Drinking Deeply

Friday, July 14, 2006 at 1:40 AM

Rebuke the question

Sometimes non-Christians will ask, "well, how is it right that God cursed all of humanity for Adam's sin?" or "Why did God destroy all of Pharaoh and his army?" "Why did God command the slaughter of all the women, children, and oxen of Canaan?" "Why does Jesus curse the fig tree when it's not the season to bear fruit anyways?" "Why does he kill Ananias and Sapphira and not give them a second chance?" and so on and so on. They might even pull in current events: "Why didn't God stop 9/11?"

There are two ways of answering them. One of them is to look up a pile of commentaries, and respond, "No, God did that because they did this, and so it was right of God to do so." "No, Adam was the federal head of all of humanity, so the curse was extended to all of humanity." "No, Egypt wasn't just an innocent country, it was cursed and worshiped false Gods." and so on.

We could do that, but you know what? Even if we could answer every question they presented, they can always come up with more. The non-Christian will simply continue to press these questions. "Why?" "Why?" "Why?" To top it off, it allows them to get away unscathed when they ask questions of God. It allows them to maintain their unbiblical standard of judging and force God into it. It forces us in a position of answering questions, hoping that eventually once all the intellectual barriers come down, they will come to faith.

Instead, one simple way to solve all these issues with one fell swoop is to rebuke the question. Christianity is not just a "defensive" faith. We don't sit cowering in a corner hoping we've read enough commentaries to answer unbeliever's questions. Instead, Paul goes into temples arguing with any and all comers, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus rose from the dead and rebuking unbiblical assumptions and calling for repentance.

And this is an appropriate way to answer any and all questions of this form. When they ask, "Why did God do this?" Our first answer can always be, "Because God is God, He is the judge of what is righteous and just, and His actions flow out of His character. Why is He supposed to conform to your sinful perception of right and wrong? Who are you to question God?"

We can even attack the question asker again: What is your judge of what's right and wrong anyway? If you're an atheist, right and wrong is determined by what? By what evolves? By culture? It seems like killing thousands of people is beneficial to my survival, so that must be right as long as I can get away with it right?

Notice in the Bible, God is never apologetic about what He does. People demand audiences with him because they don't think he's doing the right thing (Job, Habakkuk) , and what happens? God says, "I am God, what are you going to do about it?" The Christian would do well to point people to these texts in Scripture and let God speak for Himself, rather than trying to come up with plausible defenses that are sometimes are simply speculations.

This has a few immediate benefits. 1) It answers a whole lot of questions all at once. 2) It pushes the debate back a step. If they disagree with the standard (God) then they have to present a different standard. Christianity will win every time. 3) It brings the nature of God's mercy to the forefront. Yes, disaster happened to them. But guess what? God was sovereign, and He could do it to you too! Repent!

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Blogger jefe said...

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..." (1 Peter 3).

you've got to be awful careful about a "shut down the question" strategy. first, because you very well may shut off the questioner, in which case what good have you done them? and second, because christianity is simply not about shutting down our questions. there are mysteries, yes, and scripture has no patience with arrogant posturing before god--but (more often than not) the bible is on the questioner's side. look at how much of it is dedicated to raising exactly the same sort of question you're talking about! job and habakkuk (as you point out) as well as other prophets, and many psalms, and ecclesiastes, for a few. "how can god really be just, when the world reeks of injustice?" is an honest and important question, which the bible raises as such over and over again. let's not tire of patiently engaging with it beside the askers, and wrestling with it ourselves--"To the weak I became weak, to win the weak" (1 Corinthians 9).  

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Blogger mxu said...

I've responded here  

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