Monday, June 11, 2012

God on Trial

In 1970, Eerdmans published a C. S. Lewis book edited by Walter Hooper.  The book is a collection of Lewis essays collected in published form for the first time in this Lewis book called God in the Dock.  The title doesn’t mean that God is hanging out by the water getting ready for a boat ride.  It means, in British terms, “God on trial.”  Hooper points out in his preface that we live in “an age in which one sees in most bookshops and Sunday papers the controversial—and, oftentimes, apostate—works of clergy who ‘unsettle’ every article of the Faith they are ordained and paid to uphold.” 

If that was true in 1970 it’s only gotten worse in the last forty years.  And it’s not only clergy-types that try to unsettle the faith; it now includes everyone from the talk show host to the social studies teacher to the grocery clerk to the housewife across the street.  These days pretty much anybody and everybody puts God on trial.  The Bible clearly teaches that God is the judge and we are on trial.  We’ve cleverly reversed that in our day: we are the judge and God is on trial.  We are quick to pass judgments on his word and his character and his attributes. 

With the Olympics just a couple of months away, think of it in terms of the gymnastic judges.  You know how that works.  The athlete dismounts the balance beam and the judges grade her performance: 9.2, 8.8, 9.4, 8.2, and inevitably one judge gives her only a 7.6.  Isn’t that what too many of us do with God?  We sit in judgment on him—us on the judge’s bench, God in the dock.  Think about it: 

  • God splits the Red Sea for the Israelites to pass through, we give him a 10.  He drowns the pursuing Egyptians in the same sea and we give him a 5.  “Why kill them, God?  Wasn’t saving Israel enough?” 
  • God provides Israel manna from heaven to a hungry people, we give him a 10.  God drops the hammer on Israel and wipes out some of them for their disobedience, we give him a 6.  “Good grief, God, can’t you be a little more patient?”
  • Jesus heals a blind man, we give him a 10.  He runs out the merchants and the money-changers from the temple, we give him a 6.2, thinking, “Temper, temper, temper.”
  • Jesus feeds 5000, we give him a 9.6 instead of a 10 because surely he could have added some dessert.  Jesus skewers the Pharisees with his words, and we give him and 7.8, thinking, “Really, Jesus, didn’t your mama teach you that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”
  • God raises Jesus from the dead, we give him a 10.  God decrees that Jesus should die the brutal death of the cross, and we give God a 2, thinking, “How could a loving God do something like that to his own son?”

Am I right?  Isn’t this what so many of us do?  We sit in judgment on God, trying to force him into our particular biases, prejudices, likes and dislikes.  And when the God of the Bible doesn’t fit neatly into the image we want to mold him to fill, we either write him off, diminish him, or lose our respect for who he is.  We do this with the God we discover in the Bible and we do this with what we think God should or shouldn’t do in the world around us.  We give God a 10 for rainbows and pretty birds and cancer cures and the majesty of the Rockies.  But we give God a 2 for tsunamis and tornadoes and wars and world hunger—“Surely, God can do better than that,” we assume.

I’m wondering if we could learn to accept God as he revealed himself to be in the Bible.  I’m wondering if we could give God the benefit of the doubt in the mind-boggling, faith-testing events that happen in the news day by day.  And I’m wondering if we could humble ourselves before God, yield to his superior wisdom and ways which are not our ways and are higher than our ways, and quit judging God and start trusting God in all things.  We’ll have to get down off our high-horse to do that, but that’s a trip worth making.  Now, I’m not saying that it’s wrong for us to ask God questions when our faith is tested, to wrestle with him until he blesses us.  God welcomes that, I think—Job did it; Jeremiah did it; the psalmist did it; even Jesus did it in Gethsemane.  But let’s just never forget one simple thing we struggle to remember: God is God and we are not.    And if we can just get that right, who knows … God may just give us a 10.    

1 comment:

  1. "God is God and we are not." Such a deep, yet simple, reminder of the truth.