Can Man Do Better Than God?
The world is obsessed with this question. Not that it necessarily even thinks that there is a God at all, but if there is, it thinks, surely man can do a better job of things than God has done. That is the attitude behind much of what is seen in the world. This article takes a look at the various ways and areas of life in which this attitude shows itself in the world, and how Christians should respond to the world’s efforts to elevate man above God.
Now, believers in the God of the Bible may wonder that the question is even asked at all. Is it not incredibly obvious that the infinite God knows more than finite, limited man, and therefore knows how best to govern the world which he himself created? Did not God himself throw that challenge out to Job when Job questioned God’s power and wisdom (Job 38:1-3; Job 40:1-2)? He did. But remember, proud, arrogant men of this secular world either do not believe that there is such a God or else conceive of him as too weak to control what he supposedly created and that man can do a better job, if only God would get out of the way and let man take over the job of controlling his own world and destiny.
“The kings of the earth form a united front; the rulers collaborate against the Lord and his anointed king. They say, ‘Let’s tear off the shackles they’ve put on us! Let’s free ourselves from their ropes!'” (Ps. 2:2-3 NET).
Even to pose the question shows a total lack of understanding of who God is and who man is. But, then, the world is full of people who have such a dismal understanding of reality, as revealed to us by God himself to us through the means which he has chosen: through the Son (Mt. 11:27, Jn. 4:25, Jn. 16:12 ) and the Spirit (Jn. 16:13-14) and the Word (Heb. 4:12) and other means as well, such as nature (Rom. 1:20, Ps 8:3-4) and conscience (Rom. 2:14-15). This being so, we must take this lack of perception into account in our witness to the world of the truth revealed in these ways by God to the world. Therefore, we understand how it can be that many ask this question.
And many do, especially now, in this modern, technological age, where the pace has rapidly quickened in terms of what man can do to alter the way God has put together his creation. God created and founded the physical universe upon atoms of matter; man has learned how to break up those basic building blocks by nuclear fission and now threatens to destroy what God has created. God created man to be joined to a woman in marriage; man now questions that restriction (Rom. 1:26-28, Mk. 10:6-9).
There is no area where man has not sought to go beyond the restrictions which God has placed upon him. Even the very stars of heaven are not beyond man’s desire to conquer, though that is not God’s designated habitation for man.
“The heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to mankind” (Ps. 115:16 NET).
We must recognize, then, that multitudes truly believe that God did not do such a great job at creating the world and that man can do better. In fact, more and more believe that it is man’s destiny to improve himself and his world. He is to take charge of his own destiny and to use technology and other means to become something higher than the human being he now is. He is to become transhuman, a god.
But such an attitude and concept is at odds with reality. The reality is that there is one God, who is almighty and all-knowing, and who created this world exactly as he wished it to be and as it must be for human beings to exist in that world and to continue to exist in that world.
“For this is what the Lord says–he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited–he says: I am the Lord, and there is no other'” (Is. 45:19 NIV).
In this one passage is succinctly stated the reality that is opposed by these dreamers of men: that this earth and universe is as it is because it must be that way to provide a livable place for human beings, and that there is no other god than the Lord God Almighty. Therefore, those who brazenly seek to change this divine plan are actually seeking their own destruction. They are pitting themselves against reality and the God of that reality, as well as fighting against their own divinely ordained essence as human beings.
“Whatever exists has already been named, and what man is has been known; no man can contend with one who is stronger than he” (Ecc. 6:10 NIV).
Yet those in opposition to the natural order of things say that it is not yet known what man is or can become and that they can indeed contend with one who is stronger than they are, meaning, if not God, at least the current state of things of reality. That is, they believe that they can–and should–change who man is and how reality is composed.
But this is to be against both nature and God. Is it any wonder that human beings today feel so wounded in spirit and torn apart, that there is such a sense of not fitting in? Man is tearing himself apart, doing battle with himself, hurting himself. For he was created to love and serve God, the true Creator, and any substitution in this fundamental reality inevitably causes a rift, a tear, in man’s being and reality. He will be less real.
