I was struck by this quote from Heather Mac Donald:
The only touchstone that I can possibly imagine for deciding whether or not to adopt any particular belief is its truth, in this case: Does the evidence of human experience support the claim that we are attended to by a loving, personal God?
It reminded me of something I read in another atheist, Peter Medawar:
I do not believe- as much as I would like to do so- that God watches over the welfare of small children in the way that children need looking after (that is, as fond parents do, and pediatricians and good schoolteachers) I do not believe God does is because there is no reason to believe it.
I very much like the honesty shown in both quotations, but both ways they are conceiving the love of God are ridiculous, and and both ideas show what happens when a claim is cut off from its context.
Let’s face it, the claim that God is a loving father to the whole world is a Christian claim. Both authors above are therefore critiquing a Christian claim, but they sever it from its Christian basis and tie it to an interpretation that is downright silly. The Christian argument for the divine love is well known. Finish the following sentences: “God so loved the world that _____” or “Greater love hath no man than that ____” If you are Heather Mac Donald, you fill in the blank with “he attends on us”, if you are Medawar, you fill it in with “he looks after small children as a doting schoolteacher”. Having written in an obviously ridiculous answer they then- quite reasonably- call the answer ridiculous, and then (of course) see no evidence for it.
The Christian claim for the fatherly love of God is based on faith. If it is by faith that we hold that God became man, then it is by faith that we hold that God became man to die out of love for us, in order that we might saved. Mac Donald and Medawar look around and say “where’s the loving God?” A Christian can only shrug “did you think we were kidding when we talked about the need for faith? Believe now, and you’ll understand more later.”
To be fair, Mac Donald and Medawar are probably mocking a corrupt and flabby Christianity that has ceased to believe, and is sleepwalking through claims about divine love, mumbling reasons it can no longer remember. It seems like a merely academic thing to deny the divinity of Christ, but little do we realize that we destroy the Christian claim about divine love by doing so.
We can come to understand something about the love of God from natural theology too, but in this science we can only understand man as a subordinate being, a sort of happy and willing minister to the divine purpose. We would love God as Lord, but not as Abba. But it is perhaps pointless to bring this up. It was not natural theology that brought the claim of a loving, fatherly God to all nations.