The “Tyranny” of God
Charles Darwin said in his biography, that the Bible “seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my father, brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.”
Many seem to have bought into Darwin’s position.
I was attempting to share the gospel of Jesus with someone recently and was totally taken aback when the individual burst out, “Your God is a tyrant! He has no regard for my freedom of choice but just wants to impose His sovereignty on us lesser mortals! I could never serve such a God!” Not giving me a chance to respond with my “two cents,” the person went on: “Didn’t God harden Pharaoh’s heart? And why would He condemn people to hell simply because they choose their own way? How can you Christians say He is a God of love when His own Word condemns Him as a tyrant?!” I mentally willed the guy to breathe, fearing he might have a stroke!
I get why this individual was so worked up. Violation of anyone’s physical or emotional being produces in most of us a similar outcry of indignation. That’s because it is a desecration of something infinitely precious . . . our free will. Just think! Along with the angels, we are the only created beings who have been given this precious gift of choice. It is a gift given by God Himself, and it is given out of the purity and perfection of His love. Would He then violate it?
I am sure that most of you have witnessed the behavior of a willful child . . . usually in some public place. You’ve probably observed the parent’s patient attempts to convince the child to obey their instructions. You look on with interest as a battle of the wills ensues. The child may throw a tantrum or simply stare the parent down with defiance and willfulness etched in his little face, daring the parent to back down. You watch as the parent counts to three… then to five (this is where it gets interesting!) until eventually, someone gives in! The parent sometimes capitulates (often out of embarrassment or exhaustion!) or the child is hauled off in tears, having had the rod of correction applied firmly to a tender part of his anatomy. Would you accuse such a parent of abuse or tyranny? Would you suggest that such a parent does not love his child? Absolutely not!
Why then, do we so quickly point a finger in God’s direction when our actions yield the inevitable consequences? Does God’s justice negate His love? On the contrary, each attribute of God works in complete harmony with the other. It is precisely because He is just that He must allow the consequences of our self-destructive insistence to ensue.
Speaking of God’s justice, Austin de Bourg writes, “It is that characteristic of God that made Him place within the life of angel and man a free will; even though He foreknew that they could and would use it against themselves, and against Him.” 1 To me, the wonder is that He does not give us over to our own self-destruction more quickly; that His grace extends time and time again.
It would be a dangerous thing, though, to develop a pattern of willfulness in our relationship with God. Rebellion—insistence on our own way—is like a callous that coarsens over time, creating layer after layer of hardness until there is no feeling left in the area. God will ultimately give us over to the determined callousness of our hearts and, believe me . . . it grieves Him to do so.
God’s love compels Him to do all in His power to woo us to Himself and to the place of protection: obedience to His Word. What greater proof of His love for us could there be than the fact that He gave His beloved sinless Son to bear the full penalty of our sin … excruciating death on a cross! This is His ultimate love gift to us, but even this, He will not impose on us. The choice remains ours to accept or reject His gift. The consequences, in this instance, are eternal.
1.De Bourg, Austin J., “God’s Justice” in Insights into the Mystery of the Trinity, CreateSpace Independent Publishing, North Charleston, South Carolina, 2014. This book took me on an wonderful journey into the incredible heart of God.