One of the main reasons that Christians wrestle with doubts these days is that they bump into something that doesn’t seem to make sense.
- Jesus is a human teacher, but he’s also God? How does that work? How can he not know something (Mk 13.32) if he’s omniscient? How do you not know something you know?
- Why did God have to kill his Son, when his Son didn’t even do anything wrong? Why couldn’t God just forgive us—the way he’s told us to forgive others?
- If God is great and good, why is there suffering? Isn’t he able to stop the suffering? Doesn’t he want to?
We’re struggling with a simple problem here—none of us is as smart as we think we are.
Come on; you know that’s true. Even if you don’t admit it for yourself, you see it easily in everyone around you. What’s the likelihood that you’re the only exception? 🙂
Our minds are wonderful things, wonderful gifts from God that enable us to discover truth. But they are not ultimate authorities—in fact, they couldn’t possibly be, given that no two human minds come to all the same conclusions. That may be more obvious in the current polarized culture than ever before. Everybody’s wrong about something; and if there were one exception to that rule, we would have no reliable way to determine who it was.
Rationalism, then, is self-defeating.
Reason, like all of God’s other gracious gifts, is great, but it makes a lousy god.
Paul tells us that “The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1Co 1.25). In other words, on his worst day, God is better than the best of us on our best day in both wisdom and strength.
And God doesn’t have any bad days.
This simple fact yields at least three consequences. I’ll note the first two in this post.
First, arguments raised against God are predominantly weak.
I’ve commented before on the weakness of most charges of contradiction in the Scripture. I’ll confess that I find it difficult not to shake my head when I hear yet another young scholar repeat as breaking news the old allegation that the Bible is “filled with contradictions.” Those who can supply an example or two when asked—and that’s a minority—typically raise objections that are just laughable, such as the biblical comments that God is both a God of peace and a God of war (that’s a round character, and the same young scholars love them when they show up in popular movies), or that Leviticus calls bats birds (it doesn’t).
I’m not saying that there aren’t tough questions; there certainly are, and I’ll get to them in a moment. But it’s remarkable to me how many bright people who view logic as the greatest authority don’t see the logical problems in their own charges against the Scripture.
Second, because our minds aren’t good at understanding infinity, which is an essential attribute of God, we’re often going to run into things that puzzle us—things that we’re not mentally equipped to comprehend.
Let me note something simple about this phenomenon.
It’s exactly what we should expect if there’s really an infinite God.
A common critical view is that religion is something that evolving humans developed in an attempt to make sense of the world, and probably to give themselves power over rival tribes. The Bible, like all other holy books, is just folk tales, interesting in the study of the history of religions but not true, and most certainly not authoritative.
But that doesn’t square with the data.
If we had made this god up, would we have included things that we can’t figure out? things that would encourage rationalists to reject such a god altogether? On the other hand, if such a God really exists, wouldn’t we expect that he would regularly step beyond the horizon of our understanding and leave us shaking our heads in puzzlement?
I would submit that the existence of these perplexities is a feature, not a bug. This is a reassuring thing, not something that should lead to apostasy.
There’s more to be said. Next time.