Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog

Has God Dealt Justly with the Human Race? Part 1

Post Author: Bill Pratt

So many people complain that God, if he exists, is a tyrant who expects too much of human beings. To ask that we trust only his Son for salvation is unfair and exclusive. How do Christians respond to these accusations?

Pastor R. C. Sproul once spoke about God’s fairness in his dealings with mankind, and I have never forgotten what he said. Sproul summarized the entire biblical account of God’s dealings with mankind to put in perspective what really happened. Here is a paraphrase of what he said with some of my own commentary to flesh out the narrative.

A perfect, self-existent being, was living in perfect community and love, not needing anything. This God is perfectly holy, righteous, loving, just, and the ground of all beauty and of all that is good.

God decides to share his love and the gift of life with finite creatures. He creates a vast universe, he creates all the laws of chemistry and physics; he fine tunes the constants of gravitational, electromagnetic, and nuclear forces so that physical life can survive. He creates trillions of stars so that one tiny planet can support life; even burned out stars are needed in sufficient quantity to produce fluorine, which is essential to life on earth.

He creates a perfectly sized star which is just the right distance from the earth to provide heat and light. He creates a moon which the earth needs to regulate the tides and keep the earth’s tilt just right for temperatures to support life.

In fact, he creates the entire known universe and everything in it with the sole purpose of providing his creatures a physical world in which to live.

After the universe is created, this God then creates creatures who scurry around the newly formed earth doing exactly what God designed them to do. At this point, God decides that he would like to create a special creature, one that bears his image. This creature will have a rational mind, a moral conscience, a free will, and an ability to freely love God his Creator.

God scoops up a clump of mud and breathes life into it and names the new creature “man.” He provides this new creature with a partner whom he calls “woman.” He tells these creatures that they are beautiful creations and that he wants to have an intimate relationship with them. They will have dominion over all the plants and animals of the earth. They will rule as the sovereign king and queen over everything God created on earth.

However, as the author and creator of the entire universe, he is authorized to set up boundaries for them. He asks them to be holy as he is holy. He asks them to keep him in focus as their Creator and to obey his guidelines which are meant for their good. God tells them that if they do not obey him, if they commit treason against him, they will die.

In part 2, we will see what happens next. Will they obey him or commit treason?


About The Author

Comments

  • Andrew Ryan

    “Pastor R. C. Sproul once spoke about God’s fairness in his dealings with mankind, and I have never forgotten what he said. ”

    Sproul gets to marvel at the perfection of the planet from a position of immense privilege. He was born in the one of the richest countries in the world, the right race and gender and at exactly the right time to enjoy its riches to the full. There are billions of other people on the planet for whom day-to-day existence is a huge struggle. Even the basics such as food and water are hard to come by for a huge proportion of the population.

  • ggodat

    What does that have to do with what Billy is speaking about? Truth is not truth based on one’s position in observing it. It is either true or it is not. Billions of people don’t have access to clean water or food but that doesn’t make it true that they don’t exist!

  • staircaseghost

    This creature will have a rational mind, a moral conscience, a free will, and an ability to freely love God his Creator.”

    My Bible is really rather explicit about humans being created without a moral conscience. That was really rather the central point about the tree and the apple thingy. What does your Bible say?

    “However, as the author and creator of the entire universe, he is authorized to set up boundaries for them.”

    Hypothetically, if someone expressed skepticism about this general principle, how would one go about making a general defense of it which a reasonable person of good will should find satisfactory?

  • Pingback: Has God Dealt Justly with the Human Race? Part 2 | Tough Questions Answered

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    You have misunderstood your Bible. Adam and Eve were created with a moral conscience which enabled them to choose the Good (God) or evil (not God). Disobedience was an evil choice.

    With regard to defending the statement you quoted, it seems obvious to me that a person who is solely responsible for the creation of and sustenance of another being, then that creator is perfectly within his rights to demand obedience from the creature.

    On top of this justification, since God is the ultimate Good, then whatever He wills for his creatures will be for their ultimate good. Everyone wants the good for themselves, so everyone should willingly submit to God’s demands.

    An imperfect analogy to all of this is that of parenting. When I bring a child into the world, I expect that child to obey me and to adhere to the moral rules I teach them for their entire lives. In fact, every good parent teaches their children to do right and not do wrong. Very few people would argue that parents have no right to lay down rules for their children. So why would anyone deny God that right?

  • Andrew Ryan

    “It seems obvious to me that a person who is solely responsible for the creation of and sustenance of another being, then that creator is perfectly within his rights to demand obedience from the creature.”

