Yesterday we had Dr. Bennet who works with Frontline Missions preach in chapel here at Northland. He used to be on staff at Northland, both as an administrator and as a professor. He still comes to Northland a few times a year to teach 1-2 week block classes. Every time he preaches it is so awesome...his preaching is so deep but practical...and it's always something I really need to hear...
I would like to share what he preached on today. Like I said, it was something I desperately needed to hear...I've been struggling in my mind lately with different doubts about God and His goodness. I believe in being real on this blog...and that involves admitting my own struggles...I was struggling particularly in the area of how a loving gracious God could allow such bad things in this world to happen...
This summer at camp helped a lot, as the whole summer was about Faith, and the temptation we have to give it up because of trials...but I was still struggling with some aspects of it all in my mind...
Basically his whole premise was addressing ideas of "New Atheists" and how we, as Christians, can combat these arguments...I would like to share what he talked about...
The Objection of the New Atheists
New Atheists main argument against the existence of God is the fact that so many bad things seem to happen in this world with what seems to be little or no intervention by God. In particular some New Atheists have cited the acts of Nazis against Jews and other groups they exterminated. In Richard L. Rubenstein's book After Auschwitz, he says, "A God who tolerates the suffering of even one innocent child is either infinitely cruel or hopelessly indifferent" (p. 87). Many have also cited the Old Testament command that God gave to the Children of Israel to destroy the Canaanites when they entered the Promised Land. Why would God command His people to do this?
Well, I will address what would seem to be God's silence on the Holocaust later, but first I would like to address the argument about the Canaanites. Dr. Bennet told a story about the kinds of things that the Canaanites did in their worship of their god Molech. He described how they worshipped him and made sacrifices to him...and this story is quite horrible...if you do not wish to read it, skip to the next paragraph...I wouldn't blame you, but if you think you can stomach it, read on. They made a metal idol of their god with moveable arms...beneath the idol there was a furnace that would heat the idol up to the point where it glowed. They would then offer their children as sacrifices to Molech (often these were babies) by placing the child in the arms of Molech...the Child would begin screaming in agony, but his screams could not be heard over the wailing of the worshippers who were often cutting themselves to gain favor with Molech. The statues arms would then be lifted so that the child would drop into the furnace. This is where the references in the Bible are made to "passing through fire."
When we consider acts like this, that were so heinous...how can we consider the command that God made for the Children of Israel to destroy them to be an unjust action?!
The Problem of Consistency
If God does not exist...the question becomes, whose standards to we use for right and wrong? There is in us an inherent knowledge of what is right and wrong, if God did not put that there, who did? If there was no moral law engrained in us, wouldn't there be anarchy ruling the world?
Also...if God does not exist...how do we explain our moral outrage at the events of the Holocaust? If we had no moral compass to base our beliefs off of, we wouldn't care about the extermination of millions of people. If there is no God, and there is no moral compass in us, how can we be outraged at murder, but not think twice at a lion killing an antelope?
Questions for the New Atheist
How much justice do we want? Those that make the argument that, if God were real, He would have intervened to stop the Nazis...how much justice do they want? We are sinful human beings who rebelled against the very God who created us. We do not even deserve to live, and yet God allows us to. This is mercy. This is not something that Dr. Bennet argued, but I think it to be a very convincing one...who's to say that God didn't intend for us to be the enactors of justice against the Nazis. Too many countries heard rumors of what was happening in the Third Reich...but we didn't want to believe it. We thought it was too horrible to be true...and yet it was. Eventually we were the enactors of justice, but we came so late that approximately 11 million people had already died.
Justice will come for the evil, either now, or later. Too often we want to see justice served right away. We want to see the bad guy go down before he ever has a chance to hurt anyone. The truth is, if the bad guy does not receive justice here, he will surely receive it in the hereafter. God is all powerful, and He decides when justice is served.
Is God not powerful enough to turn our trials into a blessing? Trials come, and they will continue to come. I know, in my life, I don't learn much without them. God has taught me some amazing thing through trials He's brought into my life. God is powerful...He knows what He's doing! Romans 9:20 says, But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”
If God is vicious and uncaring, why did He go to the cross? One of the most well known verses in the bible is John 3:16. That very verse says that God so loved us, that He sent his son to die for us. Would an uncaring, unloving God, do such a thing? No...it would be absurd. Even before Jesus went to the cross, we constantly witness times where His love was displayed in His actions towards those interacted with during His earthly ministry. In Luke 19, verses 41-44 Jesus weeps over the destruction He knows will come to Jerusalem. Also in John 11 we find the shortest verse in the Bible...Jesus wept. He weeps in this verse, not over the death of Lazarus, because He's about to raise him from the dead, He weeps because he is greatly moved by the mourning He sees the people participating in. This is a God of love. A God who is patient with people who do not deserve it.
I hope and pray that this was an encouragement to believers, and that God might use it to touch the heart of those who have yet to believe...