The below is a plea for help in understanding … something. I don’t even know what it is I could understand. I would like to understand your belief, theoretical Christian reader. It may help me return to the Church. I want to understand the mind of God, but I know all I generally get is platitudes about no one understanding His plan, so I guess that is off the table. I want to understand the Bible better, but my questions are difficult, they are hard, they are pointed, they are directed. Please help me answer them, if you can, it would help me return to the Church, if such a thing is even remotely possible any more…
“Everything according to His plan,” a refrain often stated when worst meets worse to comfort those affected. I don’t want to take away the comfort you feel, but I do want to know what it is about this that gives you comfort. What is God’s design?
I’ve written about my opinions on this several times in the past, but I thought I’d take another crack at it. I think my writing is getting better, that I am able to more clearly articulate what I want to say, and maybe I can pour something of my soul onto this page as a sort of continued self-therapy. And maybe you’ll enjoy it? I guess?
I have never understood the justice of God, I am comfortable saying that. He has always seemed to have a stunning parity with an abusive parent; giving commands He knows you won’t follow, and punishing you horribly when you do not. You don’t have to go very deeply into the Bible to see what I mean, this is exactly how He treated Adam and Eve.
Step back and think about the story; God put a tree that they were not allowed to eat from in the middle of their home, put a serpent in there that was obviously evil (if Sin didn’t exist before Eve ate the apple, I guess the serpent did nothing wrong), and then let everything play out. But it is worse than that, isn’t it? He made these humans, with all of the foresight available to a being who can apparently see the future as though it were this very moment.
So think about that; He made Adam and Eve knowing that they would almost immediately disobey him, and if the modern understanding is to be believed, every human ever born until Jesus died was sent to the pit, or purgatory, or hell, or some kind of stasis. But why? How is that justice? I need one of the faithful to explain it to me, because I (in my limited experience and understanding) cannot make sense of the story, and a huge portion of my peers seem to take it without a second glance that it was the human’s fault, not God’s. As though the humans had the tools to even properly follow the rules?
God did not write them down, did not tell Adam and Eve the details. He just said, in His infinite wisdom and ability to see the future, “Don’t eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Think about that, though; if they did not know good from evil, how would they even have known what they were doing was wrong? Like a child who is told not to stick a fork in the wall socket; a good parent will cover the wall sockets because they do not want the child to electrocute themselves to death. But God did not cover the tree of good and evil with a socket cover; he put it in the middle of the garden, apparently in plain sight, with nothing stopping the very young and inexperienced Adam and Eve from eating of it aside from telling them not to. You have to remember, given the Young Earth ages presented, Adam and Eve could not have been more than a few years old at the time, and whether they were given adult bodies or not, they likely didn’t have any real world experience built into them.
Regardless of what Adam and Eve did, even God shows some restraint in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in that He claims that He will only punish a child unto the fourth (maaaayyybbbeeee tenth) generation for the sins of his or her parents, and yet here we are (what is this, the 27th generation?) apparently being punished specifically for Adam’s sin. Apparently in the Bible writer’s mind, women were so inconsequential that we are not even punished for her sin, only all females for all time, what with the monthly bleeding and birthing pains (God’s justice is so level handed).
But we go even deeper, in that God created everything and (we are told) it was Good. But He could see the future. When He created humans, He knew (before ever saying a single word) that we would almost instantly break His commands, and the (again) very even handed punishment is an eternity of torment in hell for all humans save for a select few who number fewer than my available digits. Well, at least until Jesus, but again showing all that love and foresight God is known for, He decided to wait another 4000 years before sending His only begotten Son to redeem our sins. And He only sent this son after threatening to kill all of his chosen people several times.
Given that we disobeyed Him almost instantly (one source seems to think we did it within 45 minutes of creation, and at that point I can do nothing but respect the speed at which the Serpent operates), one would think that God (in His infinite wisdom) could have tweaked the design of free will just a hair? Maybe give us a few thousand years of paradise? The thing is, God gave only two humans paradise, and even then only for a very short amount of time (and given the staggering numbers of humans who have lived, one finds that God seems to have a very limited sense of fair play).
I’ve made numerous analogies and metaphors in regards to how I view God as operating towards His people, but I think some need to be restated for emphasis.
