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apologetics, atheism, Theodicy, theology

The Morality of God: Christ at the Center

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.

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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.

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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

7 thoughts on “The Morality of God: Christ at the Center

  1. Okay, I am not going to puff up my ego by using inflated language; I will be direct.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is my understanding of what you believe: Hypothetically-speaking, if god exists, you say we would be in no position to judge god or his morals. Also, you believe that we should be indebted to him, not question him and love him no matter what. Anyone can ask god for forgiveness, repent their sins, and god will love them.
    So the god-loving individual that brutalized [blog owner (J.W.) edited for content] one of my sister’s coworkers may ask god to forgive him and take christ as his savior, and this will allow him to sip Margaritas up on a cloud with the Care Bears. But on the other hand I don’t believe in god or accept christ as my savior, and unfortunately for my godforsaken soul I ate one too many cookies today. GASP. I am now doomed to an eternity of inconceivable torture and agony in hell.
    Also, why must you have god in your life to be a moral person? Can’t you do it on your own? Although this may be an overdone argument, it still amazes me. I am an exceptionally moral person, yet I have never opened a Bible and was raised in an atheist household. Like most, I have been raised by parents with good morals, which you could liken that to being “raised by god” with good morals. But once you’re an adult, it’s up to you whether or not you end up a moral person when raised by parents.
    I find it rather peculiar that so many people decide they will play nice only because of what’s written in a book. This book (word of god) goes so far as to decide who you can love; you are not allowed to be anything but heterosexual. I guess I will go to hell for gluttony, and my friend will go to hell for being gay, while a rapist child molestor who happens to be christian may sleep soundly at night. Woo-hoo. Sounds like a nice, open-minded god that I would love to follow! No, sounds more like a power-hungry, immoral tyrant that’s got a lot of people under his thumb. Whoever thought up god/the bible was the genius of all genuises!

    Posted by KingNyform | February 23, 2010, 11:19 PM
    • “if god exists, you say we would be in no position to judge god or his morals” indeed. I’d be happy to hear a contrary argument, rather than an appeal ad misericordiam, to the contrary. If God exists, then, necessarily, God is sovereign.

      “you believe that we should be indebted to him, not question him and love him no matter what. Anyone can ask god for forgiveness, repent their sins, and god will love them.”

      There is no argument here either. I think this is a clearly true statement, however, considering God (assuming God exists) created us, among other things. Not to mention the redemption He offers, as you point out.

      “So the god-loving individual… agony in hell.”

      Other than your sarcastic statements, generally speaking, this is correct. Also, you still have not provided an argument.

      “why must you have god in your life to be a moral person? Can’t you do it on your own? Although this may be an overdone argument, it still amazes me.”

      I never said that. I have never said that either in this post, or in any other I have ever posted. People can definitely be “moral” people apart from God. They cannot, however, be saved apart from Christ, for “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). I absolutely have never claimed people must believe in God to be moral. The message of Christ is not a message of moral renewal, but a message of salvation granted as a gift to all those who need it through the death of Christ. What you have presented is simply a straw man argument (if it is an argument at all), and is dismissed.

      “I find it rather peculiar that so many people decide they will play nice only because of what’s written in a book.”

      Unfortunately, this is often the case. People treat the Bible as though it is some moral guidebook. It’s not. The central message of the Bible is Christ crucified for our salvation. Those who treat it like a moral guidebook are misrepresenting what the Bible is. Not only that, but it is faith that produces good works (Ephesians 2:8-10), not some kind of moralistic attempt at self-justification.

      “while a rapist child molestor who happens to be christian may sleep soundly at night.”

      Unrepentant sin is damning. If this person you are describing truly repents of this sin, then, indeed, God will forgive him/her. The same is true for anyone, for any sin. This is indeed the “open-minded god” I do love following. Salvation is available to all, not just those people that we think are worthy. Salvation is open to the sinner (repentant child molester) and the saint (someone living a “good life”) alike. The only demand is faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

      I’m not sure where you have learned some of the ideas you have about Christianity, but I think they are entirely wrong. Christianity is not about living good lives. It’s about acknowledging that we are all sinners in some way and that we all need salvation. Then, it’s about realizing that the salvation we need is not something we can earn by being wonderful, “moral” people, it’s something offered as a free gift through Jesus Christ. So yes, the child molester who repents and becomes a Christian is saved, but so is the person who is a glutton, or the person who lies once and that is the only wrong they commit in their entire lives. It is unrepentant sin that sends people to hell. Living a “good life”, however, doesn’t cut it. Only a perfect life would satisfy the Law. Christ came and lived that perfect life, died for our sins (no matter how great or small), and rose again, just as we shall in the world to come.

