God's moral authority


What gives God the right to have total control of the universe?

The real question is, why wouldn't an omniscient, omnipotent, morally perfect God have the right to do as he sees fit? We are used to thinking about human rights and what humans should and shouldn't do, so we are likely to make the mistake of thinking of God as a more powerful (and therefore more corrupt) human. However, God is not a human who has somehow acquired great power; instead he is Deity, a supernatural being who is far superior to humans and who has a perfect mind and heart.

There are many reasons why mere humans do not have the right to be supreme rulers of the universe:

Yet none of these reasons are applicable to God. God has perfect knowledge and wisdom; God never gets tired or makes mistakes; and God is perfectly good and just.

What makes it right for God to take human life, when he forbids us to do so?

Humans can take life, but we can't bring the dead back to life, nor can we control what happens to someone after they die. A human's killing another human is a destructive and irresponsible act, for once we kill someone, we can't undo it or control the harm that results.

God, however, has greater abilities and knowledge than we do, including control over life and death. If God kills someone, he is able to bring them back to life or to place them in any sort of afterlife he chooses. God's use of death is comparable to someone burning a fire in a fireplace: it can be controlled, lit or extinguished at will, and used for a purpose. In contrast, humans' use of death is like setting fire to a dry field: the fire rages out of control, and consequently is dangerous and destructive.

Furthermore, what is death? Many believe that death is the end of both one's body and one's mind/personality/soul. If so, death is a destructive act for both humans and God. Yet if Christianity is true, one's soul is not destroyed, but continues to exist in an afterlife. In this case, death is not destruction, but rather a transfer from life on earth to an afterlife of eternal joy or just punishment.

What gives God the right to do things to others without their permission?

God has given people autonomy in a wide range of areas. We make choices every day about how to spend our time and money, whether to do right or wrong and even whether to follow God or not. God does not force us to do his will, for he wants us to choose to do what is right (2 Cor 9:7, 1 Jn 4:18). Yet God has the right to, and does, change the circumstances of our lives.

If God were required to ask people's permission before he did anything that affected them, he would be prevented from doing good, including some good which only he is able to do (e.g. miracles). People might not give permission for God to do some good things because they wouldn't be able to understand how it would result in good, wouldn't want to endure short-term suffering to receive a long-term benefit, or even because they wished to harm themselves or others. Suppose parents had to ask their children's permission instead of requiring them to do certain things. There would be a lot of children who would be malnourished and/or sick, ignorant, selfish and unable to care for themselves, for what child willingly consents to receive shots, go to school, do chores, etc.? While adults have more knowledge and maturity than children, we are still ignorant and immature in comparison with God, and consequently don't always know what's best for us.

Also, there are things which we would never realize would make us happy until they were given to us or happened to us. Many Christians would never have given their consent to the circumstances that led them to become Christians, and probably could not have realized in advance what joy and peace they would have after becoming Christians. If God had to get their consent beforehand, he wouldn't have been able to bring them true happiness and fulfillment.

Requiring God to receive the permission of humans before he acts would make him dependent on and controlled by humans. How can it be good for God, who is omniscient and morally and otherwise perfect, to be controlled by humans, who have limited knowledge and intelligence and often make mistakes or commit outright evil?

What about human rights?

What is a human right? When we talk about human rights, we generally mean that one human doesn't have the right to do particular things to another human, like kill them, enslave them, etc. Why is it wrong for someone to do a certain thing to another? There are several possible reasons:

  1. Humans have an inherent, inalienable right not to have that thing done to them, because it's always immoral for anyone to do that thing to another
  2. Humans possess certain characteristics (e.g. the capacity to reason) which makes it immoral for anyone to do that thing to them
  3. Humans are equals and one equal does not have the right to do that thing to another

Which human rights are inalienable? Thanks to Thomas Jefferson, we speak of our "inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Yet these so-called inalienable rights are alienable. If someone walks into a school and begins shooting the students and teachers, others have the right to take the shooter's life to prevent further murders or take away their liberty by incarcerating them for life.

Are there any truly inalienable human rights? Humans have the right to a fair trial for their crimes and just punishment for the crimes they've committed. There is no case in which a biased trial or undue punishment is morally justifiable, thus these rights are inalienable - and they are respected by God.

If reason (2) applies to any of our rights, which rights are they and which human characteristic grants us those rights? Animals can feel pain and emotion, and they have conscious minds and the ability to make choices and act on them. Yet most people believe we have the right to limit their liberty (by keeping cats indoors, keeping dogs on leashes or inside fences, etc.) and cause them some amount of fear and pain (by taking them to the vet) in order to protect them. Additionally, many people believe we have the right to perform medical research on animals in order to save human lives. Twelve-year-old children are human, have intelligence and can communicate their desires and even make moral decisions, yet their liberty is restricted by their parents and the government and they are forced to do many things against their will.

Finally, reason (3) applies only to interaction among equals; it applies to human-human interaction, but not human-God interaction. God is not merely our physical superior, but our mental, intellectual and moral superior


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