Things God Can’t or Won’t Do?
The more I read Proud Atheists, the more I get the impression that its writer, Mark, is a spoiled child. Somewhere, in the all the confusion and doubt that often inspires people to walk away from their faith in Christianity, we get the idea that God owes us something. God owes us nothing.
Modern Christianity seems to give us the impression that God owes us something. Chris Rosebrough, who studies and critiques the purpose-driven church movement, thinks that a follower of modern Christianity is defined thusly:
Someone who has made the decision to be an emotionally well adjusted self-actualized risk taking leader who knows his purpose, lives a ‘no regrets’ life of significance, has overcome his fears, enjoys a healthy marriage with better than average sex, is an attentive parent, is celebrating recovery from all his hurts, habits and hang ups, practices Biblical stress relief techniques, is financially free from consumer debt, fosters emotionally healthy relationships with his peers, attends a weekly life group, volunteers regularly at church, tithes off the gross and has taken at least one humanitarian aid trip to a third world nation.
Notice that it is all about what God can do for us: giving us purpose, removing fears, granting a healthy marriage with a better sex life, recover from all hurts, habits, hang ups, relive stress, relieve debt, etc. Rosebrough laments this definition, because it applies to a broad category of people who are not necessarily Christians. He says:
Tradgically, the “Jesus” that is presented in the sermons that promote this definition of being a Christ Follower isn’t the savior of the world who died on the cross for the sins of the world and calls all nations to repentance of their sins and the forgiveness of sins won by Christ on the Cross. Instead, the “Jesus” that is presented in these sermons is a “life coach”, a training buddy and the supreme example of an emotionally well adjusted risk taking leader who lived the ultimate life of significance and purpose. This purpose-driven “Jesus” is there to help you achieve what he achieved and invites you to follow his examples and methods so that you can be Christlike too.
Since modern Christianity has failed in teaching its adherents that humility, repentence, and submission to God are all necessary to live a life like Christ, it is no wonder that the critics of Christianity raise the objections that they do. These objections are based primarily on the assumption that God actually owes us something. If you start with the idea that God owes us nothing, then most of these objections disappear.
Let’s examine Mark’s list of ten things that God can’t (or won’t) do with the biblical presumption that God owes us nothing and see if what happens to his objections.
God can’t keep children from dying of dreaded diseases and starvation, nor any adult either.
But why would he, when we can easily stop this through more efficient allocation of resources? It’s no secret that I work in food service. All of the food that we waste in a day due to the balancing of speed of service and quality of food is sickening. Even more sickening is having to remake food simply because the customer thought the sandwich looked too sloppy. All of this food would be welcomed graciously by any of these starving folks that Mark talks about, but instead winds up in a white bucket marked “Food Waste Only” until a manager counts and records it, then it is dumped in with the general trash to be hauled away and benefit no one.
This is our problem, not God’s. What obligates him to solve it for us?
Somehow, God has not stopped wars between Jews and Muslims, nor has he stopped Christians from invading other countries.
God reveals in his Word that this kind of thing is wrong. At least for Christians. But it is our responsibility to follow his Word; it is not his responsibility to force us to follow it. See here.
God won’t speak to us “Earthlings” in a loud and physically audible voice.
The Bible would contradict this statement. God speaks audibly to Israel in general and Moses in particular throughout the book of Exodus. And, he places his stamp of approval on Jesus after Jesus’ baptism by John. It is more accurate to say that God doesn’t speak “in a loud and physically audible voice” often.
God cannot write his own scriptures or books. He always seems to delegate this type of stuff to people that dislike science, reality, gays, people with opposing thoughts and independent thinkers.
Interesting statement. The Bible isn’t meant to be a science textbook, so the statement that God delegates the task to people who dislike science is wrong. I have no idea what Mark means by Scripture writers disliking “reality.” Scripture writers dislike homosexuality, not gays (love the sinner, hate the sin). There’s a difference.
As for people with “opposing thoughts” and “independent thinkers,” there is, of course, right and wrong theology. So, it isn’t out of the question that those with opposing ideas, at least in the realm of theology, should be excommunicated. Staying faithful to the Word is tantamount to having a right relationship with God. What about different denominations? See above.
God cannot control the deviant sexual actions of the clergy that represent him. Many Catholic priests and Protestant pastors have been convicted of pedophilia, child molestation and “sex with a minor”.
But, if these folks relied on God a little bit more and themselves a little bit less, they may not have offended in the first place. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is self-control. For a humorous take, see John W. Loftus’s post on sexuality and this answer. This is the crux of Holding’s response, and it holds true to Mark’s objection:
The bottom line is, God is an idiot if he expects us to actually monitor our own behavior and become responsible on terms of the management of our health and welfare. If He really existed, He’d encase us all in plastic bubbles and never let us out.
Yes, it’s sarcastic, but it drives the point home. We are responsible for our own behavior. This sort of atheistic objection is akin to saying, “Why do we have to be responsible? God created and maintains us, he should also micromanage all of our behavior so that we’re good all the time!” But why should he?
God hasn’t cured the common cold, HIV, many types of flu viruses and dozens of other illnesses. Nor has he ever regrown a severed limb.
Again, so? These things obviously play a part in his overall plan, or else he would have cured them (or shown us the cure) long ago. These objections come from sites like Why Won’t God Heal Amputees, which have been answered by Christians here and (more humorously) here. Much of the material on WWGHA is repeated on God is Imaginary, which I answer here.
God hasn’t decreased the number of non-theists or skeptics. In fact, because of the hypocrisy, stupidity and ignorance of his clergy (and many of his followers), atheism is a growing concept among humans. Many of his followers are not like the “God” or Messiah they profess to follow.
Either God can’t or won’t stop Pat Robertson from making stupid, inaccurate statements after an earthquake has claimed the lives of thousands in a country outside of the United States.
What did we just say about human responsibility?
Pat Robertson is a teacher of the Word, and he handles it quite badly. If it’s any consolation, that means a far greater punishment (see Jms 3:1).
God hasn’t endorsed one religion or cult as the only truly divine following.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Christianity is the endorsed “religion.” See John 14:6. Of course, you could try to argue that each of the Christian denominations is a separate religion, but that would be false. So, why are there all sorts of denominations? Because human interpretation of Scriptures oftentimes fails.
God cannot stop me from pointing out the ridiculous rituals, “iron age” ideas and hypocrisies of the people that profess to follow him, “his son” or any of his “prophets”. Nor will his lack of presence ever convince me to change my mind. My only “sin” is an extreme doubt of his existence.
Which is, of course, enough to damn you to hell (Jn 3:18). See also here.
My only question to Mark would be this: Why does God owe us the things that you say he does? He owes us nothing, but he has given us the free gift of grace in Jesus Christ. That’s a lot more than he should have ever given us!