Friday, July 13, 2012

"You're Nothing Without Me" and Other Atheist Misunderstandings and Straw Man Arguments (Part 1)

By Tony Miano

This is Part 1 in a series of blog posts.

The above image, which is making its way around the Internet, is titled: "The Parallel That Turned Me Away From Christianity."

I would retitle the image: "The 'Truth' That Turns People Away from Christianity." In order to show why I would change the title to what I have offered, I will show that each of the ten statements in the image are either a truth unbelievers hate, or a "straw man" argument created to justify the person's hatred of God and His truth.

1. "You're nothing without me"

The only time the phrase "you are nothing" appears in the Bible is in Isaiah 41:24, which reads: "Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you."

A simple look at the context in which Isaiah 41:24 is found will show that God did not use the phrase when speaking of people in general, but rather of the idols (in the forms of false gods) people worshiped at the time. See for yourself as you read Isaiah 41:21-24.
Set forth your case, says the Lord; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob. Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come. Tell us what is to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; do good, or do harm, that we may be dismayed and terrified. Behold, you are nothing, and your work is less than nothing; an abomination is he who chooses you.
What the image quotes as something God would say, sounds more like what a child might hear from an abusive, sinful mother or father. Sadly, it is not uncommon for people to mistake God as having the same characteristics of the childhood authority in their lives--mom and dad. And if their parent(s) were verbally or physically abusive, it's not hard (although wrong) for that same child-now-grownup to make the same mistaken leap. "God is an authority figure. My parents were authority figures. My parents told me I was worthless. God must think I'm worthless, too."

Another reason people may employ the "God thinks I'm nothing" mantra is because they do not want to be in submission to anyone, let alone God. The fact that God has a moral standard, one that is written on each and every person's heart; the fact that everyone knows God exists and they will one-day stand before Him to give an account for their lives, brings out the sin nature that has indwelt ever person since their individual conception. They deny God exists and, at the same time, are angry with Him because He would dare to hold them accountable to His law--His moral standard. So, to appease their own guilt and to justify their sin, they simple suppress the truth of God's existence and their accountability to Him, through their unrighteousness.

Yet one more reason for the above sentiment is people believe they are inherently good. And, believing thus, they cannot comprehend why God would make them feel less than good by asserting He alone is good and by making it very clear in His Word no mere person is good. They cannot comprehend why God would judge them as unrighteous, according to His standard, when, according to their own standard, they are very good.

So, in order to more comfortably deny the negative truth they already know about themselves, some people build a straw man argument and then tear it down. They illogically argue: "I think I'm good. God thinks I'm nothing. Therefore, I cannot accept Christianity."

While God nowhere says in His Word "you are nothing without me," He does make it abundantly clear people--all people--are lost and bound for Hell without Him.
"The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:35-36).

"As it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.' 'Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.' 'The venom of asps is under their lips.' 'Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.' 'Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.' 'There is no fear of God before their eyes'" (Romans 3:10-18).

"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (Ephesians 2:1-3).
But the good news is this: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

God, in fact loves those who are unlovable. He loves those who are utterly unworthy of His love and affection. He saves those who do not deserve to be saved. He forgives those who cannot earn His forgiveness.

God is good. The problem isn't with God. The problem is with sinners who refuse to submit to Him and love Him as they should.

2. "If you even think about leaving me..."

This sentiment, like the first, has all the markings of being made by someone who has experienced abuse at the hands of a parent or a spouse. Many times during my law enforcement career I dealt with women who were the victims of domestic violence. It was not at all uncommon for women who desperately wanted to be safe refuse to leave their abuser because of threats like: "If you even think of leaving me..." It was often difficult in such circumstances that her very life depended on her taking the courageous step to get away from the person who sought to harm her.

Again, the person who would hold such a sentiment against God have no idea who God is. The person also is likely one who is adamantly independent--sinfully independent. The issue, once again, is one of submission. Whereas the victim of domestic violence truly is a victim and would be right to separate themselves from the abuse and the abuser, the person who wants to separate themselves from God is not a victim and God is not their abuser.

Just as the unbeliever believes they should be able to sin without any consequences from God, the unbeliever also believes he should be able to distance himself from God, without suffering any consequences. The unbeliever sees himself as autonomous and paints the sky of his fantasy world an acceptable hue with the brush the broad brush of unbelief, as if denying the existence of God somehow grants them the privilege of autonomy. Such a mindset is illogical and foolhardy (Psalm 14:1-3).

The truth: insisting on independence and autonomy from God carries with it eternal consequences. And the consequences are meted out, in the form of wrath and eternal judgment, against those who rebel against God, not because God is in any way sinfully hateful or malevolent. On the contrary: the threat is so ominous and the punishment so harsh because God is holy, righteous, just and good.

Should it not be so? Should it not be so that the person who rejects the one who promises to never leave or forsake those who are His would faces consequences for that rejection.

The truth: no born-again follower of Jesus Christ will ever reject Christ and turn their back on Him. To those whom God gives the gift of eternal life, no one will ever snatch them out of the Father's and the Son's hand (John 10:28-30). No one will ever separate the genuine Christian from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). So the "if you ever think about leaving me" objection is a non-starter.

3. "You don't deserve me."

And?... So?...

Every unbeliever is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6; Judges 21:25; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 21:2). Many unbelievers, while maintaining their belief they are good people, call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20)--things like homosexuality, abortion, adultery, and the list goes on. Most unbelievers will not think of submitting to the authority of God because they believe they are righteous enough without Him (Romans 10:3).

But the Bible makes it very clear that no one is good in God's eyes (Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 51:1-3; Romans 3:10-18), for God's definition of "good" is moral (Exodus 20:1-17) perfection (Matthew 5:48). Every human being falls short of that standard (Romans 3:23). And God has promised in His Word that no one gets off the hook. No one will have their eternal case thrown out of court because God is holy, righteous and just. As a good judge who will not turn a blind eye to the sins of people. He will not exonerate the guilty (Nahum 1:3) simply because they think they are good people and deserve to be forgiven and set free.

No one receives God's forgiveness because they have done what they perceive to be good works (Ephesians 2:8-9) or because they believe they have performed any righteous deeds (Titus 3:5). Salvation is a free gift (Romans 6:23). It can not be earned or deserved. It is based entirely on God's mercy (Titus 3:5), which was made possible to receive through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross (Romans 3:21-26; Romans 5:6-11; Titus 3:4-7).

So, the answer to objection #3 is easy. The person who finds themselves denying Christ because he senses God doesn't see him as worthy of His grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love must come to terms with the fact that they are not worthy and will never be worthy of salvation through Jesus Christ.

To be continued.....