Why Does God Tell Us What to Do?

Why Does God Tell Us What to Do?Why does God tell us what to do and punish us for not doing it? Yesterday we began to consider the frustrations of the person who sent us this email:
“How can you expect me to believe in a God who created me against my wishes and without my consent, and then because I don’t do things the way he thinks I should, sends me to eternal suffering in hell? That is a product of a twisted mind and is not something I can believe in or serve. I didn’t ask to be born, and I won’t spend my life worshiping an evil, abusive God who rejoices in bringing pain to everything he touches.”

The emailer’s view of why God tells us to do things is badly misinformed. God does not tell us what to do because God is a control freak. Many people seem to feel that God’s commands are just the reflection of an ego that demands things that make Him feel better.

The first problem here is that these folks have a very poor understanding of what God is. God is not a human consumed with human passions and weaknesses. God does not have self-image problems, ego problems, moods, sexual desires, power struggles, or feelings of envy. God is not a human and is not limited to human emotions and feelings. Furthermore, God does not need us. Over and over the Bible defines God as love, light, a spirit, not flesh and blood, not a man, etc. (see John 4:24; Matthew 16:17; 1 John 1:5; 4:8,12,16; Numbers 23:19; John 1:1). Suggesting that God tells us what to do because He wants to have control over us and satisfy His own power needs is a complete misunderstanding of God’s nature.

Why does God tell us what to do? Even with our limited ability to understand, we can see that everything God tells us to do is for our own good. God’s rules for sexual expression are the right formula to give us the best and most fulfilling aspect of sex. Sexual clinicians agree that a single committed relationship is the best formula for completeness and fulfillment. Nobody questions the fact that STDs will not spread in a monogamous, committed relationship. Even the most radical proponents of alternative lifestyles cannot argue that their proposals for gay marriage, polygamy, or whatever are superior to God’s plan of one man one woman committed to serving each other for life. They argue theirs is as good, and that is an argument that the data does not support. No one questions the wisdom of the biblical instructions that oppose violence, murder, or abuse.

Even those things that God tells us to do in worship are for our own well being. God does not ask us to pray because He needs information from us, or because He needs praise. Prayer is an act which helps us to learn to look to a higher power and reach beyond ourselves. That is something recognized by every 12-step program to overcoming addictions. Interestingly, some groups opposed to the existence of God are now promoting Transcendental Meditation and other similar acts as a substitute for prayer.

Giving is not something God tells us to do because He needs our money. If we believe that God is the creator of all things, then we surely understand that. Giving is something humans need to learn to do for our own well being. The biblical injunction, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) is really a discussion of what benefits the giver, not what benefits the receiver. The person who never learns to give will be unsuccessful in his marriage, in his sexual relationships, in his family, and his friendships. Every act God instructs us to do is for our well-being, not for control purposes.

Why does God tell us what to do? Because He loves us! Tomorrow, we will deal with the emailer’s question about hell.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

I Didn’t Ask to be Born

I Didn't Ask to be BornWe received the following email: “How can you expect me to believe in a God who created me against my wishes and without my consent, and then because I don’t do things the way he thinks I should, sends me to eternal suffering in hell? That is a product of a twisted mind and is not something I can believe in or serve. I didn’t ask to be born, and I won’t spend my life worshiping an evil, abusive God who rejoices in bringing pain to everything he touches.”

Obviously, this email was sent by a person in pain – a person who is angry, frustrated, confused, misinformed, misled, and disconnected from reality. Many of this person’s problems are due to the traditions of human creeds and theories. Much of the frustration is due to assumptions that are not valid or biblical.

There are some questions and challenges in the message that I, too, struggle with, and I make no pretense of having all the answers. What we would like to do is to dissect this email in the hope that it will help some of our readers who may have some of the same concerns and struggles. I am sure there are others with the same complaints but are not willing to be quite as honest in expressing them.

“I didn’t ask to be born.” Have you ever gotten so frustrated with life, and especially with people in your life, that you wished you had never been born? I think that most of us have gone through that. Job certainly radiated that feeling when he said: “May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said ‘A boy is conceived’ “(Job 3:3). As an atheist, I said almost those very words in a modernized form and got so far down the road of despair that I attempted in a crude way to end my life. From an atheist perspective, there are times when we feel that life is a worthless, meaningless, painful experience that we would rather not endure.

