A young man (call him Bob) has rejected Christianity in favor of a hatred of God. Bob does not disbelieve in the existence of God nor has he chosen a religion other than biblical Christianity (self-worship excepted), but simply a rejection of what he perceives to be inappropriate behavior on God’s part. Bob’s leading objection is that God created the human race while knowing that many members of the race would be lost and therefore planning to punish them in hell. God is, on this man’s view, no better than a spiteful killer who destroys for fun. There are a number of ways to respond to this objection, but here I would merely like to sketch what is probably the broadest response.
- If God exists, then God is the ultimate reality. There is nothing that preexisted God; God’s being and essence is not contingent upon anything at all (1 Chronicles 16:36).
- As the ultimate reality, God is the foundation of all being and value. God defines what is good in this universe, because there is no standard of value to which God is accountable (Genesis 18:25).
- Man has no moral ground from which to question God’s value system. Any such ground would have to be a value system other than God’s, but God’s is the only correct one. There is no other value for the universe.
God has created man with an inner sense of His values, a law written on the heart (Romans 2:14-16), and Bob’s objection is based upon a misapplication of the principles of this law itself. Bob thinks God is being unfair because there are principles of fairness that God has given to Bob. Even though Bob has no moral ground from which to criticize His Creator, Bob is also clearly wrong in his assessment if the following account is correct (and it is; cf. Genesis 1-3; Romans 1, 5):
- God created man in ideal fellowship with Him.
- God merely gave man the ability to oppose Him, but did not force man to do so.
- Man’s choice to oppose God results in isolation from Him.
- God provides man the opportunity to recover fellowship with Him.
- God will eventually allow man’s desire for isolation from Him to be fulfilled.
- Isolation from God is the same thing as alienation from everything good, or, hell (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
The implication of this line of thinking is that when someone winds up in hell, he chose his own destination. Clearly, many (if not most) people who wind up in hell will not have thought to themselves an explicit intention such as, “I want to go to hell.” Nonetheless, their decision not to pursue the available relationship with God reflects a failure to love, seek, and obey the truth. Such failure is the result of many choices not to develop the virtue of truth-seeking. “They refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Viewed from the right perspective, God’s values actually commend themselves to common-sense morality.
We freely admit that there are people who have had difficult circumstances in life and for whom finding God is, for various reasons, more difficult than for others. We sympathize with these souls and want to assist them in whatever way possible. What we must not say, however, is that God is responsible for the spiritual distance between man and Himself. “My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples. . . . but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you. . . .” (Isaiah 51:5).
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