I thought I was done with this one for awhile, but it looks like I’m not. Earlier today, Ebay reminded me that an auction I was watching was almost over. The auction was for a collection of 80s music videos. Music videos are about the last medium from my childhood I haven’t managed to collect (I’ve got all the music, movies, books, video games comic books, and quite a few of the toys from that era), and I was looking into doing that. I ultimately decided I would be better served to just watch a playlist on YouTube, of which there are many.
When Ebay reminded me of the auction, though, I suddenly found myself wondering, “I wonder if that video is on the DVD.” That video was this video:
I’m not sure if I saw this video/heard this song in the 80s. If I did, it could only have been once or twice as I have nearly no clear memory of it (I have only a vague feeling that I have encountered it before, a feeling that is far too vague to be reliable). I actually found this one on a “classic” music video show just a few years ago. I like the tune, to be honest; it really gets in my heard. The lyrics, though, are a completely different matter. These lyrics give us another example of the “I don’t believe in God because I don’t like Him” paradox I mentioned in the previous post, and as such is completely illogical and self-defeating. This one, in fact, is even more self-defeating as the lead singer seems to insinuate that he knows God exists but still refuses to believe in Him because He blames Him for the plight of the poor (“Dear God…I won’t believe in You”; how self-defeating can you get?).
When I first remembered this, I initially thought it would have been a great insert for the previous post, and I wished I had put it in. After I thought about it some more, though, I saw that it was somewhat different. Not completely different; not a truly different animal, perhaps. But at least a slight variation. Most of the times I have encountered that “I don’t believe in God because I don’t like Him” paradox, people have been referring either to past actions of God (the punishments or judgments He passed out in the Old Testament) or future actions of God (the final punishment or judgment He will pass out at the end of time). These actions were either completed or not yet started. In either case, they were finished or finite. We can see the whole of them.
This example of that paradox, though, is referring to the present actions of God, to what God is or isn’t doing now. It is the same error (an anticipation of the answer), and it expresses itself in the same way (a refusal to work the equation), but it gets to that point in a different way.
That being the case, it can be likewise be derailed in a different way, a way specific to itself. Apologeticists often attempt to derail those critiquing the past and/or the future actions of God by justifying those actions, showing that those actions are really right even though they seem to us to be wrong (or harsh or cruel or whatever). This one, though, can be derailed with the much simpler and straightforward fact that these situations, the “bad” situations which results in this refusal to work the equation/believe in God, are not finished situations. They are not complete yet. We don’t know how they will turn out. They are works in progress.
It is quite likely, in fact, that they are necessary steps in a work in progress, that they ultimately fit into and contribute perfectly to that work even though they are presently problematic to us.
Why would I say that? Because I know that difficulties or hardships are always part of a work in progress. They are always part of a movie, which is a work in progress, a two-hour development of a (fictional) person. Every movie has a part where the success of the protagonist’s quest is severely threatened and even seems impossible, a part where the protagonist doesn’t have what he needs and seemingly won’t get it, a part where the protagonist is greatly troubled and unhappy. I’ve heard some writers refer to this as “putting the hero up a tree and then throwing rocks at him.” Screenwriter Blake Snyder calls it “Bad Guys Close In” or “Ordeal”, as you can see below.
Can you imagine what mistakes we’d make if we judged a movie at that point in the story? What if we walked out of a film at that stage of the progression? What if we said, “George Lucas cut off Luke Skywalker’s hand; I can’t believe in a writer who would do something like that?” or anything similar. It would be ludicrous. I think we all know that.
We are making the same mistake when we walk out on God’s progressions, the character arcs He is putting us and everyone around us through, at such a point. It is easier to do that in real life; real life character arcs are much longer/more prolonged than movie ones. But they are the same thing. It is quite possible that the things the singer of the above song faults God for are not the end of that person’s story but merely the “Bad Guys Close In” part. He might never be aware of that; we rarely get to watch an entire life the way we watch an infinitely shorter and more accessible film. But that could be what these things are. The poverty these people are in could very well end and give way to provision. The rejection they experience could turn into acceptance. It is hard to tell what could happen to these situations and the people in them. They aren’t done yet. What is easy to tell, though, is that the disbelief based on these situations is completely debunked if they do turn. And that puts that disbelief on very shaky ground. Judging God based on something that isn’t done yet, refusing to believe in God because of a situation that is in progress and far from being resolved, walking out on God’s character arcs at the “Bad Guys Close In” part, just isn’t as wise as the song makes it seem. It is incredibly unwise.
Of course, this error can be solved with the same truth the other could be: an acknowledgement of the goodness of God. I think that is the better way to solve it, in fact. But it also can be solved in this way: an acknowledgement that the things we don’t like aren’t done yet, and could turn out far differently than we think, an acknowledgement that we are refusing belief a little prematurely.