Take a moment with me and consider: what if God was cruel? What if God was completely unpredictable and wholly uncaring towards us? What if God was arbitrary, uninterested and unkind?
Some might say that God seems to be that way… if there is a God… pointing to passages in the Old Testament that portray God as angry, wrathful, retributive and seemingly callous about human life and suffering. Some say that they cannot believe in a God like that.
But, hold on a second. Why should God be the way we think He should be? Why should God be the way we want Him to be?
If God is God, and there is no higher authority, who are we to demand God be anything other than whoever He is and wants to be?
Indulge me a little here.
If there is intelligence behind the Universe, the intelligence and power necessary to create the Universe is not something we could control, let alone judge. When we say that we cannot believe in a God like the God described in the Bible because he does not seem loving, aren’t we just projecting our own desires on God?
What difference do our desires make to the God of the Universe?
If there is intelligence behind existence, and I think the evidence is absolutely compelling, what control do we expect to exercise over such intelligence? Our lives are but a wisp in the vast ocean of time and space. The Creator of that time and space doesn’t take orders from us.
We want God to be loving and caring, like a big teddy bear in the sky, but what do we really have to say about the matter? What difference do our thoughts make to God?
I can see why people are atheists. To consider that there is some intelligence behind the existence of the Universe means that we are not in control. Not that we are in control of a godless, random impersonal Universe to begin with; but, at least, atheists can hold on to the illusion that we can control our small corner of the Universe without accountability to anyone.
What control do we actually have? We live on a razor edge with myriad factors hanging in a delicate balance that, if one or two of them were just a little off, we would not be capable of this intellectual exercise – because we would not exist. Life would not exist! The fragile nature of our existence cannot be understated.
With that perspective, is not the fact that we live in the perfect conditions for our existence provide some hint about the nature of God? If God created these perfect conditions for life that is set (or sustained) in a perfect balance, He is responsible to establishing (and maybe sustaining) this perfect balance that allows our fragile existence.
If God created the Universe out of nothing, He could send it back to oblivion with a mere thought. He could upend the delicate balance that sustains our life without a second thought.
But He doesn’t!
How tender an All-Powerful, Creator-of-the-Universe God must be to sustain such delicate life as we live on this planet in the gaping expanse of the cold Universe. Without a word from the Bible, we know something of the character of God and His attitude toward us from the delicate balance that supports our existence.
The Old Testament certainly leaves some question in the trembling minds of men. Though we quake at the foot of the mountain while lightning flashes and thunder booms, the next moment we are worshiping a golden idol made by our own hands. I am referring to the story of Moses obtaining the Ten Commandments from God while the Israelites partied on without him, making a golden cow to worship in the process.
It is easier to devote ourselves to something we know, something that is the product of our own efforts, and something we can control, then a God who is so completely overwhelming to us that we might die in fear at His presence.
Lest there be any doubt about the character and intention of God towards men, however, the New Testament reveals God’s heart toward us through Jesus. In Jesus, “[God] made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:7-8) The entire biblical account of God’s interaction with men culminates in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Man, God who became flesh.
In Jesus’s own words, he said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28) God, who could crush us and stamp out life as we know it in an instant, actually loves us!
He loves us so much He emptied Himself of all that creates the immense gap between us and God and became like us. He even submitted Himself to the very Law He imposed and offered Himself as a sacrifice… for us!
This is the Christian worldview.
From the vantage point of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we look back over the Old Testament with a new perspective. Knowing that an all-powerful, omniscient, omnipresent God could act anyway that He wants to act with absolute impunity and with no regard to us, leaves me feeling eternally grateful that God is not cruel, arbitrary and uncaring.
We may not understand the pain and suffering we see and experience, but we can be assured that none of it is due to a lack of care or love from God.
The fact that God demonstrated His love for us by emptying Himself to become like us and then sacrificing Himself for us, gives me assurance of His love. The fact that He died in the flesh, feeling the pain we feel, and then rose from the dead gives me assurance of the hope of eternal life with God. It shows me this world, where pain and suffering presently exist, is not all there is. It demonstrates that the longing I have for justice, love and eternal life has an object – there is a corresponding reality.
The totality of the Bible reveals that God is not cruel. He is love. We are born into this fragile existence like a tender shoot. In the grand design of our Father, we live this myopic life like caterpillars feeding on the vine that is our place in the world. By the demonstration of God’s heart toward us that we observe in Jesus, we have the assurance that we will emerge through death in this life to the flight for which we have been prepared.
If God was cruel, there would be nothing, absolutely nothing, we could do about it.
But, joy unspeakable… God is love!
Life and death as we know it is colored by our faith, or lack thereof, in the revelation of the Divine. It is a cold, dark, arbitrary world (and a blind, pitiless one) indeed if there is no God. The Christian sees the revelation of God in the entirety of the Scripture, and the Scripture ultimately reveals a loving, intimate and caring God that we can trust in spite of the perceptions and fears that persist. The Christian sees the universe that is hung in a delicate balance that perfectly supports our carbon-based life, and the message is the same.