In my post on salvation by faith, I mentioned the fact that God does not behave as though He believed all the things men say about Him, particularly as concerns His alleged love for us and His alleged desire to be part of a personal, loving and real relationship with each of us. Eric takes issue with this observation, and offers a number of standard Christian responses, but also expresses the wish that I would say more about what I mean. And I’m glad to do so.
It’s to bad their are no reasons given or examples provided to back up this statement I don’t find this statement to be true in the slightest. God has given us many reasons to believe in Him (origin of the universe, existence of contingent beings, fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life, Resurrection of Jesus, direct personal experience of God and so on). In addition, we know that God loves us because He sent His Son (who went willingly) to die for us.
So men say. The problem with these arguments is that they consist of the superstitions (origin of the universe, fine-tuning), rationalizations (contingent beings), stories (Resurrection) and subjective perceptions (direct personal experience) of fallible men. I don’t think I need to belabor the untrustworthiness of personal testimony, since Eric himself has pointed out that it testifies in favor of false doctrines more often than the truth, given the number of non-Christians who have their own Gods and Spirits personally affirming their own non-Christian beliefs. Meanwhile, on the other topics, I’ve already written extensively, so I’ve just provided the links if anyone is interested in following them.
To the heart of the matter, then: why do I say that God fails to behave as though He Himself believed what men say about Him? It’s fairly simple, and even obvious once you think of it. I’ve written about it frequently, but let’s see if I can explain it in a way that will be familiar and clear to Eric. We can start in the book of Revelation.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
The book of Revelation is full of all kinds of symbols and cryptic language and bizarre stories, and people will caution you that it’s hard to understand and easy to misinterpret. One thing you never hear people say, though, is, “Wow, Rev. 21:1-4, it’s so confusing, God would never be willing to dwell with His people and be with them and be their God, so what could this passage possibly mean?” If someone came up to you with that argument, you’d say, “What, are you nuts? Of course God would be willing to dwell with His people and be their God! Didn’t He love them so much that He was willing to become a man Himself, and suffer for them, and die for them, and rise from the dead in order to make it possible for them to be with Him forever? He’s not going to go through all that, and then avoid them, is He?”
From a Gospel perspective, you’d be exactly right. It makes no sense to say that God would want to avoid us and hide from us and prevent us from being able to see Him after wanting and working so hard to eliminate everything that separates us from Him. Why, then, does it take the end of the world (literally) to make this happen? If what men say is true, God is willing and able to show up in real life right now. And notice, the Gospel teaches that it’s not man insisting that God show up in real life, it’s God Who wants to make Himself a part of our lives, and Who is willing and able to work miracles—literally miracles—in order eliminate the separation between us.
That makes it easy: if men are telling us a story about a God Who is that willing and able to show up in our lives, all we have to do is check out the real world and see if He really shows up there, outside of the stories and superstitions and subjective feelings of men. God, however, does not behave as if it were really true that He loved us that much, or that His work on the cross was really successful in eliminating the barriers that separate us from Himself. Even the story itself reflects a certain conflict with reality, since it not only banishes God’s appearance to the far ends of time, but also takes great pains to remove Jesus from the real world a mere few weeks after his alleged resurrection. Apparently, He’s in a big hurry to ditch us, and no great hurry to come back. This is the “love” that’s willing to die for us so we can be together forever?
If we look at the Gospel, there’s no good reason for God to avoid us and prevent us from being able to see Him in real life. From a practical perspective, though, there’s one irresistible reason: He’s only an imaginary friend, and He can’t show up outside the stories, superstitions, and subjective feelings of men. Men can imagine God however they like, but they can’t give Him the ability to show up in the real world, and so they have to adapt their stories, and insert inexplicable absences and delays on God’s part, despite His professed love for us and His declared desire to be with us, and His alleged miraculous elimination of any barrier separating us from Him. Men tell stories that credit God with the desire and ability to show up, but God’s real-world behavior doesn’t live up to what men say.
PS: Just as a quick preview, if anyone tries to argue that God does show up in the real world today, my first question will be to ask what it would mean for the Gospel if the apostles were reporting a Jesus who only “showed up” in the same way. The whole story would end up based on what Eric calls “false experiences” (at least when they happen to Muslims and Hindus)!