at times, necessary and even beneficial for the human race.
While no one enjoyed the recent recession, did it not teach us all the valuable lesson of learning to live within our means? I don’t want anyone to die from AIDS, but didn’t the pandemic teach many something about the implications of the way we use the powerful act of sex? You get the point.
What About This Statement Is Truth?
There are 2 things Mitchell said under this point that resounded with me, which I nearly completely agree with. And both points can perhaps be summarized in this one statement from her: Referring to the Newtown murders, she said “Rather than address the problem of guns in America, we defer responsibility to God. He had a reason. He wanted more angels. Only he knows why.”
She got us.
1) We should take responsibility for our actions. While God allowed the Newtown massacres, he didn’t cause them. Too many people confuse knowledge with causality in the conversation about God’s operation. If I know that a friend is going to rob a bank, I have a responsibility to both discourage the friend and warn the bank. If my friend goes ahead and robs the bank anyways, I will not go to jail for it. I was not an accomplice. I did what was reasonable in deterring the action. As I indicated in last week’s post, in a world with volition, you can’t simply force everyone’s actions. Therefore, if God intervened every single time a human was about to do something that caused pain, it’s hard to argue that there would be any volition in the world. Put differently, if you don’t even have the opportunity to do bad, how do you know if the good which you do is really “good”? How would we ever see sincerity if everything was forced? How would we ever truly know someone?
I have no idea why God allowed these children in Newtown to die. To even speculate is almost to insinuate blame upon God. Flawed, hurting, broken sinners in a sinful world sometimes commit murder. It’s tragic and it’s embarrassing for us as humans, not for God.
2) Bad theology from Christians. Mitchell’s line about “God wanted more angels” was both painful and smile-inducing to read, as I’ve unfortunately heard many well-intentioned Christians share similar, totally unscriptural sentiments. The voice of vehement atheists in America has proportionately grown with the rise of biblical illiteracy. In other words, atheists have gotten more confident in what they believe as Christians have gotten less confident in what the Bible teaches, due to their own lack of investigation.
If I was looking for answers about the Newtown murders and “because God wanted more angels” was the only rationale I got from Christians, I’d be more compelled to jump on the atheist band wagon too. At that point a Christian is not using the Bible; they’re only using their own individual romanticized notions of God, i.e. their personal feelings and logic, which is neither objectively more nor less true than anyone else’s feelings or logic.
Now this is perhaps easy for me to say as someone whose living is made by proximity to God’s Word. Still, I don’t expect every Christian to be able to debunk some bad assertions made by the non-Christian world. However, I do expect every Christian to be working to obtain a fuller knowledge of the truth of the Bible in order that they not only not present false hope (1 Tim. 6:3-4), but that they may also “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15) Every Christian, from 3 years old to 103, needs to be able to do that.
How Is the Gospel of Jesus More Beautiful Than This Belief?
When confronting his brothers in Egypt, the very ones who had debated killing him, but instead sold him into slavery in a foreign land, Joseph said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Gen. 50:20) Joseph saw through the garbage of his life and the sin of this world to recognize that God used it all to elevate him to a prominent position in Egypt so that he could help humanity prosper. Now that is NEITHER the dismissiveness of “It’s not for us to understand” NOR is it the immense pressure and unrealistic expectation of “How can we fix this?”, since problems like violence, and war, and famine, and disease have been around for all recorded history and we still have not been able to solve them.
God doesn’t force good things. Humanity isn’t capable of completely good things. But the Bible teaches that God is big enough and strong enough and wise enough that he can take our flawed efforts, our selfish motives, and our ill will and turn it all into gold. And this helps us better understand exactly how good he is to us. This is most obviously seen in the cross of Jesus. There, God takes the worst of evils and turns it into the greatest of good – the worst injustice in history now becomes the greatest blessing the world has ever known. God’s Son dies, but God immediately gains billions of children through faith in that heroic Son.
Is a belief in such a God not a more beautiful way to view the world?
Furthermore, is a belief in such a God really all that illogical? If this God really did create our universe and all of its corresponding laws (time & space, etc.) wouldn’t he necessarily both exist outside of this universe and also possess the ability to penetrate this universe (i.e. transcendence)? Consequently, his logic would not be illogical, but supralogical. And the logic of an infinite Creator God would never be able to be fully processed by the finite minds of his human creatures.
Three Summary Points to Consider:
1) Does allowing pain in the world really conflict with the idea of a loving God? Does a parent allowing discomfort in their child’s life (e.g. through discipline) conflict with the idea of them being a loving parent?
2) Whether or not you agree with the idea of the Bible being God’s Word, you must attest that it clearly indicates that every human problem we encounter in this world is indeed human-induced (Rom. 5:12). Therefore, we absolutely need to be clear that humans are the ones who must be held responsible for suffering and creatively work together to eliminate similar future tragedies.
3) The main message of the Bible (and basic modus operandi of God in the Bible) is that God transformed the greatest evil, the death of his innocent Son, into the greatest good, salvation for all who believe. This doesn’t seem to fit nicely into human logic. But is this simply illogical, or is it possible that it’s supralogical?