I stand by what I said; God is a worse parent than the mother who puts plug stops on the electrical outlets. I’d liken God’s sense of parenting to keeping the liquor under the sink, and not having any child locks. Probably keeps Drano under there, too–not even because He needs to use Drano, but because He wants to see if we’ll drink it. Given what I know about people (and the fact that I have a friend whose brother downed a bottle of isopropyl alcohol…), my own guess would be that yes, yes there are many who would drink that Drano.
Even worse, even before becoming a parent, God is a child who demands a puppy, gets it, and lets it run around the house — but when it pees on the carpet, the carpet He never trained it not to pee on, He beats it. Not just once, either. He ties it to a beating post for the rest of its life, for that single incident. Not only that, but He breeds it. He breeds it, then beats His dog’s puppies, because his dog peed on the carpet He never trained it not to pee on.
I may sound angry and bitter, but really I am not. What I truly am is confused. I am confused how someone can believe there is a loving God at work. If you believe there is a loving God at work, I am confused as to how. I am confused as to how God’s justice is supposed to work, and I am confused as to how you call it justice. When I ask those faithful in my life this question, generally the response I receive is along the lines of “God makes the rules, therefore everything He does is just.”
That just raises the eternal question: Are moral actions moral because God said they are moral, or did God just tell us what was moral? If God told you to rape a small child, would that be considered moral because God said so? These are theoreticals, and often ignored by anyone who still has the patience to talk to me; “Well, obviously God wouldn’t tell me to do that.” That doesn’t answer the question.
How about God telling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? If Abraham had gone through with it, would that have been moral? Again, many who have spoken to me have raised the fact that God did not let Abraham do the killing, and while I am not angry at God, per se, I do get angry with the excuses. These are blind excuses, excuses designed to give God an out in whichever situation He finds Himself written into.
How about the tale of Jephthah? He said if he won the upcoming battle, he’d sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house. Now, barring the fact that this is possibly the most short sighted thing anyone could say (what was going to come out of his house to greet him upon his return? Not his wife or daughter, obviously!), God sits back and lets this all happen. And God does not stop Jephthah from sacrificing his daughter. Does God’s tacit approval make this sacrifice moral? God could have let that battle go the other way, or told Jephthah not to bother with the daughter sacrifice (He did intervene on Isaac’s behalf, one must remember).
All of this has just been a brain dump, because too few people will talk about this subject with me. They feel attacked, and I suppose it could come off that way (in fact, of course it would come across that way), but if you can’t answer the hard questions how can I find my way back to the fold? I have hard questions, questions I need answered before I could ever consider returning to the Church, and the best I seem to get is that I shouldn’t ask these questions.
Are the people I talk to afraid of them? Is Christianity built on the principles of “Don’t ask questions!”? Is God too fragile for my hard questions? No, I would never think that, but I am afraid that my questions are a plague in the mind of the believer; once they really start to consider the story, they have very few options. They can answer my questions, though no one has taken this option. They can ignore the questions (a perennial favorite). They can just say they trust in God (to my own mind, this adds up to the coward’s way out, for the person and for God). But if I am to return to the Church, I need these answers, and every day that passes, every person I ask who gives me uncomfortable shrugs or tells me that I am disrespecting them by even asking these questions, or ignores me, or gives me words that they use to comfort themselves, I drift further and further from God.
What advice is there for one like me? Go read the Bible? Oh, I have been reading the Bible, and all I can find is more questions and few answers. The Bible is great, if you are willing to believe the words “I love all my people!” But if you read the actions as much as the words (communication is 80% nonverbal, or whatever the number is), the actions that follow God’s professions of love are often “Man, I am going to kill like… a TON of people. Lots of them will be Israelites.” Those are the exact actions of a man who beats his wife under the umbrella of “I hit you because I love you, and you made me do this.”
What is it that humans have forced God to do? Is that what it is? We have forced God to hit us? Seems odd for us to force God to do anything.
Help me. I am asking for help here. Help me understand God’s… “love.” Help me understand God’s… “justice.” Help me understand how God is anything but the father with a belt, a strong strapping arm, a lot of time, and maybe some boredom. I really am asking for your help, as much as my words make that difficult to believe.