However, at the end of every night, there is another day, and things do get better. For the Christian, the meaningfulness of life is more easily seen because of the purpose that a Christian has in living. If your only goal in living is seeking selfish desires and pleasures, it is easy to run out of reasons to live. If your life has a bigger purpose, then you have a reason to live, a purpose, and a goal.

Job finally came to understand his purpose in life. He looked at what had happened and what he had endured, and he had a new perspective. He told the Lord that before all these things had happened to him: “My ears have heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5). He then goes on joyously praising God because he sees a purpose in his life.

I am sure Job always had some sobering thoughts and memories of what he had lost. But he was glad to be alive, and God enabled him to see purpose and meaning in his life. Saying “I didn’t ask to be born and I wish I had never been” is a knee-jerk reaction to a crisis. Before we seek a permanent solution to a temporary problem, we should allow God to remind us that we are love, and we have a purpose.

Tomorrow, we will look at a second challenge in that email – “Why does God have the right to tell me what to do?”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Discrediting Jesus and the Bible

Discrediting Jesus - Romulus and RemusSkeptics have tried for 2,000 years to find methods of discrediting Jesus and the Bible. When Jesus was on Earth, people debated who and what He was. All kinds of mistaken concepts circulated, frequently controlled by the desires and beliefs of His enemies. Things have not changed. Sometimes skeptics have tried to explain away Jesus in terms of ancient pagan cultures or Jewish religious sects.

At one time, people claimed that the source of the stories about Jesus came from the Essenes, a sect of Jews who lived near the Dead Sea and left what are known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Essenes wrote about a man known as the “Great Teacher.” Skeptics suggested that this individual was elevated by his followers to be “the son of God,” and that led to the myth of Jesus Christ. Further research on the Dead Sea Scrolls and new archaeological discoveries laid that claim to rest.

People have tried to tie Christ to the ancient Egyptian cult of Isis. There is a story of a “resurrection” in that legend, and skeptics bent on discrediting Jesus claimed that was the origin of the story of Christ’s resurrection. Osiris was the Egyptian god of the underworld, and supposedly was the husband of Isis. In the Egyptian legend, Osiris was murdered by his brother and buried in the Nile. Isis recovered the body, but Osiris’ brother retrieved it, cut it up into 14 pieces, and scattered the pieces around the world. Isis found all 14 pieces and resurrected Osiris.

The story of Christ could not have been borrowed from the cult of Isis because it has none of the characteristics of the story. Nowhere in the resurrection account is there any supernatural battle between equal gods, no sex interest, and no war based on physical skill and intelligence. When Peter used his sword to cut off the ear of one of Christ’s attackers, Jesus healed the ear and told him to put away the sword. There is no struggle for political power in the story of Christ. The contrast between the story of Isis and the story of Christ is so enormous that even the rankest skeptic should be able to see the foolishness of trying to compare them.

Other attempts to explain the virgin birth by stories from pagan myths are even more ludicrous. In one case, the sun-god Apollo became a snake and impregnated the mother of Augustus Caesar, so the baby born was without a mortal father. Not only is this account used by some skeptics of Christ ridiculous in its content, but it was written after the biblical account had been recorded in the gospels. The gospel writers could not possibly have drawn from it.

Another claim was that the founder of Rome, Romulus, inspired the story of Christ. Romulus was supposed to have been fathered by the Roman god Mars. When he and his twin brother Remus were left to die in the Tiber River, a she-wolf adopted and raised them. Later Romulus killed Remus and became the founder and first king of Rome. Once again, one just has to read the account and ask if there is any similarity between this mythical story and the account of the birth, life, and death of Jesus.

Skeptics continue to look for ways of discrediting Jesus and the Bible. Relativism, materialism, selfishness, the total abandonment of morality, and the disintegration of the home make the Christian message unpopular. As people try to justify their lifestyles and selfish exploitation of others, they will resort to almost any way of discrediting Jesus and His beautiful and functional teachings. We need to answer the challenge as we demonstrate the love and service that Jesus commanded His followers to show.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

New Testament Manuscripts

New Testament Manuscripts Trustworthy?We often see challenges to the trustworthiness of the New Testament manuscripts with statements like this from an atheist website:

“The New Testament has been translated so many times and modified by copiers in so many ways over the past 2,000 years, that it is impossible to have any confidence in its accuracy.”

