Our 'Imaginary Friend'
I don’t often read the comments below online articles; they are usually profane, extremist, off-point rants or all the above. But I recently read some on a coronavirus article. One responder kept derogatorily referring to Christians and their “imaginary friend,” i.e., God. He thought it contradictory to believe in God while the world is stricken by a viral pandemic.
Is he right? Is it inconsistent to believe in an omnipotent, benevolent God when pestilence is sweeping the planet?
This is an age-old tactic of atheists: God cannot be all good and all powerful. If He is powerful enough to prevent harm, He is not good if He doesn’t. If He is good and wants prevent harm, He must not be powerful enough to do it. They think they have impaled God and believers on the horns of a dilemma.
But such a view of God is simplistic, and it makes inaccurate assumptions about what God reveals of Himself. First, there is the assumption that a perfect God would make a perfect world. Actually, He did in the beginning make a perfect environment for mankind. The Garden of Eden was a pristine, unspoiled dwelling wherein Adam and Eve could live forever in harmony with their surroundings and with their Creator. But God also made them with free will, the power to choose whether they would remain in this harmony or forsake it and go their own way. They chose the latter.
The consequence was that death entered the world and our environment was fundamentally altered to include harmful elements (Gen. 3:16-19). This was because our original progenitors, and all of us after them, prove that we do not handle utopia well. Blessing becomes pride, pride becomes rebellion, rebellion becomes sin, and sin becomes corruption.
This leads to the atheists' second assumption: A good God would never permit suffering. Actually, the goodness of God allows pain in order to humble us, turn us from our selfishness, curtail our evil and maintain a stasis in this world that allows it to continue.
Believers arrive at these conclusions about God based on copious evidence from scripture and corroborating evidence from observation of our world. A deeper understanding of God enables one to accept God’s goodness even when tragedy strikes, for we understand that God’s world allows for injury and death in order to preserve free will and to refine and purify us.
The atheist refuses to believe this. So to him God is the “imaginary friend” of naïve simpletons who have invented Him to help them cope with bad things. But what does the atheist believe? That there is no meaning or purpose in life or evil; it’s just the way things naturally evolved. That there is no one superintending the cosmos; things just happen randomly. That there is nothing beyond this world; life is full of chaos and vanity, and then we just die.
No thanks. I’ll not buy into fatalism and vanity. Christians hold the rational, moral and spiritual ground. God is not imaginary, but He most certainly is my friend. I will live and die with that conviction, virus or no.