Saturday, October 4, 2008

More Questions

These next questions are some of the most often asked and of the most divisive subjects brought up between Bible believing Christians and non believers. How can a Good God send people to hell? If God didn't create evil, where did it come from, and why does God allow it? Aren't people really inherently good? And, Why would a loving God allow for so much suffering? These are not easily answered, especially if one doesn't believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. There are some questions, such as these, that even when answered, they don't really help a person come to grips with such serious questions, and certainly doesn't help in comforting someone who is not a bible believing Christian.I don't know if I'll have enough space to get to all of these questions adequately in this one post- but I will try and go into as much as possible.Actually, most of these questions are connected to one another, so I may not completely be able to answer one without going to another.
First one- How can a good God send people to hell? Firstly, part of the answer here lies in the question does one believe in good and evil, and are thereconsequences to evil behavior? Now, this question assumes that God would send people to hell against their will. God would never do this. He desires every person to be saved from hell (which is a real place as we'll look at in a future time) Some people, as I mentioned in the last post, are willing to believe in anything except in God, even to the point of saying they can not believe in God. If these folks really believed or knew there was an actual place called hell- I think they would look a little closer at the Word of God. Perhaps though, you may be saying to yourself, OK, so if there really is a place called hell, I don't think I deserve to go there- I'm a good person and I help out every chance I get. Not only that, but even if one doesn't believe in God, it doesn't mean that person doesn't do good deeds. You're right. You don't have to be a Bible believing Christian to do good works. I've known many people with different beliefs who do wonderful things to help people. The point here is though, not whether we are good enough- it is where we deserve to go after his life. God, in the Old Testament laid out His law- rules for people to live by. Everyone knows the 10 Commandments. Well, basically, the first 5 commandments deal with God's law concerning worship and a relationship with Himself. The next 5 concern how to live our lives in society. Let's just focus on a couple of the last 5- even though each is important.Honor your Mother and Father. You shall not murder. You shall not steal. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not bear false witness (lie or slander). You shall not covet.Now, how many of these have you broken? I know I've broken each of the 10 more than I want to even think about. In these 5, I have dishonored my parents, even though I love them dearly. Every time I fibbed, every time I went against their "wishes", broke a rule, disobeyed- when I did any of these, I dishonored my parents.
You shall not steal. Ever taken anything that didn't belong to you? Even something small, say, an eraser from work? What about stolen time at work? Ever played around on the computer when you should have been working? Listen, I never really looked at this commandment this way a few years ago. I used to read at work when things were slow. When I realized that this was actually stealing from my boss, because they were paying me an hourly wage- I stopped reading at work, because when I was hired, my boss didn't hire me to amuse myself. Anything no matter how big- whether robbing a bank or taking an eraser or pen home from work is breaking this commandment.You shall not commit adultery. Have you ever looked at someone and fantasized what it would be like to have sex with that person? Have you ever looked at someone with lust? Listen, I know these seem kind of archaic in this day and age, but God has His rules, and He has His reasons for them. The point is here, to show how even just looking at someone with a "oh man, would I love to get into his/her pants!" type of thought is to God, considered adultery.
OK, how about the false witness thing? Now, I'm not just talking about swearing an oath to tell the truth (so help me who?) in a courtroom- nope. This is meaning every lie you've ever told. Every "white lie" "fib" and tale. Not to mention gossip. I know I've told more lies than I want to admit. and even as a Christian, I still find myself fibbing for something like trying not to hurt someone's feelings. Each time though, you have broken the 9th commandment.The last one, you shall not covet. Now, how many times have you looked at something someone else had, and thought "I just gotta have that, no matter what?!" A pair of shoes. A house, car, toy, pet, vacation or job. Some people may do things they normally wouldn't do to "beat" a colleague out of a promotion. Some may steal to get something someone else has that they want. This is a nation of covetness. How many times have you heard someone say something like "I deserve it?!" This is coveting- and I don't know anyone who hasn't had resentful feelings towards someone because they are able to do or have what you want.
Now, even if you have only broken 1 of the 10- you have still broken God's Law. Here's the good part though. We have a way, through what Jesus went through on the cross and His resurrection, to make things right with God. Belief in Christ is a reconciliation to God. Without a belief in Jesus as your Savior, you have not been able to be reconciled to God, and are still a law breaker. It is all a choice whether we decide to seek forgiveness or not. God gives us a choice concerning where we are going to spend eternity after this life. We are the ones who either separate ourselves from Him or seek to belong to Him. If you don't want Him in your life now, would you really want to spend eternity with Him? Now, God is a righteous judge, and He is Holy, which means He can not be in the presence of evil. He punishes sin, but He is also love. His love can not force people to love Him- we make the choice. God's love demands that ther be a place called hell so that those who want nothing to do with Him can be without Him.