      Your animosity is quite clear throughout this post. Please note I edited part of it for content. If you continue in such an irrational, offensive tone, I will be forced to delete or heavily edit comments. Please maintain civility.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 23, 2010, 11:57 PM
  2. I understand the editing of the content. The story of my sister’s co-worker was a true one, and I described it in all of its gruesomeness only to drive my point across. Refraining from the graphic details wouldn’t do justice to my point, but I do understand that you prefer such material not be posted, and I’ll respect that.

    In all due respect, I must say that I do not understand the logic behind following a god with such- for lack of better words -misguided morals. Hypothetically, if my mother (an atheist) became the victim of a horrible cannabilistic serial killer, but the latter repented this sin of killing my mother, he would go to heaven. But my mother, being an atheist and never accepting christ as her savior or asking for forgiveness, would go to hell. I honestly cannot fathom how any one individual could follow the rule of a god with this logic. Also I would not understand anyone defending the unfair hypothetical fate of my mother. In my humble opinion, THAT kind of logic seems evil. And this may just be an assumption, but I am guessing that many christian people would ‘adjust’ their beliefs if they were personally afflicted with a scenario similar to the one I have described.

    If you love the “open-minded” god that allows these (I would call them) injustices, does this mean that you must follow suit and not place value judgements on individuals? Again hypotheticlly speaking, does this mean that it is blasphemous for you to say or think “I really hope the person that hurt [loved one] goes to hell” ? And if you do this, would this not make you a hypocrite? Also, if you actually DO engage in the action of thinking this statement, wouldn’t it mean that you, honestly in your heart of hearts, did not agree with god’s word? If you truly agreed with it, it would be natural to follow and automatically you would NOT even think such a statement. But if you were following it because god said, then you are following a rule that you do not naturally and internally agree with and therefore can easily slip. And if this seems plausible, why would an individual choose to follow a god that causes them to act and react unnaturally? And if the natural instinct would be to condemn a person that wronged a loved one, then why would god expect unnatural reactions? I am not trying to be disrespectful, I just really do not understand the logic behind following god’s word when so much contradiction and hypocracy is involved. Is following this just a way to get to heaven and/or prevent punishment…??? If so, wouldn’t this be a very self-centered mindset? Otherwise, what is the motive for following god’s word? Would god smile upon the self-centered mindset because its in his favor?
    I cannot see the benefit, but I suppose that is why I am atheist. 🙂

    Posted by KingNyform | February 25, 2010, 12:42 AM
    • Thank you for responding, Nyform. I just wanted to let you know the next week or so is extremely hectic, so I may or may not get back to you in detail. I will respond in detail when time allows.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | February 25, 2010, 1:25 PM
    • I think that this seems a bit like a misconception of exactly who God is and what He demands. God demands perfection. But no one lives a perfect life. Thus, all are equally condemned to hell. Christ, however, provided a “way out”, if you will, by coming into the world, perfectly fulfilling God’s law, and dying for the sins of all people.

      So statements like “…the “open-minded” god that allows these (I would call them) injustices…” are actually seeming, to me, to be misunderstanding. The injustice is not that people go to hell. Everyone deserves to go to hell, myself included, Mother Theresa included, Martin Luther included, etc. Everyone deserves hell (Romans 2:1 and following, and throughout Romans). Everyone stands equally condemned. God provided Himself in Christ as a way for sinners to be saved (1 Timothy 1:15). So it’s not like we all start of deserving to be saved and then God sends people to hell for unbelief. No, we all deserve hell, and God rescues sinners from hell because of their belief in Christ Jesus.

      “Again hypotheticlly speaking, does this mean that it is blasphemous for you to say or think “I really hope the person that hurt [loved one] goes to hell” ?”

      Blasphemy is speaking against God, so no, it wouldn’t be blasphemy. But it would be quite sinful to hope someone goes to hell.

      Now I must honestly say I’m not sure what your argument is at the end of your paragraph here. I can’t follow it. Could you rephrase it?

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | March 12, 2010, 12:10 PM

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