This blog begins chapter seven of the book in process, Conversations About God. It originated as a series of lectures by Graham Maxwell in 1984. After each lecture Maxwell took written questions from the audience mediated through the pastor of the Loma Linda University Church at the time, Lou Venden. This marvelous series has never been put into book form, so I am attempting to do so and sharing the results in progress here with permission from the Maxwell family. The words that follow are Maxwell’s oral presentation, edited by me.
“The Question of Authority” is really just another way of restating the central issue in the great controversy. There was a crisis of distrust that divided God’s family and started the war in heaven back in eternity (described in Revelation 12). That crisis of distrust is really a conflict over authority.
That conflict is not over who has the greater power, God or the adversary. Satan has never accused God of lacking physical power. In fact, the book of James says that whenever Satan thinks of the power of the One who created the whole vast universe, he trembles with fear (Jam 2:19). And he knows he has but a short time (Rev 12:12). Satan has not accused God of being weak, he has accused Him of the abuse of divine power and of a failure to tell the truth. Specifically, as we have reviewed several times, God has been accused of being arbitrary in His use of power, of being exacting and vengeful, unforgiving, and severe. If those charges were true, then surely it would not be safe to trust in God. Who would want to spend eternity with such a Deity?
And yet one third of the brilliant angels, intelligent as they are, have agreed that Satan is right. They agree that God has indeed abused His power and is not worthy of their trust—or ours. For thousands of years they have worked to convince us of the rightness of their charges. Just as God in many and various ways has sought to demonstrate that He is not the kind of Person His enemies have made Him out to be, so Satan in many and various ways has sought to twist and pervert the truth in support of his cause. Most diabolically, I believe, Satan has used the teachings of religion and even twisted the teachings of Christianity to support his case. He has even perverted the meaning of the cross in support of his accusation that God demands our obedience under threat of painful execution.
“Love Me or I’ll kill you,” is his most Satanic perversion of God’s warning in the beginning: “Children, I don’t want you to die. If you go your own rebellious, disorderly way, you will die.” The real truth and meaning of those words is the subject of our next chapter. But consider the extensive damage caused by Satan’s devilish caricature of God’s words in the Garden of Eden. If God has really said, “Love Me or I’ll torture you for eternity in sulfurous flames,” how could there be any real love? How could there be any real trust? I wonder how many millions have been turned against God by that perversion of the truth. Or worse, I wonder how many people have found it possible to accept that picture of God and still try to serve Him. They offer Him the obedience that springs from fear, and then suffer the destructive consequences of forced submission.
The good news, of course, is that God is not the kind of Person His enemies have made Him out to be. The whole Bible presents a refutation of these charges. It is not a refutation that is based on mere claims, but rather on the evidence of demonstration. The whole Bible records a demonstration of God’s way of exercising authority and power. I think that is very good news that leads us to repentance and to trust. This understanding of the way God runs His universe will hold the universe secure and free and at peace for the rest of eternity.