Think for a minute about how much more powerful than you God must be. As we saw in chapter two, God created at least three septillion one-trillion-megaton-bombs-per-second-energy-producing-exploding-nuclear-spheres with just a word.
My personal ability to generate energy is not nearly as impressive. I have a rowing machine that measures the watts of electricity I produce during an exercise session. I’m not sure what the purpose of that function is other than to humiliate me. Tracking total meters rowed, total calories burned—that makes sense. But do people seriously care about their wattage output? As I was thinking about this book, I got the brilliant idea to see how many output watts I could generate giving it everything I had for a two-minute stretch. The result: 320 watts. At least that’s what they told me when they revived me. Impressive? That’s enough to power five household lightbulbs for about the same amount of time it took you to read the previous page.
Three septillion one-trillion-megaton-bombs-per-second-energy-producing-exploding-nuclear-spheres vs. five energy-efficient lightbulbs for two minutes. And not only did he create all that power, he holds together the universe that contains those stars. I can barely lift the corner of my mattress over my head, and only if I wear a back brace and relax for the rest of the day.
To state the obvious: God’s power is immeasurably greater than mine. It doesn’t even make sense to compare us. So if the measure of God’s wisdom is as high above mine as his power is above mine, am I really in a place to evaluate it? Would that make any more sense than challenging God to an arm wrestling match? Do I have the perspective required to blow a whistle and call “foul” on God?
Approaching a God of such size and wisdom demands an extraordinary degree of humility, to say the least. Perhaps we should not assume that just because we cannot think of a good reason that something bad has happened means that there cannot be a good reason.
Philosopher Alvin Plantinga illustrates it like this: If you are asked if there is a camel in your tent, you can determine the answer fairly quickly by glancing inside. If you don’t see a camel in your tent, there’s not one in there. But if I ask you if there is a no-see-um in your tent (for those of you who are from the city, no-see-ums are insects whose bite is tremendously irritating but are so small that you, well, can’t “see ‘em”), and you peek inside and conclude that because you don’t see any that there are none, that would be foolish. You might wake up the next morning with quite a few itchy bumps to the contrary.
In a similar way, when we say, “I can’t believe in God because there is so much purposeless evil in the world,” we assume that we could immediately perceive whatever purpose is out there. But do we have the perspective and wisdom to declare the absence of any purpose just because we can’t see one? Isn’t it possible that God might have purposes we can’t see yet?
Jacques-Marie-Louis Monsabré, rector of the cathedral in Notre Dame, observed, “If God conceded me his omnipotence for twenty-four hours, I would make many changes in the world. But I know that if he gave me his wisdom, too, I would leave things as they are.”3
It’s ridiculous when you think about it: We imagine a God of omnipotent power but with a brain no bigger than ours—a God with huge, universe-moving muscles and a little itty-bitty, teeny-tiny head.
Solomon sums up our condition rather candidly in the book of Ecclesiastes:
No one can comprehend [God’s work] under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it (Eccl 8:17).
“No one” is a big category. It includes you and me.
Greear, J. D., and David Jeremiah. 2018. Not God Enough: Why Your Small God Leads to Big Problems. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
We have just released a new Bible Study based on J.D. Greear’s newest book, Not God Enough. These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.