Such statements are usually coupled with the old game where a row of people whisper a story from one to the next until the last person receives something very different. Communication is hard. People make mistakes when they tell someone else what happened. To believe that the New Testament is still accurate after nearly 2,000 years is more than many people can accept.

The problem is that most of us are ignorant about how we got the Bible. When you whisper a story from person A to person B to C, and so forth, you are using linear transmission. The problem with going through 10 linear transmissions is that each person in the chain can add his own error, and the end product gets further and further away from the original.

When I was a kid, my father handed me a board that was the right length for the roof of the chicken coop we were making. He told me to cut ten boards to the same length. I took the one he gave me and marked the second board and cut it. Then I took the second board and marked the third board and cut it. Then I took the third board and marked the fourth board and cut it. By the time I got to the tenth board, I had added a foot to the length of the board. Each cut added its own error. Could the same problem have taken place in the transmission of the New Testament documents?

The transmission of the biblical text was geometric, not linear. What we mean is that the original manuscript was copied many times, not just once. In the previous example, if I had taken the first board and used it to mark each of the ten boards, there would have been no problem. In the New Testament documents, the copiers took the first copy and made 50 copies. Those 50 copies were copied by people at different places producing perhaps 250 copies. This is a geometric progression, not a linear one.

Gregory Koukl in an excellent article “Facts for Skeptics of the New Testament” in Christian Research Journal (volume 27, number 3, page 10) gave a great illustration of how geometric progression can help us determine the actual content of an original document. It is called “Aunt Sally’s Letter,” and it goes like this:

Aunt Sally invents a fantastic recipe. She makes 30 copies of the recipe and gives it to her friends. Each of her friends makes 30 copies of the one they were given and give it to 30 of their friends. Aunt Sally comes home one day and discovers that her dog has eaten the only copy of the recipe she has. She calls her 30 friends she gave the recipe to and asks them to send their copy back so she can remake her own copy. Twenty-seven of the copies are exactly the same. The three that are different have different problems. One has a misspelled word. One has an inverted phrase (“mix and then chop” instead of “chop and then mix”). One has an ingredient that is not in any of the other recipes.

Can Aunt Sally reconstruct her original recipe from what she has? To assume that the copy with the added ingredient is right, would be inconsistent. There is too much evidence that the added ingredient was not in the original with only one out of 30 copies having it. The other two mistakes are common human errors, and it does not make any sense to leave them in the recipe.

That story illustrates in simplified form what scholars call “textual criticism.” It is a careful literary process scholars use on all kinds of documents to correct copying errors. Because the Bible s copied in geometric form, it is a prime candidate for this kind of work. Variations in New Testament manuscripts are greatly exaggerated. Atheist and skeptic websites report that there are 300,000 individual variations of the New Testament text in the manuscripts. They present this seemingly massive amount of variations to show that there can be no confidence in the New Testament manuscripts.

Dr. Daniel Wallace in an article in Bibliotheca Sacra (“The Majority Text and the Original Text: Are They Identical?” 148,590 [1991]:page 157) pointed out that most of the differences are spelling errors and minor phrasing problems equaling a total of about 400 words in about 40 lines of original text. This is out of 20,000 lines of text, meaning that the Greek text of the New Testament is 99.5% pure. There are very few historical documents of any kind which come close to this level of purity.

Biblical manuscript evidence is massive. Here is a conservative summary of textual evidence:

Different Greek manuscripts available: 5,366
Complete New Testament manuscripts from ninth to fifteenth centuries: 34
Earliest complete New Testament date: A.D. 340
Oldest fragment of the New Testament date: A.D. 117-138
Translations into Latin, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian: A.D. 300-400

Much of the support for the accuracy of New Testament manuscripts comes from fragments. A good example is the John Rylands Papyri, which contains all of John 18:31-33. Paleographic dating puts the age of this fragment at “earlier than A.D. 117.” This fragment is about three inches square but gives us a picture of one small piece of the New Testament. The Bodmer Papyri II manuscript contains the first 14 chapters of the Gospel of John. The Chester Beatty Papyri includes most of the New Testament and dates to the middle of the third century. The amount of evidence for New Testament manuscripts is greater than any other manuscript of the same age.

