Today I was on Twitter and saw one of my skeptic friends retweet a meme from the Athiest Republic, a popular Twitter page for skeptics. The objection was as follows: If the person offering you salvation is the person threatening you with punishment, and “eternal damnation” it’s not really salvation…it’s extortion." My friend then captioned it, God: The First Mobster. How would you respond to this objection?
A short answer would be that this “God as mobster” view would only apply if what God was offering was not actually what was best for the person. If God’s offer is also that which is the very best for the person, then it is hard to see why he would be a mobster and not a benefactor. He would only be a “mobster” if that which He was offering (namely Himself, eternal life in heaven) were itself bad for the individual.
So, if one thinks that God has the worst in mind for you, and is trying to coerce you to love Him with a threat, then fine, I suppose He would be more like a mobster, or even like the ancient pagan deities of the Greeks, Romans or Aztecs, who sought to appease their gods out of fear.
But, if God just is the object of our fulfillment, the sum total of all our hopes, dreams, desires, longings, cravings, etc., i.e. the only Being that can truly satisfy us; and if He knows that to be true, then the warning of eternal damnation seems warranted, for to not choose Him just is damnation; it just is eternal thirst, never quenched; eternal hunger, never satisfied; eternal searching, never finding; eternal questioning, never knowing, eternal hurting, pain, and suffering; without healing.
So, if God is the maximally great being, and the maximally great object of our affections (the only thing that actually satisfies our deepest longings), but He has also given us the freedom to choose, i.e. He cannot through force override our free will choice to not love Him, then He can only warn us. But if He were to just casually or half-seriously warn us, then it seems either His love for us really isn’t that deep (because He would be willing to let us think that to reject Him is really not so bad), or that the punishment for rejecting Him is not that great.
Evidence suggests that to be without God really is great suffering, so that must mean that God really loves us quite deeply, because His warnings are serious; serious enough to at least take on the cross and die for us.
Hope that helps,
@KFriske Your friend basically misunderstands the gospel and the attributes of God. If God is like what your friend said, then I would agree with Him. But the God of the Bible is not like that, what he hates is an idol, which is a false view of God.
First, extortion presupposes the use of force, in order for someone to get something out of us. But God does not need any of us. He is self-sustaining. We are not. We need Him.
Second, it’s true that God will punish people, but this is not because God is forcing people to do something in order to gain something out of them, but rather that God will punish people because they are sinners. To sin against God is like rebelling against a monarch.
Third, though God will not gain anything out of us, because He loves us He gave His Son in order for us to gain everything we would ever need.
In terms of response, I basically would ask him specific questions to understand further their view. Personally, I see this as an opportunity to share the gospel with him. This is an opportunity to show what God really is like.
@KFriske Another common phrasing of this objection is that God is a dictator - those more gracious use the term ‘benevolent dictator’.
The following thread contains some of my thoughts about that objection.
You see, to believe God is dictator requires denying that sin is fundamentally destructive and that God is not the highest good. If sin is fundamentally destructive, leading to death, and God is the highest good and God makes to to rain on the good and evil, then the case for God as dictator falls apart. So the counterargument, or at least one approach, would be:
- God is the highest good and to have Him is better than life
- life is in God - to reject God is to reject life
- sin is fundamentally destructive and leads to death
- God gives us freedom to choose in this life and is kind even to those who reject him
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
C. S. Lewis
“But if God loves us the way the Bible says he does, then he will give us what is best for us. And what is best for us is himself.”
Hope that helps. The Lord Jesus grant you wisdom. Feel free to ask more questions.
@KFriske I used to have this saying: “God is not the Godfather, but God the Father and He makes an offer you shouldn’t refuse”.
Besides that: hmmm, God as Mobster , it is actually not extortion, but you already know that, it is a way out. The moment Adam and Eve committed that first sin, the doors of death opened up and everyone was doomed.
God is not out to punish us and He doesn’t punish us for not choosing for Christ.
Death is what people brought on themselves and keep doing every day. And Christ is a way out of that which God has offered us and everyone can make a choice for him- or herself to accept that way out.
That is what I believe.
I would make the point that we have choice to accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, but we don’t have the choice of the consequences. One analogy could be when driving you have a choice to break the speed limit, but if caught you cannot reject the punishment for it.
Vince Vitale said "If God knows me perfectly and yet loves me perfectly, I haven’t found a tyrant; I have found someone whose love for me is unconditional."
Love your saying!! Thank you for the reminder that death is something that we brought on to ourselves. It’s something skeptics and myself tend to forget. If God had not offered a way out of death (Christ) this would be a whole other situation. We would say God isn’t fair! Thankfully, that is not the case!
Thank you all for your responses! As this is my first post to the page, I’m overwhelmed by the response and thankful to have this outlet to address objections with like-minded individuals. Each response gave me more insight on the pitfalls of the objection. I’m thankful for all of your time that you put into responding, and in turn, will be responding to the skeptic and his community who brought up the objection. God bless you all!
@SeanO @Sventje Thank you all for your responses! As this is my first post to the page, I’m overwhelmed by the response and thankful to have this outlet to address objections with like-minded individuals. Each response gave me more insight on the pitfalls of the objection. I’m thankful for all of your time that you put into responding, and in turn, will be responding to the skeptic and his community who brought up the objection. God bless you all!
@David_Cieszynski (Had to repeat this message since I’m a new user) Thank you all for your responses! As this is my first post to the page, I’m overwhelmed by the response and thankful to have this outlet to address objections with like-minded individuals. Each response gave me more insight on the pitfalls of the objection. I’m thankful for all of your time that you put into responding, and in turn, will be responding to the skeptic and his community who brought up the objection. God bless you all!
The idea of the common Christian belief that the unrepentant will suffer in some way for ever and ever being extortion has occurred to me, just like your skeptic friends. However, not all Christians believe that the unrepentant do suffer forever. Some hold to a belief called Annihilationism where after the resurrection of the dead and the Final Judgement described in Revelation, the unrepentant go to the second death, which means death, not eternal life in hell. In other words, they are annihilated.
This seems to me to be what God said in the Garden of Eden to Adam and it was Satan who said we would never die.
God is not a Mobster; He is CREATOR. So He gets to set the rules. We can try to follow those rules and depend on Jesus’ sacrifice when we fail, or we can opt out and be gone forever. Seems simple enough to me. We are, after all, only jars of clay, with the privilege of life for a time but eternal life is the
gift of God only to those who believe in His Only Begotten Son (John 3:16).
If your friends are skeptics who are open to reason, perhaps you and they could look into this controversial subject together. It is fascinating.
@KFriske, One more idea for your skeptic. If they are parents, as long as they are willing to be labeled a Mobster who extorts from their children; then its probably okay to conclude that GOD is a parent Mobster as well. We should all extort one another to greatness and love. Wouldn’t our World be a lovely Mobbed up place to live.