Green Leaf Press Quarterly Newsletter, April 2011
Former L. A. County prosecutor challenges God—
This review of Divinity of Doubt: The God Question by Vincent Bugliosi began on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, 17 April 2011 (Palm Sunday). Bugliosi was the prosecutor who put Charles Manson behind bars. According to the Times, “the former Los Angeles Country deputy district attorney has applied his ample prosecutorial skills to the ultimate mystery: Is there a God and, if so, why does He allow evil?” According to Bugliosi, “God cannot be all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing at the same time,”Bugliosi loves logic,
and with that approach engages in his prosecution of God. There can be no question that human beings have committed dreadful and repulsive acts of evil. But the problem of his logic is that the acts he decries are what people do; not what God does. Bugliosi wants to put God on trial for our crimes! More difficult are the natural disasters that come our way:
The devastation of Japan in the violent earthquakes, that still continue, and in the unexpected and devastating tsunami caught the attention of the entire world. The destruction and loss of life was calamitous, terrible, and frightening. The world was again confronted with the question: why does God allow such disasters? A response might be that God should not allow earthquakes because they are likely to hurt people. Another response might be that it is alright for God to allow earthquakes if they are out of the way and will not disturb anyone. This would probably force us to the quandary that God should have made the Earth and the solar system differently. But what would the situation of the Earth’s crust be if there were no tectonic plates? Planet Earth started out very hot, and over a period of time it cools, and as it cools it will shrink. How can it shrink without some disturbance to the surface of the earth? [The issue of the cooling and shrinking of Earth is in dispute, but there is no dispute regarding the dynamic nature of the surface of the earth.]
Another response might be that human beings must take into account the natural processes of the earth including earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, tsunamis—adapt their lives to these natural phenomenon, and assume responsibility for their decisions. In some parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, homes and substantial buildings are built in immediate proximity to the San Andreas Fault. There are numerous illustrations, both in our time and in past history, where people have built and lived choosing to take their chances with unpredictable natural forces.
There is another issue. What do we have a right to expect of God? Having created us and having made our lives possible, what is he obliged to do for us? The primary answer is that since he is the Creator it is for him to determine what he will do for us. It was out of his sovereign will that he gave us life. Will not all of God’s related decisions follow from that sovereign will? In addition, human beings need to recognize that their knowledge and understanding are limited. There are some questions that we either leave to God or simply confess that we do not know.
What is our responsibility? If we recognize that God has created us, how are we to relate to him? Are we to ignore him, and to live as if he does not exist? Or are we to draw close to him, recognizing that we belong to him? If we understand ourselves to be his children, how should we respond? If he tells us what to do, should we obey him? Should we look upon him as our friend? Should we ask him for provisions and protection?
If one cannot know the God who has created us what are we to do? We would find ourselves bereft of needed knowledge. We should be at the mercy of forces that we do not understand and that we cannot control. In that case, life would have no meaning and our lives would be indeterminable. If the God who created us just left us alone, what would be the outcome? That, of course, is a hypothetical question, because God not only created us—he sustains us. Without his presence in our lives, we would evaporate, be non-existent. As the apostle Paul said to the Athenians, “In him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28) And to the Colossians: “[Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)
Suppose that the God who created us, communicated with us and told us things that are good for us, and suppose in spite of that we ignored or disobeyed him? What would be the outcome? What should or would God do? If he has good will for the lives of his creatures what ought he do? In what respect can he be the friend of people if they disbelieve or disregard him? How can he have eternal fellowship with those who ignore him? Indeed, where do we get the moral platform to sit in judgment of God?
If we recognize God’s teachings in moral terms: that good deeds benefit us and others, and bad deeds do damage sometimes great damage? Why do we not always chose to do what is best for ourselves and others? Surely the answer lies, on the one hand, in our moral failures and on the other hand in our Lord’s redemptive work. When we look at ourselves and at others and consider the history of the world, we must recognize that the problem is not God, but us! Our moral dilemma was so hopeless that God chose to leave heaven in the person of his Son, live among us, teach us, and the Son had to suffer the condemnation of the Father on the cross in order that we might have forgiveness of sins and with that God’s holiness be demonstrated. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (II Corinthians 5:21) We have the privilege of trusting in God, seeking to live rightly before him, and looking forward to the wonderful fulfillment of his eternal purposes.
Foster H. Shannon
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