God doesn’t do things the way we think he should? That theme emerges reading stories or listening to people explain why they left Christianity based on supposedly “intellectual arguments”. God doesn’t fit our expectations. He is not like us; he is wholly different.
Although not put in exactly these words, the argument goes something like this: If God is perfect and good, he should have revealed himself more clearly, he should have preserved the Scriptures without any textual variants, he should have produced a Bible less open to so many different interpretations (it should somehow be transhistorical and transcultural), he should have completely removed evil and suffering right away.
These arguments could be rephrased: If I were God, I would have done things differently. In comparison to our enlightened reason, God’s actions are seen as wanting and deficient. Our preferences, wisdom, rationality, and expectations become the standard to which God must submit or be rejected as false and untrustworthy.
Scandal and Folly at the Cross
God often does not do things the way that we as humans think he should. The clearest example of this is Jesus’s crucifixion. Paul argues that “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).
We are so familiar with the Christmas narratives that we often fail to see how they are similar to the crucifixion: certainly scandalous, debatably foolish, but nevertheless, God’s plan to fulfill his promises and save his people.
First, the virgin conception was scandalous. Joseph himself assumed infidelity and intended to divorce Mary.
Could God have done things in a way less open to ridicule? Or could he not have somehow provided more supernatural proof? Of course he could have; but he didn’t. And skeptics mock.
It may be hard to believe, but God became man; he entered our pain, our suffering, and our death in order to defeat death for all of us. As the book of Hebrews makes clear, he experienced our limitations and temptations in order to become our perfect and eternal High Priest and to offer a perfect and final sacrifice for sin. Could God have done it a different, less painful, less embarrassing way? Maybe, but he didn’t.
Why the lowly birth? Why be born in poverty, in obscurity, and in weakness? We are so familiar with the Christmas story that we fail to see how counterintuitive this all is. In saving the world, God seems to have gone the most difficult route imaginable. Like Satan’s temptation to instantly give Jesus global sovereignty without the suffering of the cross, there could have been quite a few quicker and easier ways to get this done. But as Paul notes, God’s “folly” is greater than man’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25).
Trust God to Be God
As you reflect on your season of your life, your struggles, your disappointments, your victories, your faith, and your hope, remember that:
Jesus’s death on the cross was simultaneously foolishness to the wise in the world, to those who are perishing, and a demonstration of the power and wisdom of God to those of us who believe.
He doesn’t always do things the way we might expect or wish he would, but when it comes to God, shouldn’t we know by now to expect the unexpected?
Faith in God certainly doesn’t make us safe (as if we were living in a magical bubble in which nothing bad could happen and we were guaranteed success at every turn), but it does make us incredibly secure. Because he is faithful and good, we can trust and worship without always completely understanding.
Christianity did not begin, survive, and expand primarily through intellectual argumentation but through a demonstration of the Spirit.
Life may knock you down – but God’s faithfulness and your faith will raise you up again.