How Could Almighty God Love Puny Creatures Like Us?
Tom: You are listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. We’ve been traversing through Dave Hunt’s book In Defense of the Faith for the purpose of gleaning some questions that people have brought to Dave’s attention over his many years of ministry, and since Dave is white-haired—that is, what’s left of it, I can see from here, Dave—and has been preaching the gospel for well over half-a-century, he’s collected some very interesting questions, and you’ll find, as well, some excellent answers. Again, the book is In Defense of the Faith, and Gary will tell you how you can order a copy later in the program. Dave, should we jump right in with this first question?
Dave: It’s up to you, Tom.
Tom: Okay. This person asks: “In comparison with the almost-infinite reaches of the cosmos surrounding us, this planet which man calls home is but an infinitesimal speck of dust. In view of that fact, it seems the height of absurdity and self-importance rather than the humility that Christians are supposed to embody for such insignificant microbes to boast that God loves them and even came to this earth to become one of them and to die for their sins. Doesn’t such a preposterous scenario seem the height of absurdity?”
Dave, I think this guy got out on the wrong side of bed.
Dave: [chuckling] Well, it’s a rational question. It is logical. I don’t know that we could boast that God loves us, because love does not depend upon the loveliness or lovableness or likeableness or merit or worth of the object of the love. Love depends upon the one who loves.
Now, of course, we have the wrong idea of love. We’ve got the Hollywood—I say “we” editorially—modern man has kind of a Hollywood idea of love. It’s changeable; it is attracted to those . . .
Tom: Dave, let me jump in with an example.
Tom: Everybody knows the story of Cinderella. Well, what would happen if the prince would have actually fallen in love with one of the ugly sisters? The nasty, mean-spirited sisters. People seeing a movie, paying for a movie like that, they’d rip the stuffing out of their seats and throw it at the screen. We don’t want that.
Dave: Right, but God loves us not because of who we are, or what we are, but because of who He is. God is love, and He delights to bestow His love upon the unworthy. In fact, we don’t qualify for salvation unless we’re sinners, unless we are hopeless and helpless, so I don’t see any boasting in that. And, as far as being insignificant, we certainly are insignificant—I’m talking about the vast reaches of space, what is it—100,000 light years traveling at the speed of 186,000 miles per second, it would take 100,000 years to cross our galaxy, the Milky Way, and another million-and-a-half years, traveling at the same speed, to reach the next galaxy, and there are billions, maybe trillions, of galaxies. And we talk about a space program?
Not that we haven’t accomplished much, but in relationship to the universe, we haven’t even begun to touch the fringe of space, but that only reflects the greatness of God—that He could create this out of nothing, and that He knows where every subatomic particle ever was or ever will be, is just beyond our comprehension!
Tom: Yeah. Dave, also we are finding scientists calling themselves atheists, agnostics, coming up with something called “the anthropic principle,” which says that what they’re finding out there is not just an accident, but it’s some design—but it’s called anthropic because it seems to be directed toward the sustaining of life.
Dave: The entire universe in other words is in harmony with this. Our little paper, the Bend Bulletin, right here in Bend, Oregon—they carry some interesting article, scientific articles. I’m sure they’re syndicated and come from the New York Times, or somewhere else, and they recently discovered this starfish, another variety of starfish, that’s way down deep in the ocean. It has several thousand eyes! Each eye has a lens that—now these were optic scientists, the top experts in the world—and they said it is at least ten times beyond anything that man has been able to develop; therefore they’re studying it very carefully.
Now to imagine that even one eye developed by chance, and “survival of the fittest” begins with an irritation of the skin (I remember when I was at UCLA, this is what they were teaching in the evolution classes). And then over a period of millions of years it gradually developed into an eye—but it doesn’t help you survive unless it can see! So, how are you going to go through all the intermediary stages to develop the rods and cones, the lens, the nerve connections to the brain, and the brain to coordinate this? All of this is going to happen by chance in a series of amazing upward developments over a period of several million years, but it won’t help you survive until the end product, until it finally works. That’s ludicrous! That’s for one eye! For several thousand eyes—it seems like God is just laughing at the evolutionists. To imagine that several thousand eyes each developed simultaneously by chance in this little creature with a lens ten times beyond anything we can come up with!