No scholar would discard a secular document of an age before A.D. 1,000 with that much documentation because there was insufficient evidence for it. Skeptics are totally inconsistent when they attempt to discredit the Bible in this way. We can be confident about the validity of the scriptures we have. While atheists might disagree with the teachings of Jesus, they cannot claim with integrity that we do not know what Jesus taught.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Intellectually Honest Skepticism

Intellectually Honest SkepticismAs I speak on college and university campuses, a large number of people (both atheists and religious) find a statement I like to open with to be astounding. The statement is, “You can intelligently and logically and rationally believe in God.” There is an immediate air of doubt in the minds of many who cannot or do not want to believe it. I don’t know how many of them change their minds in the course or our lectures. Skepticism abounds today, but what we need is intellectually honest skepticism willing to seek the truth.

Certainly one major factor has been that various churches, groups, and individuals have dogmatically forced a creed of creationism upon all members. Those creeds frequently fly in the face of both science and common sense. The more capable and clearest thinking young people who refuse to be force-fed this dogma, simply leave the church. Many of the leading atheist speakers in the United States today came from a church background.

The growth of aggressive atheism is another factor leading many to think that intelligent, logical belief in God is impossible. Attractive websites and high budget, colorful printed materials promote naturalism, if not downright atheism. Saturated with scientific materialism and locked into a mindset that anything religious is automatically wrong, they claim to be the only voice of reason, logic, and competent science.

Instead of skepticism referring to a healthy, scientifically rigorous approach to issues and solving problems, the word has become synonymous with an anti-religion mindset. It is evident that, in a great many cases, the atheist community has completely taken over the concept of skepticism.

I want to suggest that intellectually honest skepticism is Christian in nature, and it is the approach Jesus used in His ministry and teachings. In fact, the Bible condemned religionism more strongly than atheism. The Bible makes only fleeting references to atheism. (See Romans 1:19-23.) The strong condemnation statements of Christ, and the Bible writers in general, come down on the religious leaders who force their traditions on the population. The teachings of Christ focused on attitudes and how we treat each other. The religious establishment constantly criticized Christ because He did not adhere to their traditions. His teaching was logical, practical, and pragmatic not built on the traditions of the past. He asked questions and awaited logical responses.

Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (5th Edition) defines a skeptic as “one who carries a critical or incredulous attitude into his inquiries.” Skepticism is defined as “the doctrine that all knowledge is uncertain.” This does not mean that skeptical minds reject anything that is not physical. Limiting our belief system to only what we can see, smell, touch, feel, and hear precludes all kinds of things. A vast percentage of nuclear physics, quantum mechanics, relativistic physics, and even some mathematics depends upon knowledge that does not involve the senses.

Intellectually honest skepticism demands inquiry and also recognizes that knowledge is uncertain because humans are uncertain. This does not mean that there is no such thing as truth. It just means that skeptics should be aware of their own limitations and of the human capacity to misjudge. Intellectually honest skeptics know the danger of preconceived ideas and their approach should be humble, open, and careful. Being skeptical does not mean that a person has no beliefs, morals, or convictions. I can have strong convictions and beliefs and can communicate those to others and still have the ability to change my beliefs and understandings.

Unfortunately, skepticism in today’s American culture is at least as dogmatic as ultraconservative, fundamentalistic religion. Any skeptics who would question Darwin, would likely be castigated by their peers. There is a need for intellectually honest skepticism in the world. I am a skeptic in approach, but there are some basic things that my skeptical approach has led me to believe strongly. If we reason together in an open, skeptical way, we can learn. Blind, closed skepticism and blind, closed dogmatism are impossible to tell apart to those who are seeking the truth.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Bible in the Information Age

Bible in the Information AgeAn article questioning the relevance of the Bible in the information age appeared in the Rochester (Indiana) Sentinel on May 8, 2019. The article was titled “The Bible Versus Information Age,” and in it, Dave Gudeman wrote:

“As long as you have a church that doesn’t question the Bible…you will have a stagnant congregation with little spiritual life…When a pastor is willing to ask what his or her congregation believes about the Bible, about God, about their faith and their beliefs about who Jesus is and then be willing to build their congregations around those beliefs, you would have the fastest growing church in town.”

I don’t question the reality of that statement, but what you would have is a social club, and not the Church Jesus died to establish. Earlier in his column, Mr. Gudeman wrote that many young people questioning the validity of the Bible “…leads me to wonder if the Bible can stand up to the scrutiny and logic of today’s information age of the internet.”

If you are a thinking and questioning adult, you know that the Bible can do more than stand up to the “scrutiny and logic.” The Bible in the information age is the same as it always has been — a tool to help young and old learn what works, what is true, and what is not.

