That’s the title of an interesting and thought-provoking post by Justin Taylor at The Gospel Coalition. Justin embedded a video interview left on the cutting-room-floor of the forthcoming documentary Hellbound. In the video (embedded below), Justin grapples with a question I often receive — is a God who only saves some of His children a moral monster?
I’m not going to pretend to be a theologian and wholeheartedly recommend watching Justin’s response (as well as reading his blog), but I will make an observation or two through the prism of my legal training. First, much of what we believe is right or fair for a sovereign is derived from legal, moral, and political systems created precisely because we are not God and then imputing from that system moral laws that should govern God’s conduct towards man. In other words, reverence for individual liberty, equality of opportunity, blind justice, the moral autonomy of the individual, and many other concepts that have widespread (indeed, overwhelming) support in our culture are born out of distrust for the sovereign. In other words, man — after thousands of years of experience with despotism — understands that power corrupts, concentrated power creates terrible consequences for that corruption, and that fallen men must always be accountable to someone.
Second, the cultural and legal constructs created to keep our earthly sovereign honest simply do not apply to our Heavenly Sovereign. To take a controversial example — just war theories I endorse and have lived are incompatible with the conquest of Canaan. The Israelites were not acting in self-defense but as conquerors, and their God-directed methods were extreme. This analysis applies to any number of Old Testament conflicts, where God directed His people to carry out His will through extreme violence. In other cases, God himself acted violently on the world — killing even children — from the Flood to Sodom. His actions in the Book of Job can seem inexplicable — and the only answer He gave to Job’s repeated entreaties was a lengthy, vivid version of “Who do you think you are to question Me?”
For generations many Christians have struggled to reconcile Christ’s commands to love our enemies with God’s quite frequent smiting of His enemies. But given the vast and impenetrable gulf in our own understanding and God’s understanding, is this alleged inconsistency really so hard to comprehend? After all, if we are fallen (and we are) and limited in our understanding, how can we even be sure that our “enemies” are wrong? How can we know what God has purposed for them? And let’s not forget that even as we love our enemies God has created and established agents of His own wrath in our earthly governments, providing a means for executing even violent judgments agains wrongdoers on this earth. Simply put, God’s judgment is perfect. Ours is often ridiculous.
We love ourselves and our own reasoning so much that it’s easy to forget:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
If this sounds like a bit of a punt, well . . . it is. After all, we see through a glass darkly and will never achieve full understanding during our time in this fallen, groaning world. But it is God who defines virtue, His Word hardly indicates that he’s an egalitarian as we understand the term, and I’m a sinner — depraved in every aspect of my being. Thanks be to God for His gracious and inexplicable rescue of my lost soul.