December 7, 2006

In Defense of God

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

Yes, it seems that God has received another piece of hatemail. This one is from Dr. Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, a book which ranked #2 on's bestseller list just last month. A few weeks ago, Dr. Dawkins read this quotation from his manuscript in a Massachusetts church. The audience laughed and applauded.

Dawkins is an ardent British anti-creationist, and has authored such books as The Blind Watchmaker to argue for the theory of evolution, which he views as an undeniable fact. He consistently resists opportunities for debates with creationists, claiming that being involved with them in a debate would give creationists the "oxygen of respectability".

There are a great many questions that could be asked of Dr. Dawkins. I might point out that the God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New, the One who is still worshiped and adored all over the world today. We could ask Dr. Dawkins why he has devoted his life to defeating an entity that he does not believe exists, or what it is about the concept of God that he finds so offensive.

One could ask, "What, if God indeed does not exist, gives you the right to say that such qualities as the ones you listed are objectionable? Who are you to enforce your brand of morality on us by claiming a character trait to be negative, if, in fact, truth is subjective?"

Yes, there are a great many questions that could be asked of Dr. Dawkins. Personally, I would like to know how much time he spent poring over a thesaurus to compile such an egregious list of adjectives.

However, Dr. Dawkin's problems with God stem from one basic character trait: He is just. And, as Thomas Jefferson said, "His justice cannot sleep forever". God has a clearly defined moral standard, and this standard offends Dr. Dawkins because he has violated it. In a desperate attempt to justify himself, Dawkins has thrown labels at God to try to alleviate the labels around his life that all too clearly condemn him as a sinner.

Dr. Dawkins does not want to admit guilt, so he has reassigned it. When he insults God, he feels justified. There is a hole in his life that cannot be filled by his own morality, so he has dedicated his life to fighting God's morality, in hopes that he can silence the voice of conscience forever.

He cannot.

I've found a very different description of God in the Old Testament:

"The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished...."
Exodus 34:6b-7a

This is the God who is waiting for Dr. Dawkins. This is the God that defies description, the God who forgives iniquity and sin. The God who is waiting for all of us, in spite of the fact that we have ignored Him, rejected Him, and insulted Him.

No, God is not vindictive. He is just. He is more than just, because He has offered the opportunity of forgiveness to us, we who have spurned Him. Like Dr. Dawkins, each of us has insulted God, trying His patience times without number.

Still, He has stretched out the arm of forgiveness, offering salvation, hope, and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). He has loved us, we who were unlovable.

Why should He care? Why should the God of the universe reach down and care about a lost fugitive such as myself? Why should He extend the hand of friendship to a race that holds Him in nothing but contempt?

Because He is merciful. Kind, benevolent, and loving.

So here's to God, by far the most pleasant character in all of reality. Thanks for being there!

No comments: