Remember those comments on Tim Keller’s tweets I was telling you about yesterday? Well, here is one of them:
To be honest, I didn’t fully understand what Keller was getting at here, or at least I didn’t understand the first part of the statement. But the gist, I think, is that if there is a God (that is, a higher being, a being superior to us in thought and foresight and understanding) then that God is going to do things we lesser beings can’t understand. That seems fairly logical to me, especially considering I see the same dynamic play out in my house every day. My grade school daughter, who is currently (but, I trust, not permanently), at a lower level of understanding than I am does not understand why she has to go to school or has to go to bed at a certain time or can’t eat ice cream for every meal or dozens of other things I do. As all you parents immediately realize, I not only have reasons for what I do but I have very good reasons for them, reasons that will bless her all her life. So, yes, while Keller’s statement is somewhat odd on the surface, there is a fairly simple and obvious logic to it.
Oddly enough, almighty god himself (no capitals, by the way; I guess that solves that debate) disagreed with Keller’s statement. He disagreed by saying that thousands of children die everyday with prayers to him on their lips. The implication is that he simply chooses not to answer their prayers, and the further implication is that he is wrong to not do so. almighty god then further says that this is all part of his perfect plan, which is obviously meant to be ironic, to assert that there either is no plan or that whatever plan there might be is not perfect.
Now I am not one to contend with Almighty God. I think I can respectfully contend with this “almighty god”, though, and would like to do so. What the lowercase almighty god offers here is what at first glance looks like the common atheist argument which I call “I don’t believe in God because I don’t like Him.” As I’ve said before, this argument is self-defeating: 1) if there is no God, there is nothing to dislike; He has never allowed thousands of children to die because He does not exist, and 2) if He does exist, He is apparently quite powerful, and your indignant dislike of Him, whether righteous or not, probably isn’t going to help you out very much in the end.
And that may be what this is; this might be the old “I don’t believe in God because I don’t like Him.” It seems to me to be more than that, though. It seems to actually fall into what Peter Hitchens calls The Rage Against God.
“The rage against God” isn’t “I don’t believe in God because I don’t like Him.” It is more, “I do believe in God and I hate Him because I believe He does wrong.” This is less self-defeating because God’s existence is assumed; whether those making this statement realize it or not, they are assuming that God actually exists and actually does these things that produce the “righteous” rage against Him. So that takes out the first part of my quick rebuttal above.
It doesn’t take out the second, though. Again, your agreement with what any god does will not matter if such a god exist. Whether that god does right or wrong, he is more powerful than you, and, if he’s as bad as you say it is, he will probably show you he is more powerful than you in a fairly unpleasant way (I doubt that will actually happen, at least in the crude way I describe, because I believe the God that exists is better than that, but according to the worldview these people present, though, that is what would happen).
There are a couple other problems with this rage against God, though, this “I do believe in God and I hate Him because I believe He does wrong” argument. Here they are:
Why are atheists upset at evil? I wanted to ask, “Why do atheists follow a Christian blog?”, as I do legitimately wonder that; if I was an atheist who believed that the fleeting moments of this life (which could end at any unforeseen moment long before I think they will) are all I have, I wouldn’t spend those moments arguing with Christians. That would be a colossal waste. That is something I legitimately wonder whenever I see non-believers commenting on Keller’s or any other Christian teacher’s Twitter. But it doesn’t really fit here so we’ll have to save it for another time and go to this question: why are non-believers/atheists/etc so indignant about the existence of evil/pain/bad/etc? Such evil is not contrary to their worldview; it is entirely commensurate with their worldview. Remember what the worldview of the atheist is:
We’re all familiar with that quote, I’m sure. But notice what it says about this argument. First, it says that there is no evil or good, which means that the deaths of thousands of children is neither evil or good. It can’t be as such things don’t exist in the atheist’s worldview. Everything, including the deaths of thousands of children, just are. Second, it says that there is nothing but “blind, pitiless indifference”. There is just survival of the fittest (or, as it often is, the luckiest). So atheists again shouldn’t waste their fleeting, uncertain moments getting indignant about such things; there is no basis for that indignation. They should instead just be glad they aren’t one of those thousands.
What about the prayers that have been answered? almighty god here is basing an argument on the unanswered prayers of thousands of children. Fair enough; that’s a legitimate thing to do. However, if you are going to argue on the basis of thousands of unanswered prayers then you have to account for answered prayers (of which believers believe there are likewise thousands). You can’t have the one without the other. The argument is prayer, and unanswered prayers are only have the equation. Not only so, but once you account for the answered prayers, you then have to account that there must be (as Keller suggested) a reason some where answered and some weren’t. You may not ever know that reason, but the fact that some prayers have been answered indicates it is there. That makes the argument far less solid than it originally seemed. I think it makes the argument fail, in fact.
Does your worldview do anything for those children? Again, almighty god’s post here is just one statement of this idea which I have seen many times. I don’t know when I hit upon this question, but it was one of those times. An atheist was asserting that belief in God in the face of senseless tragedy is untenable or even ugly, and he was asserting this as if something would be done for that tragedy (it would somehow reverse itself) if belief in God were abandoned. But that is not the case at all. If everyone simply abandons belief in God, nothing is going to change here; the tragedy will stand; those children will still be dead. In fact, the only thing that can do anything for those children/these tragedies at this point is to maintain belief in God. The God worldview asserts that these children will live again; yes, it is a tragedy, and one that God Himself does like. But God will resurrect those children and wipe that tragedy away. Sounds unsophisticated to many today, I know, but that’s the Christian worldview and it offers hope to these children. What does the atheist worldview offer them? What does it do for them? Absolutely nothing. Not only are those children still dead, but their death is irrevocable and meaningless. They are simply unlucky whereas everyone else who didn’t die is lucky. I don’t find that to be the more righteous, compassionate, prettier option here. I find that to be the worst and ugliest thing of all.
As the proverbist says here, some things seem right but in reality are really wrong. Such is the way with almighty god’s comment here. It apparently seems right to him; right and wise and effective. It apparently seems that way to him and to the many like him who keep offering these comments (again, on Christians blogs and posts for some strange reason). Look at it a little closer, though, and its holes start to show. This is no airtight argument against God or Keller’s comments about God. This is nothing that makes any qualitative difference in life. Denying God on this basis doesn’t solve anything. In my opinion, it makes things worse.