A gun in the hands of a child

 

I recently got into a discussion with a regular commenter about the parent-child nature of God’s relationship to humans. The commenter defended God’s unwillingness to prevent evil by arguing that a good parent allows his child to grow up and take responsibility for herself. That is why God does not intervene to prevent evil – he has given us the responsibility of looking after ourselves.

This analogy, I believe, actually casts the parenting skills of God in a rather negative light. To see how, we need to ask why parents allow their children to be fully autonomous. The answer is clear by looking at when such autonomy is bestowed: usually in the latter teen years or sometimes even in the early twenties. At this age, a young person has been through a long and (hopefully) careful grooming process that has prepared her for autonomy. She has demonstrated her ability to look after her own interests responsibly without putting other people in harm’s way.

The crucial point here is that autonomy is not some sort of right bestowed on an individual as soon as she is born: it is earned. If a young person fails to demonstrate self-reliance and responsibility then she has little hope of being truly autonomous, and will continue to rely on her parents until she can develop these skills.

This element of earning responsibility is what makes the parent-child analogy to the God-human relationship break down. This is because we as a species have not, in fact, demonstrated an ability to live autonomously without putting one another in harm’s way. We regularly and spectacularly fail to live responsibly. If God is our parent, then, it would seem that he has spoiled his children. He has given them something they do not deserve – something they have not earned. And they have misused this gift, as any children who’ve been given an age-inappropriate  gift will.

People have recognized this fact for millennia. This is why we have devised laws and regulations that self-impose limits to our own freedoms. We know that we can’t be trusted. We are therefore trying to cope with the inappropriate, unearned gift that our God-parent has given us.

Far better it would have been had God not given us the gift of complete autonomy in the first place. God should instead have allowed us to mature, to prove our mettle, before laying such a potentially destructive responsibility at our feet. A good God-parent would surely have evaluated our character more carefully before allowing us the freedom to rape and murder and torture our fellow human beings. Instead, he has placed a gun in the hands of a child.

And now God sits back and watches as we use that gun against others. He watches as we blame ourselves for his mistake as a parent.

A quick endnote, lest my perspective be misconstrued: the above argument is intended to demonstrate a flaw in a Christian apologetic device. I don’t actually believe that God should have done X, Y, or Z, because I don’t believe he exists. I’m suggesting instead that a certain Christian argument does not make sense from the perspective of the believer, and that believers ought therefore to find a better argument.

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4 Responses to A gun in the hands of a child

  1. I stand by the comments I’ve already left on the post before this one, Keith, as this post is basically just summarizing and reiterating the stance you took on the last posting’s comments you made.

    I’m not a child and I don’t need to be restricted like one. I don’t think a world where God constantly played bad cop would be a very pleasant one. I think Heaven will be what you seek instead. God will have completely done away with evil by then and we won’t have to tolerate what we see on this earth now, then, but we’ll still be completely free to love God and everyone there will love Him just as we do.

    This world/ideal you think would be better, that exhibits a “good” God instead of the “bad” God we have now is a bad world, in my opinion. Having to live with a perpetual heavy-handed, censoring puppeteer watching over my shoulder at every moment would drive me insane. I don’t like the image of what you’re suggesting God should be.

    And yes, of course, I know you are atheist and don’t even believe in God and that all of this is just hypothetical for you, anyway.

    • Keith says:

      Warrioress:

      This comment reveals the logical error I brought up under the other post. If people are free yet sinless in heaven, why can’t they be free yet sinless on earth?

  2. Sabio Lantz says:

    If I am getting this right (after a quick read), an implication concerning ‘original sin’ I heard was:

    “Look, Adam and Eve were allowed to make a choice that doomed all humankind when a kind God could have waited a bit until we were more mature and had made better choices before testing us.”

    Fun point, if I heard correctly.

    Likewise, perhaps Christians have it wrong: God will wait until heaven to show everything perfectly clearly and let us decide then.

    And, as you, I don’t think there is a god, but just saying.

  3. Keith says:

    Yes, under the theme of this post, the Garden of Eden story would be like a parent throwing his four-year old son and daughter out on the street for dipping their hands in the cookie jar.

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