The number of scams and immoral promotions on the internet is massive. A large percentage of the pornography being absorbed by young people today is coming from the internet. We have cited case after case on this website of misinformed or deliberately misrepresented information on the web. Our own array of sites beginning with doesgodexist.org and including “evidence4god” on Facebook has made use of the information age to show the strong evidence for God and to give answers to faith questions people ask.

The difference is whether you want a big church or an informed group of believers who work together to teach and provide accurate information while practicing what Jesus taught. That includes feeding the hungry, clothing those who need clothes, ministering to people in prison, bringing medical care to children. It also includes exposing misinformation such as the idea that somehow, humanity has outgrown the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible in the information age.
—John N. Clayton © 2019

Joy of Motherhood

Joy of MotherhoodI would like to be a mother. I can’t imagine the joy of motherhood bringing a new life into the world, nurturing that child and watching her or him grow into a productive adult. I want to be a mother very badly, but I don’t have the equipment to do that.

Yesterday we talked about how atheists and feminists try to vilify Christ and Christianity by suggesting that the Bible treats women as second-class citizens. However, Christ and His apostles treated women as equals. (See John 4 and Galatians 3:26-29.) The passage the atheists point out is 1 Timothy 2:9-15. That passage tells us that women can be saved in childbirth. In other words that role is so important that being a mother can be an opportunity to fulfill an incredible role that God has made available. Women don’t have to accept that role, but it is available. No matter how badly I want to be a mother, it simply isn’t possible.

A woman can accept the role of being a mother, but men have no way to choose that role. In the spiritual realm, God has given men a role. Just like the baseball team, having the male lead the family spiritually doesn’t diminish the value of a woman any more than being a first baseman diminishes the value of a catcher. A woman’s worth is not diminished by allowing her husband to fulfill his role as a leader in worship.

Unfortunately, most men are not up to fulfilling the role of being the spiritual leader of the family. Frequently women have to step in and help when the male refuses or is unable to fill the role. A first baseman can fill in for a catcher, but that is certainly not the way the roles are assigned or work their best.

Read Proverbs 31:10-31, Acts 16:14-15, 40, Acts 21:8-9 and Acts 2:17-18. Look at Ephesians 5:25-28 and consider God’s plan for both men and women. Christianity has elevated women and provided a basis for gender equality. Equality does not mean sameness, and we should thank God for the special design He has built into men and women to allow them to have meaningful roles producing happy and fulfilling lives – including the joy of motherhood.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Does Intelligent Design Destroy Science?

Does Intelligent Design Destroy Science?Skeptics claim that Intelligent Design destroys science. This claim shows how badly the skeptics misunderstand Intelligent Design.

The dictionary defines science as knowledge. When we do scientific experiments and make observations, we are trying to gain knowledge. We apply that knowledge to those situations where we can gain more knowledge. We never just say “God did it” and stop investigating. We continue experimenting because we want to understand how and why God did it. Believing that there is design in all aspects of the creation never stops us from looking for a deeper understanding. Naturalism is frequently just the opposite. A classic example of this is Junk DNA.

As naturalists examined the DNA in various animals, they found that there was DNA that didn’t seem to be necessary. They called it “Junk DNA” assuming that it was a byproduct left over from the evolutionary process. For many researchers, that was the end of the story. No further experiments were designed to find a purpose for junk DNA. In this case, a naturalistic view and assumption stopped the scientific investigation, or at least slowed it down.

A biology professor chastised me for referring to junk DNA as a dead-end street. His exact words were “God doesn’t make any junk.” The assumption that junk DNA wasn’t junk led to further investigation. That research now tells us the so-called “junk” has a purpose and plays a vital role in life processes. Believing that everything we see was created with a purpose and a design, and wanting to understand that design is a great catalyst for scientific investigation.

Historically, most of the significant discoveries of science over the past 1000 years have been made by scientists who recognized purpose and design in the cosmos. They were striving to understand that design. In our quarterly journal (which you can read on doesgodexist.org), we have a column titled “Scientists and God.” We present statements by leading scientists about their faith and their recognition of purpose and design in the creation. Does Intelligent Design destroy science? No, it supports science.

We quoted Albert Einstein in our first quarter journal for 2019 when he said:

“We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written the books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books, but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human beings toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws.”

