This is not a tame God

Last time I talked about the Free Will premise, now let’s look at the opposite end of the spectrum—the Sovereignty of God. Rather than defend various stories and precepts about God that He holds Free Will in such esteem so as to allow evil, the Sovereign defense claims that God can do what God wants, when He wants. He made the universe, He can crush the universe. Often an attached claim is that evil has some purpose which God uses for a greater benefit.

This has as many problems as Free Will, upon inspection.

The most illuminating passage for this position is Romans 9:20-24. The famous “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” One can also look at the verses where God caused the tragedy of the Ten Plagues, to show His own glory. (Ex. 14:4) Or Isaiah 45:7, where God admits to creating calamity.

I have also traditionally seen this claim in defense of God killing babies and children in the flood, God killing babies and children in Egypt, God killing babies and children in Moses’ genocide, and God killing babies and children in Joshua’s genocide, and God killing babies and children in Samuel’s genocide. That since humans are created creatures, they are in no position to question what the creator does, up to and including killing them. “Who are you to question God?” (Job 40:2 paraphrased.)

One can’t help but question, though, what God’s purpose is behind these actions, and how that purpose is being served.

Picture some Apatosaurus frolicking with his dinosaur friends on a Saturday afternoon. Because of nothing that it has done, God must drown it. As well as all his Apatosaurus buddies. What purpose does this serve? To glorify God? Who is glorifying God? The other dinosaurs? They are all dead. The mammals, reptiles, birds, insects and fish? Dead, dead, dead, dead and dead. Humans? I am sure Noah was thinking explicitly about that Apatosaurus when getting so drunk he passes out. Gen. 9:21-22

I rarely see Christians talk about the Glory of God displayed in killing all the animals because of something Humans did. Non-believers choke on the idea that God has to kill, kill, kill because of the actions of some humans. No body seems to talk about the Glory of God in destroying all the monkeys, zebras, dogs, cats, snakes, parrots and pike. The only one that seems to see glory in this is—God Himself. Why does God have to kill to make himself feel good?

Further, if a purpose of Evil is to Glorify God, and God glorifies Himself, in order to fulfill this purpose (which has a higher priority than morality/immorality, remember) He can certainly commit an act that is evil. It glorifies Him. The Sovereign Defense cannot limit God to solely moral acts!

But I digress--we are talking about Sovereignty. The explanation for why God could kill baby boys. (Num. 31:17) If God created it, he can do what he wants with it. At the end of the Flood, God gives a curious promise to Noah: “I will not destroy every living thing as I have done.” Gen. 8:21. “Excuse me…uh…God? In point of fact, you haven’t destroyed every living thing. In fact, many, many years from now people will still be debating how you managed to fit all the animals, birds, fish and insects in the ark. Some will argue dinosaurs were wiped out, others argue they were not. How did you destroy every living thing?”

Under God’s Sovereignty, is He bound by this promise? It creates a conundrum. On the one hand, God can bind himself to this promise. On the other, since he is sovereign, he is within his power and ability to withdraw this promise and repeat the action. Or can he, within his sovereignty, say he meant only by flood, and can use fire, dirt, a wayward asteroid, earthquake, pestilence, disease, war and any other means destroy every living thing as he had done? Not exactly comforting.

The biggest problem with the Sovereignty Defense is that we lose all grip on what God can or cannot do. Being completely Sovereign, he can change his mind at will, and it is acceptable. There are no guarantees in the Sovereign Defense world.

Today, Murder is punishable by banishment (Gen.4:15) Tomorrow Murder punishable by death (Gen. 9:5) Next week Murder is punishable by inflicting disease on the Murderer’s family (2 Sam. 3:29) The following month, Murder is punishable by killing the Murderer’s baby. (2 Sam. 12:14) Since God is Sovereign, he can change the rules at whim.

