Daily Archives: October 20, 2008
Regular readers know that I’ve been working out rebuttals to the sites Why Won’t God Heal Amputees and God is Imaginary. I have discovered recently that those sites run a blog where a person going by the moniker “Johnson” posts regularly about religion and all of its “evil.” The focus of the sites WWGHA and GII is, purportedly, all monotheistic religions. But when a person looks at the categories of the blog and the numbers of posts within each category it becomes readily evident that Christianity is the prime, if not only, target.
Recently, Johnson critiqued the newspaper advice column “God Squad” for their answer to this question:
I’m having a hard time keeping my faith. I was raised a Christian, yet we didn’t attend church regularly. I consider myself blessed, yet I’m having trouble accepting that God had anything to do with it.
I can seemingly explain my good fortune by a combination of science and hard work. I very much want to believe and have God be a daily part of my life, but my heart doesn’t feel the same way. Can you help?
Almost Godless in Florida
The God Squad concluded that this person’s real problem was a lack of gratitude for the blessings that God has dispensed upon him rather than a lack of belief in God. Johnson makes this a deeper and more philosophical proposal than it needs to be by reversing the coin: If God blesses some people, it means that he also withholds blessings (or curses) others. Johnson says:
Here is where rationality comes in. According to the God Squad, God is the cause of all blessings. There is no reason to thank God if he is not the cause. Therefore, all the people who live in an unblessed state – the thirty thousand children who will die of starvation today, for example, or the thousands who will die of cancer, or the billions who live in stark, abject poverty – must of necessity be in those situations because God has cursed them. If you happen to live in Ethiopia and starve to death today, it has to be because God has failed to bless you.
In other words, God curses everyone who is suffering on earth. The suffering must come from God’s withholding of his blessings of health, food, rain, etc. Meanwhile, over in the United States, God blessed Bill Gates with another billion dollars today, and Bill should be grateful to God for that since God made it happen.
When you think about it rationally, you cannot escape this obvious problem. If we are supposed to thank God because he is the cause of all blessings, then it means that the lack of blessings (starvation, cancer, poverty, etc.) is caused by God as well. And this means that God is the most twisted, capricious, biased, despicable creature in the universe. 30,000 innocent children will starve to death today specifically because God withheld blessings from them. (source)
What this assumes is that equality of possessions is the ideal condition. We call that communism, which is not an ideal condition at all, as evidenced by the catastrophic failure of the regimes that used it. Instead, the ideal condition on earth is the inequality of possessions, so argues Wayne Grudem in Business for the Glory of God.
Grudem says that because of the Fall and the curse on the productivity of the earth, inequality of possessions is necessary. Grudem also echoes the biblical teaching that to whom much is given, much is expected. That those who have a lot of wealth and possessions are expected to give a lot to serve the needs of his fellow man.
Now what do we actually see on earth? Do we see those having a lot giving a lot, or do we see the opposite? That the haves horde for themselves and the have-nots just end up with less? Yes, I’m afraid that is exactly what we see.
Inequality of possessions gives people varying levels of accountability, which is exactly what God intends. This means that inequality of possessions in and of itself is a good thing, and is intended by God for his own glorification. What the WWGHA Blog is talking about is the distortion of that good; the hording of wealth by people and the callous evil that the haves display in allowing the have-nots to starve to death. Grudem cautions:
But the distortions of something good must not cause us to think that the thing itself is evil. The evils of poverty and excessive, self-indulgent wealth must not cause us to think that God’s goal is total equality of possessions, or that all inequalities are wrong. Inequalities in abilities and opportunities and possessions will be part of our life in heaven forever, and they are in themselves good and pleasing to God, and provide many opportunities for glorifying him.
The obvious objection to this is that I’m just resorting to the Free Will Defense–man causes his own pain, not God. But I believe that, in some cases, there is something to this Free Will Defense. Not all cases. Obviously, a natural disaster isn’t explained by free will. In his book God’s Problem, Bart Ehrman’s mistake is looking for one answer to satisfy all cases of suffering. I don’t believe that there is one pat answer to suffering, but suffering in all its forms creates opportunities to glorify God. Because of the bondage of our wills to sin (a topic I’ve explored in some detail), we are bound to screw these opportunities up. Sometimes, we screw up royally.
Because of inequality of wealth, the curse on the productivity on earth, and the bondage of our wills to sin, those statistics that atheists often quote are true: 30,000 people will starve to death today. But God created this as an opportunity to glorify his name by giving these people some food from your own plate. But most people, realistically speaking, aren’t going to do that, are they? Why does that become God’s problem? Shouldn’t we make an effort to solve that problem ourselves?
We’re not going to, and we all know this. The 30,000 people dying isn’t what grieves God; the millions of people who are in a position to stop it but don’t give a damn is what grieves him.