Last year, a survey by Pew Research Center revealed that 44% of Americans don’t believe in God as described by the Christian Bible.
That number is sobering.
Skeptics reject the existence of God for countless reasons, some based on intellect, others on emotion, and most on a messy mixture of both. One of the most popular reasons people give for their disbelief is, “I just can’t believe in a God who would…” They complete the statement in any number of ways:
“…send people to Hell.”
“…let evil things happen to children.”
“…let my aunt die from cancer.”
“…allow that hurricane to hit Florida.”
You’ve probably heard variations of this reasoning. Perhaps you’ve made similar statements yourself. Beneath the surface, however, this logic is anything but logical.
Skeptics often accuse Christians of being wishful thinkers who cling to faith in God as an emotional crutch. ( Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the people.”) God, they say, is whoever Christians need Him to be. But an authentic biblical faith demands the opposite view. When Moses stood before the burning bush, he was terrified, confused, and cynical about God’s instructions. Far from adapting to Moses’ concerns, God declared, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). Love Him or hate Him, agree or disagree, God proclaims that I am, who I’ve been, and who I always will be.
On the other hand, skeptics who assert, “I just can’t believe in a God who would…,” take the opposite view. They begin with their own emotional wishes, standards, and desires and refuse to accept anything that falls short of their criteria. In other words, Christians adapt themselves to God, while skeptics adapt God to themselves.
Today’s culture gives lip service to a postmodernist worldview (ex. “Truth is subjective. What’s true for me is true for me, and what’s true for you is true for you.”), but this nonsensical philosophy crumbles the moment the worldview requires action. To say, “There is no absolute truth” is, of course, a statement of absolute truth—akin to Obi-Wan Kenobi telling his fallen pupil, “Only a Sith speaks in absolutes,” which is itself an absolute statement.
As the father of two young boys, I have often thought, “I can’t believe a father would physically harm his children.” Tragically, I understand that abusive fathers do exist, and they exist whether I understand them or not. I can abhor them, refuse to associate with them, and protest them, but I cannot simply “wish” them away (regardless of how badly I wish I could).
This is a fact: either God exists or He doesn’t. Our feelings about His moral character or actions can’t change this reality.
When people say, “I just can’t believe in a God who would…,” they mean, “I hate any God who would let my mother die in a car accident,” or “Any God who sends good people to Hell is a monster and not worthy of my worship.” They don’t mean they can’t believe, but that they won’t believe. Not that they don’t believe, but that they don’t want to believe. In this way, atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel should be commended for his transparency when he wrote, “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”
Next time you hear someone say, “I just can’t believe in a God who would…,” pause, look beneath the surface, and be sensitive to the real truth behind the statement. Many people today hate God. But it’s difficult to hate something that doesn’t exist. Fortunately, God’s existence doesn’t depend on our limited human thinking and ever-changing opinions. Indeed, His unchanging nature is part of what makes Him God.