I know that NASA is studying the eyes of lobsters. They have capabilities in the dark and so forth that we haven’t been able to come up with yet. So the universe reflects the genius—I mean, it’s beyond genius—the infinite capabilities and wisdom and power of a God who is so far beyond us. Yes, we are puny nothings, but because of who He is, He can reach down to us. And, in fact, God became a man because of His love for us. He loves us not because we are worthy of it but because God is love.
Tom: Dave, not to raise the significance of a human being—I mean we were made in God’s image, that’s certainly true—but what about the makeup of a human being? Beginning with one cell that is more complex than New York City or any large city! We can’t fathom when you talk about the brain and all of the connections and so on, it’s one of the most complex, in terms of how it works . . .
Dave: It is more complex than anything you could imagine—let’s put it that way. And our computers can’t analyze it. You’ve got 240 miles of nerves in the brain, trillions of connections.
Tom: Now, my point is, this person’s writing, and he’s saying, “Look, how can you say that God would have anything to do with such an insignificant ‘microbe,’” as he calls it—what’s his option? And I think this is the point you are making: is it chance? Is it randomness? That’s absurd!
Dave: Well, not only insignificant, Tom, but rebels, sinners! Imagine the gall of human beings who will look at this universe about them, look at their own hand, look at a leaf, look at the makeup of a cell, and dare to say it happened by chance and reject the Creator. This is the creature in rebellion against his Creator. It’s the worst kind of rebellion! They’re just saying, “He doesn’t exist. We will have nothing to do with Him; we’re going to run this universe ourselves.” It is the most absurd nonsense that you can imagine! But it is taught in our universities, okay?
So we’re not only insignificant—we are proud rebels, unworthy. But the Bible talks about grace (unmerited favor), mercy, and love. This is why God loves us; not because we’re worthy of it.
Tom: Right. Well, and we have the chorus of the Charles Wesley song, “Amazing Love,” this is amazing love! “ . . . how could it be . . . ”
Dave: Right, “ . . . that thou my God shouldst die for me.” Furthermore, Tom, if God loved me because of who I am, because I was worth it . . .
Tom: Which—I just want to hold you there for a second, Dave—which has become, since, I think, the mid-70s, a teaching, a doctrine, in the church, which is unbelievable!
Dave: That’s right. “I’ve got to build up my self-esteem with the thought: well, God loves me. He wouldn’t love nobodies; He wouldn’t love wretches.” They’ve even taken that word out, “ . . . for such a wretch as me.”
Tom: I can give you some examples of my kids in Christian schools that that’s happened.
Dave: Yeah. Well, if God loved me because I was worth it, or because I’m lovable, I would be worried—because I know that I’m not, first of all, number one! Number two, I know that I’m a changeable being. Supposing I change, and then God doesn’t love me anymore? That would be very uncertain! But since He loves me because of who He is, and He does not change, then I’m secure in that love for eternity.
Tom: Dave, this idea—people, they’re anxious, they’re worried, there’s the stress of the world, and so on—where can we go to find stability? God offers it to us, in Himself!
Dave: Amazing, amazing that we could know God. The god of Islam you can’t know—Allah—he’s unknowable. He doesn’t love, there’s no grace . . . well, supposedly he’s gracious and merciful, but there’s no basis for it. And in Hinduism there’s reincarnation and so forth. You pick someone up out of the gutter . . .
Tom: You just ruined their karma . . .
Dave: Yeah, well, they have to come back in the next life, right back into that gutter where they were and work that out, so there’s no point in helping people at all. But the God of the Bible loves us so much. This is not an impersonal, cosmic energy source; this is not some higher power so-called. Higher than what? Power could not create the human brain! The Creator of man, must be a personal being.