This rift began way back in the Garden of Eden, when the first man, Adam, chose to repudiate who he was as created by God and chose instead to determine his own way.
“God made mankind upright, but men have gone in search of many schemes” (Ecc. 7:29 NIV).
One of the many schemes which rebellious man follows today is that of changing the very nature of what it means to be human. The ability of modern technology to alter the human genome emboldens those who likewise reject God’s original plan for man and what it means to be human, and desire to create their own definition of what it means to be human. They are attempting to straighten out what they view as a disjointed and crooked reality imposed upon them by God. They should pay attention to what Scripture says about such misguided efforts:
“Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” (Ecc. 7:13 NIV).
To fight against God and reality is the heighth of folly. Reality is too big, too great and powerful, too profound, for man to alter to his own liking. In the clash between man and reality, it is reality who will win, for God is the ultimate reality.
“It was known long ago what each man would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny” (Ecc. 6:10 TLB).
Yet argue he does, the man who desires to make himself over into something he considers to be transhuman or superhuman, but is in reality less human. All this talk about using science and technology to transform man into something he is not and was never meant to be, excites the mind of those disposed to be their own gods, thinking that the brilliant schemes of their minds to change the human being hold out the promise of paradise on earth. But Scripture says to them:
“It is pleasant to listen to wise words, but a fool’s speech brings him to ruin. Since he begins with a foolish premise, his conclusion is sheer madness” (Ecc. 10:12-13 TLB).
The foolish premise of this mindset is that man should determine his own future, not God. And as Scripture says, the concluding result of following such foolishness is sheer madness. It would result in the end of man, not his becoming something greater than man. We have yet to see the horrible catastrophe that will result from the mixing of the human genome, for instance, with that of animals, and all other kinds of disdain for God’s natural order of things.
“But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another” (1 Cor. 15:38-39 NIV).
But science, technology, and gene manipulation is just one example where man thinks he can do better than God. There are many other areas where the same attitude is seen; none escape this rebellious attitude, because fallen man is by his sinful nature at odds with all that God does.
This is an extremely important area because it is widely recognized that indoctrination into a worldview is much easier among children than adults. Therefore, the elevation of science as the determiner of what is true or false is promoted in this world and its schools. The theory of evolution is taught as the true story of man’s origin, and using science to alter who man is is taught as the intellectually viable way to mold his future as he continues to evolve, but now being guided not solely by mechanistic evolution but by the use of man’s own reasoning ability.
The Christian, however, stands firm on looking to God’s Word for revealing to him what is true and false and for molding his being into what God has created him to be. Rather than being taught by fallible man and his ever-changing concept of who and what man should be, the believer continues steadfastly to remain true to that which is true for ever and unchanging in its commitment to man’s good, now and future. Let the rest be taught by limited man if they so desire; the believer in the Word of God will cling to that which he knows to be true.
“It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me” (Jn. 6:45 NIV).
Because believers refuse to accept this new, godless view of man’s being and future, they naturally pose a huge problem and obstacle to the nation that would seek to “advance” man to his new destiny. Something must be done to remove those who refuse to submit. The answer often chosen by such nations and their leaders is force. Therefore the military is always a major player in this modern drama. This solution is not limited solely to these last days, however. Even God’s own people of long ago desired the supposed security of an earthly king and military to protect them from their enemies (1 Sam. 8:20).
In response to the people’s desire to have an earthly king to rule over them, the Lord said, “They have rejected me as their king” (1 Sam. 8:7 NIV).
The world today has rejected the Lord as their king. They desire a different kind of king, just as they desire humans to become a different kind of being. They want neither God nor man to be as they are, but a new order in which God becomes less and man more, even a god himself. But the believer in God stands firm in opposition to this, for he knows that government of human beings belongs to the One who created them, the Son of God (Jn. 1:3, Col. 1:16).
