God wants everyone to worship and follow him and, if they don’t, they burn in hell for all eternity. What does this type of attitude say about his character? By definition, he would be described as a tyrant.
My wife told me my titles, 43 Questions Christian’s can’t answer, 42 Questions Christian’s can’t answer, 41 Questions… are boring. So I changed it. This question deals with unbelief, choices and consequences, authority, and love and it is the 10th one on the list of 50.
If we were to define God as an all powerful, all knowing, creator of the universe, and final source of moral authority, why would we not choose to follow and worship him? Why would anyone even begin to question a being who is the cause of their own existence, creator of the universe and time itself? The problem is, those who ask this question do not believe God is all those things. If they believe in God at all, it would be a lower case ‘g’ god.
The god they consider might be a powerful being, maybe, but more likely in their view, we are all just chance, as if chance has creative power. Chance requires elements to be put in place for us to look at the odds of an event taking place.
No doubt if we were to look at a human who demanded we worship and follow him or we would be tortured and killed, he would be defined as a tyrant. Some names in history come to mind, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Mussolini, and Bin Laden, but we are not talking about dictators. We are talking about a holy, perfect, just, and righteous God.
I know some exclaim, “What kind of choice is that? Fall on my knees and worship God, or burn forever.” If you give it a moment’s thought, you would realize that life is full of choices with consequences. For example, if we pay our taxes, we are allowed to continue in our daily routine. If we don’t pay our taxes we are fined. If we continue not paying our taxes, we then enjoy free room and board, free health care, and the company of others who have biceps the size of small watermelons.
After choices and consequences, this kind of question deals in part with the issue of authority. Imagine that a young man punches someone at school. We have rules and laws against that kind of behavior in school. Depending on the situation, the young man might find himself in the principal’s office, or expelled from school. What if the same young man decided to punch a police officer? No doubt, he would at least find himself in jail for his actions. Finally, what if this same fellow punched the President of the United States? The consequence would be serious indeed. If you just threaten the President, it falls under a ‘Class D’ federal offense, with 5 to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.
In fact, in 2010, Johnny Logan Spencer was sentenced to 33 months in jail for posting a poem about assassinating the president. He did not lay a hand on the president and he is in jail for nearly 3 years. 1 Why is that?
It should be obvious that consequences become more serious depending on the authority of the figure. We understand that and don’t question it, unless it involves God. For some reason, when God demands a consequence commensurate to His position, atheists cry foul and label Him as a tyrant. He is an all loving, all knowing, all powerful, eternal being, who demands justice. In fact, I am not sure stating He demands justice is accurate; some might say His character requires it. He can do no other.
Finally, there’s a mindset that an all loving God could not send someone to hell for eternity. Holding people accountable is not a popular mindset in today’s culture. Ziggy Marley, son of Bob Marley, wrote a song, “Love Is My Religion”. The lyrics read:
I don’t condemn, I don’t convert.
Yeah, this is a calling, have you heard?
Bring all the lovers to the fort
Cause no one is gonna lose their soul.
No one is gonna lose their soul? Why? Because an all loving God could not possibly send someone to hell for eternity, and we have a generation of people banking on that misguided understanding of the person-hood of God.
Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler wrote the book, Who Made God. In it we find this explanation, “God’s justice demands that sin be punished, but his love compels him to save sinners. So by Christ’s death for us, his justice is satisfied and his love released. Thus, there is no contradiction between absolute justice and unconditional love. To illustrate, God is like the judge who, after passing out the punishment to the guilty defendant, laid aside his robe, stood alongside the convicted, and paid the fine for him.” 2
Alister McGrath put it this way, “Like a skilled physician, Christianity offers a diagnosis of the human situation – not in order to pass judgment and then pass on, but to identify what must be done to transform the situation. Identification of the malady is the essential precondition for a cure.” 3 He went on to say, “Christianity does not simply make sense to us; it also makes sense of us.” 4
In Seeking Allah Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi told a story about his best friend David, who had shared the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. If you can imagine, it was a conversation between a Christian, Buddhist, and a Muslim in a smoothie bar. David, (the Christian), shared, “A better analogy would be a son who has stolen from his father’s business. If after wasting the goods, the son returns to the father and sincerely seeks forgiveness, it is within the father’s right to forgive him. But not all would be settled yet; the accounts haven’t been balanced. Someone has to take the hit for the stolen goods. If the father wants, he has every right to pay for his son’s debt from his own account.” 5
How many tyrants will take on the debt of his people? On the contrary, tyrants put their people in debt and bondage to benefit their own position and power, with no compassion or concern for those he is in position to rule. Yet God takes on the debt of his people in the person of Christ.
You can think about God in many different ways, but he is not just a force in the universe. Although he does not have a body like you and I, he is a person. If you are a human, you are a person, but not every person is a human. Angels, for example, are persons. God is certainly a person, but he is perfect in his person-hood. 6 As persons, we have many qualities that God has, but unlike us, his reasons, his intentions, are morally perfect.
There is nothing wrong with requiring justice for wrong doing, and the greater the person wronged, the greater the consequence. Walking away from, turning your back on, ignoring, the greatest being, who is responsible for all creation, would reap serious consequences indeed.
1. Siegel, Elyse. “Johnny Logan Spencer Sentenced To Nearly 3 Years In Prison For Threatening Obama In Poem.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 06 Dec. 2010. Web. 21 Sept. 2014.
2. Zacharias, Ravi; Geisler, Norman. Who Made God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003. Print.
3. McGrath, Alister E. Surprised by Meaning. Louisvelle: John Knox Press, 2011, Print.
5. Qureshi, Nabeel. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014. Print.
6. Ganssle, Gregory. Thinking About God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004. Print.
Poems and assassinations by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at knowingforsure.com.