Today burnt animals are pleasing to God (Gen. 8:21), tomorrow God prefers killing Humans (1 Sam. 15:22) next week God hates sacrifice (Isa. 1:11) next month God finds the whole idea of animal sacrifice as a forgotten relic of a past history. Heb. 10:8-26

Today wearing Gold is acceptable (Ex. 3:22) tomorrow it is not. (1 Tim. 2:9) Yesterday we could not eat a BLT, (Lev 11:7) but today we can. (Acts. 10:14) Tomorrow, we may or may not be able to, depending on our conscience. (1 Cor. 8:7-12)

What God will do next is a complete uncertainty. The Son of Sam claimed that God (through the neighbor’s dog) ordered him to kill people. How could a Sovereign Defense argue that point? God is Sovereign, he certainly could do such a thing. God gave one set of holy writings. Updated it with a second set. Why couldn’t he update it with a third, or fourth? What prohibits the Qur’an from being the “Newest” Testament?

When can a person, using this claim, ever say, “God can’t do that.” Why not? He is sovereign. If he can do whatever he wants with his creation, he can empty Heaven, and fill Hell, or vice versa or even rotate, and there is absolutely nothing a person claiming a Sovereign God could argue about it.

Perhaps (and this is a guess) the person claiming this defense would say even God could not violate truth, regardless of Sovereignty. But there is no real way of knowing that, is there? This is just a guess. As humans, we value human life as more important than truth. In Ethical Dilemmas 101 the situation is presented, “What if a murderer asked where your family is hiding? Do you tell the truth to protect them, or lie?”

God clearly does not value Human life. On what grounds do we value life more than truth, yet this person claims God values truth more than life? Is this one of those things that got switched in the Fall?

And there are hints with God being limited in his Sovereignty.

Recall David’s census. Third worst individual sin recorded. (If measured by punishment.) A sin worthy of 100,000 – 200,000 deaths. If Murder is only worth one death, this is 100,000 times worse than murder! A bit of a sticky wicket that comes up is the fact that God incited David to commit this sin. 2 Sam. 24:1. Christians find that problematic. A common resolution is that, if one reads the verse, “God was angry at Israel…” is the precipitating cause. Therefore, God was justified to inflict this punishment, because of the sin of the people killed.

But this is blurring a fact. If the people sinned, God could punish them directly. Within David’s reign, God had no problem levying a famine for their sin. (2 Sam. 21:1) Why would God go through the charade of pushing David to sin, just to punish some Canaanites? As if God’s sovereignty was limited in some way, that he could not exact punishment, despite his anger.

This is not a pretty picture. God angry, but not at sin? God pushing someone to sin, to appease his anger since God is restricted in releasing it? God then inflicting death, but not necessarily on the sinner? What limitation was there on God’s sovereignty, so that he was pissed, but the only way to work off the anger was to make some body, anybody sin?

Pharaoh. Second worst individual sin. Again, God wants to show his Glory, but somehow his Sovereignty is not enough to simply do it. God has to get involved, forcing Pharaoh to sin (in some unclear way.) If God was sovereign, to show His glory, all he had to do was execute the Plagues, one right after another.

Adam. Worst individual sin. Because of this act, God curses the ground. (Gen. 3:17) What did the ground do? Why is God punishing an inanimate object? But when we get to Noah, God says he will never curse the ground again. (Gen. 8:21) Was the Flood another punishment of the ground? Why does God hate dirt? And why does he enact his rage upon dirt for other people’s actions? This is one scary sovereign God!

Reminds me of the old Rodney Dangerfield joke:

“You call that school tough? My High School was so tough, after our football team sacked the quarterback, they went into the stands after his family!”

That’s the sort of God the Sovereign Defense presents.

And, exactly as the Free Will argument, the Sovereign Defense is presented for the sole issue of why God does bad things, and then quickly abandoned in the pragmatic application of Christianity. If God is truly considered Sovereign over anything He creates, he is not bound by truth, life, promises, covenants, books, time, communication, anything.

