OK, I’ve got a beef. Hopefully it is a biblical beef, or a God-given beef – if not, don’t even waste your time reading any further. But I would like to think I have some biblical warrant for this particular beef. It has been a long-standing concern which I have spoken to now and then, here and there.
But here I will devote an entire article to it. So what’s my beef? It is this: It really does bother me (and presumably bothers God), when believers complain about something God has said or done, taking the high moral ground. They seem to think they are wiser and more moral than God.
There are so many examples of this. As one example, how many Christians have questioned or even jettisoned altogether the biblical doctrine of Hell, and God’s eternal punishment of the wicked? They say this is an unjust and immoral teaching. They reject God’s word and put themselves up as an authority on this issue.
They effectively are claiming to be in a superior position to decide on these sorts of issues than God is. They have the idea that they are on a higher moral plane to assess these matters. They seem to think that they are better placed to run the universe than God is.
They actually think they can advise God on this, and see no problem in telling him he happens to be wrong here. In their disagreement with, and rejection of, these clear teachings, they are in fact calling God a liar. They come to correct the Almighty, and let him know how things ought to be done.
Or consider another example. Recently I have been debating the issue of the death penalty. I have written a number of articles on this, showing how God ordained it and has never rescinded it. It is part of his will for the state to maintain justice and punish evil in a fallen world.
Yet no matter how much I make the biblical case for it, no matter how many passages I appeal to, no matter how clearly this issue can be defended theologically, I still get Christians saying they just don’t like it. They insist that it is wrong – and by implication, God is wrong. They insist that Christians cannot support it.
So what are these Christians saying in these and other instances? They are in effect saying they think that they know better than God. They are saying that they are much more ethical than God is. They are saying that God got it wrong, and they are here to straighten him out.
What we have is mere men – no matter how well intentioned – who are sitting in judgment on God. They are pronouncing judgment on him as his judge and jury. They are seeking to straighten God out, and let him know that he has to get with the times. They really do consider themselves to be much more moral and smarter than God.
To be honest I consider this to be nothing more than rank unbelief. It is blatant idolatry. It is perverted human arrogance. It is even blasphemy. They have the gall to claim that God is just not as wise, or as compassionate, or as moral, or as good as they are.
Thus they have put God in the dock. That phrase may be familiar to some of you. It is the title of both an essay and a book by C. S. Lewis. The book appeared in 1970 (Eerdmans) and contains a great collection of nearly 50 essays by this great Christian writer and apologist.
In his brief essay with this title he speaks to how we have totally turned our relationship to God on its head: “The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.”
It is absolutely incredible that this is even happening. Of course we expect pagans to be doing this. But what is even more heinous and abhorrent is the fact that so many Christians are doing this as well. They are putting God in the dock and judging him for what he has said or what he has done. What utter arrogance and foolishness!
Who do these believers think they are? They have obviously long ago abandoned biblical authority. They have obviously long ago stopped even reading their Bibles. If they were still reading the Scriptures, they would be aware of important texts dealing with this inversion perversion.
Consider simply one biblical image here, that of the potter and the clay. This is found in various places throughout Scripture, eg. Isaiah 45:9-11, 64:8, and Jeremiah 18:1-11. Let me here focus on two other such passages. Consider Isaiah 29:16:
You turn things upside down,
as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it,
“You did not make me”?
Can the pot say to the potter,
“You know nothing”?
These believers are certainly turning things upside down. And are these believers not also aware of what Paul wrote in Romans 9:20-21? “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? ‘Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?”’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”
James Montgomery Boice offers the following commentary on this passage: “You and I are mere men and women set over against the God who made not only us but all things. It is ludicrous for creatures as small, ignorant, impotent, and sinful as we are to question the propriety of God’s moral acts. We may not understand what God is doing in any particular case. In fact, most of the time we will not, because, ‘my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord’ (Isa 55:8). We can ask God to explain what he is doing, if he will. But for us to suggest that he is wrong in what he does is patently absurd.”
And John Stott offers these wise words on this text: “Paul is not censuring someone who asks sincerely perplexed questions, but rather someone who ‘quarrels’ with God, who talks back (20) or answers back (RSV). Such a person manifests a reprehensible spirit of rebellion against God, a refusal to let God be God and acknowledge his or her true status as creature and sinner. Instead of such presumption we need, like Moses, to keep our distance, take off our shoes in recognition of the holy ground on which we stand, and even hide our face from him. Similarly, we need, like Job, to put our hand over our mouth, confess that we tend to speak things we do not understand, despise ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Exactly right. But sadly so many of these Christians lack the humility and sense to recognise who they are: mere creatures, and not the Creator. They are mere sinners, and not the Holy King of Kings. But in sitting in judgment over God, these brazen believers are in fact seeking to displace God, and elevate themselves in his place.
What sheer arrogance and impudence. What contemptuous idolatry. What ugly rebellion. God will always be God – and the sooner we recognise that, the better. As Stott says, sure, there is a place for honest questioning. But to claim that we are somehow more moral, or wiser, or more compassionate, or more loving, or more just than God is, is the height of gross folly, sinful autonomy, and impudent pride.
That then is my beef. It certainly may well be a heavenly concern as well. These believers who put God in the dock need to repent, and put themselves back in the dock, and let God question and judge them. As Yahweh said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” (Job 40:2)
We can shake our fists all we like to now, and question his wisdom, judge his kindness, reject his Word, despise his sovereignty, and doubt his morality. But one day we will all stand before him. Then all of our puny and pathetic mutterings and murmurings against him will be silenced instantly and forever.
We had better learn some of these lessons now.