Saturday, December 10, 2016

Doing God a Favor

Have you ever heard an unbeliever, especially an atheist, talk about God and His sovereignty? They will often tell you that, if the God of the Bible is the true and living God, then they don’t want to worship and serve such a God. This in reaction to the fact that the Bible, in unmistakable terms (Romans 9; Ephesians 1; etc.) declares that God is sovereign over His creation and that nothing takes place without His guiding hand. It is as if they are telling God they will do Him the “favor” of serving Him if only He were not so… tyrannical!!

However, when it comes to justice and the need for it, that same individual will wax philosophical and will, in unmistakable terms, declare that justice must be done. This came to mind recently as I was watching a show where the host was discussing the death of Fidel Castro, the onetime Cuban dictator. During the episode in question, the host mentioned, during an especially interesting segment of the program, that although he is a skeptic and believes that this life is all there is, he hopes that there is such a thing as final justice so that Fidel can find his rightful place in the final circle of hell. (In Dante's "Divine Comedy," hell is divided into nine circles, with each succeeding circle inflicting worse punishment than the previous one on those that God considers worthy of each particular circle.)
Thus, although an unbeliever and a self-described skeptic, the show’s host had the natural impulse that we all have in needing justice to be done. But the inconsistency of the world at large is further shown in what followed later during the same show. The host plays a clip of the Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, saying that, although he knew that Fidel was an atheist, he must be in heaven because of all the "great things he did" for Latin America. This obviously betrays the irresistible urge that the world has to insist that what it does is what matters; do enough good works, the prevalent idea goes, and God has to accept you into "his heaven." Again, the show's host decries such a sentiment and repeats his wish that there is such a thing as divine justice.
Now, I don't know about you, but to me this shows the amazing cognitive dissonance that the world has when it comes to its own sin. Here you have an individual who does not believe in the afterlife, but who hopes that there is such a thing, at least for some people, so that those whom he considers "evil" will get their final comeuppance. Obviously, you can see that such an individual completely misses the seriousness of his own sin since it goes without saying that he does not want his personal sin to be punished, but only those of the "real bad people." But a greater point comes to mind in all this. Even a self-identified skeptic, finds the need to hope that there is justice in the end. This brings to mind the fact that, regardless of how hard those who do not believe in God try to think of their lives and their world in purely naturalistic terms, they are unable to do so because there is no such thing! But further, they will set themselves as the arbiters of what God should or should not do. They become the final judge, and they determine who is worthy of punishment or reward.
If you've ever watched any videos of famous (or perhaps infamous, depending on your point of view) atheists such as Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens, you will remember that one of their continual refrains was their attack on the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible, they would claim, is a bloodthirsty, sadistic and genocidal god who is an uncivilized brute and little more. Usually, this is offered as one of the primary reasons as to why such a god could not and should not be believed in. Their contention is that justice has to come in this world because there is no other. Furthermore, their particular concept of justice is much more "advanced" than that of the superstitious people who put the Bible together and our current society's enlightment should be seen as the standard to follow. Again, just ask them and they will be happy to tell you how people should be judged. You will quickly discover, however, that the standard is always them since they will never see themselves for the sinners they are.
This idea, that a God who is sovereign and who can determine how, why and for what reason He brings about His will is not worthy of belief or worship, is mirrored by many Arminians. When confronted with the clear biblical evidence of God's sovereign choice in matters of salvation--and everything else for that matter, they will recoil and scream that they could never worship such a God. It would not be fair, they claim, for God to decide even before any of us is born who He is going to save and who will be lost. To them, sovereignty only works as long as that sovereignty includes the provision for God to relinquish such sovereignty when it comes to who is saved. They want to put themselves at the center of such a process and be the ones that determine whether they will be saved or not by their own, independent, free choice. Who then determines what fairness is? Well, of course, themselves.
You may be thinking that grouping atheists and Arminians together is a rather bold, strange grouping. But all this is to say that, as the title of this article says, there are many who have convinced themselves that believing, worshiping or serving the God of the Bible is a favor they do or would do Him if they so choose--out of their own free will, of course. When you listen closely to the most raving of the atheists, you will often realize that they feel that, since they are so rational and moral, to believe in the God of the Bible would be to do Him a favor. In the case of the free will advocates, their stance is that God must be "fair," as they count fairness, in His dealings with humanity. Again, it is as though God needs humanity's favor in order to do anything.
In the final analysis, God has need of none of us. As Paul so eloquently told the Athenians during his famous Aeropaus discourse in Acts chapter 17: "The God who made heaven and earth, He is the Lord of heaven. He does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor is He served with human hands as though He needed anything. On the contrary, He gives to all life, breath and everything besides." I couldn't have said any better myself.

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