Dr. Doug Posey
There are several stock questions that the “theologically challenged” love to ask; they’re never meant as an honest query to satisfy a legitimate intellectual pursuit. These questions provide what the skeptic believes is a safe harbor from true consideration of the truth-claims of Scripture. They ask them with the belief that they can shut down the claims of the faithful.
The questions usually have something in common. They highlight what the unbeliever sees as contradictions in Scripture or in the Christian perspective of God. But, if you know the truth, it becomes apparent that these questions only highlight the ignorance of the inquirer.
For example, there is a plethora of dubious inquiries concerning the Bible, seeking to undo belief in the reliability and/or inspiration of Scripture. Some focus on apparent scientific contradictions like, “How do you explain the fact that the book of Jonah refers to him being swallowed by a ‘great fish’ and Jesus calls it a ‘whale’? Everybody knows a whale is a mammal, not a fish! Shouldn’t God’s Word reflect the difference?”
Though such a query may set you back on your heels for the moment, a quick lesson in Hebrew (not biology) shows that the word translated “fish” and “whale” is a more general term referring to any sea creature that is transported through the water by moving its tail. The problem is not with the original text of the Scriptures, but with some (especially older) English translations. You can assure your quizzical cynic-friend that the Bible only has apparent contradictions not actual ones. If doubters cared to truly check it out, they might stop berating and start believing.
The other major category of questions has to do with God, His nature, etc. They range from the very stupid and sarcastic like, “If God can do anything, can He make a rock so big He can’t pick it up?”, to the more legitimate like, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” Not a bad question. But, there’s another one I’d like to consider.
Far less concerning to the atheist and agnostic is the other side of that bad things question: “Why does God allow good things to happen to bad people?” So-called “bad people” aren’t as concerned about that one as are those who consider themselves to be good, especially good Christians.
Let’s face it; it’s disheartening to give your life to Christ, try to be obedient and still have bad things happen. Almost worse is to see those who scoff at Christianity, profane God’s name and lead lives of debauchery, prospering! What’s up with that!?
In the interest of fairness, wouldn’t one expect God to make life rough for the wicked and smooth for the righteous ones (like me and maybe you)? Hey, if I were God for a day, I’d have no problem finding ways to dish out deserved discomfort for the evildoers. I would undo the dirty little sinners’ blessings, bounty and bling! However, I wouldn’t resemble the God of the Bible.
God isn’t quite what many assume He should be. Most who find fault with Him are making assumptions about Him that are reflective of their personal biases rather than knowing the true and living God. In other words, the fact that I don’t think it’s fair that the wicked prosper has nothing to do with how God approaches the issue. “For [His] thoughts are not [my] thoughts…” and “[His] ways are higher than [my] ways” (Isa. 55:8,9).
To say that the wicked are less deserving of earthly prosperity insinuates that we actually deserve it. Jonah didn’t think the cruel, sadistic, evil, pagan Ninevites deserved God’s compassion. They didn’t. But, did Jonah? Not if I were God, but I’m not. The same lovingkindness and compassion that spared Jonah’s life in the midst of the Mediterranean allowed the Ninevites a shot at repentance. Jonah didn’t think they deserved it. He was right; and neither did I. Praise God that He doesn’t give anyone only what they deserve.
There’s God’s common grace, from which the Ninevites benefitted, and then there’s the special grace, only available in Christ. Because of His grace, in Christ, we get what we don’t deserve when it comes to the good stuff. We can’t deserve it. And we get to keep it. No one, not even us, can take it away. It is a gift of God, “through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand” (Rom 5:1-2).
“He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” —MATTHEW 5:45