My Response to a Critique of God

In the Scriptures, God as a “character” cannot be understood apart from the entirety of the Scriptural witness, which is to say, the witness that includes His attributes as omnipotent omniscient Creator of all things ex nihilo. That authority in God is clearly in the text of Scripture, and therefore, literarily speaking, He must be understood as what the text portrays, the LORD God Almighty (LORD=YHWH). This sort of literary analysis of the text is quite important and oft neglected in the Bible-believing world (which I myself inhabit) but a serious literary understanding of the text is charitable to Near-Eastern terminology and the value of what is essentially “unfolding revelation” finding its climax in God the Son taking on Flesh.

 

That said, there is disagreement within Christendom about how the narrative flow of Scripture actually works. I have a position, others have their positions, but everyone with a hint of orthodoxy left in their bones (Dante among them!) has, since at least St. Ignatius, understood that the flow of revelation points to a crucified and raised Messiah Who bears the sins of the world on a Roman cross in the backwoods of the world. Somehow, this crazy thing is true, and Dante believed it, though you know how Dante tries to make it sound more reasonable (Christ is Roman in the Rome above!). My issue with both your initial comment and your follow up to Ted’s comment is that you aren’t taking the text seriously at all.

 

Dante, of all people, makes Hell a place where the true bondage that comes with being a slave of sin is shown, not by God torturing the souls, but by the souls being sinners and hating God. None of these souls (even Virgil!) understands God, and it is their lack of knowledge (intellect??) that makes them less God-like, that is to say, they refused to be conformed to the image of God that they bore already. They refused for the sake of sin. In Dante, God is the “Love that moves the sun and the other stars” and Hell is a place that souls that hate God can go to be in their sins away from Him. In other words, Hell is the love of a God who is secure in His holiness, and does not force the creatures there to love Him, thus it looks really gross. Sin is gross to Dante, the Bible, and God, but He has enough respect for the free human beings who sin to not force them to stop being sinners.

 

I am not going to argue with you reading the text however it is you please, ignoring authorial intent completely and proceeding as if the character called “God” were not the “God” which is believed in by the author and all Jews and Christians for thousands of years. But I will take issue with saying that God is a “bully” and “selfish” when, according to the Christian doctrine held by Dante and all orthodox believers everywhere: no matter how terrible and painful Hell is for the damned soul who refuses to love as he was made to love, the hell that Christ endured on the Cross of Calvary is infinitely more painful, humiliating and terrible, because the wrath of God was poured out on Him for the sake of poor sinners like the damned souls in Hell. Put another way, I am not going to fault God for Justice, because He took the brunt of it Himself.

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