In the recent series at Josiah Concept Ministries, I’ve been chasing some of the absurdities of the Blog for WWGHA. Thomas, in a rare moment of lucidity, rightly repudiates “making excuses” for God by saying his motives are mysterious. The Conversational Atheist states:
The real question is, given that you are dealing with a creature whose motives are mysterious — why are you worshipping [sic] it? It’s really fairly simple, either you can know something substantive about God’s actions, morals and motives and can make a judgment; or you can’t know something substantive about God’s actions, morals and motives and have to refrain from making a judgment.
A theist should not be allowed to hide behind “God is unknowable” and simultaneously claim that “God is praiseworthy”. (source)
He’s right — we shouldn’t be allowed to hide. The fact is that we don’t. This is bait and switch. CA is committing a fallacy of equivocation.
God’s methodology is mysterious. We might not always understand God’s plan or why certain events happen — like the theater shooting in Colorado. And we aren’t really supposed to speculate, despite what some Christian leaders have done in the past.
But methodology is not motivation.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “… we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). This is where faith comes into play — not faith as Richard Dawkins sees it, but faith as the Bible sees it. Unreserved trust. If you trust that God will fulfill his promises, then everything that happens is going to work out positively for God’s plan of salvation.
Romans 8:28 is part of a larger argument for salvation, starting with the corrupt natural world, moving to the hope we have in God’s promise, and finally the assurance that God will work it out for the good of those he calls to salvation. But you have to be able to trust that God will fulfill his promises!
So are God’s motives really all that mysterious? Nope — his motives spring from the eternal divine nature of his character. God cannot lie, God is intolerant of evil, God’s wrath burns against sinners. His methodology may be beyond our ken, but don’t let anyone equivocate his methodology for his motives. His motives remain rooted in his goodness, his methods beyond our understanding.
We don’t worship a being whose motives are mysterious. We worship him because we understand he has the utmost good of his people at the heart of his actions, even when his actions don’t seem to jive with that.
So what happens when we see something as horrific as the Colorado theater shooting? What good could possibly come out of that? How can I see that and still put my faith in Romans 8:28?
Simple. Let’s turn back a few verses:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hopethat the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.For in this hope we were saved. (Rom 8:18-24)
Then, forward another chapter:
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Rom 9:22-24)
This world is fallen, broken, and evil. No doubt about it. What hope have we for a better world, if we can’t see the fruits of our own corruption? In Romans 8, Paul continues that hope is not hope if we can see the object of it. Therefore, God endures the vessels prepared for destruction so that we can see the evil of sin, and so that we can appreciate the riches of his mercy in heaven.
Instead of repeatedly looking to this world for comfort, we should place our trust heavenward, in God. This world has no comfort for us. Naturalists look to this world for wisdom and understanding, and the best they’ve come up with is “Nature, red in tooth and claw.” Not comforting.
If this world is all there is, then every theater shooting, natural disaster, war, or asteroid near-miss should send us deeper into a depression that we have no hope for our species. Either nature is going to “select” another dominant species, or we’re going to wipe ourselves out with Tony Stark-esque weapon.
On the other hand, if there is something else to hope for beyond this, something we cannot yet see (as the apostle Paul contends), then every theater shooting, natural disaster, war, or asteroid near-miss should remind us of that shared hope, that creation will one day be saved from itself.
And we Christians have already found that hope in Jesus Christ.