    Where did this rule come from? Was it invented by God, or does it exist externally of him?

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Neither. God’s demand of obedience comes from his will and his goodness. God can only will the good, and so when he creates a creature with freedom, he wills that they freely do the good.

  • staircaseghost

    You have misunderstood your Bible. Adam and Eve were created with a moral conscience which enabled them to choose the Good (God) or evil (not God). Disobedience was an evil choice.

    Oh, I’m quite sure I’ve understood my Bible just fine. What it says, and I quote, is, “Behold, Man has become like one of us, having knowledge of good and evil…”

    According to you, what Yahweh was really saying was, “Behold, Man ate the apple and absolutely nothing has changed…”

    So which one of our Bibles is wrong?

    With regard to defending the statement you quoted, it seems obvious to me that a person who is solely responsible for the creation of and sustenance of another being, then that creator is perfectly within his rights to demand obedience from the creature.

    Exactly. It “seems obvious” to you. However, in persuasive speech (which I assume is your goal here, trying to convince a person of reasonable intelligence who happens to disagree with you, not merely giving a pep talk to people who already buy your whole theological package) one often finds that “obviousness to me” is not as communicable a property as one would have hoped.

    So we can either sit across the table from one another, arms folded, and get in an “obviousness fight”, or we can try to adduce secular reasons which should be persuasive to persons of normal moral intelligence.

    On top of this justification, since God is the ultimate Good, then whatever He wills for his creatures will be for their ultimate good. Everyone wants the good for themselves, so everyone should willingly submit to God’s demands.

    This isn’t an argument, it’s simply intoning a belief at people. “God did it, therefore it’s good, therefore end of discussion” is logically consistent, but I think you intuitively sense that if that’s what your argument ultimately relies on, you’re not saying anything more substantive than “God said it, I believe it, that settles it”.

    An imperfect analogy to all of this is that of parenting. When I bring a child into the world, I expect that child to obey me and to adhere to the moral rules I teach them for their entire lives. In fact, every good parent teaches their children to do right and not do wrong. Very few people would argue that parents have no right to lay down rules for their children. So why would anyone deny God that right?

    A creator god could be an indifferent god or an irresponsible god or a blind idiot god or a Marxist god or a trickster god or etc. etc.. But more importantly, this alleged “right to lay down the rules” is, in every situation you and I agree on, not a plenary power, but is constrained both morally and legally. Parents or “creators” simply do not have the right to set boundaries like “no modern medicine” or “no having african-american friends”.

    So it would seem that your original general principle has been falsified, and what you need to supply is a more specific defense, in publicly discussible terms, of why this specific “boundary” is something a reasonable person should accept as just. And this is not even getting us any nearer to why the alleged misbehavior of two people who a) almost certainly did not literally exist and b) are not “the human race”, but only two specific people for whose actions you and I are not accountable should have any bearing on whether the human race has been dealt with justly, given the Christian account.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    The verse you quote, Gen 3:22, is an interesting verse, but it definitely does not mean that Adam had no moral conscience before he ate the apple. Here are a few reasons why:

    1. Knowledge of good and evil is not required for a person to have a moral conscience. Only knowledge of good is necessary. Evil is a parasite that good can exist without.

    2. Adam was made in God’s image, and God is a moral agent. If Adam was made in God’s image, then Adam was also created as a moral agent.

    3. God could only hold Adam responsible for his decision to eat the fruit if Adam was capable of moral reasoning. It would be ridiculous for God to judge Adam if he was incapable of making a moral decision. That would be like blaming a rock for rolling down a hill.

    So, whatever Gen 3:22 means, it does not mean that Adam only had a moral conscience after he ate the fruit.

    What I think the verse means is that God, as an omniscient Creator, knew the potential for evil (and all that it entailed) when he created a free creature with a moral conscience.

    Only after Adam freely ate the fruit and sinned against God did he become aware of the fuller meaning of his rebellious act and the evil that would issue forth because of his decision. In that way, he became more like God.

    As for the rest of your complaints, I am not, in these particular blog posts, making a case for the existence of a morally perfect creator God. I do that in other blog posts that I have written in the past. So when you ask me to prove that this God exists, you are completely missing the point of the blog post series.

    My point, in this three-part series, was to provide the Christian background story to help people understand why God requiring a person to trust Christ for salvation is a perfectly reasonable request.

    The person who does not know the background story may not understand why it is fair for God to require trust in Christ for salvation. I am showing why it is not only fair, but unbelievably merciful and generous.

