Recently I was perusing CNN.com when a certain article, linked only about half way down the front page, caught my eye. The article was a community-submitted blog post called “Why I Raise My Children Without God“, and as someone who blogs about Christian perspectives I could not resist reading this mother’s take on things. I must admit I immediately felt an inner grieving of the Holy Spirit for her and almost clicked away after the first paragraph. However, I forged ahead and read through the whole article wincing with every sentence.
After finishing the article I sat in utter disbelief of this mother’s utter disbelief, and pondered what to do next. Should I just put it out of my mind and let her charges against God go unanswered, joining the large chorus of atheism becoming ever more prevalent in our fallen society?
Then I read it again, this time with the Apostle Peter’s words in my head:
…always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)
Now I realize she wasn’t asking for a reason for my hope, but anyone who reads my blog could very likely be looking for answers to the claims she made. God isn’t all those bad things she says He is (if she believed in Him), and it is misdirected to place at God’s feet every bad thing in the world she is attributing to Him.
So with gentleness and respect I will attempt to respond and humbly attempt to portray the God I know as a loving eternal Father.
For the sake of brevity I will only include her points against God (in bold) with a brief summary of her conclusion (in italics), then reply to each. I do encourage you to her entire piece to understand the entire scope of my responses.
From this point forward I may use the blogger’s CNN username TXBlue08 when referring to her…
CLAIM 1: God is a bad parent and role model.
Her conclusion: Good parents don’t allow their children to inflict harm on others… they step in and guide them.
This is true, but a couple points to make here. Some children, not matter how “good” of a job their parents do at raising them, make bad choices and go astray. A parent has a direct will for their children’s lives- what THEY want to see them do and accomplish. But children grow up, and yes have their own free will to make whatever choices they want. Any good parent will try to step in and guide them, as TXBlue08 points out, but many times that act pushes the child away even further.
Ironically, she’s stumbled directly onto how a relationship with God the father works. He most definitely wants the best for his children and attempts to guide us. And he has a direct (or true) will for our lives, but if we refuse it and assert our own will we end up going astray- falling into what is sometimes called God’s “permissive will.” But also with any good parent, God always accepts you back into his arms no matter what you’ve done, or the decisions you’ve made.
Finally, while we are all God’s children the point can be made that by definition His family are only those of us that actually believe in Him. So how can God be blamed for the actions of the very people that deny his existence and don’t even call him “Father”?
CLAIM 2: God is not logical.
Her conclusion: Why does God allow bad to happen?… It doesn’t make sense that he would allow murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture and millions of heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind.
Once again she’s blaming God for decisions and acts made by a human race that is sick. God offers us a way to get well, through the redeeming power of Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t guarantee everyone in this world has or will take him up on the offer. The fact that people commit these terrible acts proves much of society hasn’t, or have lost their way.
People don’t like to talk about the source of evil in this world unless they are pointing the finger at God. But these things happen because God has an adversary in this world. The name given this adversary is Satan, and he “runs free on earth” causing pain, sadness, strife, unbelief, greed, murder, and on and on. This unfortunate truth is why we as Christians look forward to the next life, or when Jesus Christ returns to set up his Kingdom on earth (whichever comes first), because only then will Satan and all of the pain and suffering that comes with him be done away with.
TXBlue08 also makes a connection with the tragedy in Newtown and the need for gun control. When the innocent are slain and caught up in the effect of evil (or sickness- as was the case with falling victim to Adam Lanza), no one is grieved more than God. And no, terrible things like that are NOT part of God’s plan. It turns out I wrote much about this subject of good vs. evil as it relates to Newtown and the human condition a few weeks back, so I won’t rehash it here, but check that article out to read more.
Lastly, concerning wars and heinous acts throughout mankind’s history- many more victims have come at the hands of dictators or other leaders with godless naturalist philosophies and belief systems than God-centered ones. Yes, sadly many have also committed atrocities ”in the name of God”, but when you add up the numbers throughout history those are the exception not the norm. But regardless of who commits the heinous acts and terrible atrocities, God does not condone them.
CLAIM 3: God is not fair.
Her conclusion (paraphrased): Silly prayers are answered, but serious ones are ignored. A fair God wouldn’t allow babies with birth defects, bad people to prosper, and good people to suffer.
So much to address with this one… First, concerning silly prayers- there is no way to know these prayers were “answered by God” and not just part of regular every day life events. Therefore, I’m not sure where else to go with that one.
Concerning the supposed unanswered prayers of a parent praying for a dying child- this one is tough. No one knows (except God) all the mysteries to life and death, and why some are healed by prayers, and others pass away. What the Christian holds dear is that this entire time on earth is merely a short stop on our way to a place that is so much better. Death is only sad for those of us left behind. That is unless you don’t believe in eternity as is the case with TXBlue08 and her fellow atheists, then death is “the end” and therefore offensive and wrong. So therein lies the conundrum- unbelief in God causes people to be upset with this same God because for them there’s nothing to look forward to after this life.
Next, why do bad people prosper and good people suffer? Because, once again, not everyone in the world plays by God’s rules. There is greed, and God’s adversary uses rewards on this side of death to turn people away from God. But we persevere in this life knowing “in the kingdom of heaven, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Lastly, in regards to birth defects, God treasures all children born and unborn no matter their perceived shortcomings. We are to love our children even if our lives are made more complicated by their needs, or a sickness or defect takes them from us after only a precious few years. God values all human life, from conception into eternity. We would do well to follow His lead.
CLAIM 4: God does not protect the innocent.
Her conclusion (same as CLAIM 2): A good God wouldn’t allow bad things (such as kidnappings) to happen to children.
I feel my reply to CLAIM 2 addresses this complaint, and in an effort to be brief wont reiterate here.
CLAIM 5: God is not present.
Her conclusion: Since you can’t see, smell, touch or hear God then he isn’t real/present. He is an “idea” created based on our fears and hopes.
This one is interesting because while you may not be able to see, smell, or touch God, most if not all true believers have both heard God as well as felt His presence. There are few things more tangible in life than a personal relationship with the living God.
Many atheists, TXBlue08 included, mockingly label God “the big guy in the sky”- but this label shows their level of misunderstanding of God’s true identity. The Christian knows the sky is not his home. God, by His Holy Spirit, lives within our hearts always. And while we can’t see, smell, or touch Him, it is through His Spirit that He counsels us, helps us, and comforts us. And God gave us His Word, the Bible, so that we may hear him, and prayer time so that we may seek Him and rest in His presence.
And to the point that God is just an idea based on our fears and hopes- it is in fact the opposite of fear to affirm a God to which we will ultimately have to give an account of our lives, and face a judgement, whereas the atheist’s ultimate hope is that this judge is a myth. In short, the believer lives with the promise that God exists, while the atheist lives with the hope that He doesn’t.
CLAIM 6: God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good.
Her conclusion (paraphrased): Belief in God attempts to scare children into behaving, and therefore doesn’t work.
While I’m sure misdirected and even well-meaning parents have attempted to “put the fear of God” into their children to get them to behave, it totally misses the point of a God-centered home. Children learn by example, and therefore parents are to be examples of Christ’s love to their children, and instruct them in the ways of the Lord. Where a parent misses the mark in demonstrating this behavior, very often children follow. Where a parent becomes judgmental and lacks the grace of God’s love, so too will their children.
However, as a child of God grows in their personal faith they understand that behaving isn’t something they HAVE to do in order to avoid God’s wrath, but rather something they WANT to do in order to fully experience God’s love. And pleasing God isn’t something you even choose to do in order to “check the appropriate box”, but rather a natural result of an active faith where the Holy Spirit is stirring in our hearts. We would all do well to learn and remember this truth, and model it to our children.
Being inwardly focused as TXBlue08 suggests puts all the pressure on our own abilities and relies on our fallen nature to do what’s right, whereas trusting in God to lead and instruct us helps the believer to do what’s truly right.
CLAIM 7: God Teaches Narcissism.
Her logic with this one was a little hard to summarize, so I’ll save the space and just reply.
The humility required to “die to oneself” and truly follow God is the exact opposite of narcissism. Narcissism comes when we put our own self interests first, choose the path of least resistance, and discount the existence of something greater than ourselves. Admittedly, though, many self-professing Christians- myself included- have gotten this wrong at one time or another and have portrayed narcissism to the world around us.
A Christian that lacks humility lacks understanding of God.
Some Final Thoughts
I want to reiterate that my intended tone for this piece is one of gentleness and respect. It seems from reading this mother’s personal blog that she has felt persecution for being an unbeliever. There is no place for persecution of anyone’s belief system, and an open and honest dialog should be able to take place between people of all faiths, even those whose faith is based entirely in themselves.
As a Christian blogger, I’ve obviously written this piece from the faith perspective that I affirm as unique among all the other belief systems in the world, but I maintain respect for those who think differently- and encourage my fellow Christians to do the same. I would only ask that this same gentleness and respect is offered to the faith-based community by those who currently choose the road of unbelief. Unfortunately, much of the tone of the today’s atheists’ rhetoric against God, TXBlue08′s piece included, fail to do that.
Grace and Peace.