Chapter 6. Who is God?
This chapter asks a question, but does not provide an answer. Instead, Adrian uses it to explore his own confusion and doubt. Yes, accepting Darwin has raised some big questions for him about the character of God. Further confusion arises because he does not consider the God of the Bible to be distinct from the gods of other religions. Inevitably there are important questions raised when anyone tries to reconcile evolution (which Adrian regularly and misleadingly calls ‘science’, as I have already said) and any form of Christianity. By the end of this chapter however, the reader is left with more questions and no answer.
Adrian opens the chapter by admitting that he has no intention of answering a very important question, given his subject; “for the purposes of this book I am assuming that God had a hand in the creation of the universe by whatever means.” (p.41) Having insisted in previous chapters that human knowledge is the scale by which truth can be established, the above statement highlights an amazing failure by Adrian to address an issue central to his thesis. Any non-Christian would be quite right to exclaim, “But you can’t do that!” in response to reading this intellectual side-step. If Adrian cannot put forward any evidence that the god he believes in had a part in creation, then by his own criteria he cannot just assume that such a god had anything to do with the process! If Adrian has the evidence to sustain his view, then why did he not put it forward at this point? – for it is essential to his argument. Without such evidence, what follows can be nothing more than speculation on his part.
Previously I have quoted Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.” This tells us that the best evidence for the God of the Bible being the author of creation are the expressions of His character which are still evident in that same creation. This remains true even though mankind has corrupted that good work through our own sinful acts and attitudes. Adrian is unable to use such evidence because he has already dismissed it, preferring instead to see nature witnessing to the death and destruction required by evolution. By this point in the book he has created a difficult conundrum for himself; in agreement with Darwin he wants a violent creation, but unlike Darwin he wants his god to have a hand in the act of creating. His solution is to credit this god with creating the horror of nature, “But then the universe God created is also a violent, hard and unforgiving place.” (p.41) He next seeks to emphasise the violence by citing cosmology from the perspective of the popular, but unproven Big Bang model. From here his argument moves on to the violence witnessed in the earth’s structure – though his assumption is that these things have always been so. This, as mentioned before, was Charles Lyell’s approach in his effort to undermine the Bible and Christianity. A false view of history leads to a false understanding of the nature and character of the one true God. The rewriting of history is a ploy often used by oppressive regimes, but few realise that it has also been practised by men seeking to advance the cause of secularism. In their case it has proved extremely successful.
Adrian does indeed ask a very important question, “What does the universe and life on earth tell us about a creator?” (p.42) Unfortunately though, his own choice of world view causes him to reject the powerful argument of Romans 1 and to put forward as an alternative one that is completely false. Even though he was discussing Christianity and the Bible, he prefers to attribute to the god of his own wisdom a character which is both feeble and harsh. Building on his arguments in Chapter 2 he adds, “A universe without suffering, death and destruction was not only improbable, it would have been unreliable, and probably undesirable as well.” (p.42) We shall see later that in order to accommodate his own world-view Adrian needs to reinvent the Christian God’s promise of a future with Him, as well as the past and the present, and this is no surprise when one understands the import of his defence of evolution. Having offered no evidence that his version of god participated in the “creation” he describes, having assumed his god was responsible for the horrors of evolution, in this chapter he seeks to excuse this god by arguing that it probably would not have been good to make a universe without suffering for all its inhabitants! As Adrian later acknowledges (in Ch. 9) there is a hope in Christianity, a hope of a better future in a new creation. That, as we shall see however, is a hope which he essentially rejects and which he exchanges for another which wonders whether Christ might inspire mankind to renew the cosmos through living in peace with one another.
If, as Adrian says he believes, “a universe without suffering, death and destruction” was “undesirable”, then he would not want to embrace the Biblical new earth which will be free from sin and death. When the apostle John saw “a new heaven and a new earth” replacing this cosmos (Rev. 21:1) he was told, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (v3-4). This new creation is in Adrian’s opinion “undesirable,” for it will be devoid of death, pain, sorrow and crying. Some years ago I was present at a debate between a creationist friend and a vicar who, like Adrian, preferred Lyell’s world view to that of the Bible. The debate ended with a question time in which one woman, who introduced herself as “not a Christian”, told the vicar that if what he said was true, then he had nothing to offer her. I hear those same words ringing in my ears when I read Adrian’s description of his pathetic, emasculated god.
Twice in this chapter Adrian asks the same question; “was God a monster to have allowed life to develop in the first place?” (p.42) and “was God a monster to have allowed life to develop with all its attendant suffering?” (p.43). Through such questions the thoughtful reader will begin to understand why Darwin does matter to (Western) Christians, but the answer is not the one which Adrian has put forward. If a god did have a role in creation as Adrian assumes, and if Darwin was right about evolution as Adrian also assumes, then that god cannot be good, but must be cruel or weak. Adrian seeks to dispel the idea of a cruel god by appealing to the popular notion that religion started with primitive people worshipping blocks of stone. In time he believes that this developed not only into the paganism of cultures such as Greece and Rome, but also into the Biblical faiths of Judaism and Christianity. Citing passages from the Old Testament, he claims that the transfer from appeasing “the cruel and capricious gods of megalithic religion, of which Yahweh was one,” to the belief “that Yahweh was the only God, who loved, and supported, and sustained humanity.” (p.43) was a slow process. This is yet another reversal of Biblical history. We have seen here that a key issue for Adrian is his view that Christianity portrays a God who punishes rather than one who seeks to rescue sinners. This, as I have explained, arises from his false view of the doctrine of original sin. Biblical history tells us of a Creator who wanted to walk and talk with the people He made (Gen. 3) and will continue to desire this once this universe is removed (Rev. 21 above). This is a God whose character has never changed, but the One from whom men and women turned away to worship gods of their own making. It is these false gods, strongly condemned throughout the Old Testament, which gave rise to the megalithic gods of ancient paganism.
