It’s no secret that Christianity is the most widely-spread religion to date, followed only by Islam. And yet an equal number of people say they have no religion at all. Anywhere you go, the topic of God is a sensitive one, often resulting in heated debate—why? Atheists proudly declare their secularity through both acts and words, shoving it in peoples’ faces and down their throats; and yet, if someone even so much as speaks the word “God” (with a capital G), they accuse you of smothering them in your religion. It’s very unfair to both sides of the argument, true or not.
Why does an atheist get so offended at the mere thought of the existence of a supreme Deity? If people can support LGBT rights without even being any of those, why can’t they so much as tolerate mention of God? It’s not necessarily their fault—more likely than not, they’ve received the wrong information. So many atheists daring to speak their actual opinions and reasons often give answers in the form of questions, including (but not limited to), “If God is all good and all-powerful, why does he allow evil to exist?” or, “If God is so mighty and knows everything, why doesn’t he just show Himself to us and prove he exists?” or even, “Why should I willingly hand myself over to a king to rule over me as a slave master, demanding I worship him day and night or else suffer eternal damnation?” Christians realise that they have the wrong idea, but we don’t always know how to answer their questions.
I’d like to try and answer some of them, if I can.
Question 1: Why worship God?
Perhaps I should answer the three above-mentioned questions in reverse order, just for the sake of things. Firstly, you have to look at things from an atheist’s point of view: the way we describe God, He sounds like a huge warrior-king who can make or destroy anything with mere words from his mouth, and controls who lives and who dies, who experiences peace and who suffers eternal torment. But while you never see Him, there are so many unanswered mysteries in the world, for all you know, He could exist, but there’s no sure-fire proof. It’s scary to think about! He might exist, but you’re not sure, and if you don’t believe, you get sent to Hell, but even if you do, you just go to Heaven, float around with your feathery wings and strum your harp forever, praising God. Things might get a bit dull after a while. At least in Hell, things are always exciting.
Can you see where atheists are confused? They can’t understand how One so great, mighty and powerful can also be so benevolent and kind and loving. They only understand as the world does; even the greatest man in a position of power can lose his mind. A wise man once said, “Don’t tempt me, Frodo! I dare not take it. Understand, Frodo, I would use this ring from a desire to do good! But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.” Even Gandalf, the mighty wizard in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, knew that with power comes responsibility, but responsibility is a burden, and with unlimited power surely must come unlimited burden, and who could bear that? But God is not of the world. They do not understand because their minds are limited by the reasons of this world, but God surpasses all, and He alone is capable of wielding this power. That is one aspect that makes Him so mighty.
And then there’s the matter of Heaven. Yes, the Bible describes angels as winged, and harps have always been associated with elegance and beauty, two qualities of Heaven. But the Bible does not say we become angels—and even if we did, the angels do not simply float around aimlessly, strumming. Yes, they worship God, but they also watch over us, and on occasion have come down to Earth for themselves to do God’s bidding. (They also played a large role in John’s vision in Revelation.) Heaven is also perfect in every way, with no fatigue, nor sleep, nor hunger, nor thirst, nor darkness. An atheist might ask, wouldn’t you get bored eventually in a place so perfect? After all, there’s nothing to strive for anymore. But when you think about it, if God can get rid of darkness, fatigue, hunger and thirst, what makes you think He would allow boredom in His perfect domain, much less in His very presence? Such a concept is near-unimaginable—that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Question 2: Where is God?
If God is so mighty, and His knowledge is limitless and He can create universes in the blink of an eye, why is it that He just so happens to be unable to show Himself to us? Where is He, if He exists? That, my friends, is an interesting question. People have said so many times, “God, you’re all-powerful. Prove to me that You’re here and listening!” Here’s the thing, though: why should God listen to you? To God, you are as majestic as an ant crawling on the ground that He walks on, minuscule and so easily crushed. Who are you to demand God reveal His very presence and majesty to you? Think about that. If that doesn’t answer the question altogether, you’re probably left thinking that that’s a pretty cheap dodge around the question. That’s not what I’m aiming for, here; I’m saying that compared to God, you are nothing. So why does He bother with us at all? Why do we worship One who could squish us like insects, if not out of fear?
To understand God is, in a way, surprisingly easy (though I dare not claim to know the mind of God). His motives, at least, are easily related to: you must but only picture your very own parents, or even yourself as a parent, if you happen to be such. A good parent will not be commanded by their child as a weak parent would. A parent does not have to speak their mind to their child, nor do they have to fulfil every wish of their child, nor are they required to reveal every secret in life to their child. I know personally how parents may often keep secrets, sometimes out of protection, other times with other reasons yet to be revealed. Let it be known that God works in mysterious ways; however, He loves us like His children and wants us to be able to love Him like our Father. Since we cannot love someone we do not know, He gives us ways to understand Him, through his Word, actions and the world around us.
God is the perfect Father, and as such, He truly knows what is best for us. He will not let us do everything we want, but that does not make Him cruel or tyrannical. He will not answer every prayer, but that does not mean He’s not listening. He will not show Himself whenever we ask simply because we cannot physically behold His beauty—for all who look upon the face of God shall perish. Just as looking into the Sun can blind us, looking unto God overwhelms us, overloads our bodily circuitry, and destroys our very being. You may ask why, then, would God make us so feeble as to be unable to so much as gaze upon Him? But you must remember, in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall, He walked in the garden Himself with Adam and Eve in person. God is pure and sinless; He literally cannot be in the presence of sin. So when mankind sinned, God could not be in their presence, and we fell so low that we could no longer be in God’s, either.
