In April, Shalom Auslander wrote a public opinion piece for The New York Times called “In This Time of War, I Propose We Give Up God”. Accompanying the piece was a cartoon image depicting God on a rampage: sporting a monstrous scowl, he held a lightning bolt and grasped a helpless human.
Cale spent a segment of The Cale Clarke Show discussing this article’s main arguments, why these ideas of God are flawed and rudimentary, and why we should find solace in our reliance on God, an all-loving, all-powerful, all-merciful being.
Auslander came from an Orthodox Jewish background and grew up attending a yeshiva (Orthodox Jewish school) in New York. And growing up in that environment, he said there were always aspects that bothered him, especially during the Passover season. Recalling the story from the Old Testament, Auslander referenced the gruesome plagues like the river of blood, the locusts, and the dying cattle that God caused because Pharaoh wouldn’t set the Jews free.
And then came the final plague: the death of every firstborn. God told Moses that if a household didn’t have lamb’s blood painted over the door, the firstborn of that house would perish. Auslander cringed at the thought of dead babies and innocent Egyptians because surely, there must have been Egyptians who didn’t agree with slavery. He thought that a God who paints with such broad strokes is not benevolent, but an evil, bloodthirsty tyrant.
Cale began dissecting this argument by pointing out the two objections that Auslander has predicated his objections upon: the problem of evil and suffering, and unworthy conceptions of God.
The presence of evil and suffering in the world causes many to conclude that either there is no God or if there is, He is not an all-powerful or good one. If He was, why would He allow tragedy, sorrow, death, disease, war, anger, greed, and destruction? Why would an omnipotent God allow sins against Himself and His faithful?
Cale talked about the conversion of C.S. Lewis, someone who was an atheist for many years death before returning to God. Of his time of unbelief in God, Lewis said, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” If the world was all evil and violent, then why had he reacted so poorly to it? And if the idea of justice was his own, then his argument against God also collapsed, for his atheism stemmed from the idea that there was true, intrinsic injustice in the world. Therefore, the world could not be entirely meaningless, for at least his idea of justice had meaning.
“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we would never have known it was dark.”
And unworthy conceptions of God stem from one’s inability to love God with one’s whole body, mind, heart, and soul. If there are things holding you back from reaching that goal, of course you’ll call into question your faith. And if you fail to seek answers to your questions, you will conclude that God is monstrous. A commitment to love for the God that made you will lead you to the answers you seek.
This misconception that God killed babies and innocent Egyptians to get what He wants is a base interpretation that puts God on the stand and human beings in the position of judge. Of the plagues, Fr. Gabriel Torretta, OP wrote, “No one’s wickedness causes these things. The story of the plagues leaves us an unexpected hope: that in the midst of these natural evils, God brings it about that we ‘shall know that I am the Lord.’” Every day, droves of babies and innocent people die. And out of that suffering and tragedy, God brings goodness and light. How are we so bold as to point an accusatory finger at God and call out, “Guilty!”
Every blessing, including the liberation of the Jewish people from the Egyptians, was born of God’s power and benevolence, whether through fortune or suffering. “[God] used [the plagues] above all to teach us that chaos does not rule the world, that the sting of death has been drawn away, that God is the Lord of our life, our history, and our death, and that he is merciful.”
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