Well, this God loves us so much that He came to this earth as a man through the Virgin birth and, in spite of the rejection, the hatred, the mocking, the scorn, they heaped upon Him, as the prophets foretold—Isaiah 53, for example. He remains steadfast in His love for us, and He took the penalty that His own infinite justice required for our sins, died in our place, and you won’t find that anywhere else. You won’t find that in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam—nowhere—only in the teaching of the Word of God, the Bible.
Tom: Dave, I find it really interesting with regard to the issue of self-love and self-esteem—we can trace it back, and we can go back to where it came into the church. Interestingly, Nietzsche—he had the idea! He said, “Christians, your big problem is you don’t love yourself enough,” and then, so-called psychology—psychotherapists and Christian psychotherapists actually developed that.
But there’s something really absurd about that. Number one, if, you know, as you said, this idea that if we don’t love ourselves enough—well that’s erroneous to begin with. “No man hath yet hated his own flesh,” the scripture tells us and so on. We love it, we . . .
Dave: No matter what they say.
Tom: We put it first, even in our thinking we’re doing things for others, lots of times, it’s kind of a “me first” thing. But my point is that with regard to esteeming, if we have to esteem ourselves, or if we have to look to ourselves as something of a valuable object to God, and you’ve heard that promoted—they say, “Hey look! We’re made in God’s image, you know? We’re His handiwork. God takes pride in what He’s done.”
That reduces God!
Dave: Well, not only that, Tom, but they say, “Now there is a reason for building up your self-esteem; for feeling good about yourself.” Wait a minute! I feel good about myself because God created me? I didn’t have a hand in my creation!
It’s amazing. And, you know, the state of California, John Vasconcellos, an assemblyman there, got the Self-Esteem Task Force going—what—ten years ago? I think more than that, and they were going to prove that all the problems of the public schools—from poor academics to rebellion and all the problems in society, drug addiction, pornography, and so forth—were the result of low self-esteem, and in fact, they have proven the opposite. And even some of the students said, “What is the point of trying? No matter what you do, they praise you!” Going to build up your self-esteem? It’s not going to help you work harder. In fact, you don’t have to work hard at all for people to praise you! Then, what is the point? Now, you might feel good about yourself if you worked very hard and did a good job, but not just because people flatter you, and you know you are not as good as they say you are.
So it’s counter-productive, but the Bible—what does the Bible say in Philippians:2:3: “In lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than himself.” I have people say to me, “Well, you seem to be so humble.” I say, “Humble? You’ve got to be kidding! I’m a puny nothing in God’s sight, even in comparison to the vastness of the universe, or the complexity of a single cell, and I’m going to be humble?” I’ve got no reason to even understand what humble means, because who am I?
Tom: But Dave wouldn’t that hold you back from reaching your potential and asserting yourself and doing things in a confident way?
Dave: I don’t see why it would, Tom. The fact that I realize that “to God be the glory.” You know, I love the hymn, “Not have I gotten, but what I received; grace has bestowed it since I have believed. Boasting excluded, pride I abase, I’m only a sinner saved by grace.” Well, that causes me to love God!
Tom: And, Dave, that’s the issue. The things that I just referred to, the motivation itself—but if love is the motivation, then, just as you said, it sounds like you were putting yourself down. No, you were being realistic with regard to the makeup of the universe, yourself included. But God’s love—God has poured out His love for you, for me, and that’s what we respond to!
Dave: Right. That causes me to love Him. Now, wouldn’t I want to please the one I love? Wouldn’t I want to be everything He wants me to be? And so, Paul said in Colossians:1:29, I think it is—he’s talking about the glory that God has in mind for us, and he says, “Whereunto I labor, striving according to his working that works in me mightily.” We are workers together with God. We are simply cooperating. It’s God’s power, it’s God’s grace, His love, His enablement, but we also have to respond. We have to cooperate with Him. We have to give Him our heart, our soul—we have to love God with our whole heart. And we want to be everything He wants us to be, but we recognize we can’t do it in our own strength. It is a wonderful partnership.
