Written by Dr. David Lamb
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 00:00
"Do you believe God is omni-benevolent?”
I was on the campus of Bucknell University speaking on my book (God Behaving Badly) at an event sponsored by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. This was the first question for the Q&A time. I had been informed beforehand that the Atheist and Agnostic club would be joining us.
I repeated the question back to the student, “Do you believe God is omni-benevolent?” She responded, “No, I don’t believe in God.” So, I guess we know where the atheists are sitting. They took up an entire row.
I said, “I believe God is good, but I’m not sure I understand what you are asking. What do you mean by ‘omni-benevolent’?”
I think she assumed I was just going to say, “Yes” and then she would spring her trap about a totally good God “creating” evil. I didn’t want to do that. My answer didn’t satisfy her, but I was trying a new tactic.
Jesus often responded to a question with a question, particularly when people were trying to trap him (Mark 2:7-8; 11:28-30; 12:23-26). When the religious leaders asked about paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17), he first asks, “Why do you put me to the test?” Then after they obtain a denarius he asks, “Whose likeness is this?” In response to their “Caesar’s”, he delivers one of the best lines in Scripture, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (I wish I were as clever as Jesus.)
The Bucknell Q&A session was extremely engaging and after 45 minutes, the atheists still wanted to keep talking. I had a great time talking to about 10 atheists over the course of the next hour before I had to leave. At the end, several atheists came up and thanked me and one even apologized for the intensity of his “colleagues.” While I know some of the atheists felt like my questions were evasive, I honestly wanted to listen to them before responding. Too often these types of discussions involve no genuine listening.
Even when Jesus’ disciples asked him a question, he replied with question (Mark 4:38-41; 6:37-38; 7:17-18; 8:4-5). I think we need to ask more questions.
How do you respond to questions?
David Lamb is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Biblical. He’s the husband of Shannon, father of Nathan and Noah, and the author of God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist? He blogs regularly at http://davidtlamb.com/. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/david-lamb.