OK- If God didn't create evil, where did it come from, and why does He allow it? In the Bible, when God created the earth, He claimed it to be very good. In the garden, there was no sin, no death, no evil and no pain. So what went wrong? What in the world happened? It goes to the very first people- Adam and Eve, and when they used their God given choice of free will. They chose to disobey God. When things go really really bad, even many people who don't believe in God will blame Him for the bad things. God is good though, and He created a good universe. It is sin- even that first sin that has made the world what it is. Since God is Holy and not the source of sin and suffering, where did it come from? Who tempted Adam and Eve to choose the first sin? The Bible tells us that sin came into God's creation through the free will of humans in response to temptation by Satan, who is a fallen angel. Evil wasn't created, but came about by corruption of something good- Satan was one of the most beautiful angels in heaven. (This is the really short story) he was referred to as the angel of light. He was in a high position- but he chose to follow his own plan- to become higher than God, to become like God only better. Ok, so if God didn't create it, and we know where it came from, why does He allow it to continue? This answer goes back to free will. God's goodness is not effected by our rebellion- which is what sin is. Evil continues to exist because of human refusal to accept His goodness. He is not responsible for evil. We are.
Look. These days so many of us, even a lot of Chrisitians don't really believe in the fall- that is, Adam and Eve's first sin. People look at this event as like a symbol, or a parable. The problem with this thinking, is that if the fall is only a moral story- a fable, then there was really no purpose for Jesus to die on the cross as a sacrifice. He didn't need to die and raise again.
Through an act of will- a choice, humans rejected God's way and introduced evil- through rebellion and sin into the world. It isn't that He can't stop evil, or that He doesn't want to stop it. It is that free choice again. As long as He, in His love allows us to act freely, we will be free to either love Him back by obedience, or to reject Him by disobedience. He could have created us to be obedient at all times, but we would then be incapable of love of making decisions , but we would be like perfect little robots to do His bidding. Free will is really the basis of all of our dignity. In closing to this question, just think- a free choice leaves the possibility of the wrong choice. If someone makes a mistake- no matter how big or small- there will always be ramifications from those mistakes. God does have a plan some day for removing evil from the world, and that time is coming soon. Until then, He has given us ways to resist evil through His Word.
Next question- aren't people inherently good? I hear often howpeople can't believe that people are born in sin. I know it's hard to look at a newborn baby and believe that little one is sinful. It seems like nonsense doesn't it? The truth is, we are all drawn towards evil- that is if we knew no one was looking and their were no consequences, we would choose to do something we knew we shouldn't. It's like cheating on a diet, stealing a kiss, eating a piece of candy in a grocery store without paying for it. Some people do bigger acts of evil, these small things don't even seem like they belong in the same category- but to the Righteous Judge who is Holy, evil is evil. No matter how big or small. In the last few decades, we have been taught that self esteem is important. To feel good about ourselves. Now there really isn't anything wrong with liking yourself, or feeling good about who you are, or being liked by others. But, when we focus so much on self, feeling good, wanting others to like us, we tend not to see ourselves as sinners. Most of us definitely don't want to see ourselves as capable of evil! Think about this though. About 30 to 50 years ago, the worst sinful things were considered to be things such as lust, laziness, pride, greed, anger, and envy. These days, lust is celebrated- if it feels good - do it. Laziness is prevalent in that we feel we are owed time off, we are owed time to be pampered and to "kick back". Pride is celebrated in ego. Back to that precious little newborn. I thought my son was the most precious baby who ever lived- I think most parents feel that way about their baby- until the terrible twos, the tantrum throwing threes. the fighting fives and so on. I noticed as my son has been growing up- that some things just come natural to all kids. They all demand their way, they all argue, they all want what they want when they want NOW, they all believe they are the center of the universe. Ask any parent, and they will tell you- they love their kids to pieces, they would defend them with their lives, but when Jr. is pitching a fit, he can be downright horrid! No matter how good kids are, they are human. Just like all of us. We grow up and learn a little more control and self denial, we learn how to consider others first, or at least as well as ourselves. But we still have the tendency to tell a little lie, sneak another piece of cake when no one's looking, take a second look at a pretty girl or hunky guy. While these things are not overtly evil- say, like a Hitler, they are, in God's eye- a sin, and sin is evil.