Whether we study biology or quantum mechanics, Intelligent Design enhances science because the universe was intelligently designed.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!Many years ago I was a college student far from home, and I needed to find a dentist. As I was sitting in the dental chair of this man I had never met before, I was confronted for the first time with the argument that religion causes wars.

Have you ever noticed that dentists always have an advantage over their patients when it comes to conversations? A dentist can say anything or ask any question while your mouth is numb or full of cotton. You try to respond with something that sounds like it’s coming from a toddler or a drunk person. “Mummammberabalub.” Why can’t I be understood?

Anyway, I made the mistake of telling him (while I could still talk) that I was a student in a Christian college. That sent the dentist on a diatribe about how Christianity has been the cause of almost every war in the last 2000 years. I was not in a position to argue coherently, and besides, he had a drill in his hand.

I have heard the argument that religion causes wars many times since – and not just from dentists. This particular dentist seemed to have a personal grievance against Christianity. A recent study took the war/religion connection in a different direction. The study, published in the scientific journal Nature Behavior, was titled “War Increases Religiosity.” The researchers analyzed over 1700 individuals in three countries that had experienced major internal conflicts. The countries where the subjects lived were Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Tajikistan. The research team felt that these were good countries to study not only because of their recent wars but also because of their diverse cultures and geographical areas.

The researchers found that people who were more affected by war were more likely to participate in religious activities, both Christian and Muslim. Their conclusion stated: “…our results suggest that the experience of war-related violence increases religious engagement and ritual participation.” Also, very important, they said: “The potential existence of these relationships has important theoretical, political and social implications.”

Just what are those implications? A media report of the research put it this way: “If war makes people more religious, and if religion makes people more war-prone, we have the recipe for a devastating feedback loop – which could help to at least partially explain some of the current situations in modern-day war areas.” In other words, war leads to more religion and religion causes wars.

So this supposedly dangerous feedback loop indicates that the key to stamping out wars is to stamp out religion. Hold on a minute! I want to get back to that dentist. As I said, he seemed to have a particular grudge against Christianity. What are Christians? They are Christ followers. What does that mean? They follow the teaching and example of Christ.

What was the example of Christ? When falsely accused, beaten, and crucified, He did not even open His mouth against His accusers. In fact, He prayed for them as He hung on the cross. When enemies came to arrest Him, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword because “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

What were His teachings? Read Matthew chapters 5-7. He said when someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. Give to those who try to take from you, and go the extra mile for them. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27 & 35). Does that sound like a war-monger?

The dentist said that religion causes wars, but is that true of real Christianity? Of course, some people claim to be Christians but don’t follow Christ’s example or His teaching. But Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). Obeying the commands and example of Jesus leads to peace, not war.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Should God Have Protected Notre Dame Cathedral?

Should God Have Protected Notre Dame Cathedral?We have all seen the tragedy of the huge fire that destroyed much of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In the days after the fire, we have witnessed theological discussions about why the fire happened, and whether it is a demonstration that there is no God. Should God have protected Notre Dame Cathedral?

We want to point out a few things about the fire, Notre Dame Cathedral, and what the Bible says about the Church and church buildings. Of course, the fire was a tragedy. Anti-Catholic writers and atheists have denied it was a tragedy. Those critics maintain that it was good that this religious symbol was destroyed. We would point out that Notre Dame Cathedral has great historical significance and was a testimony to the artistic expression and skill of ancient human engineers and artisans. The building was a museum and had great tourism value. A destructive event in the Louvre or the Smithsonian would be comparable to what happened at Notre Dame.

From a theological standpoint, the fire is of little or no significance. Nowhere in the New Testament was there a command or instruction to build any kind of building. The name Notre Dame means “Our Lady.” Mary was blessed to be a tool of God to bring His Son into the world, but nowhere does the Bible command us to worship her. The Bible does not portray her as an intermediary between God and man.

The word “Church” in the original Greek is “ekklesia,” meaning “that which is called out.” The Bible never uses the term in reference to a building. Passages like 1 Corinthians 3:16 tell us what the Church is. From a religious standpoint, church buildings have often been a bane to faith, consuming money that should have gone to provide for the needs of the poor and disenfranchised. Frequently buildings becoming objects of worship themselves — an idol instead of a tool.

We are sad about what has happened. It is interesting to see the French government talking about using national funds to restore the building. Should God have protected Notre Dame Cathedral? The question is meaningless because the fire has nothing to do with God’s actions in the world today.
— John N. Clayton © 2019