What exactly is the point of going “looking for a God of love, kindness, forgiveness, grace and mercy.” if a god who is a villainous monster is also there, and in fact is one and the same. Isn’t it just wishful thinking to overlook the evilness of the god in preference for a loving and kind god? – Myatheistlife
This comment came up in the middle of a discussion on the elements of the Bible that are difficult to understand in the sense that they seem to be inconsistent with a God of perfect love. I was in the middle of writing a long response to this comment when I realized it should really be a post on its own.
As I pointed out in a previous post, if there is an omniscient God who wants to bless humanity in an eternal paradise, then the primary problem that deity would have to overcome is human pride. As proud human beings, our tendency is to think we are more capable of directing our lives than God is. Our attitude toward God is, “I will do whatever you tell me subject to my veto where I get to be the ultimate authority of what is right and wrong for me to do in my life.” This attitude precludes the possibility that there are things which are good for a person (or for others) which would be impossible for that person to understand. Since no human being is capable of fully understanding our own biology, let alone a society of human beings comprising billions of individuals, this distrustful attitude presents a serious hurdle. How can God be God if He has to explain everything He wants us to do to human beings that are incapable of understanding? God must have our trust so that we accept what He tells us even when the purpose of what He is asking us to do is beyond our comprehension because so much is beyond the limited comprehension of a finite being. This trust that God is good despite our own lack of understanding is faith. The manufacture of faith in willing human beings for the purpose of establishing eternal paradise is the reason for the pains of this world.
Now whatever Myatheistlife might say, the need of faith for the purpose of establishing paradise seems unavoidable to me. Is it rational to believe that human beings are so smart that we would never need God’s help? Or is it more rational to believe that human beings have limited capacities and need the help of the omniscient to live as we ought to live? Examine the world around us where every human being does “what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25) and decide for yourself.
Once we have accepted the necessity of faith, the question becomes how does God get proud human beings to develop faith? No human being wants to be what Myatheistlife calls a “servile lackey” and just do whatever someone else says. How does God get us to place our trust in Him? The Biblical answer is that God puts us in a world where our inability to live perfect lives is excruciatingly obvious. God then sends Jesus Christ down here to demonstrate what perfect love looks like and asks us to recognize our need of the pardon that Jesus purchased for us on the cross. What is the most reasonable way to respond to the gospel offer? Is it rational to pretend as though you have it all together? Is it rational to pretend that you are doing fine? Is it rational to pretend that you have never treated anyone in a way of which you are now ashamed? Or is it more rational to admit that you are not cutting the mustard and that the love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness that you acknowledge is the best way to live your life is beyond your power?
When I consider the actions of my past, it is clearly irrational for me to deny that I have acted shamefully or that I need God’s help. Consider the fact that I have a younger brother and I treated him badly when we were children. Can I pretend as though I was a good person when I have caused such injury to someone I care for deeply? It would have been dishonest and irrational for me to have denied my need of God’s pardon when the gospel was presented to me 20 years ago on this basis alone. Maybe there are people out there who have always behaved well and never behaved shamefully, but I am not one of them.
Now once you have accepted that faith can be essential for the divine plan and that you need God’s pardon, one of the first things that you will do is read the Bible in order to understand God better. When you do this, you will find passages that are very hard to interpret in a way that is consistent with the beliefs that led you to accept God’s pardon in the first place. When I read what Moses commands the Israelites in Exodus 32:27, for example, the small ways in which I was self-righteous and mean to my brother seemed like small potatoes. What was I to do?
I had essentially two choices. I could have said, “Well I need a saviour but it doesn’t look like there is one because this verse in the Bible is very hard to understand. I guess I will give up on God”. This was a tempting proposition when I was younger because giving up pornography and other behaviours that God prohibited was more difficult than I had originally thought it would be. My other alternative was to say, “Well, I need a saviour and this verse is very difficult to understand. On the other hand, the whole point of this world is getting me to accept that God can be right even when I don’t understand. Maybe I should give God the benefit of the doubt and strive to find an interpretation that makes sense?” I chose the second option and I have discussed the resulting understanding of Exodus 32 and related passages in a previous post.
Myatheistlife believes that it is irrational wishful thinking to seek alternate interpretations of difficult Bible passages that make sense and are consistent. Evidently, he believes that I should give up on the hope offered to me in Jesus Christ at the first sign of difficulty. As far as I am concerned, however, my approach seems entirely reasonable. It is rational to admit that I am not omniscient. It is rational to believe that an omniscient God would require the trust of those with finite understanding. It is rational to recognize my need of the help of a being of perfect love and forgiveness and accept the divine pardon offered to me through Jesus Christ. Putting this all together, it is rational to believe in Jesus Christ and seek to understand difficult Bible passages despite the difficulties that make them difficult. If it is wishful thinking to attempt to find alternate interpretations for difficult passages of the Bible, then it is rational wishful thinking.