Third argument: No one deserves to live.
There’s this popular meme circulating among Christians about the “sanctity of life” — invoked to oppose war, guns, and so on. It sounds very Christian, very religious.
And so when we read in the Bible about God taking a life, God seems to violate this principle. Clearly, God has taken countless lives. Therefore, God does not hold to the sanctity of life. Does that make God bad?
Well, no. You can’t start with evangelical pop clichés and then judge God Almighty. That’s not how it works. God judges us; we don’t judge God.
God commands “You shall not murder,” but he never declares that human life is the highest good. In fact, in the Law of Moses, he plainly allows capital punishment and he orders the extermination of the Amalekites.
Does this mean that life is cheap to God? Hardly. God gave his Son so that those with faith in Jesus would live eternally. He gave his Son because the life of Jesus was the highest price he could pay. Life has great value to God.
Human life is a value honored by God, but it’s not the highest value. Love is, and only because God says so.
God is not like us, and so what is right and wrong differs greatly between us and God. In fact, what is loving differs depending on whether you’re God or man.
Think about it. Why is it wrong for humans to murder other humans? Well, it’s not loving. And why not? Well, because people generally want to continue to live and not die. And to go a little deeper, we humans don’t know the consequences of our decisions.
If I abort an unborn child, I have no idea how I’ve changed history. I don’t know what great missionaries and heroes might have sprung from that child. I don’t know how much good that child might do. I just don’t have the wisdom to know how very much harm I might be doing. Therefore, if I kill a child, I’m accountable for all the harm that I might have done.
But if God commands the taking of a life, even the destruction of a nation, he knows exactly what impact that command will have on world history and on the eternal fate of everyone affected, soul by soul. God can see whether that decision is ultimately loving or not, for our betterment or not.
Consider a classic moral dilemma. You invent a time machine and find yourself in the nursery of the infant Adolf Hitler. You could take the life of Hitler and thereby save the lives of millions and prevent horrible suffering. But Hitler is, at the moment, an innocent baby, guilty of nothing at all. Do you kill Hitler?
Well, humans never have the benefit of knowing the future perfectly. And even in the time-machine scenario, you have no idea how history would unfold with Hitler dead. Perhaps Stalin marches into a weak Germany and kills just as many people just as horribly or worse. Maybe another dictator arises with the war-time skills to defeat Britain and the U.S. Maybe by killing Hitler you let a worse dictator rule the entire world.
Who knows? Well, only God knows.
God is able to make these kinds of decisions because God has perfect foreknowledge. Humans do not and cannot. We are hopelessly, helpless bound by time. God is not.
Therefore, we don’t get to make those decisions. We are not competent to operate at that level.
God explains this to Job in no uncertain terms —
(Job 38:1-41 ESV) Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements– surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, 9 when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, 11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?
12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, 13 that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? 14 It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment. 15 From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken.
16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? 17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? 18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. 19
“Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, 20 that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home? 21 You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!
22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, 23 which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? 24 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?
25 “Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt, 26 to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man, 27 to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass?
28 “Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew? 29 From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the frost of heaven? 30 The waters become hard like stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
31 “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion? 32 Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children? 33 Do you know the ordinances of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?
34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? 35 Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? 36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind? 37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, 38 when the dust runs into a mass and the clods stick fast together?
39 “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, 40 when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in their thicket? 41 Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, and wander about for lack of food?
(Job 39:1-30 ESV) “Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the does? 2 Can you number the months that they fulfill, and do you know the time when they give birth, 3 when they crouch, bring forth their offspring, and are delivered of their young? 4 Their young ones become strong; they grow up in the open; they go out and do not return to them.
5 “Who has let the wild donkey go free? Who has loosed the bonds of the swift donkey, 6 to whom I have given the arid plain for his home and the salt land for his dwelling place? 7 He scorns the tumult of the city; he hears not the shouts of the driver. 8 He ranges the mountains as his pasture, and he searches after every green thing. …
19 “Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane? 20 Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrifying. 21 He paws in the valley and exults in his strength; he goes out to meet the weapons. 22 He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; he does not turn back from the sword. 23 Upon him rattle the quiver, the flashing spear, and the javelin. 24 With fierceness and rage he swallows the ground; he cannot stand still at the sound of the trumpet. 25 When the trumpet sounds, he says ‘Aha!’ He smells the battle from afar, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting.
26 “Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars and spreads his wings toward the south? 27 Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high? 28 On the rock he dwells and makes his home, on the rocky crag and stronghold. 29 From there he spies out the prey; his eyes behold it from far away. 30 His young ones suck up blood, and where the slain are, there is he.”
(Job 40:1-14 ESV) And the LORD said to Job: 2 “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.”
3 Then Job answered the LORD and said: 4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. 5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”
6 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
7 “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 8 Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? 9 Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?
10 “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. 11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. 12 Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. 13 Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. 14 Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.”
Somewhat sarcastically, God’s answer to Job is that Job is not God and has no business placing God in judgment. Job has forgotten just who God is, how far beyond human understanding he exists, and why it is that God is even beyond human morality.
And we can’t help but notice that God claims for himself the right to “Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low.”
It is, after all, more than a little arrogant to place the Creator in judgment.