  • Andrew Ryan

    But isn’t your position that anything God does is by definition fair and just, because it’s him doing it, and that the notions of fair and merciful have no meaning without reference to God anyway.

  • staircaseghost

    1. Knowledge of good and evil is not required for a person to have a moral conscience. Only knowledge of good is necessary. Evil is a parasite that good can exist without.

    This is 1) something with no Biblical authority and painfully ad hoc, and 2) obviously incoherent. Someone can know what it is for X to be bigger than Y but lack any concept of Y being smaller than X?

    Let me put it another way. If I randomly went to three other theologians of your choosing, how many of them would agree with your claim “only knowledge of good is necessary”?

    2. Adam was made in God’s image, and God is a moral agent. If Adam was made in God’s image, then Adam was also created as a moral agent.

    If Adam was made in God’s image, and God has knowledge of good and evil, then Adam has knowledge of good and evil…

    See how this works? You’re just arbitrarily inserting your own sunday school interpretations in between the lines of the text. I genuinely think you don’t even realize you’re doing this; I did it all the time as a believer, too.

    3. God could only hold Adam responsible for his decision to eat the fruit if Adam was capable of moral reasoning. It would be ridiculous for God to judge Adam if he was incapable of making a moral decision. That would be like blaming a rock for rolling down a hill.

    The fact that this principle contradicts your (interpretation of) scripture is really rather your problem than mine. Of course it’s absurd! That’s why so many nonbelievers reject it!

    Surely you realize the problem here. “If that’s true, then god didn’t act justly. But god must have acted justly. Therefore, it must not be true.”

    As for the rest of your complaints, I am not, in these particular blog posts, making a case for the existence of a morally perfect creator God. I do that in other blog posts that I have written in the past. So when you ask me to prove that this God exists, you are completely missing the point of the blog post series.

    Since I have nowhere in this thread asked you to do this, we have nothing to argue about!

    What I have asked you to do is justify the principles according to which you are claiming Yahweh has acted justly. (Note the clear dialectical isomorphism here to Dagood’s repeated requests for apologists to provide a principled method for determining inspiration.) Since I have provided a clear falsification of the principle “if a creator set a boundary then that boundary was just”, then your remaining options are 1) modify your argument in light of my refutation or 2) retract your claim that Yahweh has acted justly.

    Assuming, of course, that your goal is to convince a reasonable person of goodwill who happens to disagree with you, and not simply to hold a pep rally for the faithful, in which case I withdraw my complaints.

  • http://sandwichesforsale.blogspot.com/ DagoodS

    The theological significance surrounding the possible human moral conscience condition as expressed in Genesis 3 does not present easy solutions. In other words, “I think…” generally results in further difficulties and poor rendered readings.

    Under the story terms—what was Adam (and Eve’s) moral ability to make moral decisions. Did they know the difference between an immoral, non-moral and moral decisions? For example, in our society, we expect persons with lower mental capabilities (children, the infirm or mentally challenged) to be unable to tell the difference between an immoral or moral action. A mentally challenged person may not understand the difference between hitting someone they are mad at, or choosing to refrain.

    Were Adam & Eve incapable of making moral decisions? Or where they capable? To dig deeper, we must unpack the story. The name of the tree—“Knowledge of Good and Evil” [Gen. 2:17]—is a specified name. Regardless what the actual fruit would be—the significance of this tree was in its ability to provide knowledge. Much like the “Tree of Life” provided…wait for it…wait for it…life.

    Secondly what happened immediately after the humans ate? “Their eyes were opened” and they began to make moral decisions! [Gen. 3:7] It is the first indication of recognition that some actions are moral and some are immoral. Specifically, they recognized, “Naked = immoral; Clothed = moral.”

    Thirdly, (as pointed out) God noted a difference that Adam & Eve had “…become like us, to know (or understand) good and evil… [Gen. 3:22] Again, simple and straightforward.

    Therefore, the theologian, in unpacking the story, must explain:

    1) Why the tree was named this way?
    2) What does it mean for Adam & Eve’s eyes to be open?
    3) Why did Adam & Eve begin to recognize differing moral choices?
    4) What was it they were NOT like God prior to eating, that they became like God?

    There are a few explanations, but all present difficulties. (Of course, the easiest explanation was this was a Creation myth used to explain why there was evil in the world, like Pandora’s Box, and it was not intended to be inspected under the rigorous doctrine of inerrancy, literalism and inspiration.)

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline