googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Can God forgive really really really really really really bad people?

Friday, August 5, 2016

Can God forgive really really really really really really bad people?

To the cat, “cat and mouse” is just a game. Cats will stalk mice, catch them, torture them, release them, catch them again, torture them more, and eventually kill them. You know it's a game to them because even after the rodent dies, the cats don't necessarily eat them immediately. Often they'll walk around with the carcasses in their mouths like it's some kind of toy. Still other times they will leave it as a “gift” for their owners. Many cat owners abhor this behavior. Sometimes, they leave their cats' bowls full of food thinking cats won't hunt if they're not hungry. I've heard though that well-fed cats only prolong the torture because, again, it's a game to the cats.

Are cats evil when they do this? I ask because I'm still a little fuzzy about how atheists define right and wrong.

Critics often criticize Christianity by attacking the justice/mercy of God. I came across an article online the other day where the author was making just that argument. Consider this quote from the article:

To the Almighty, nothing is unforgivable. Let that sink in. Nothing. You can be a genocidal maniac who eats crushed-up infants on toast during snack time… and still go to heaven if you eventually repent. [italics and ellipsis in original]

To drive this point home, the author relates the horrific career of Liberian-born Joshua Milton Blahyi. Blahyi's vile history supposedly began at age 11 when he began sacrificing and cannibalizing small children. He claims to have personally killed more than 20,000 lives, many by decapitation and later, he and his soldiers would play soccer with the severed heads. One source cited in the article describes Blahyi as, “the most evil man in the world.” Blahyi now claims to be a born-again Christian, forgiven of his many sins, and bound for an eternity in glory with the Father.

Critics often point to the forgiving nature of God and question its “fairness.” Could even people like Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot, after their lifetimes of sin, have been forgiven by God if they had just confessed and accepted Jesus on their deathbeds? Even many Christians struggle with this concept and will hem and haw when asked to defend it. Indeed, that is why skeptics like the Friendly Atheist continue repeating the criticism. I see many flaws with this argument.

The first problem with this criticism is that, at its core, it commits the fallacy of an argument from incredulity. This is where a speaker claims something seems too outrageous to be true. It's hardly a rebuttal when you think about it. Even if it seems unfair of God to forgive really bad sinners, it doesn't make it untrue. Romans 10:13 says, For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. You might look up the meaning of the word, “whosoever.” There's no qualifier in that verse limiting salvation to “only those who haven't been that bad.”

Next, atheists have a problem claiming any moral high ground because, ultimately, they have no objective standard of morality. If they are correct and the universe is all there is, then everything that happens is nothing more than matter acting on matter. One person murdering another is no different than a cat torturing a mouse or an apple falling from a tree. It's just the way things are and the universe doesn't care. Actually, if one particular cat were able to torture thousands of mice, it would probably be considered a superior cat from an evolutionary perspective. Likewise, one human who is able to personally murder thousands of others could arguably be described as the better human if the goal is the survival of the fittest.

Think carefully about atheism. If there is no ultimate Lawgiver, then “morality” is merely the product of whatever people think is preferable. You may think it's horrible to play soccer with severed heads but Blahyi and his soldiers didn't think so. Without appealing to anything beyond human opinion, what makes your view right and Blahyi's wrong? By that same token, critics try to say that God's standard of justice is perverse. On what grounds can they say their opinion is correct and God's wrong? Evil can only exist if God exists.  Their argument, then, really has no teeth. They rely solely on the fact that it sounds awful that God could forgive someone like Hitler.

I understand that we struggle sometimes to understand God. It's a symptom of our sin nature. God is infinite and perfect; we are finite and corrupt. His ways are not our ways so we should never presume to judge God according to how we think it ought to be done. It's laughable, really, that the clay should think it can instruct the potter. To understand God, we need to look into His word.

In Matthew 20:1-16, Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard. I always encourage people to read the Bible themselves but, for the sake of brevity, I'll give you a thumbnail: A land owner goes into the marketplace early in the morning and hires people to work in his vineyard. He agrees to pay them a penny (the standard wage for a day's work). Throughout the day, he returns to the market and hires more workers. He even hires some 1 hour before quitting time. At the end of the day, as the workers are leaving, the land owner gives all of them a penny. Those who were hired first felt slighted that the people who worked only 1 hour got the same pay as they, who had worked all day. We tend to have the same attitudes as the workers hired early. We are, in a sense, saying, “God, I've worked much harder at being good than that person. How can you give him the same reward as me?”

The owner of the vineyard gave an interesting reply to the complainers. He said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” The Bible says that God will have mercy on whoever He chooses to have mercy (Romans 9:15). If God has made salvation available to anyone on the condition that the person believe in His Son, then who are we to attach strings? “God, I know that person accepted Christ but let me tell you how bad he's been....” Really? If you really think some people can be forgiven but not others, then you are endorsing a type of salvation by works. You're essentially saying, “This person has been good enough to deserve Christ's forgiveness but this other person hasn't.”

At the bottom line, no one deserves God's mercy. Indeed, if it is deserved, then it's not “mercy,” is it? We all have broken God's commandments and we all are deserving of hell. The Father has made salvation available through the Son. Jesus is the Lamb of God, the one who takes away the sin of the world. Please do not mock God by saying some sin is more than His blood can cover!

God forgives sins. It doesn't matter if you don't think He should; it doesn't matter if you don't know how. He still does. People should rejoice when they read articles like those written by the Friendly Atheist. It shows that even your sins can be forgiven. No matter how great. No matter how many. Accept Jesus now and though your sins be like scarlet, they'll be made whiter than snow. Now that's good news! Praise God!!


Anonymous said...

So, if there was no God. Just bear with me for this assumption, would you play football with the severed heads of children?

RKBentley said...

To my anonymous visitor,

If there were no God, what would be wrong with playing football with the heads of children? It seems to me not much different than cats torturing mice. The universe doesn't care what happens.

Richard Dawkins said, “In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, 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 that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

But stop using extremes. What happens to husbands and wives who have “affairs”? What about kids who lie to their parents about having sex? What about deadbeat dads who don't pay child support but buy a case of beer every weekend? What about people who call in sick to work when they're not really sick? What about people who get paid for 40 hours of work but spent 5 of those hours on facebook? Is there no justice for their sins? Will they have to give an account to God for their actions? If not, then what's the difference if the sin is much worse? If the only thing we have to fear is human reprisal, then who knows what all someone might do if he thought he could get away with it.

Thanks for your comments and for visiting. God bless!!