Does God Have A Right To Judge?
In this video, Todd Friel attempts to use his standard Ray Comfort-evangelism logic-train on Christopher Hitchens. (For those unaware, it is supposed to goes like this: 1) Do you think you are a sinner? “No” 2) Would you like to know what God thinks sins are? “Sure” 3) He says lying is bad. Have you ever lied? “Yes.” He says lust is bad, have you done that? “Yes” (etc.) 4) Well then, according to God’s standards, do you think you are a sinner? “Yes.” 5) Okay then. Based on what you just said, if you died right now, do you think God would judge you as worthy of heaven or hell? “Hell.” 6) Would you like to know about how God made a way for you to receive mercy, and avoid this terrible judgment? “Sure…”) On Todd’s web-site, he has many examples of himself using this methodology to evangelize, with varying results.
However, it did not work at all with Hitchens. It all seems to have gone south because Friel could not offer a good answer to Hitchen’s first and great objection, namely, “What right has God got to judge the human race?” Because Friel’s whole train of logic as based on God as judge, the rest of the conversation didn’t really make sense and one can understand – although not completely endorse – Hitchen’s choice to simply start hurling obscenities at the end of it.
The question “Does God have a right to judge” is a central and important one. It is very clear that Hitchens believes that nobody has a right to judge him. But is this really consistent with his own reasoning?
To summarize, Hitchens feels that several of the commandments are insultingly obvious (e.g. don’t lie, steal, murder). He then rejects several of the commandments (e.g. worship the Lord only, do not covet), and he notes with disapproval that several very important commandments (e.g. love your children) are not on this list at all.
Please take careful note: he does not say, “I believe it would be convenient if these changes were made to the Ten Commandments.” Rather, he says, “These changes should be made.” He states that it is unethical and downright wrong that these additions and subtractions are not made. Now, what is Hitchens implying here? Statements of desire denote a personal preference: statements of necessity, or moral obligation denote some higher power to which Hitchens is appealing.
We say that one mathematical equation is wrong, another right, and (possibly) a third is close but slightly off. In so saying, we are implying that there is some absolute standard of “mathematical correctness” out there.
And I believe that Hitchens believes that there is such a moral standard. How could Hitchen’s statement that some of the commandments are wrong, some are good, and some are insultingly obvious make sense unless there is some universal code of ethics, which we are all aware of, and to which we all must appeal as the higher authority.
In Christianity, there is a very minute amount of disagreement between those who believe that Justice is an ideal which is external to God (but to which He completely conforms) and those who believe that Justice is internal to God. Either way, the Christian belief is that God is the just one, who presides over the earth.
We could ask, “Does lady justice have the right to judge?” …but this would be a logical fallacy. Justice judges. That’s what she does. Saying that justice has no right to judge is like saying that logic has no right to think. None of us fully attains to pure justice, and so we need to walk humbly: but if justice did not exist, any notion of “right” and “wrong” would completely crumble. In such a case we would be down to nothing more than personal opinion – and then we would be down to “The caveman with the biggest club decides what is right.”
In the simple statement, “Hey, that’s not fair!” We are asserting our belief that there is a universal standard of “fairness,” which we believe is external to us and morally binding on all people. We are angry when the laws of “fairness” are violated to our hurt: we feel guilty when we violate them.
Justice is personified and explained different ways in different religions. In Christianity, Justice is personified in the person of God Himself. Therefore, the question of “Does God have the right to judge” becomes absurd. Of course He does – He is justice itself. How could He do otherwise? As the good book says, “shall not the judge of all the earth deal justly?”
If God is Justice, then He has the right to judge, and can do nothing other than judge justly. We must now, then, move to the next logical step – asking ourselves, “how will we fare under the judgment of pure Justice?”
At this point, we may get pack onto Ray Comfort’s train. Rather than examining the Ten Commandments, however, we may ask Hitchens, “You have identified loving one’s children as a virtue. Now, if you were before the absolute personifaction of justice, do you think you would be able to say that you have loved your children perfectly, and never hurt them unjustly?” We could then ask, “If we were imagining a place where only perfect people could go, do you think you would deserve to go there?” The answer, as Hitchens would likely admit, would be no.” This would enable us to speak of the grace of Christ: although, of course, there are many other questions which would need to also be answered along the way.