There are 66 books in the Bible, but they all tell one simple story – and it happens to be a love story. It is your typical three-part love story: boy meets girl; girl rejects boy; boy wins back girl. That at least is the simple version of events.
A somewhat fuller account goes something like this: The triune God has always experienced love relationships among the Godhead. Father, Son and Spirit have forever loved, and received love, from each other. Scripture tells us that “God is love”.
It of course is the nature of love to spread it around. So God created the universe, including us, not out of compunction or necessity, but out of a deep desire to share this love with others. But tragically mankind rejected God and his love, preferring instead self and sin. Of course that was a risk God took: love by its very nature can only be freely given and freely received.
So mankind turned its back on God, and made a right royal mess of everything. But God was not finished. He enacted a rescue plan, hoping to woo and win back fallen man. This took the form of God’s own son coming to earth, living among us without sin, then taking our place for the punishment we all justly deserve from a holy and righteous God.
No greater love has ever been demonstrated than this. Now we all have the opportunity to once again enter that love relationship with God, by confessing and repenting of our sins, receiving what Christ has done on our behalf, and seeking new life by means of the indwelling Spirit of God.
It is a completely lopsided arrangement, but it speaks volumes of the rich love, mercy and grace of God. Yet sadly many people still refuse this offer of love and forgiveness, choosing instead to pretend that they are the centre of the universe, and that everything should revolve around them.
A classic case in point is militant misotheist Richard Dawkins. He has a new book out, The Greatest Show on Earth, and he did an interview with Newsweek about it just recently. In the interview it is clear that Dawkins is still up to his same old party tricks. He continues to pontificate on something he knows nothing about: God.
Strangely, he sees nothing amiss in claiming expertise in something he is clearly way out of his depth on. If I started pretending I was an authority on evolutionary biology (Dawkins’ field) and claimed to have a knock-out argument against it, I would rightly be howled down with derision. I would immediately be accused of being a pompous, arrogant fool.
Yet when Dawkins does exactly the same thing, all his groupies swoon in wonder and delight. So much for the hard-headed rationalism of the anti-God brigade. Indeed, plenty of intellects have also taken Dawkins to task for this appalling arrogance. As left-wing literary critic Terry Eagleton put it,
“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince.”
He goes on to castigate all atheists who are so clearly out of their depth: “The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster.”
Anyway, back to Dawkins. As I say, he is still into his attack mode, claiming authority on theological matters which he clearly does not possess. Here are a few of his remarks as made in the Newsweek interview:
“I suppose the most strident passage in The God Delusion is where I talk about how the God of the Old Testament is the most unpleasant character in all fiction. I had this long list of adjectives: homophobic, infanticidal. That’s kind of using long words, long Latinate words to describe what everybody actually knows: that the God of the Old Testament is a monster. I put it in this rather, I’d like to think, amusing way. . . .
“I also suspect that if [people] actually read the Old Testament, they could not fail to agree with what I said. The God of the Old Testament is a monster. It’s very, very hard for anybody to deny that. He’s like a hyped-up Ayatollah Khomeini.”
Well there you have it, on the good authority of God-hater Dawkins. God is a monster. This is of course a bizarre claim to make for several reasons. As mentioned, Dawkins is simply a non-authority here. Indeed, his hatred of God should disqualify him as any sort of impartial observer.
And it is clear that it is Dawkins who has not carefully read the Bible. No one can read the Bible and not see the grand theme of love and redemption as it is traced through both Testaments. No one who has read a passage such as Hosea 11 – which describes God’s intense love for his own people Israel, even in their deepest and darkest idolatry and immorality – can make such a reckless claim.
The Bible is of course full of such talk about God’s great love. And his holy anger at sin is in fact absolutely bound up with that love. He hates anything that will destroy his beloved creatures, or put a blockage between them and his love.
As A.W. Tozer once put it, “God’s wrath is His utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hates the diphtheria or polio that would destroy the life of her child.”
But Dawkins’ criticisms are also simply irrational, by his own system. It is Dawkins who has told us quite clearly that there are no objective and universal standards of morality. How can there be in a purely materialistic, Darwinian world? As he has so clearly said:
“Theologians worry away at the `problem of evil’ and a related ‘problem of suffering.’ … On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies… are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A.E. Housman put it: ‘For Nature, heartless, witless Nature. Will neither care nor know.’ DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.”
Thus it is incredible that Dawkins should make all these moral judgments about a being he claims does not even exist. If we are all just the stuff of our impersonal, amoral DNA, how can he make any credible moral pronouncements at all? They make no sense whatsoever in terms of his own naturalistic worldview.
As I said earlier, the God of the Bible is a loving God who desires a love relationship with every one of us. Dawkins knows nothing about this story, and seems intent on not knowing anything about. That of course will be to his own eternal detriment.
But he should be far less glib and cavalier in the accusations he is so happy to throw around. They tell us little about God, but much about one rather obsessed atheist.