The Power of Death

Examining “The God Delusion” Part 2

This is part 2 of my series examining a documentary put together by Richard Dawkins originally entitled “The Root of All Evil” and later renamed “The God Delusion” wherein Dr. Dawkins attacks Christian belief.  Though I have not seen the documentary itself, I feel certain that Dr. Dawkins presented his most powerful arguments in an interview that he had with Alister Mcgrath that was not included in the documentary.  In part 1 of this series, we examined Dr. Dawkins arguments concerning the existence and complexity of God.  In part 2 we examine the questions that Richard Dawkins asked concerning the cross of Christ.  Most of the questions that were asked have already been answered in my post “The Nature of the Atonement“.  The final question that he asked concerning the cross, however, is somewhat more difficult.   “If God wanted to forgive us our sins, why didn’t he just forgive them?  Why go through all the unpleasantness and self-torture involved in the cross?”  To understand how I would answer this question, let us consider two men before God.

Al:  “Great and glorious heavenly Father, I just come before you and I ask you for deliverance.  My neighbour Bob has sinned against me and I ask you to judge between us.  Every once in a while he drinks too much and injures me enormously.  He has no respect for my property and occasionally takes things that are mine.  He is verbally abusive and threatening.  I cannot live this way, oh God, and I ask you for deliverance.

After Al has made his case, his neighbour Bob stands up before God:

Bob:  “Great and glorious heavenly Father, I just ask for your forgiveness.  I have sinned against you and against Al.  I have gotten drunk and injured him, I have taken his stuff and I have been verbally abusive.  It is just that he makes me so mad when he falls short of your perfect standard and shows no respect for me.  It injures me enormously when he murders me in his heart without your perfect forgiveness.  If he continues to press charges against me, Oh God, then I cry out for justice and ask you to judge him as well.

How would God respond to these two duelling petitions?  I think the Bible is very clear.

If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? (Psalm 130:3)

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

For the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)

For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:11)

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,endures all things.  Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:7-8)

So in this simple story, we see the dilemma that the Bible calls the Power of Death.  Al longs for deliverance from Bob’s abusive behaviour, but Bob uses God’s holiness as a weapon against Al.  Because God is Holy, and because He shows no partiality and because all sin and fall short of the glory of God and because the righteous penalty for sin is death, God cannot enter into partial judgment with His creation.  God may bear all sins with enduring patience or judge everyone worthy of death with no in-between.  God’s nature, therefore, allows for an unscrupulous tyrant to use God’s law to terrorize God’s creation.  The Bible tells us of a being who does just this kind of thing:

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1)

For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. (Revelation 12:10)

But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9)

How does God justify those who have sinned in order to overcome the power of death and free creation from the tyranny of Satan?

and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  (Colossians 1:20)

So God’s perfect and infinite love could have allowed Him to overlook sin without judgment for any amount of time.  This truth is illustrated by the fact that Satan has had continuous access to God for quite some time despite the fact that he was a “murderer from the first”.  What God could not do, however, was show partiality and judge one sinner without judging another.  When God judges sin, He finds that all have sinned and fallen short of His glory and are not worthy of His gift of life (see “Death from God’s Perspective“).  In this way, God’s holiness gave Satan the power of death and only the death of Christ on the cross could liberate creation from bondage by allowing God to justify the ungodly.

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.
 (Romans 8:33)

If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

About Robert V

Former atheist currently living in Toronto.
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