We Missed You, Jeff!
Jeff Haws, the proprietor of The Atheocracy, is always a pleasure to answer for several reasons. First, he’s much friendlier than his counterparts. He is nothing but professional and polite. Second, he’s a journalist. He’s doing what I want to do for a living, so I can take a page out of his book of how to write–not how to believe. We’re obviously on opposite sides of the spectrum. Third, he takes good-natured jabs in the humor with which they were meant and doesn’t blow things out of proportion. He knows when I’m just joking. Finally, he makes the same theological mistakes repeatedly, no matter how many times that he’s corrected, so it is easy to answer him. Just cut and paste.
Jeff has been on hiatus from blogging for the past few months. He’s started again recently. In one of his first new posts, Jeff offers us his own theodicy:
. . . think about how Christians make it a habit to attribute any good in their lives to God while dismissing any misfortune as “That’s life” or “The Lord works in mysterious ways” or “S-word happens (no, Christians would never use bad language).” Why is that? Couldn’t God have been even more helpful to this guy if he had, ya know, prevented the painful divorce, bouts of depression, money problems and other assorted problems in the first place? Of course, then, God might not have gotten the credit. We do know from Christians that God craves our acceptance, belief and worship. If we don’t give it to him, we’re doomed to an eternity of suffering and Savannah-in-July-type weather. So maybe God either causes these problems for Christians or at least allows them to happen so he can swoop in and save the day, thus receiving praise for his heroic actions.
St. Augustine wisely observed, “God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.” Jesus said that a servant is not greater than his master (Jn 15:20). We should expect suffering in our lives. After all, if Jesus, our Lord and Master, had to suffer, why should we expect a life of wine and roses? Jeff’s theodicy isn’t consistent with Biblical teaching.
Instead, the Bible teaches that we will share in Christ’s suffering (c.f. Rom 5:3-5; 2 Cor 1:5; Phil 1:29). We are to endure suffering (2 Tim 4:5; Jms 5:10-11). To what purpose? God brings good from evil. Rather than prevent it, God uses it (see the story of Joseph in Genesis; esp. 50:20).
God doesn’t crave our attention or worship; He commands it. He created life, the universe, and everything–that makes Him deserving of our worship. But it isn’t merely the rejection of God that condemns a person to hell. This is the error that Jeff–and many other atheists–repeatedly make. Rejection of God, though itself a sin, is only part of the reason why a person is condemned for all eternity in hell. Apart from that, everyone commits many sins on a daily basis that would condemn them.
Jeff also acts as if condemnation is something that we earn. Condemnation is something that we deserve. Sin is within our very nature, part of the radical corruption that pervades all of creation following the Fall.
Jeff concludes this post by asking if God is a narcissist. I think that God has earned the right to be a narcissist because of everything that He has done for humanity. He allows suffering, but is always there as a source of comfort. To know Him is to know unequaled peace. Everything is for God’s glory, and that is by God’s design.