Deism: Ancient & Modern (2)
So the man with the clockmaker religion shut God outside the physical world. He had created it but God was now a prisoner outside the world with its "laws"; but that protected the religion of the clockmaker religious man (or so he thought). It meant that he could still believe God existed and shrug at the scientists that said they couldn’t see God anywhere in this (alleged) "creation". "Of course you can’t," this kind of believer said. "That’s because he’s outside the world and doesn’t venture into it or interfere with it." It had another tremendous advantage; it meant he didn’t have to explain the awful natural catastrophes that occurred in a world actively governed by the God that created the world. All he had to do was say, "You can’t blame God for these because he doesn’t govern the world—it runs all by itself. It’s simply ‘bad luck’ when these random events kill people. The awful Lisbon earthquake, for example, had nothing whatever to do with God. These catastrophes are mindless bad luck and it makes no sense to blame God or hold him responsible." And so they shrugged and were pleased and then told people just to be brave and that while these catastrophes were "meaningless" it was up to people to "invest them with meaning." Presumably they urged people to do this because if they didn’t do it the awful events would remain without meaning. For certainly God didn’t mean anything by them since he had absolutely nothing to do with them. They were as blind and mechanical and meaningless as the forces that mindlessly spewed them out. It’s all so simple! Shut God out of the world and he’s as innocent as a new-born babe in Job’s house.
But this religious outlook had its terrible price. If God is shut out then the Bible and all its major claims, leading up to and including its claims about Jesus Christ had to be rejected. Prayer was problematic in the extreme and certainly any divine activity in the world—a closed system, a world of unbroken cause and effect—was out of the question.
Some saw the cost as unbearable and wouldn’t pay it but they tried to sit on the fence. They shut God out and called catastrophes "random" (that is, mindless and purposeless chance happenings) but allowed him in to give blessings and bring good out of the catastrophes. They called tragedies and catastrophes random events because they produced pain and loss in the human family. They said, "See, these things can be explained altogether as the result of chance occurrences in wind and rain and other physical elements. And besides, what kind of God would cause the deaths of little children and those they love?"
But non-believers saw through that immediately.
For the same people insisted that when "the righteous" prayed for rain for their dying crops that God very often answered their prayers and sent the needed rain.
But how could they say God sent the rain? Rain comes by itself—even the semi-clockwork religious man insisted on that! ("Sunshine and rain—it’s all random," he said.) "Check a rainfall out from its very inception to its end," said the non-believer, "and you’ll find it’s a chain of unbroken physical causes and effects. A whole series of mindless and non-purposing forces come together to produce rain. This can be explained altogether as the result of chance occurrences and physical laws." The non-believer reminded the fence-sitting religious man with a half clockwork religion that the elements involved in alleged answers to prayers are as "random" as those in floods and storms. Shut God out from wind and rain and sun and elements and you not only cut him off from "cursing" you cut him off from "blessing".
"But God is good," said the ‘semi-deist’ and the blessings are from him and the pain and loss is not."
"How do you know?" said the non-believer, "since one is as random as the other."
"The Bible says God is good and blesses us."
"The Bible also says God is good and sends calamities," said the non-believer.
"The Bible says God works to make the bad work out for good."
"The Bible also says God is good and sends calamities," the non-belliever insisted.
"The Bible says God works good out of the bad calamities."
"The Bible says God sends calamities—are you saying they are bad?" the non-believer asled.
"He used to send them but he doesn’t now."
"Where does the Bible say that? the non-believer wanted to know.
And if he sent then now would they be bad?" the non-believer asked.
"Yes, what kind of a God would cause the death of a child or take its Grandmother?"
"The Bible says God did kill children and grandmothers in the past. Was he bad then?"