Tom: Yeah, Dave, I really love the historic fact of, during the life of Christ, where this woman comes to Him—He’s in the home of Simon the Pharisee. Hey, there’s some esteem there! He’s invited to eat among the “upper crust” as it were, and this woman comes in, and they look down upon her. She’s a former prostitute, and what does she do? She begins to wash Jesus’s feet with her tears and dry His feet with her hair. And these men are looking down [at her].
Now the reason I love that story is—Jesus says, after the Pharisees are complaining or grumbling among themselves about who’s in their presence and so on, Jesus takes them to task. But the point of it is He says “She loves much because she was forgiven much.”
Tom: So even on her part, they were looking down on her, but if she were self-conscious: “Well I’m not going to do that, I’ll wait till he comes out and maybe I’ll . . .” But she had nothing but love for what He had done for her. That was her motivation. And it wasn’t just a sit-back kind of thing—she was active in that. Boy, if we could just be that way more often than not!
Dave: Yeah, I will just say to all the listeners out there, “When was the last time you told God you loved Him? That you love Him with all your heart—that you want to be everything He wants you to be?” What more could you ask? Nothing more than that! I mean, this is what I want. I was thinking of David this morning. He said, “One thing have I desired of the Lord; that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.” That’s Psalm 27, the way it begins.
Tom: And David was no perfect individual. Some of are thinking, “Well, I could never. . . .” I mean, look at the examples that we just gave. This woman, who the religious looked down upon, and David, who—he did some things that were contrary to God’s Word and God’s love, but he had a heart for God. He repented. This woman repented. How hard is that? What does it take, except to turn to God? Not “clean up your act” and get everything right before you can approach God. He’s the one that’s got to do that for you, for me, for all of us.
Dave: Amen. Tremendous teaching of the Word of God. Well, I don’t know what more we can say about this one, Tom. Can we deal with another one quickly?
Tom: Well, we’ve got four minutes. This is a tough one. Maybe we’ll start with it. This is really a tough one, Dave! “The Bible records some of the most horrible deeds ever perpetrated by men. There is, for example, Jephthah’s vow to sacrifice his daughter to Jehovah—a vow which he then fulfilled. How can one reconcile a God of love with the acceptance of human sacrifices?” You think we’re going to get that in three minutes, Dave? I don’t think so. We’ll set it up for next time.
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s a strange one, it really is. He foolishly—I mean, it was absurd. You know, in those days the animals would run in and out, the chickens and the pigs and everything—in and out of the house—and he promised God because of the victory that God gave him, he would sacrifice the first thing that came out of the house.
Tom: Yes, a burnt offering.
Dave: Right. First, out comes his daughter! Well, we have a number of elements—maybe our listeners can think about it till next week, but number one . . .
Tom: First, this is, if they are looking for it, this is in Judges 11, and you can read from verses 30 to 40. There are more verses than that, but they can go through them. They can wrestle over it with us.
Dave: Yeah. Number one, don’t make vows! But if you make a vow, God will hold you to it. You must pay the vow. Now, it wasn’t God’s fault. God didn’t ask him to make this vow. God did not initiate this idea. What Jephthah did, he did out of the foolishness of his own heart.
Tom: But God honored what he said. He fulfilled what Jephthah asked for. But, Dave, now there’s a bit of controversy over this, because as our listeners read the text there, some would say this was not really a sacrifice unto death. This had to do with . . . Jephthah only had one daughter—that was his only child. So he has no way to have offspring except through her. And you can read these verses and come to, I think, a reasonable understanding that he was sacrificing her unto the Lord—in other words devoting her to the Lord.
Dave: Yes, not killing her.
Tom: Not killing her.
Dave: . . . as a burnt offering.
Tom: So, people are divided over this, but it makes an interesting issue that we can come back to next week.
Dave: Next week. Okay.