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NOT ALTOGETHER LIKE YOU
But to the wicked, God says: What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you. When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face.
– Psalm 50: 16-21 (NIV-UK) –
THE CHIEF DIFFICULTY which stands in the way of believing in God is the general unsatisfactory state of the world. The assumption is that a loving, powerful creator could not tolerate random acts of natural and man-made violence and death. Ergo, there is no God. The faith of many has collapsed on this one point. As once steady social elements decay in one direction and magnify in complexity in another, scepticism abounds. Britons in general are now less willing to endorse traditional religion than a generation ago.
For all its defects, humanity in the main has noble impulses and an intuitive yearning for fair play. It has a remarkable capacity for unselfish action in the service of others. Such altruism is on display frequently in the collective response to tragedy, small and large. People are quick to donate to charitable and humanitarian causes to alleviate the distress of others and to offer their help. Nor is this confined to the Christian. Tenderness of heart and a sacrificial love is the standard hallmark of the family unit everywhere. As a species we are repulsed by violations of this unwritten code.
Natural selection and survival of the fittest, the twin pillars of evolutionary philosophy, tell us that even the heroic aspects of the human being can be explained without resorting to belief in an intelligent creator. And there is a thriving intellectual factory which churns out assertions that even the most graceful and charming aspects of humanity are, at root, utilitarian – an evolutionary means to an end.
Such a counsel can only reinforce the notion that life is, in the long run, without significance – the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ school of thought. But though many say they subscribe to this bankrupt philosophy, they don’t actually behave as if they do. Life and self-esteem are precious to most people, and they will not easily relinquish their grip on either.
In the context of the Psalm quoted at the head of this article, the ‘wicked’ are those who commit evil in a deliberate way – those who know better, but choose not to follow the right course. Indeed, they seek to exploit the misfortune of others for selfish motives. The calumny against God is that He is like these, turning a callous eye on the sad plight of mankind and is either incompetent or has nefarious designs.
It’s easy to see why many have come to this conclusion. Unbelief is easy; Faith is hard. But it is far too simple to draw a straight line from the sorry state of the world to the conclusion that God must not exist. The universe is too complex to warrant such a hasty judgement. And, assuming the existence of an intelligent creator capable of producing such an extraordinarily complicated universe, it’s unlikely that He would be so elementary and transparent as to be easily understood.
We need to look for a deeper explanation.
Rough Love in Action
There are many calculations one could make about the odds of the universe coming about by luck (from what?). They weigh heavily against the accidental assembly of a solar system with no outside assistance, especially considering, for example, the equilibrium which must exist between gravitational pull and a planetary orbit of sufficient speed to counteract it. To hypothesize such ‘accidents’ requires the ‘miracle’ mentality of which many Christians are accused by their detractors. One would not normally gamble against odds of even lesser magnitude were they applied to crossing a busy road blindfolded.
Assuming the existence of God – still the default state of mind for most people – we might reasonably expect some communication from Him relative to our place in the scheme of things. The Word of God alone informs us that His purpose and dealings with mankind are compassionate, foresighted, and progressive, spread out over a number of ages, each leading to a grand and glorious consummation. At the beginning, God endowed His human creation with free will. The choice exercised by Adam in the Garden of Eden precipitated the Fall, the consequences which we now see and feel – the grinding distress under which we all labour and die.
Regardless of the age of the earth, which may be thousands of millions of years, human history is quite short. For this duration mankind has had to endure a great lesson: the permission of evil, which teaches us the dire effects of sin and alienation from the fellowship of God. All are enrolled in this particular school.
But God has made provision for an experience which is the opposite of the present one and which will undo and obliterate all the effects which now detract from life. At length He will bring in Christ’s Kingdom on earth. During that period, mankind living and resurrected will be accorded a wide, flexible opportunity to learn the blessings of righteousness and the joys of fellowship with God. The end result will be eternal life in a world free of the harshness and unpleasantness of our present existence.
Psalm 90: 14-17 speaks prophetically of a restored mankind, and puts into their mouth the hope which lies within:
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendour to their children. May the favour of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.
It will yet transpire that God’s reputation will be vindicated and His compassion for the human family – demonstrated by His sending His Son to die on the cross – will be evident to all, even His critics.
Copyright April 2009, UK Bible Students. You may reproduce this article in whole or in part, but please let us know if you do, and link to our site, if possible.