Does God owe us anything?

It is a regular Calvinist suggestion, when questioned about the harder issues of life, that 'God owes us nothing'. I presume that the statement is either meant to stop us on our tracks or to shame us into becoming silent followers of a doctrine that presents God as a vulnerable and careless creator (rather than the sovereign and benevolent deity that they try to offer).

I think, however, that such statements are far from rooted in the teachings of Jesus even though Calvinists are at pains to display their 'biblical' credentials.

Perhaps the greatest, and most consistent, teachings of Christ about God is the idea of fatherhood. Leslie Newbigin highlights this when he shows that the use of the aramaic term 'Abba' in the predominately Greek New Testament shows a care for the actual words of Jesus in showing an intimacy within the creator/creature relationship.

Every parent has a responsibility for their child that must include the space for 'why' questions. This alone demands that the parent owes the child both a duty of care and a responsive attitude to the pleadings of their offspring. The alternative would suggest that the parent is lacking in both responsibility and love.

So it must be with God; the creator, or parent, owes the created, or child a loving response that must be open to question. In this space questions of 'why' become sacred rather than sinful.


Peter Kirk said...

Thanks for this. My first reaction was to answer "No" to your question. But then I realised that you are right. Compare Matthew 7:9-11: if an earthly father has responsibility for his children, how much more does our Heavenly Father have a duty of care for his children!

It is not of course a duty imposed on him from outside, but it is one which he had voluntarily taken upon himself when he adopted us as his sons. And a duty which one takes on oneself is still a duty.

Alex Smith said...

Have you read the interesting article on this question by James Gould? I do think parents have a duty of care for their children, and I think God deliberately chose to be called The Father (& not just because He created us but because He loves us even more than we love our own children).

However, I think problems arise when people use it to justify themselves (e.g. "I'm an alright person - I can do whatever I like, God will just accept/save me as He owes it to me cos I'm not as bad as Hitler!"). I think that undermines the fact that God is also extremely gracious. Hope that makes sense?

(Btw I don't think asking questions is sinful)

Anyway, I came to this blog as I just listened to the interesting radio debate you had regarding PSA. Twice I've tried to email you about it but it keeps bouncing?? I'd be interested to know if you written or spoken about it elsewhere, as it's an area I'm very unsure about (e.g. I can see significant points for & against it, but don't know how to move forward)