[Updated from the archives.]
Passing Judgment on God
Some people don’t approve of God. They make comments that begin with the words “I could never believe in a God who …”. You can fill in the rest of the sentence with things like this:
I could never believe in a God who allows children to suffer.
I could never believe in a God who let my grandmother die.
I could never believe in a God who allows COVID-19 into the world.
You can probably come up with more.
Getting God Wrong
God gave Adam and Eve free run of the Garden of Eden. The only restriction – the only one at all – was not to eat the fruit of the tree at the center of the garden. That was it; everything else was theirs for the taking.
It wasn’t enough, apparently.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5.)
So you see, the first sin was believing that a good God would not prohibit eating from the fruit of that one tree.
Which brings me back to people who insist they’d never believe in a God who acts in ways they don’t approve. They make God into their own image, and then believe in that. There’s a word for this.
Worshiping the God Who Is
You might ask if this is still better than denying God’s existence entirely, as atheists do. After all, the Bible tells us that the person who denies God’s existence entirely is a fool.
My answer is to avoid doing both: don’t exchange God for an idol and don’t deny his existence, because frankly I don’t recall the Bible ranking one as less serious than the other.
Remember too, what led to the first sin was not atheism. It was failing to take God as he really is. The good news for us is that God promises to give us a right understanding of who he is:
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me,from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34.)
God fulfills this promise under the New Covenant. In Jesus, we all now worship God as he really is because we have the Holy Spirit in us, the Spirit of Christ who follows the perfect will of God.
Does this mean we now possess a perfect knowledge of God so we never make mistakes about him? No, not yet.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:9-12.)
Until that completeness comes to us, we should go with what we do know about God. It’s there in the Bible for anyone to read.