While I wont repeat what I said in Part 1, the comments to that post have left me thinking that some readers still dont understand what Im saying and not saying and so are missing the point of the question. So, by way of review
What Im Not Saying and Not Asking
Im not saying that an unbeliever can do things to please God so that the result is salvation. Im not suggesting an unbeliever can merit saving grace (which is oxymoronic). Im therefore not asking the question of whether an unbeliever can do something that results in their no longer being under wrath or under less wrath.
Consequently, verses that are clearly in the context of coming to God in a faith sense (like Hebrews 11:6) have nothing to do with either my question or the question. That verse (and others like them) cannot therefore be a rebuttal to my contention that unbelievers can please God.
What Im Saying
What Im saying is not complicated, though I can (again) tell from comments that readers are over-thinking it. Im asking whether an unbeliever can do *anything* in life that makes God glad, or happy, or pleased. Does God ever look at something an unbeliever does and take pleasure in it? Or is it the case, as the theologians I quoted in Part 1 insist, that no matter what an unbeliever does, God takes no pleasure in it at all. I simply dont believe that, and I think there are scriptural examples that support my viewand therefore deny the other (more common in evangelical circles) view.
Sketching My Argument
So how would I argue that unbelievers can do things in which God takes pleasure? Ill start with what I think is clear case of my position.
When God came to the unbelieving Abimelech, the king of Gerar (we have no reason to view him as a believer), and told him not to touch Sarah, the wife of Abraham, consider what God says in Genesis 20:
3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a mans wife. 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, She is my sister? And she herself said, He is my brother. In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this. 6 Then God said to him in the dream, Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the mans wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.
Notice that God gives Abimelech credit for integrity. He doesnt say, Sure, buddy, or (more to my point), I know Abimelech, but dont expect me to be pleased by true integrity when it comes from a pagan. The comment by God makes it clear that, had Abimelech known Sarah was the wife of another man, he would never have procured her–since that would be wrong. His decision was based on personal, true integrity, and God acknowledges that. So are we to conclude God wasnt pleased by it? I dont believe that.
Other things I wonder about in this regard in include the following (some random selections):
1. In 1 Cor 7:12 Paul mentions the issue of a believer married to an unbeliever, then notes that if the unbeliever consents to remain married to the believer (as opposed to desertion or divorce) then the believer should not divorce the unbeliever. Are we to conclude that God was displeased when the unbeliever decided to preserve the marriage?
2. Eccl 7:26 says: And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her. Do only believers resist sexual temptation? Hardly. I have to assume that this verse is broad; that it’s axiomatic anyone who resists violating their marriage pleases God when they do so.
3. Cyrus the Persian In Isa 45:1-13 it is clear that Cyrus not a believer (God says more than once that Cyrus doesnt know Him) and yet he is Gods anointed servant. When Cyrus carried out Gods will, was God displeased? I dont think so. If we reject the idea that all Cyrus did was predestinedthat he could not resist doing Gods willthen how is it that believers can resist the Spirit (Eph 4:30; 1 Thess 5:19)? Id think that unbelievers could do that if believers can, and so I have to conclude Cyrus could have done some things that would have irritated God while conquering Babylon and letting the Jews return. Had Cyrus changed his mind or not issued the decree to let the Jews return, God would have been angry. So how is it that God wasnt pleased when Cyrus let them go? Just wondering.
4. How does it make any sense that, if the unbeliever has the law of God written on the heart, and has a God-given conscience to go with that law, that when the unbeliever obeys the conscience and the law of God written on the heart, God isn’t happy? I need an explanation of how that’s at all coherent–excluding the issue of earning saving grace.
5. How about utterly innocuous acts, done with no thought of attention, personal glory, or personal interestin fact, good things done with literally no thought at all in many cases. By way of some examples (Im using atheists in the examples, since they wouldnt be doing things to earn brownie points with Godthey dont believe God is real):
- An atheist is in a store and accidentally knocks an item off the shelf. Its a stuffed animal, so it isnt broken. She picks it up and puts it back. Is God angry with her? If she did the right thing, is God glad? Did she not do the right thing?
- An atheist is taking a walk in the park. He spies a homeless woman. Its just the two of them. Moved with pity, he reaches into his pocket and gives her the spare change. Its all he has since he uses plastic 99% of the time. No one notices, he just does something nice. Is God angry with him? Did he do the wrong thing?
- An atheist/unbeliever gets angry when he overhears that a Christian he knows tell someone else that he knowingly cheated on his taxes. The atheist believes in being honest. Is God angry with the atheists feelings and his standard? Does it make sense that God would be angry with the unbeliever who honors His law when the believer did not?
- An atheist provides for her pet because she believes we ought to be kind to animals and not abuse them. Is God angry with her for doing that and thinking that? Is God glad she takes care of her pet? (You cant say God doesnt care here, since that would mean God would not be angry with her even if she abused her pet).
I could go on and on with examples. More theologically, I have a problem with the general idea offered by the theologians I quoted who try to assert God is still angry no matter what an unbeliever does because the unbeliever will always do a right thing with an imperfect motive. That is, there will be something about how they do it or why they do it that isnt perfectly righteous in Gods eyes. Honestly, how many of us believers would be comfortable standing before God and telling him eye-to-eye that we obeyed him perfectly? Seriously–how can any human do anything perfectly in Gods judgment? Its a dumb argument.
I think this whole issue and the position Im shooting at is either an over-reading of the biblical idea of the lost-ness of humanity, or a careless reading of it. For me, its a good example of theologizing that doesnt conform to careful thinking.