I used to be a teenager and, although it was a long time ago, I still remember some of the questions about the Bible that troubled me back then. Young people ask a lot of questions that their elders are embarrassed to ask and that somehow never get answered. Faith survives, sometimes, but it often gets badly bruised along the way. I remember as a teenager wondering about some of the stuff I heard from the pulpit and in Sunday school.
For example: Why would God give man a set of laws he cannot possibly observe, and then punish him for not observing them. Yes, I know,
by grace are you saved, but if you think about it long enough you will realize that doesn’t answer the question. Even my parents didn’t punish me for not doing something I couldn’t do. If they gave me a rule and I broke it, at least it was a rule I could have kept if I tried. And the punishment fit the crime. They weren’t cruel to me. The worst I ever got was a few swats on the behind. I survived.
But my question about God remained: Why would God give man a set of laws he cannot possibly observe, and then punish him for not observing them? I don’t remember when the answer occurred to me, but I came to realize that my question made an assumption. The assumption was that the law was arbitrary. That is to say that the law depended on the individual discretion of the judge; in this case, God.
There were, in fact, two assumptions. One, that the law was arbitrary and could have been otherwise. (That follows naturally from the assumption that the law could have been set aside). Two, that the enforcement of the law depends on a sovereign act of God. In other words, God can let me off or punish me. If he doesn’t, then I got away with it. But what if my assumptions were wrong? If they are, then there are two conclusions that might follow…