Last week, I addressed the third 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: 4) God does not protect the innocent.
He does not keep our children safe. As a society, we stand up and speak for those who cannot. We protect our little ones as much as possible. When a child is kidnapped, we work together to find the child. We do not tolerate abuse and neglect. Why can’t God, with all his powers of omnipotence, protect the innocent?
What About This Statement Is Wrong?
Again, Mitchell’s complaint is nothing new. Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 BC) voiced the same attack when he famously said,
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
There are several problems with the assertion.
First, who exactly are the truly “innocent”? Generally speaking, irreligious people with a liberal worldview tend to see humanity as basically good. Yes, there are some who commit unconscionable crimes, but they were a product of unfortunate social and environmental circumstances and were ultimately driven to bad behavior……or so the argument goes. Conversely, highly religious people with a conservative, traditional worldview tend to see humanity in terms of good people and bad people. Conveniently, they also always tend to land on the side of good people when they’re categorizing. And in the end, when God is determining who he allows into heaven, like Harvard Admissions, he welcomes in those with the highest moral performance scores.
The Bible holds neither of these views. The Bible says things like, “There is no one who does good.” (Psalm 14:1; Rom. 3:12) and “every inclination of his (i.e. all mankind’s) heart is evil from childhood” (Gen. 8:21). So again I’d ask you the question, where did you get the idea that anyone is truly and fundamentally innocent? Not from the Bible. That means that you must have learned it from your surrounding culture.
Okay, so prove that people are innocent. I’ll make it even easier. Prove that children are innocent. You won’t be able to do so experientially. If so, come to the Preschool at my church and show me how these cute little 3 and 4-year-olds, who, relatively speaking, have more moral education than most, are wholly innocent. Impossible. And if you reason, “Well, they’re not old enough to fully grasp that what they’re doing might be wrong” – in other words, that limited cognitive faculties or awareness should produce a verdict of innocence – you’ve just made a defense that suggests no drunk driver should ever be held accountable for his/her actions.
Furthermore, the supposed “innocence” of children makes no logical sense from the standpoint that the concept of childhood is unquantifiable. Granted, some churches have tried to define it – often referred to as an “Age of Accountability” – but it doesn’t take long to poke holes in such a concept. For instance, when should such an age begin or end? When does a child actually become accountable for his/her behavior? Age 10? If I murder someone on my 10th birthday, should I be punished for my evil, but if I’d committed the same crime at 9 years 364 days, should I be acquitted?
Do you sense the flaws in such a way of thinking? Isn’t it simply easier, more accurate, and more sensible to say, “There is no one who does good, not even one”?
Mitchell is here suggesting that the innocent don’t deserve the bad things they face in this world. I’m suggesting that she’s actually going to have to prove to me that there is such a thing as a truly innocent person on this planet. In world history, I count one.
What About This Statement Is Truth?
Mitchell doesn’t come right out and say it, but the spirit of her message in this point is that there should be defense for the oppressed and downtrodden and marginalized and sick in the world. And that message is certainly in harmony with what the Bible itself says.
In Scripture, what does God say about treatment of the guilty and innocent? Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent— the Lord detests them both. (Prov. 17:15) While in a broad sense, none of us is truly innocent, in a narrow sense, God absolutely does not like for people to experience injustice in this world. No child deserves to be molested. No hard worker deserves to be robbed. No wife deserves to be beaten. While such victims are still sinners who need their sins paid for, they have not done something to warrant the specific crimes committed against them. And God hates such injustice.
There are great anecdotes in the Bible that show instances of God sparing certain individuals from his righteous wrath. Remember when Abraham bartered with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of Abraham’s nephew Lot (and family). As it played out, God was more gracious than what Abraham was even asking for. Lot and his family were spared. They were still obviously sinners (cf. keep reading in Gen.19). But they didn’t apparently have the same willful impenitence as the rest of the city. Similar things could probably be said about Jericho’s destruction (Josh. 6). God’s track record suggests that he does not want humans to suffer unjustly and he’s certainly capable of intervening and acting on their behalf or sending his mighty angels to do so (Psalm 91:11).
Still, we do in fact observe injustice in the world. We do see the innocent (again, “innocent” in the narrow sense) facing unwarranted suffering and death. Why? Well, please read my previous three posts if you’re looking for an extended answer to that, but the short answer is that God would only allow something unpleasant to come upon us if it was for our eventual greater good (Rom.8:28). God’s ultimate goal for his children is that they be happy, but not just for some measly 70-80 earthly years. He wants to bless us for all eternity. To do so, is it possible that God might take the life of a little child so as to prevent some future challenge or fall from faith? Is it possible that God might allow a young woman to face such physical injustice that she hates this sinful world and yearns for a better life, a life without manipulation or abuse, which ultimately draws her closer to her Savior? Is that really so far-fetched? Look, I’m a guy who will openly point to my own previous bouts with anxiety and depression as some of the most important influences God has used in my life to draw me closer to him. Could God have protected me from an anxiety disorder and depression? Sure. My life on earth may have been easier and more enjoyable. But I’m glad he allowed what he allowed, because I don’t know where the rest of my eternity would have been spent if he didn’t.
How Is the Gospel of Jesus More Beautiful Than This Belief?
Jesus doesn’t just defend the innocent. He, the only truly innocent, defends the guilty before God. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Gal. 3:13)
In the courtroom of God’s Kingdom, Jesus, our defense attorney, appeals to God’s justice. He essentially says to his Father, “Since you have collected payment for all mankind’s sins through my death, if you are a just God, you simply CANNOT collect payment from my people.” Brilliant defense.
Mitchell’s argument for not raising her children with God here is that God doesn’t protect them as she believes he should for their 70-80 years. But the Bible says that God loves you so infinitely much that such love cannot be adequately expressed in a 70-80 year window. Therefore, he will allow whatever he deems necessary in this life so that he can love and protect you for all eternity.
God always loves you more than you give him credit for.
Three Summary Points to Consider:
1) What does it mean to be truly innocent and who would fall into that category? Does your definition of “innocence” come from an admittedly relativistic society?
2) According to the Bible, God hates injustice even more than you do. And his method of operating is to protect people for all eternity, not just this lifetime. Therefore, like giving a child a vaccination, could temporary pain possibly be for long-term protection?
3) To defend the innocent is one thing. To die in the place of the guilty is an entirely different level of love. Has anyone ever really loved you the way the Bible says that Jesus does?