SummaryChristians get many questions by those who don’t really want answers but John Clark wonders why this question, for which he has no answer, is never asked.
Editors Note:Originally published September 25, 2014.
The story is told that a bishop was giving a speech at a progressive university, after which he invited the audience to ask questions.
One skeptical wiseacre chimed in with a question evidently designed to make the bishop—and Christianity—look foolish. He asked: “Bishop, do you really believe that Jonah was swallowed by a whale and lived inside it for three days?”
The bishop responded, “Yes, I do.”
The wiseacre followed up: “Well, can you tell me how something like that could happen?”
Unflustered, the bishop responded: “I don’t know, but when I get to heaven I intend to ask Jonah.”
Thinking he had the bishop in check, the wiseacre countered: “Well, what if Jonah didn’t make it to Heaven?”
The bishop responded: “Well, then you ask him!”
Official scoring: Bishop takes pawn.
While the wiseacre in the story had plenty of questions, one thing is obvious: the college student was not looking for an answer. Non-Christians may not realize this, but the truth is that we Christians get those types of questions all the time—the type of questions that do not seek real answers.
Of course, this is nothing terribly new.
In the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark, an exchange takes place between Jesus and the Pharisees. A paralytic man had been brought by his friends to Jesus, in the hope that Jesus would heal him. And Jesus did heal the paralytic, but in a way that his friends were perhaps not expecting: before healing his physical ailments, Jesus forgave his sins.
The Pharisees responded with questions: “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Indeed. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” There was nothing lacking in their question, but the Pharisees did not want the answer. They could not bring themselves to accept the divinity of Jesus.
Today, one of the most popular questions that atheists like to ask is: “Who made God?” (accompanied by the mandatory snicker and eye-roll). They seem to consider this the coup de grace of all gotchas. But if there is an element of this question that is confusing, it’s not the question itself—it’s the fact that atheists consider it to be a gotcha at all.
While writing this column, I stopped and presented this same question to my eleven-year-old son, Bonaventure. He looked up from the book he was reading and responded: “No one created God.
He had no beginning.” and then went back to his book. When he had finished his chapter, he poured himself a glass of water and explained to me that, while it’s hard to understand, it must be true that there is someone who had no beginning.
If rudimentary metaphysics and causality is evident to an adolescent, why does it escape the vanguard of American intelligentsia?
There is an answer to that question. The answer is that many people don’t want an answer.
However, for people like the young college student in the bishop’s audience, for all the atheists and agnostics, for all of those who have been trying to make us look foolish, I will let you in on a little secret: there is one question that stumps me. There is a question for which I have no great, metaphysically provable answer. I can’t turn to Aristotle for an answer, nor Plato, nor Descartes, nor Augustine, nor Aquinas.
Here it is: Why does God love me?
What have I done to warrant the love of God? What have I done to warrant His affections? There is just so little that I can point to.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe that God does love me. That much is obvious. It’s the why that I find inexplicable. In my finest moments, I am only giving God back what He has given me.
As C. S. Lewis put it:
“Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like. It is like a small child going to its father and saying, ‘Daddy, give me sixpence to buy you a birthday present.’ Of course, the father does, and he is pleased with the child’s present. It is all very nice and proper, but only an idiot would think that the father is sixpence to the good on the transaction. (Lewis, C. S. (2009-05-28). Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics) (p. 143). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.)
And those gifts are returned only in my finest moments. Truth be told, many of my moments are exquisitely lacking in fineness.
Yet God sustains me in being. He sustains me in love. He restores my soul when it is tarnished. He comes to find me when I am lost. He exhibits a patience of which only the physician of souls is capable.
God loves me. And that fact is what gives me and every one of us an inestimable worth. Ultimately, the why is known only to God. But that is enough.
No offense, but all these questions of whales and causality are a bit boring. It is love that is exciting.
I don’t know that I’ll spend much time in Heaven asking about whales—or, for that matter, asking about anything. As Lewis put it:
“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face, questions die away. What other answer would suffice?”