It could be said that praying to God is like calling Tech Support for life. He may answer; He may not. He may help you in the way you asked of Him; He may not. He has His own ways and reasons for doing things, and we are unworthy to have knowledge of all of them. No matter what we say to Him, though, no matter what we ask, God is always listening, and sometimes He may surprise us. Often, if He does not answer a prayer, it is because He has other plans for you. But other times, He may have one plan for us, but may change that entire plan to another route simply because we ask Him for something. He merely calls on us to be patient and understanding, just as He comforted Jeremiah in his ministry, when not one single man came to know Christ.
Question 3: Why does God allow evil to exist?
This is by far the most profound question one can ask in the face of God’s existence. I myself have pondered over this question for countless days and nights, trying to figure out why anyone would allow bad things to happen to someone else, especially if it can be prevented. One day, I came across an interesting thought. I am a writer; I like to write, and I’ve been told I’m good at it. But what does every writer need? A plot. A story. And where does a story come from? Events. Happenings. Conflict.
It hit me. The world, the people, the universe—everything is all a part of God’s grand design, the universal story of everything. Time is a story, and a story needs…conflict. And what is the conflict in this tale? Sin. Satan, the Devil, his followers, corrupting man—sin. And of course, God knows all; He knew Christ would die on the cross from the very moment He created the world; He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. He is also all-powerful. Technically, He could have rewritten the thought processes that we use to understand the very idea that a good story needs conflict; at the same time, He also could destroy the evil whenever He feels like it. But the best part of the story is the climax, usually at the end of the story—He’s getting everything all ready for the most epic battle ever recorded. (Let’s be honest…if you were God, you’d want to milk the potential for grandeur and splendour as much as possible, too, wouldn’t you?)
But sin never had to happen. Time didn’t have to be a story; it could have been a painting, the very portrait of bliss and perfection, hung on the wall in God’s living room for all the angels to gaze at and compliment Him on. No one had to wipe that nasty ink blot all over the page, did they? God could have stopped it…why didn’t He? I mean, if I was writing the best novel ever written, and someone came and made every “t” an “f,” I’d be pretty ticked off. And if I could have stopped them from doing it, I would have! So why didn’t God?
Because, He is the very opposite of what atheists think Him to be. He is not cruel; He is not a tyrant; He is not a slave master; He is a compassionate, loving, merciful being who would never lay a firm hand on anybody unless absolutely necessary. I said before that our relationship with God can be better understood by seeing Him as a literal Father and ourselves as His children. However, I never said we are actually children. To be a child can mean the offspring of something without meaning young. God’s relationship with us is indeed like a parent with their child…except we are, shall we say, legally adults. He’s not going to boss us around, make us do what He wants. He lets us choose and make our own decisions. It all really comes down to two words: free will. He has a plan for us, but He lets us choose whether or not we follow that plan, because to follow His plan, we must be willing to do as He wishes, which He does not force.
So, let’s recap the beginning of time and what has already been said here to gain a better understanding of our story’s conflict. Earlier, I mentioned how any lesser being would go insane at the mere possession of power; I know this to be true because that is what happened. Of all of God’s angels, his chief was Lucifer, smarter, wiser, cleverer and more powerful than any other. Lucifer looked upon God’s majesty, His power, His reign over the world and humans, and jealousy and greed boiled within him. (Yes, greed and jealousy were there from the very beginning, even in the angels—free will.) Lucifer tried to advise God on how to act with His creations—he stated that God should rule them with an iron fist, not unlike the way atheists perceive God to truly be. He said God should make them His slaves, and that they should bow to Him, and be merely trained monkeys for their entertainment. But in saying these things, he was trying to fulfil his own desires through God.
God would not have any of that, however. He told Lucifer no, the humans, His creations, were special and to be cherished and loved, not commanded and lorded over. But Lucifer, having witnessed God’s power and grown jealous of it, went mad with the thought of being ruler over the entire world. God would not let Lucifer help, so instead, he would hinder. He tempted Eve with the fruit of the one tree in the Garden of Eden that they were not allowed to eat from; she took it, gave it to Adam, and so humanity was desecrated.
Now, several things also point again to God’s might through free will. The very fact that the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil existed within the Garden speaks volumes. You may ask, “Why would God have one specific tree just to say that they can’t eat from it?” Because, anything else they do would be God’s will. But He does not force them to do His will…He gives them an option. He tells them the consequences of going with that action, but He allows them to choose anyway. The Devil tempted Eve to disobey the one command that God had given her and Adam, and in doing so ruined God’s perfect picture.
God allowed free will in both his angels and his creations. Lucifer chose to become greedy, and Eve chose to listen to him and disobey God. God was not happy about this—but hey, He’s God. He can work with it. Instead of making his piece of art a portrait of perfection, He decides to make it a story.
One more thing I’d like to point out: earlier, I said that time was a story. I never said a book. A book has fixed details and events throughout the entire thing. Yes, this would be a good depiction of God’s knowledge and wisdom; however, what actually happens in the world is not so set in stone. Because of free will, there’s room for error. A moment of doubt may lower an archer’s arm a fraction of an inch, just enough so that he misses his mark; a warrior may grow weary and give in to his opponent in battle, instead of having faith that God would provide in the end. There’s always room for human error; but God works with this.
God is not an author; He is not even a director of a film. No, but in a sense He is a director…and a playwright. That’s right, nothing is set in stone unless God truly desires it to be so; He hands each of us a script, tells us what He wants, then opens the curtains and gives us one go. We only get one shot to make sure the play goes smoothly. We can completely ignore the script altogether if we desire; God is still the director, though, and he enforces the major details. Christ dying on the cross; the Resurrection; the Tribulation; the Final Battle. All of the big events are set in stone, and God has authority to make sure they happen. But the little details in between are blurred; He lets us choose how to make it work, but He always knows what we will do, as opposed to what we should do, and directs things back to the end goal.