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God on Trial?

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

In his essay “God in the Dock,” the place where the defendant sits in the courtroom provides C.S. Lewis with the image for his title. To be “in the dock” is to be on trial. Is God on trial? He observes:

The ancient man approached God as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and assume God is in the Dock.” God on Trial: Assessment

You probably noticed that Lewis capitalizes “Man” and “Bench.” In that sense perhaps he contradicts himself somewhat. Ancient man certainly didn’t escape the problem. People have sought to take God’s place since Adam and Eve. Part of the problem for the ancient Israelites in Exodus 17, for example, is that they are trying the Judge.

Nevertheless we understand Lewis’ point: it’s part of the spirit of our age that we feel completely justified in putting God on trial. We have no compunction against it. In the wake of the Cartesian revolution we place ourselves at the center of the universe. Indeed, we think of “self” as the center. From that vantage point we fail to see how crazy it is to think we could place God on trial.

What do you think? Is Lewis’ assessment true? Is it as true today as it was when he wrote? In what ways do we ascend the Bench and assume God is in the dock?

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