THE FIRST FAMILY
WAY TO LIVE_DOT I (GOD) // CHAPTER 5
Who is this God? Is he malevolent or benevolent? Is his plan good or evil? How can Abraham or you or I trust him?
Let’s imagine that someone approached you and asked to be your best friend. But before you became their friend, they wrote up a contract filled with all the things they were going to do for you. They’re going to make you successful, care about what you care about and be in your corner. In the part of the contract that described what was expected of you, it said that this contract was not based on anything having to do with your ability to be a friend to them. You have a part to play, but even if you don’t play your part, the terms of the contract stand, and your new friend will fulfill their end of the bargain. They will do their part no matter what you do.
This sounds too good to be true. How can you trust them? You’ve never spent any time with them. It’s like getting a marriage proposal on a blind date. “Let’s slow down here and get to know each other first.”
Here at the beginning of the story, the start of the Old Testament, there is a covenant. A promise made. Through the rest of the story, God shows us how he holds up his end of the bargain. This story also shows humanity’s pathetic attempts and failures to hold up ours. God asked for some simple things out of Abraham and his descendants, but as we are learning, simple ≠ easy.
Let’s say this person with a “contract of friendship” directed you to their “friendship reviews” website where you can see what they had done for other people that they had signed contracts with. You see that they are a five-star friend. No fake reviews, all real people. Millions of them. Reviewers would say how time and time again, this person came through for them and was there for them. They would say how there were so many times that the reviewer themselves was a bad friend, but this person did not change who they were because of that. How much confidence would that give you?
The Old Testament represents thousands of years of human history. It shows us many things about ourselves as humans. The greatest thing it shows us is the nature and character of God himself and how he deals with us and our failures. It is God’s version of yelp. If you read the Old Testament, you will find time and time again God’s attempts to show humanity his plan and get us to play a part.
Richard Dawkins, a renowned biologist says that God is “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”[i] That is a lot of adjectives. You may be inclined to agree with him.
Richard Dawkins is well known for his opposition to the idea of intelligent design. There are many others like him in the science community who believe—with near 100% certainty—that there is no evidence for the existence of God. However, Dawkins himself is more than willing to leave room for the existence of aliens and the microscopic potential that they could have designed life on Earth. Many quantum physicists deny the existence of God vehemently. Yet they will also ask people to believe that time can move backward, objects can exist in two places simultaneously, or that there are multiple universes where every possibility happens. Every possibility that is, except the existence of God.
If God is truly God, then he does not fit neatly into any box or descriptor we could add to him. That’s what makes him God. He doesn’t have to play by human rules; he created the rules. That’s called being sovereign. We may not like it, agree with it or understand it. And we don’t get to. We don’t make the rules, we don’t call the plays, but we’re on the field and must play the game as it comes to us. It has been this way for all human history. Even the ideas of good and evil that we hold to are rules and constructs we have created to define morality. How can we apply those to God? God lives outside of all these things that constrain us. Time, space, reality, perhaps even morality. To try to characterize the behavior of God as one way or another according to our standards is foolish after all, if we believe he is truly God. If you’re a parent, you are not obligated to explain every decision you make to your kids. If you’re a boss, the same holds true. Does God need our consent? Is he accountable to us for his actions? If we believe in a higher power, we should also believe that this higher power functions in ways that extend beyond our ability to perceive them. If we believe in God, we must also understand that is not obligated to explain himself to us. Once we begin to judge God, we see ourselves as god.
Think about this, if God exists outside of time, that means to him that there is no beginning and no end. He sees every moment simultaneously. So he potentially knows, sees and experiences every moment in history at the same time. God lives like he has one thousand YouTube videos playing in one thousand browser tabs at every moment, and he perceives them concurrently. God lives like he can see the entire feed of humanity on his screen working in real time. That has a lot of implications for our lives that are merely vapor.
The ancient world that Abraham and his family lived in was a lawless and savage place. Acts that would be thought unthinkable today were commonplace then. Infanticide, mass murder and human sacrifice were normal, not exceptions. The rules God created were some of the first of their kind that governed human conduct. That’s not a defense of God, that’s the facts. He doesn’t need me, or us, to defend him after all, if he is God.
From the beginning of human history, God has had a plan, and he invites us to play a part. No matter where each one of us falls on the spectrum of religion, there is something in each one of us that recognizes the divine. We know there is something beyond our present experience. Fate, destiny, karma. We may call it something different, but we so badly want to believe that there is more to life than this. Whatever this happens to be.
God, the creator of all of this, says, “yes, there is.” He says it to Abraham thousands of years ago, and he says it to us now. And he invites us on a journey.
[i] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston, MA: Mariner Books, 2008).