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulder” (Is. 9:6 NIV).
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. For the customs of the peoples are worthless'” (Jer. 10:2 NIV).
The worthless customs of the peoples of this world are endless, from the offerings made to false religious deities, to the parades of decadence in large cities, to total self-absorption of drug addiction or video games or television and films and the pursuit of money and career–the list is as large and varied as the number of people in the world, and each country and nationality has its own brand of cultural activities that run counter to how God would have us run our lives.
In this cultural arena, one aspect stands out for its glaring notoriety, the giant cities of this world. This fact was brought home to me unexpectedly one night as I was watching a news report and the camera in an airplane above the city panned out over the large city below, showing in dramatic fashion the huge expanse of the city of millions of people, all the impressive skyscrapers jutting up into the nightime sky, with their many windows lit up by manmade lighting. As I watched the scene unfold before me, I could see why so many people are drawn to live in the big cities, beyond, often, the need to find employment. They are exciting and active places to live.
But almost immediately, I sensed the Holy Spirit showing me the spirit that often underlies these cities, a spirit of pride in what man can do. Is not the existence of such a huge city proof enough that man can make impressive structures and living places? A portion of Scripture then quickly came to my mind as well.
“As the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, ‘Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?'” (Dan. 4:29-30 NIV).
Those prideful words of long ago echo down through the ages to our present day, when nothing has changed. Proud man still exalts in himself and what he can make and do. In fact, he is so impressed with himself that he thinks he can do a better job than God at running this world. He would do well to read and remember some other words of long ago, spoken by One much mightier, regarding all who vaunt themselves up:
“You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He did not make me’? Can the pot say of the potter, ‘He knows nothing'”? (Is. 29:16 NIV).
“Shall the axe vaunt itself over him who hews with it, or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it? As if a rod should wield him who lifts it, or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood! (Is. 10:15 RSV).
“One who argues with his creator is in grave danger, one who is like a mere shard among the other shards on the ground! The clay should not say to the potter, ‘What in the world are you doing? Your work lacks skill!'” (Is. 45:9 NET).
This present world is very much arguing with its Creator as to who is more qualified to run it. It is, therefore, in grave danger: the danger of the grave, that is. Already we can see the judgment of the Lord coming down upon this world for this blatant and proud arrogance against the Lord. Disasters in nature are increasing in frequency and intensity. This will continue. Also increasing are disasters in manmade environments, such as cities and vehicles of transportation and other manmade contrivances. This too shall continue. Expect more and more conflict among nations and peoples and even among peoples of the same nation, as in the Ukraine and elsewhere. We were warned long ago that this would be.
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Mt. 24:7-8 NIV).
We are even now witnessing these beginning birth pains in our world. Do not be surprised and do not be alarmed. This is not the end. But it is the beginning of the end, the birth pains of the end. Even so, what should our response be, as believers in Jesus Christ? It is to continue to be who we are, those who do not follow the world in its mad quest to lift themselves above the divinely ordained status of human beings, but to be who are, content to bow down low before the King of kings, Jesus Christ, and serve him in humility and reverence.
“Evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of” (2 Tim. 3:13-14 NIV).
And just what is it that we who believe in Jesus are convinced of, as the world goes off on its downward path to destruction towards the end, and as believers in Christ suffer also, both from natural calamities and the persecution of non-believers? We are convinced of this:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39 NIV).
The proud, unbelieving world may ask, “Can man do better than God?” and reply arrogantly, “Yes!”, giving themselves the glory.
But those who bow down low to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Master reply, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory” (Ps. 115:1 NIV).
Even so, Lord, let it be. For we who belong to you not only do not think that we can do better than you; we claim your words that we can do nothing at all apart from you (Jn. 15:5). And so we say with Scripture:
“All that we have accomplished you have done for us” (Is. 26:12 NIV).
And we are “beyond measure astonished, saying, ‘He hath done all things well'” (Mk. 7:37 KJV).