Adrian has further problems with the Bible’s God. Amongst these for him, and he argues for many people, are factors such as, “there is no inbuilt justice in the universe or the natural world” and “because most people are not aware of God acting in their lives, or in the world at large, to change things for the better.” (p.44) The lack of justice today is indeed a problem with which several Biblical authors wrestled, especially in the Psalms. It was also Job’s problem, because a vicious wave of disaster had overwhelmed him though he believed himself innocent. When Jesus was asked about some people whom Pilate had recently killed and then mixed their blood with the Jewish sacrifices, thus defiling both, His response was quite hard, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Lk. 13:3) He then went on to repeat the same warning, citing eighteen people who had been killed when a tower in Jerusalem collapsed. To Jesus, suffering and death in this life were not to be seen as a vestige of our evolutionary past, but as a warning to take action now in order to avoid a worse fate in the future. As I have previously emphasised, the God and Father of Jesus Christ is seeking to alert people to the danger they are currently in because He wants to rescue them from spending eternity isolated from Himself. Jesus saw in these tragic deaths an opportunity to warn men and women of their need to listen to His Father, and to ask Him for His help. In the previous section I quoted part of Abraham’s words in Gen 18, when he called The LORD, “the Judge of all the earth”. The patriarch was even more confident, for what he actually said was, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” This is not the place for a full study of the perfect balance of righteousness and justice contained in the character of God, but those who are confused by the lack of justice today need to remember that it is because of The LORD’s mercy that each of us is for now spared the wages of sin. If He were only a God of justice, Adam would have died on the day on which he ate the forbidden fruit. (For a fuller discussion of this question see my articles, “Why didn’t Adam die on the day that he sinned?” and “If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He just forgive people?”.)
If this God is wanting to rescue people, then why as Adrian complains, are most people not aware of God acting in their lives? Is it because God is impotent, unable to speak for some reason, or is it because he is capricious? When Israel complained that God did not help them, Isaiah conveyed this message to them, “Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” (59:1-2) Might that be the reason why the majority today are spiritually deaf and blind? Many will protest that the problem is God’s rather than theirs. When Jesus met people with that attitude, He rebuked them. When a group of religious leaders criticised Him for giving sight to a man born blind on a Sabbath, He said, “‘For judgement I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.’ Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, ‘Are we blind also?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, “We see.” Therefore your sin remains.’” (John 9:39-40) Like many sceptics today, these people refused to accept that they were responsible for not being in fellowship with God; instead they sought to justify themselves by accusing Jesus of getting it wrong. We also need to remember that ‘judgement’ does not mean ‘to condemn’ but ‘to bring justice’. This is a major problem for those who complain about a lack of justice in the world. Most people simply want God to forgive them, their family and their friends, but not their enemies. (I explore this issue further in the second article mentioned at the end of the previous paragraph.) If more people would follow the advice of Isaiah to seek The LORD which I highlighted in this section, then perhaps less people would be estranged from the God of the Bible.
In the closing paragraphs of this chapter Adrian illustrates very clearly how those who practice a form of Christianity but have no living experience of a relationship with the God who made them, become cynical of His promises. Adrian is not alone in his scepticism of those like me, who claim to know God. Nor is he the only one who acknowledges a Biblical doctrine whilst making light of the truth it contains. He cites dismissively the revelation of God which was brought by Jesus and also the teaching work of the Holy Spirit described by Jesus in John 16. He justifies his unbelief by complaining of the divisions brought by breakaway Christian groups. He also complains that the Holy Spirit failed to alert the Church to the dangers of man-made climate change. Perhaps the latter was because those dangers are just as much an invention of human imagination as is the evidence for one kind of creature producing another kind. On the other hand perhaps the Holy Spirit issued such a warning many years ago. In Isaiah 24 there is a remarkable description of the earth so spoilt by man that it reels to and fro like a drunkard! This, said Isaiah, was not caused by its inhabitants’ carbon emissions but by their sins. Adrian complains, “Why are secular scientists and economists regarded as today’s ‘prophetic voices’?” Perhaps it is because many Christians like himself have dismissed the warnings in the Bible as unreliable revelations.
Finally, Adrian scorns the idea that The LORD answers prayer, claiming a lack of concrete evidence. In part I agree that the majority of prayers appear to go unanswered, or maybe receive the answer “No”, but a full discussion of the understanding of prayer taught particularly in the New Testament, is inappropriate here and now. I will simply quote two passages which do shed light on the question of not receiving what we ask for. The first is found in 1 John 5:14-15, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” The second is from James 4:1-4, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” [Emphasis mine in both instances.]
The chapter ends with Adrian explaining his own dilemma. He cannot accept a god who “is essentially cruel, capricious, and lacking in justice,” nor can he embrace the Deist view of a god who retreated from his creation never to be involved again. The reason he abandons both views is that despite rejecting most Biblical teaching, he still holds on to the teaching that Jesus Christ was the incarnate God. Whilst this may seem commendable, those who read the next chapter of his book will discover that this is a very different Jesus to the one which the New Testament describes as collecting to Himself the wages of human sin, so that He might rescue those who repent and believe. I shall explore Adrian’s alternative Jesus in the next section.