I recently came across this article by Owen Jones raising certain interesting questions about God. Happily, Jones acknowledged that he was a “former university roommate of an evangelical” and I hope this means others have attempted to answer his queries, but here’s what I would say:
Why is God “hidden from view“? Actually, the Bible teaches that God’s invisible attributes, His power and glory, are clearly revealed in the immensity of His creation. Atheists have a much greater challenge trying to explain how a universe of such complexity, beauty and scale suddenly came into being ex nihilo (out of nothing). We have never observed spontaneous generation of any matter, so why should we assume that’s how our world began?
If God was in plain sight, then we would have no free will. It would be obvious and no-one would rebel against the Deity they can see with their eyes. God does not want unthinking robots to serve Him but those who choose for themselves. Therefore, he gives us enough clues and signs to believe, without beating us into submission. Remember, this life is only for a relatively short time; eternity is forever. As the Bible says “anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). God cannot be found in dry, detached academic study but must be discovered by sincerely praying to Him and learning from His words in the Bible.
Most marvellously, God came down from heaven to reveal Himself in Christ Jesus – “the Word made flesh” (John 1). Later in that article you draw an equivalence between all religions but Christ is utterly unique. No other leader willing submitted to be crucified on a cross (and rose again three days later, as recorded by over 500 eyewitnesses). Whereas Muhammed spread his dogmas through violence and conquest, Christ was completely different: “love your enemies; pray for those who persecute” (Matthew 5). These were not just words but realities lived out repeatedly in the most testing of circumstances. God is not “hidden from view” but much closer than you think.
How can God be “omnipotent and perfect”, whilst granting “free will“? As already explained, the King of Kings does not rule by force, compelling submission, but through love, inviting obedience. Whilst you might use your freedom to ridicule the concept of a deity, many more people whom God has made have, are and will engage in acts of kindness that delight our heavenly Father. Mainstream news always concentrates on the negatives, as acknowledged by your colleague Simon Jenkins, but there is so much more happening as mothers patiently nurse their children, farmers work together to feed their villages, old enemies learn to forgive one another.
I remember when contemplating becoming a father struggling to imagine what it would be like helping to bring another human being into this world who could become anyone. What if he brought me great grief and heartache? Was sent to prison for murdering someone else’s precious child? What reassured me most was that God faced this same dilemma and chose the path of life. Clearly, He knows that evil is time-limited and will one day be swept away in Judgment as all of us are accountable to Him.
Which leads onto your third main question about that “eternity of damnation“. Ultimately, if we are to be given free will, capable of choosing good or evil in this life, then there must be some accountability mechanism or wickedness would run rampant. If you think about it – who are we to argue with the One who crafted us and gifted us this wonderful world in which to live? In your ideology, the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao who murdered millions got away with it and escaped justice. Not so if you believe in the God of the Bible.
Related to this was your offhand caricature of the Old Testament deity “casually engaged in smiting”. Now, God “takes no pleasure in the death even of the wicked, but rather that they turn from sin and live” (Ezekiel 33:11). Nowhere in Scripture is there any evidence to the contrary. Where His judgment does seem severe, there has been great evil. For example, in the land of Canaan that was to be conquered and cleansed by Joshua and the children of Israel, the natives for hundreds of years were sacrificing their children to Moloch, burning them alive before idols. They were given numerous opportunities to repent but they refused. Note also that this was one specific, isolated incident in the Bible that gives no precedent for any future actions and is designed to warn the Israelites how God will punish sin.
Then, of course, you bring up that God “demanded men who have sex with men be executed” (Leviticus 20:13). This is a difficult question but notice that it is the “detestable act” itself, not merely feeling the desire, that is being censured. I’ve written elsewhere about how highly the Bible prizes male-female marriage and that’s why the punishment for perverting his perfect plan, and leading others astray, is so severe. Remember the warning is crystal clear and there are no recorded cases of this ever being followed through, meaning that the children of Israel actually listened to this command. That’s also why Jesus never directly mentions this verse because homosexuality was not an issue in Jewish society. On the other hand, Paul who preached to the Gentile/Greek world clearly did encounter these issues and spoke out forcefully on the subject (Romans 1:18-27).
So, this leads onto another article you published just a few days ago in response to Dr Michael Davidson, or as you ridiculed him “the gay cure quack“. Nowhere in your article do you actually engage with his arguments and his record of providing treatment, instead preferring to dismiss his views as beyond the pale. However, has Jones even read the actual testimonies of those who have sought the “counselling interventions for unwanted same-sex attractions.” Their stories are as harrowing as Jones’ friend, the ex-crystal meth addict, and even more so because no-one is giving them a platform to share their experiences. In fact, they would be horribly trolled and shouted down, just as Mike Davidson was called a “stupid old bigot”, if they spoke out.
Here’s just one testimony of a media agency director, aged 40 and a Cambridge graduate who professes no religion: “Having sought in vain to find happiness in gay-affirming society and active gay life over the course of 20 years, I finally discovered the truth about myself, and deeply satisfying alternative solutions to my relational and life problems. This was by working with a Core Issues Trust therapist for about two years, who helped me to move away from inauthentic, unhealthy and destructive homosexual relationships, and towards infinitely more fulfilling and meaningful relationships, that are leading to lasting happiness and profound spiritual growth.
I believe I was born a heterosexual man and I do not identify with gay culture, and I don’t want to engage in gay life any more. I have the right to pursue truth and happiness as I understand it; and that is what this therapy has allowed me to do.
I find it unacceptable that bigoted, intolerant people are seeking to disallow others their truth and their happiness, by seeking to ban this type of therapy; effectively telling people like me that I don’t know what’s good for me, and that their world view should dictate how I live my life. How intolerant, how patronising and how ignorant!
I am an educated professional who did not find happiness in the gay life, but instead disillusionment, sickness and a lie. Now I have sought out and found my own truth and happiness, with the help of a kind, respectful and trustworthy therapist who accepts me just as I am, where I am, and who is supporting me – without imposing any agenda – as I strive to be the person I want to be. I sought this therapy out for myself, and I am more satisfied than I ever was in the gay life.
What right has the Church of England Synod to ignore other world views, to take my happiness away, and to tell me how I should live my life?”
You see, Owen Jones, when are those voices ever listened to? Dr Davidson is not arguing for anyone to have therapy forced upon them, but simply pleading for a chance to treat those who willingly and voluntarily come to him for help. Your agitations to close down the debate and completely ban this kind of support are actually harming vulnerable individuals. Don’t hide behind the smokescreen of “personal” and “private beliefs”, trying to limit what can be expressed where, because that is just another form of thought control.
Ultimately, I think the reason you refuse to respond in faith and repentance to Christ Jesus is because you wish to cling to your homosexual identity. That matters more to you than truth, love and justice. To type that is (for me) a heart-breaking conclusion. However, I hope and pray that you will discover the light of Christ and stop walking in darkness.