Does the person holding to a completely Sovereign God really believe that they can do all the correct steps, yet God can still throw them in Hell, because they are created, and God can do whatever he wants with his creation? Of course not. What the person is really saying is, “God can do whatever he wants with you because he is Sovereign, but he won’t with me because….well…..because he just won’t—that’s why.”

They pray to God, believing He will provide. Why? Being Sovereign, it is his choice, not your prayer. They believe a destiny of Heaven awaits them. Why? Being Sovereign God could change the rules today, tomorrow or 10 Million years from now. There is no guarantee of Heaven. They believe this God hates sin. Why? Being Sovereign, he uses sin to Glorify himself, and release his anger.

If Hell is truly a separation from God, when God gets angry in heaven, who else will he have to kill but those holding to the Sovereign God. And we wouldn’t expect any complaints.

It boils down to simple questions—if God is Sovereign, how is he limited? And if he is limited, how is he Sovereign? Again, what I see are humans, manufacturing excuses for a God they can’t quite stomach either.

5 comments:

Daniel said...

Very well-reasoned post. Inerrantists have to twist logical pretzels to explain how their morality is not relative even within their Bible!.

As you pointed out, God's definition of "justice" changes pretty regularly.

Jason Hughes said...

Thank you for your blogsite, guys! I always find your posts (and the ensuing debates!) to be wonderful reading, intellectually stimulating stuff!

Anonymous said...

damn man. instead of bashing god or people who claim to be his people try getting to know him. it's easy, just keep asking him. HIM, specifically.

Todd Sayre said...

Okay, I'll try asking HIM specifically.

"Oh Flying Spaghetti Monster, plesae give me an explanation to 'the problem of carbohydrates'. And since you have the power to, please explain it in a comment on this post."

Seriously though, I imagine people throughout history have been arguing against the obsurd "logic" used to justify the predominant superstition in their culture.

"Steveicus, why do you say that Petericus was zapped by Zeus for some reason? Is it not possible that these sky-bolts are really just a natural phenomenon that we simply do not have an explanation for yet? They seem to indiscriminately hit particularly tall and metallic objects, that doesn't seem particularly supernatural to me. Sure they occasionally hit bad people, but they hit good people too. Explaining it by saying a capricious and nigh-unknowable intelligent agent is doing for reasons we can probably never know (but must presume are justified) is not really a compelling explanation."

I don't think such arguments have convinced anyone of anything throughtout all of history.

That said, nice post elsewise. Hopefully it will make someone think.

DagoodS said...

Thank you, Anonymous, for your comment. But let’s think about this for a moment. First of all, we can agree that if there is a Christian God, he can read the internet. Consider this blog our “asking” Him, and continually asking him.

Secondly, I did ask him. Again and again and again. And I asked other questions. And the other contributors on here asked him. When is enough? At what point do we ask these questions for the millionth time and say—“maybe there is no God out there answering.”?

But most importantly, if God is going to answer these questions, don’t you think he would have done it by now? He many not answer me, he many not answer others, but I am not the first to ever ask these questions. If you are saying at some point he is going to answer, should he have done it by now?

See, I have looked at what other humans tell me as to how God answers questions. It all looks like humans proposing a defense to God. Look at Joshua’s genocide. For centuries, Christians wrestled with the idea of God ordering this, and proposing all sorts of reasons (such as Free Will and Sovereign God) for why God would order this atrocity.

And then we find out in the last thirty years of advancing archeology, that the genocide never happened. A myth. A fable. All those answers for all those years were obviously not from God, ‘cause they were all wrong! Humans making mistakes and excuses. Which is what humans, not God(s), do.

How about God giving the answers to you and posting them here? Or giving some directions to someone else who kept asking Him, and got the answers? Does it bother you that after all this time, God has decided to not give the answers to anybody? Why should I expect them if I keep asking?

Finally, Please understand I am not “bashing God.” I am asking genuine questions of people that propose to me that their God looks this way. If there was a God, it could consider this my personal request for him to answer this question. What I see is avoidance, obfuscation, and word-juggling in response to what is really a simple question.