Book Plunge: In God We Doubt Part 7

What is Humphrys looking for? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re moving ahead now to where Humphrys starts doing interviews. In this, he interacts with a Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim. To his credit, he brings on people who are informed about what they believe. WIll he find God doing this?

Doubtful, especially since at the start he says he doesn’t want to convert to Judaism any more than he wants to be a Muslim or recover his Christianity, but he would like to believe in God. But why? What benefit does he get from this? Is God just a means to an end? Will Humphrys feel better about himself if he has God?

If he finds the Christian God, for instance, that will mean repentance. That will mean humility. That will mean he has to accept that God has a good reason for allowing the evil that he complains about. If he accepts Islam, will he be willing to embrace all of the teachings and follow Muhammad as a prophet? Is he prepared to have his good and bad deeds weighed out on the scales? For Judaism, it will depend on the branch, but there’s not much emphasis from what I see usually on an afterdeath.

Humphrys gives no reason, though he admits it sounds pathetic.

But if you only want God as a means to an end for you, it’s not a shock if you don’t find Him. Why think He will let Himself be used?

One big issue he has for his interviewees is evil. This is Humphrys #1 argument against God. Now I have said before that I don’t understand what you gain from the problem of evil if you remove God. The problem is still there and you get rid of a solution of hope to the problem.

Humphrys says that most tyrants seem to die peacefully on their beds. Hitler could have had he not gone after Russia and just stayed in his own land. For Humphrys, this dispels the idea that virtue is its own reward and that God is merciful.

For the first, why would Humphrys want to be virtuous? It is not so he can please God obviously. Is he just wanting to please his fellow man? Does Humphrys do good purely because he benefits from it? These tyrants certainly didn’t care what anyone else thought of them, unless they wanted to kill them. What makes Humphrys different in the long run?

For the second, God is only merciful if He deals with evil on Humphrys timescale? Who says? If Christianity is true, God is merciful to all of us as we all deserve death right now. Of course, Humphrys would likely say he doesn’t deserve that as he’s generally a good person. What about all those evil people though?

Because it’s always someone else’s evil that needs to be dealt with. Whenever I hear atheists complain about evil, they are complaining about what other people do. They are not complaining about what they do.

Rowan Williams is shown in the interview of saying that with God, there is always hope. Of course, this is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t understand the concept of Heaven or especially of resurrection. If you think death is the end of the story, then obviously the story is terrible sometimes. Williams’s view is that it is not the end.

That doesn’t mean those words are always helpful to parents who have lost a child to cancer, but arguments aren’t the purpose of that. Charity is. This is when you come alongside and listen.

Humphrys also said that Abraham was presented with a choice that God said “If you believe in me, you must sacrifice your child.” We can question the premise, but even if we go with it, note something important. Isaac never died. It was just to show how much Abraham believed in the promise that through Isaac his covenant of offspring would be fulfilled. Abraham had to believe that either God would stop it or else He would raise Isaac from the dead.

Sacks, the rabbi, also tells Humphrys that if Humphrys didn’t have faith, he wouldn’t ask the question. I think faith is being misunderstood, but I get at what Sacks is asking. The question is asked because you expect there to be an answer. Why? If this was an atheistic universe, well, it’s just some people are going to get the short straw and tough luck it turned out to be you. You can be comforting and kind to someone suffering, but there’s really no meaning in their suffering nor any ultimate hope.

Humphrys says Sacks ultimately says that if it happened, there must be a reason why it happened and God will use it for good. Can you argue with that? Humphrys says no, which is the problem for the problem of evil. The one using it has to demonstrate that there is no good reason for God to allow evil XYZ. Quite a tall order. Not only that, he also has to deal with all the positive arguments for God’s existence, which thus far Humphrys never does.

Thus far then, color me unconvinced.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)



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