Here is the great spiritual tragedy of our day: we’ve taken on the role of judging God; and for his “crimes,” we’re punishing ourselves. Jeremiah 2:5 (NKJV) reads,
Thus says the Lord:
“What injustice have your fathers found in Me,
That they have gone far from Me,
Have followed idols,
And have become idolaters?
A look in the Hebrew dictionary reveals that idols and idolaters could be translated futilities or vanities and futile or empty, which brings it into the 21st century without violating the text.
The secular West has found massive injustice in God, in the Church and in the Bible we follow. It has judged God and found him oppressive, genocidal, misogynistic, homophobic, pro-slavery, sexually repressed, politically backward, scientifically ignorant, and intolerant. Alternatively, in some places the West has pounded its gavel and declared God “Not Interesting. Not Relevant.”
But He is Good!
And oh, you must understand the deep cry of my heart, for I have studied the source, the Bible, I have examined the history of God’s people, and I know that God is none of these things. He is good! He gives life, and freedom, and justice, and abundance of joy. He does good in the world, especially through his people, the Church. While we are human and therefore prone to wrong-doing — and believe me, I probably know the embarrassments of our history at least as well as you do, if not better — on the whole the Church’s influence on the world has been very good.
Denying God’s Goodness
But the secular West has forgotten that. It has buried it under a mountain of manipulative rhetoric, or in some cases has accumulated so many years of lies, that it simply cannot see God and his people that way. This is not primarily about Christianity’s reputation; I wouldn’t want to put that in first place. It’s about the knowledge of the goodness and glory of God, of which the Church is an imperfect reflection.
Pronouncing Futility Upon Ourselves
And it is about human futility without God. It’s about the lives that won’t be lived to the full. It’s about the spiritual dimension that keeps getting squashed. It is about the emptiness.
“Emptiness?!” comes the objection. Yes. The numbers show it. Baby-boomers are committing suicide in record numbers. Drug and alcohol use mask our loss of meaning. Sex has become empty, stripped of the deep, trusting, bare intimacy of a lifelong committed relationship. Spirituality has faded to nothing: there is no knowledge of God, no communion with him in prayer, no love relationship with the Creator.
The more committed, naturalistic atheists among us have even emptied humanity of humanness. Scripture says “from dust you came and to dust you shall return;” naturalistic atheism says, “Dust you are right now.” The difference between us and dust is but a dream. Dust moves around the room, strictly by the laws of nature; so do humans, under precisely the same laws and limitations. There is nothing unique about us. In a naturalistic universe, everything that makes us truly human — free will, consciousness, identity — is strictly impossible, an illusion, a dusty dream.
So say those who have turned fully toward emptiness. Others of us have settled for a different material reality: consumeristic materialism, the hope in stuff. We have not noticed the futility, the failure of stuff to satisfy.
Others have sought a deeper, better life through power, prestige, and position, not recognizing that being admired is a poor substitute for being loved, and that freedom of spirit is better than the elusive freedom of being in control.
The Grievous Effect of Judging God
What fault, what injustice is there in God, that we should have abandoned him for this nothingness? This question has driven me deep into prayer over the past week or so. It impels me to share the truth about God in Scripture and his people in history
For I grieve over what we have done. We have judged God on trumped-up charges. We have convicted him on false evidence. We have pronounced the sentence. And in punishment we have thrown our own selves into a pit.