Monday, July 22, 2013

Why I Obey a Cosmic Dictator

Some call God a “cosmic dictator.” One atheist claimed that if Scripture – God had commanded Israel to destroy the Canaanites - is foremost in our ethical decision-making, then any ethical horror can be justified. He also claimed that such a morality was just another repugnant form of “might makes right”:

  • Religious morality can actually harm society for no other reason that because it is dogmatic…If your justification [for the wars God had ordered in the OT] is "because god says so" then anything can be justified that way - literally anything. It defies all sense of common decency and it shows how religious dogma can prevent critical thinking. And you are clearly demonstrating here that your moral framework is based on authority and "might makes right"! That's a weak ethical system.
Here’s my response to him:

Admittedly, my defense has to be very nuanced. Relationships are nuanced. If God created this world, everyone and all of our notions of justice, love, fairness and morality, then he has the right to call the shots. This is even true, in a limited sense, if I come to your house. I have to obey your house rules or out I go. It’s not exactly a matter of “might makes right” but of transcendent rights. You own your house, but in a far greater sense God owns this universe. I therefore have a moral obligation to obey Him.

Of course, it doesn’t mean that once I enter your house I have to suspend all moral judgment. You might ask me to do something unethical, in which case, I will leave. I can also do this with God, and many do leave. However, I have chosen to stay! Here’s why:

If I owe any debt of gratitude to my parents, I also owe such a debt to God.

If God is God and is the source of all moral reasoning, then, logically, if have to be suspicious of my own reasoning if it conflicts with God, and sometimes it does. A wise first grader should also have such reservations if he finds himself disagreeing with his math teacher, and the teacher isn’t even the source of all mathematics! This doesn’t mean that I am perfectly comfortable with everything that the Bible teaches.

In my 36 years of following my Savior, I have found that, in many ways, I have been wrong and He has been right. Coming from my radical background, I was against all authority. However, I came to see how my opinions had been born out of my very limited experience. Without parking my mind and moral discernment at the door, I have come to find that I have been wrong in so many ways. This doesn’t mean that I give myself a mental lobotomy, but it does mean that I have come to acknowledge God for who He is. His Word therefore has the upper hand in my life, as it should!

Besides, in many areas of my life, I have come to rely on experts. This doesn’t mean that I turn my mind off, but it’s an acknowledgement of the fact that I am very limited and I need the help of others more expert than myself.

He has won my heart! I am convinced that He loves me and has died for me. I am therefore grateful and gladly follow Him! While the idea that “God says so” is utterly distasteful to you, it is sweet music to my ears. This is because I trust Him and the love He has for me. Admittedly, I’d prefer to have perfect understanding of His Word before I take a step. However, I know that He has His reasons for not explaining everything to me. I am therefore willing to walk through the “valley of the shadow of death,” because I know that He is with me and will never let go of me.

He has never required me to do something that I later regarded as wrong. You claim that if God had asked the Israelites to exterminate the Canaanites, then anything can be justified. This just isn’t true. Regarding ethical questions, His Word is very clear. If a pastor tells me that God had told him to leave His wife and marry a younger woman, I would ask him to show me what Scriptural justification he has. Of course, there is none, nor for many other things that people want to do. Immorality cannot be justified Scripturally!

His Word is also consistent with the moral dictates He has written on our hearts. When Scripture tells us to not divorce, I have a corresponding witness in my heart to this moral truth. I know that there are things more important than my own immediate satisfaction. In other words, Scripture does not require us to do anything we know is wrong!

Not only do I delight in following my Savior, there are also so many blessings in doing this. Not only has He rescued me from myself – from depression, panic attacks, and self-loathing – He will also rescue me from the judgment to come. Meanwhile, He is working everything for good that comes into my life, however painful they might be.

Despite being a God of judgment, He is even more so the Savior of the world. He has promised all of us:

  • “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mat. 7:7-8)
If we refuse to seek Him, we have only ourselves to blame!

  • For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10:12-13)

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