Here we have a perfect example of the truth of God’s Word: “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.” Romans 8:6-8. Indeed, when man is in sin, he is hostile to God. He doesn’t simply misunderstand or misinterpret God, but he is hostile to God.
This can be seen in the writings of the so-called New Atheists (who bring nothing new to the table). They accuse the God of the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) of being an evil, sadistic being (to put it nicely). They defame God’s name and delight in calling Him unjust.
In all of this, however, they betray their complete lack of knowledge about Scripture, God, and the universe.
I believe that there are (among many others) two primary ways that the New Atheists are in error when they attack God in such a way. These two ways are:
1) They forget that if God does indeed exist, then they are in no position to judge God
2) They ignore Christology, which is of utmost importance in any discussion of God
But there is a third point that I have left unmentioned, as I’m still mulling over it. I learned of it upon reading God is Great, God is Good edited by William Lane Craig. I’ll likely write about it in the future.
In the first place, those who attack God’s morality seem to be forgetting a rather obvious point: if God exists, then we are certainly in no position whatsoever to judge whether God is moral or not.
Let us assume for a moment that the God of classical theism exists (i.e. omnipotent/omniscient/omnibenevolent/necessary/sovereign/etc.). If this God exists, then it seems blatantly obvious that it is God who judges what is right and wrong, not us. It’s honestly baffling that anyone could miss this point, but I’ll try to make it more clear.
1. If the God of classical theism exists, then He is sovereign (i.e. the ultimate authority in the universe)
2. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the God of classical theism exists
3. Therefore, God is the ultimate authority in the universe.
Now those who raise this objection somehow think that they are capable of judging the actions of the ultimate authority in the universe. This is not only irrational, but it is an ultimate show of egoism and haughtiness. There is no such thing as a good argument for humans being able to judge the Supreme Being, if such a Being exists.
The second explanation is even more readily ignored by the New Atheists. It’s easy to quote mine Scripture to pull things out of context in order to try to prove a point, but one must understand that Scripture stands or falls as a whole. As such, Christ is to be understood as the interpretive principle for all of Scripture. Every verse should be understood in light of Christ, who is to be at the center of all theology.
So what does Christ have to do with an argument about whether God’s Law as presented in the Hebrew Scriptures is evil? Everything. Christ is the accomplishment of the Torah (the Law). N.T. Wright argues in his work The Climax of the Covenant that the Law “is given for a specific period of time, and is then set aside–not because it was a bad thing now happily abolished, but because it was a good thing whose purpose had now been accomplished.” While some may object to Wright’s interpretation (as they may argue that this view of Torah is anti-nomian in nature, though I think anyone who reads Wright in context will realize this is not the point he makes at all), I believe he makes a wonderful point here. Christ came to save all people (the doctrine of objective justification). Thus, the question should not be whether or not the OT Laws are evil, but the question should rather be “What does this [the Law] mean?”
The answer can be seen in Christ. Romans 10:4- “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” The Greek word for “end” in this passage is tellos, which means “end, goal, to set out for an ultimate goal” (Strong’s Bible Dictionary). Christ has now come. The Law is accomplished. It is to Him that we should turn when we are condemned by the Law. Further, Galatians 2:15-16 “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”
Thus we know that it is through Christ that the Law must be interpreted, as the perfect atoning sacrifice for our sins. The Law can make no one righteous, it can only condemn (and that is evident in those who react with hatred to it [see C.F.W. Walther’s “Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel” to examine this point exhaustively). Those condemned by the law react with hatred, as can be seen by the works of Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et al. But what the New Atheists (and others) need most severely is most certainly the Gospel and the understanding thereof. All Scripture must be interpreted through the Cross of Christ.
This post is part of a series on Jesus: the Living God. View other posts in the series here.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.