Following Instructions

read instructionsIf you spend any time on social media and the internet, then you have most likely encountered videos that go viral. I’m not big on clicking every single video that I see, but when more than one friend has it posted on their walls or shares a link to it, I will usually see if there’s something to the shared video.

Recently, I saw a video shared by a number of people of Stephen Fry during an interview. The outspoken actor has been a supporter of atheism and other liberal causes in the past. In this interview, the interview asked him how he would respond if, after he died, he found himself at the pearly gates confronted by the Creator God. What would he say if it turned out that all of his protestations against God had been wrong.

Fry went on to pointedly state that some of the egregious travesties in this world, sickness and disease, were reason enough for him to doubt God’s existence and, more so, to still want to deny God to his face simply for the sheer fact that God would allow such things. He said that he wouldn’t even want to be let into a heaven run by such a God if that was a picture of his character (you can watch the interview excerpt here).

I try to base my friendships on similarities and interests rather than sameness. I have friends who I love dearly with whom I don’t agree. We have chosen to agree to disagree and I appreciate the fact that I can still be challenged and questioned by them and we can still maintain our friendship despite those differences.

There are times when friends will post things that will attack my own personal ideology and it stings. I know that their intention isn’t to personally attack, so I can generally pass by all of those posts without much thought. When I saw this post of the interview by Fry, something rose up in me. I couldn’t simply let it sit there because it troubled me deep inside. I thought long and hard about what it was that was troubling me about Fry’s statements.

As I thought about it, I kept coming back to the idea of instructions, rules, and guidelines. I’m not a big rule follower. Sometimes I struggle with authority. When I buy something new, I don’t generally read the instructions. Having been well educated and having received multiple higher learning degrees, if things are too complicated for me to figure out on my own accord, I wonder if they are simply too complicated.

Regardless of my feelings and viewpoint on instructions, rules, and guidelines, it doesn’t change the fact that I have to obey them. If I refuse to obey them, there will always be consequences. Sometimes those consequences can be as innocuous as added time and effort in putting something together. Other times those consequences can result in a monetary loss of something more severe if I choose to disobey.

What would happen if I went out and bought myself a very expensive luxury automobile? What if I completely disregarded the instructions that were given to me by the manufacturer of that automobile, the creator, if you will? Depending on the extent of my disregard, the result could be catastrophic. If I refused to use regular gasoline and insisted on putting diesel gasoline into the tank instead, my engine would cease to function and I would need to spend a significant amount of money to fix the problem.

If after disregarding the instructions and paying the consequences to have it fixed I continued to disregard the instructions, should I be surprised when I encounter the same problems again? When the engine ceases to function because of my blatant disregard for the manufacturer’s instructions, should I get mad at that manufacturer for not giving me enough freedom to use their car the way that I want to use the car? Should I say that the manufacturer was unjust because of their inflexibility in the design of the automobile?

The more that I thought of it, the more that I kept thinking that Fry’s statements seemed to be on a parallel with someone who would yell at a manufacturer because their product didn’t work the way that the consumer wanted it to, regardless of whether or not the consumer disregarded the rules and tried to make the product fit their own selfish desires.

I believe that God created the world (I won’t get into how he did it or how long he took to do it for the sake of the length of this post). I believe that, like most good creators or inventors, God gave instructions to his creation on how it should be cared for and handled. I believe that God’s creation rebelled against the rules which they were given, resulting in catastrophic consequences which are still felt today.

Atheists like Fry rebel against the notion of a Creator God who would allow such travesties to take place in the world, but what of the rules, guidelines, and instructions given by the inventor? Do they rise up and rebel when they show the same blatant disregard for instructions given them by the manufacturers of their automobiles, their appliances, their amenities of life? Do they expect that there will be no consequences when rules, guidelines, and instructions are disregarded?

The question often asked is, “Why does a loving God not intervene in the midst of circumstances like this?” I believe that the answer is twofold. First of all, if the manufacturer had intervened multiple times when its creation had been disobedient, how many times would be enough for this kind of intervention? At the same time, Fry and others like him stake a claim to their own freedom to choose, to their freedom to do as they see fit. Wouldn’t intervention be contrary to this freedom that they so readily choose? If God intervened at every wrong choice and overlooked rule, would that not take away the freedom to choose? Would the freedom to choose not be lost if every free choice was reversed by God?

The second answer may render the first inconsequential. You see, God already has intervened through his son, Jesus Christ. Things couldn’t get back to the way in which they were initially created if left in the hands of creation, so God’s intervention had to provide a foolproof means by which this intervention should take place, but it still required a choice. For it to involve anything other than that would result in creation not really being given a choice but rather being created as robots with the inability to choose (for all of my Reformed friends, I am oversimplifying here for the sake of the argument and my readers).

If I am put into a situation with specific rules and guidelines and then refuse to obey those rules and guidelines, I can expect consequences. To rebel and call those consequences unfair and unjust because I didn’t choose them seems to be the epitome of selfishness and self-centeredness. Do I have the right to rail against the manufacturer because he didn’t make something the way that I think it should have been made, because it isn’t as convenient for me as I would like it to be, because there are consequences when I refuse to obey the guidelines laid out for me?

I am troubled that our rebellious nature as human beings has caused us to venture down a path on which rules become temporary and expendable, being governed by our feelings rather than our safety. With all of this talk of evolution and improvement of a species, I haven’t seen any evidence that our higher functioning has led to anything more than selfishness and self-centeredness with an occasional altruistic deed thrown in for good measure. I’ve also not seen any of us have the ability to take anything back to a manufacturer and ask for a refund because the product has stopped functioning after a blatant disregard for the rules given by that manufacturer. I would expect that most manufacturers would laugh at us if that was our claim. So, is it possible that God is laughing at us for coming to him with a similar claim?

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