One new(ish) claim among Internet atheists is that the Christian God is an abusive partner.
The usual argument (at its strongest) goes about like this:
God accuses the believer of sin and “forgives” and then accuses of sin again. God expects you to sacrifice for Him. He says He is better than you and your best deeds are like filthy rags to him. He wants to be in control of your life. You have to fear him. If a human partner was like that, it would have been seen as abusive. – Terrible anti-Christian argument
The problem with the above arguments is that everything in it is completely out of context.
God accuses the believer of sin and “forgives” and then accuses of sin again:
Jesus does not accuse of sin again after he forgave. That is the whole point of the Gospel story: God is the one who paid(pays) our debts. God does not remind us of forgiven sin again.
God expects you to sacrifice for Him: For some context, here are a few pictures of the central event in Christianity:
Here is the one who gave us life itself. When we humans used the life and brain given by Him to make choices that destroy our world, that destroy others and ourselves, He came after us in love and sacrificed himself (the pictures above is of him sacrificing himself) to reconcile humanity and the world with him. He wants what is eternally good for us.
We don’t create other people, so we cannot give a real comparison here, but if someone gives you exactly everything you have, and expect that you use it in a way that is good for the other people and world he loves, that does not make him an abuser. Even more, God promises to reimburse what we lose in following him. (Matt. 19:29) He promises that even though the lost thing was given by Him too!
He says He is better than you: If Christians are right that they serve the creator of the universe, then God is better than us. I don’t have a bad self image over not being able to make the universe, or know the future, or hold the universe together. None of us need to have a bad self image over that. Yes, God has riches, wisdom, knowledge, power, etc. I do not have. But He don’t use that to put us down, but to help us up. One day, we are going to stand beside him “without spot or wrinkle” – faultless, not as the one with faults beside the faultless one.
Your best deeds are like filthy rags to him.
This text is taken badly out of context to make such an argument. Isaiah 64:6-7 say:
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags… 7 No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you …”
If someone calls on God’s name at all, or strive a bit to lay hold of God, this passage is not about him or her. In short, God is not the boyfriend who say this to his girlfriend. Isaiah is the “girlfriend” who says her boyfriend finds the other girls (the ones who are not after him) very unattractive.
He wants to be in control of your life.
It is true that abusers want to be in control of those they abuse. But not all control is abusive. A father holding the hand of a toddler is controlling him, but not abusing. A drug rehab centre may need to lock up junkies (control their movements) for a while to stop them from getting their next “fix”. This don’t make the therapists at the drug rehab abusers.
But when control is abusive, it goes beyond the best interests of the one controlled. Abusive control is usually for the sake of the controller. And abusers control those who would have done better by self-control.
Abusers also tend to use force – they do not just want to control, they force through verbal or physical coercion.
It is true that God wants to be in control of our lives, but God …
1) …does not force it. The Bible say that Jesus “stands and knocks” at our hearts. We can let him in.
2) …has our best interests at heart – in perfect knowledge of what those best interests are.
3) …in another sense, does not wants to control us – the Spirit he gives has the fruit of “self-control.” Who is in control, God or the self? Well, just like a junkie’s self cannot be trusted with control of drug urges, the Christian thought is that the unsaved self cannot be trusted to control urges to harm people God love (including yourself) or the world God loves. Those bad urges are usually called “sin.” He has to give those who come to him a new heart – so they can choose what is good. This is real freedom: To not be controlled by sin, but free to love and live fully, in abundance.
You have to fear him.
That is, quite simply, equivocation of terms, which is a logical fallacy. Yes, some old Bible translations tell us to “fear” God. Considering what we modern people understand under the word “fear”, it is obvious that those translations are not the best way to express the idea in English.
But really, when all is said and done, does either of these pictures look like the world’s biggest abuser?
This is my first attempt to try apologetics on a topic I cannot find any other apologetic article on. If this – even just the paragraph stating the accusation – inspire you to state an apologetic case, please comment here with a link to your article. I would love to see what you smart apologists come up with!