I received the following paragraph in an e-mail. It was copied from a post by an atheist on a discussion board. I have reproduced the paragraph and then attempted to show how the atheist's complaints about God are invalid. To do this, I will dissect the paragraph point by point. Here is the original paragraph:
"If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has filled with weaknesses? If grace does everything for them, what reason would he have for recompensing them? If he is all-powerful, how offend him, how resist him? If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable? If he is immovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his decrees? If he is inconceivable, why occupy ourselves with him? IF HE HAS SPOKEN, WHY IS THE UNIVERSE NOT CONVINCED? If the knowledge of a God is the most necessary, why is it not the most evident and the clearest."
Following are my responses:
- If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him?
- To say that God is infinitely good is somewhat misleading. I am not saying that God is not "infinitely good," but the point is that God is not only infinitely good. God is also just, righteous, holy, forgiving, gracious, and a host of other moral purities. Therefore, when addressing an issue dealing with God's behavior, if someone were to select a specific and very narrow aspect of God's character and then build an entire argument upon that "sliver of truth" (while ignoring other aspects), then the argument that follows is not representative of what God truly is and cannot accurately represent the character and actions of God. Therefore, the argument and its conclusion are highly suspect, and the conclusions are naturally in doubt.
- Nevertheless, God is not only good. He is also righteous. He has stated that he will punish those who are unrighteous. "Thus I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity;" (Isa. 13:11). Therefore, those who are unrighteous should fear God since he has the right and ability to punish.
- Also, if God is infinitely good, should he not also be infinitely righteous? Isn't righteousness a good thing? Of course it is. Therefore, if God is by definition good, then he must also be righteous. Then we can ask, if anyone is unrighteous, should God punish him for his unrighteousness? Would it be a good thing to let someone do bad things and not get punished? I would hope that even the atheists would realize and accept the premise that people who do bad things should be punished and held responsible for their actions. If our judicial system were "infinitely good," we would have no prisons because we would have no justice.
- The premise of the argument is incomplete and insufficient.
- If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future?
- We have doubts because that is our nature. Whether or not we doubt God is not a reflection on his trustworthiness or wisdom. It is a reflection on our lack of character.
- If he knows all, why tell him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers?
- It is said that prayer changes the one who is praying. Prayer is for the benefit of the one who enters into the presence of God's holiness. There is much discussion in Christian circles dealing with the interaction of our prayers and God's infinite knowledge. It is a subject far too deep for this brief paper. Suffice it to say, God ordains even our prayers in the ultimate accomplishment of His divine will. Besides, God doesn't get fatigued; and our prayers somehow make a difference with God (James 5:16).
- If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him?
- This deals with the aspect of worship, and God's call to us to worship Him in truth. Old Testament temples were a precursor to the temple of God in Christ Jesus (i.e., the incarnation) who dwelt among men, fulfilled the righteous law of God, died, was buried, and rose again for the forgiveness of the sins that men have committed against God.
- Also, places of worship are often healing and emotionally fulfilling places where the worshiper can focus on God with other worshipers. They can be very good places of healing.
- If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has filled with weaknesses?
- God did not fill them with weakness. God made them good; He did not make them weak. But in the rebellion of Adam, people sinned and are now suffering the consequences of their rebellion.
- Again, this is a faulty and incomplete premise in the question.
- If he is all-powerful, how can we offend him or resist him?
- God being all-powerful does not mean that he cannot be resisted or offended. A person could stand out on a beach and resist the incoming tidal wave, but it does not mean he will have victory over it. As far as offending God goes, we do this when we break His law. His law is a reflection of His character. Do not lie, do not steal, etc., are reflections of His goodness. To break those laws is to offend His character. The offense carries a hefty punishment--eternal damnation. But praise be to God who, through Jesus Christ, has removed the wrath of God for those who trust in the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross.
- If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable?
- Again, this point does not really follow the premise. God can be angry at those who sin against Him. There is nothing in His reasonableness that would prevent Him from becoming upset with those who would do wrong. The liberty that we have as people to be unreasonable is a benefit of being made in His image.
- If he is immovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his decrees?
- This is a weak objection. Being immovable does not deal with God's decrees and how he sovereignly works in the world. Another error is to say we can make God change his decrees. We cannot make God do anything. His eternal decrees are made in the counsel of his own mind from all eternity, which is interdependent with his omniscience. Even our desires to have God do certain things (i.e., heal someone) is known by God from all eternity and is included in his eternal decrees. The atheist's question demonstrates a lack of understanding of Christian theology dealing with the issue of God's decrees and human freedom.
- If he is inconceivable, why occupy ourselves with him?
- Who said that God is inconceivable? The very fact that an atheist is objecting to God's existence demonstrates that God is conceivable; that is, he can be thought about.
- If he has spoken, why is the universe not convinced?
- Because there is sin in the hearts and minds of people. By the way, the universe is not sentient.
- If the knowledge of a God is the most necessary, why is it not the most evident and the clearest?
- Who said that the knowledge of God is the most necessary? This is another deep subject too vast for this article (see my paper Is it God's will that all people be saved?).
- It may be that the atheist asserts that we should know who God is because it is so important to know whether or not He exists. But since God justifies by faith, tells us to live by faith, and He opposes the proud, then those who presuppose He does not exist, who challenge having faith in Him, who challenge God's existence, etc., will find God opposed to them. He will not bend to their demands and arrogance so as to reveal Himself to them. They will be given over to the hardness of their own hearts, and they will not hear Him or recognize His hand in their lives.
"God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble," (1 Pet. 5:5).