Rich Lane, a Shelbyville, KY resident, recently wrote an article in the Sentinel-News entitled “I Haven’t Read My Bible Objectively.” The article attempts to refute a comment made by Chuck Souder in which Souder describes the God of the Bible as pro-life. Souder’s original article apparently described how an “objective” reading of the Bible would yield a position of a pro-life God. Rich Lane takes exception with this claim.
It’s difficult to know what to do with Lane’s article. The article employs such a caustic tone and monstrous depictions of God that any hope of a winsome argument is effectively lost. I can only assume the intent of the article was to express a kind of scandalized anger at the notion of a pro-life God that would in turn ridicule the audacity of such a claim. Although Lane has every right to voice his opinion, my preference would be for a more agreeable and potentially profitable conversation.
So, overlooking the tone of Lane’s article, I would like to briefly address his primary conclusion: God cannot be pro-life due to the numerous accounts of God destroying human life. He raises a very fair question. How do we harmonize the slaying of thousands upon thousands in Scripture by the hands of God with the concept of a pro-life God? The answer is remarkably simple.
It’s right and permissible for God to destroy anyone he chooses, including children and babies. God is both the giver and taker of life. Although we might pinpoint the more tragic deaths, God governs the final breath of every person who has ever lived. What God has created and given he has every right to take away and he never does wrong by doing so. God does not owe humans anything. God is not in your debt for your next breath. You take it because of mercy.
It gets better. Considering the wretched, sinful creatures we are, there is a much more difficult and perplexing question concerning God and human life; why does he let us live at all? This is what D.A. Carson calls, “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God.” God’s amazing love keeps us breathing and that is unthinkable considering we reject him and crown ourselves king over our own sin. That Rich Lane was able to think, type, and articulate his point for an article in the Sentinel News all while continuing to breath oxygen is enough refutation contra a God who loves death. As soon as sinful humans open their mouths to speak against the goodness of God, they have become their own worst critic. That one breath of air alone is enough to silence their argument.
Now, consider the mission statement of the National Right to Life Organization: The mission of National Right to Life is to protect and defend the most fundamental right of humankind, the right to life of every innocent human being from the beginning of life to natural death. There is one significant word in the pro-life mission that essentially ends the discussion. Innocent. There are no innocent human beings from the perspective of God’s holiness. Should God decide to wipe every single human off the face of earth (he won’t, he already promised), we would be still be correct to call God pro-life since not one human on earth is innocent. This is part of Lane’s argument that cannot be sustained. Rich assumes God’s actions are directed toward an innocent or even neutral people. They most certainly are not.
Thus, as always, we return to worldview and presuppositions. For Rich Lane, the sinfulness of humanity in view of a holy and righteous God is a non-factor. He can simply skip to the jaw-dropping portions of Scripture – God killing his creation. But if you are going to use the Bible to argue against the God of the Bible, you must do so through a lens that at least attempts to understand the big picture as presented in Scripture.
So, we necessarily start with the Creator God who does no wrong by giving and taking life. That he allows a single breath to remain on earth is all the evidence we need for a pro-life God. But we can move on from there. Lane does not address any of the reasons why God brought about the death of many in Scripture. At one point he briefly ridicules the idea that “anyone who is unwilling to believe on faith alone is doomed…” as a motivator for God’s brutality, but the majority of the article simply invokes the numbers game to tally up how many people God has destroyed, including a projected number of pregnant women. At one point he suggests that “God’s murderous escapades were not selective or exclusionary”, indicating that God enjoyed randomly causing death for no rhyme or reason. This is nonsense. There is not a single instance in Scripture where God takes life or commands another to take life that is not selective. Lane uses the flood, an obvious target, as an example of this lack of selectivity on God’s part. It is a poor example. First, God repeatedly clarifies who will be destroyed by the flood. Genesis 6 describes how God “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth” and later, “all flesh had corrupted their way on earth.” Evil was on the hearts of all humans “continually” and still yet God does two remarkable things. First, he spares Noah and his family. The kind of monstrous God Lane depicts would have no reason or interest in sparing Noah’s life. Second, Noah’s salvation served as a warning to all humanity; now is the time to repent. God purposefully waited and mercifully gave humanity the opportunity to repent before bringing the rain.
In fact, we find rebellion against God and against God’s chosen people as the catalyst for virtually every wrathful action from God in Scripture. The same will be true for the future judgment; God’s wrath will pour out on those who oppose him, but it is very selective and certainly exclusionary. God has reasons why he takes life, but even then it is usually met with opportunities for repentance and acts of grace.
Yes, God took a lot of human life in Scripture. But there is much more to be said. Reading the Bible objectively means reading it honestly, and an honest reading means allowing the fullness of God’s revelation of himself speak to some of the more difficult questions of our faith.