Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Does God have the right to judge?

I seem to walk that crazy path where I am capable of ticking off liberals, atheists and conservative evangelicals alike. I strive to know Jesus more in my life and to authentically walk the truth.

I have recently posted on a few topics that have some controversy in them. I would have though that some of my posts such as "detoxing from institutional church" or "the bible is far more oral than we think" would get some conservatives concerned. I am glad there have not been any arguments with such people, I am not really in the mood for an argument.

I am always in the mood for a genuine conversation, with genuine questions and people who listen. I am also required to listen in such a conversation.

That is why I was quite disappointed with some of the comments I received this week in response to my post "Did God order genocide?" One of those people turned out to be my cousin, and we have been able to have a good chat afterwards. We are able to continue to respect each other. The other was from someone who is a complete stranger to me, named Ruth. Ruth does not make herself contactable either. Ruth said some things which were quite attacking, and because she does not know me at all, actually turn out to be quite untrue. For the record, Ruth I am sorry for my sarcasm when I said to you "Angry at God are you?"

Ruth challenged me to respond to the story of the Exodus. I didn't feel like an argument going round in circles and did not respond to the topic in the comments. I am happy to have a conversation on the topic if it remains civil and unemotional. This is sometimes hard to do in a textual context because writing can so often be confused with the wrong emotions.

Before touching on this topic briefly I want to say one very major point. Does God not have the right to judge? Abraham actually had a conversation with God on this very topic. Abraham said to God, "will not the judge of all the earth do what is right?" This was a brave question of Abraham and one which God actually allowed him to ask, and one which God answered.

God most definitely does have the right to judge. God is the judge of all the earth. No matter how we might feel about that, God does know all of our hearts and motivations and actions. What puzzles me is why people think God does not have the right to judge us. This point of view fails to recognise that we are created by God (no matter your views on the creation debate- there are actually many scientists who are highly credible in their fields of biology and astronomy who believe in creation).

There is a human pride that says, "I am my own master and God has no say in my life." Just to make this point clear, people who often hold this point of view go further in their thinking to say that God does not exist, so that they do not have to answer to him.

God is very concerned with suffering and evil in the world. There are actually many times when God has intervened. Often God chooses not to intervene for one of two reasons. When it comes to suffering, he wants us as people to learn how to respond to the suffering around us. Ultimately we have to live in this world, so we must learn how to treat each other lovingly. God allows us to choose to do the right thing. It is actually the guilt of humanity when we cause suffering to occur and do nothing about it.

The other time that God chooses not to intervene is when it comes to evil. Sometimes God judges, and sometimes God delays his judgement. There will always be judgement in the end of course. On the occasions that God delays his judgement, God is patiently waiting and giving people the chance to turn away from their evil. And there are always plenty of warnings for people to turn away from evil.

So God may choose to delay his judgement, but he always has the right to judge.

Back to the Egypt story and that of Pharaoh. Pharaoh was given many chances to stop treating the Hebrew slaves harshly and to release them from their slavery. At the start of the story Pharaoh nearly did let them go, but he chose to harden his heart against God. I am no Hebrew expert, but I have heard enough Hebrew scholars explain that there is no doubting that Pharaoh chose this himself. God later on hardened Pharaoh's heart further to make the difference between good and evil clear.

An important consideration is that of culture, nations and individualism. In the modern, western age we are very individualistic. We can not imagine nations that were not individualistic (the vast majority of nations and of history). There can be no doubt that all of Egypt were against the Hebrews. So when judgement fell on Egypt as a nation this is not a strange thing or even wrong. (Once again, God does have the right to judge.) Each of the plagues in Egypt was actually a victory over the 10 Egyptian gods. It was necessary to defeat each of the Egyptian gods- the god of the river, the god of frogs etc, so that people would understand their gods had been defeated and so they would give up their pride. (For the atheist that mocks at these gods, the vast majority of human history has and does believe in deities. Atheism is the minor exception.)

That is about all that I feel like saying on the Egypt topic right now. But the essence of my response to the skeptic who is angry at God for judging, is that God does have the right to judge. He delays it sometimes, so that we have the chance to turn away from evil, but judgement always occurs in the end.

God is the judge of all the world, but he is also a good and fair judge, loving and kind. But he can not allow evil and sin to be ignored and unchecked. Those who do not want to be judged may of course beg to differ on this. I am happy to allow God to judge me, because I have the best advocate there is in Jesus.

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