Now, this last question is a very sensitive one, one that I don't know if I can answer it well enough or in the space I have left here. Why is there so much suffering- and why would God allow so much if He is so good?I don't want to offend anyone here- that is never my intention, but if I happen to say something you don't understand, or that I say something and not understand how others have suffered, please don't think I'm trying to be preachy or talk about something I have no idea about. This is a touchy subject, because some people have lost loved ones at a young age, some lose children. I have not gone though these painful experiences, so I really can't relate. All I can do is find some common sense in what I've been taught. This major question of Why. Most of my answer is- I have no idea. I don't know why sometimes children die of illness, why good people die young, why children lose their parents. I don't know why. I don't know why I saw 3 children that I used to baby sit die in a fiery car crash one night. I mean, I know that they had been drinking, and the driver, one of 2 brothers in that car, tried to pass on a hill, and he never saw the car coming toward them until it was too late. As much as I loved these kids- they were good kids, and they had great parents, their actions- their choices that they made that night brought on tough consequences. Consequences that their friends, brothers and parents still have to go through. I don't know why my brother's girlfriend died 3 days before Christmas, but I know her and my brother's choices- were not smart choices, brought about her death. I don't know why my aunt and uncle were killed by a drunk driver one night- but I also don't know why my dad was spared when he was hit by a drunk driver on his way to work on a Monday MORNING. I don't know why I didn't drown when I got caught in a spring run off swelled river, and get swept away and smashed on rocks below, when a childhood friend- our pastor's son drowned when their canoe tipped during a camping trip. I just don't know.Many times we get angry when something bad happens. God doesn't blame us for getting angry when we don't understands, it is what we do with our anger that He cares about. Getting angry is a natural part of life. Sometimes people lash out at others in their anger, or let it seethe and eventually make the person bitter. This is unhealthy, and God wants to help us deal with it in more of a healthy way. Some people can get past the anger,even if they are still confused- they may be able to accept things as what they are. In these choices, many reach out to others who are going through the same tragedy to help them deal with their grief. Some start support groups, others seet up a trust fund to help others from having to go through the same things. There are different ways to handle grief, and there is a loving God who wants us to come to Him and let Him take our grief and use it for good- thereby relieving some of our own pain. It won't take it all away, but it will allow for healing to start. healing can't begin unless the wound is cleansed and bandaged. If it is allowed to stay open and raw, constantly irritating - that's when infection comes in and it will take more pain and time to heal. For some things, I do know that God allows for some suffering so we will learn from our own poor choices or downright bad behavior. When God mends us through suffering- it hurts. Just as it hurts when we need a bone re broken by a doctor so our bone will set and heal properly.When we tough a hot stove- it hurts. Pain can have an instructive effect in many ways. Much of the time, it is our own actions which produce suffering in our lives. Sometimes though, suffering is not directly caused by sin. The Bible tells the story of a man born blind. The disciples asked Jesus if this was caused by some sin by him or his parents. Jesus replied, "Niether.. this happened so the work of God might be displayed in his life." Jesus then does the work of God by healing the man. Not all of our disabilities are our fault through sin. Some times God will work through them though to produce something good. While it may be hard to see what good can come from some things- many times people we don't know will be effected in a miraculous way- like ripples on a pond.Sometimes, the pain of suffering is made a little easier to bear when you realize there is a bigger picture or meaning behind it. Many Bible believing Christians I know who have gone through such pain as losing a child are amazing in their strength. Ones that have gone through illnesses themselves show incredible strength. If asked how they can deal with loss or illness such as they do, they will say it is because of their faith in Christ that allows them to hang in, that it is His strength that gets them through. They know there is a bigger picture somehow, and if even they can't see it at the time, they know something good will come of it. Many times they show Christ in the way they handle things. God knows what suffering is. Jesus suffered humiliation, ridicule, mockery and rejection- even before He was sentenced to die.Listen, God knows what it is like to see His only Son die a horrible death- knowing that He was sinless as a man. He knows what we are suffering and wants us to come to Him through it- He comforts and strengthens. He knows what He is doing, even if we don't. He took the worst through the death of His son though painful and humility of crucifixion and turned it into good by defeating Satan, and sin, and allowing for all of us to be redeemed through Him.
The Bible gives us an eternal perspective of things. We may never know in this life why some thingshappen, and why other things don't happen when we think they should- but this does not mean that God doesn't care or is not wanting good things for us. It's just that His good things are things we don't want to accept. He cares. He knows. He loves you and me. He's waiting for us to come freely to Him so He can tell us things are going to be OK.
Until next time, think about these things. Have you ever sinned? If you have done something that the Bible calls sin, what can be done to make things right- something by you or something already done? Do you believe that evil exists? If you believe it does, how do you know? Were you ever chastised or disciplined as a child? Did you feel loved because your parent disciplined you to where you knew they cared enough to show you right from wrong, or that they did it to protect you from harm? If your parents loved you enough to correct you, could you believe that God, who created you can love you so much more, and correct you from time to time? Can you understand how God knows what it is like to feel pain, sadness, rejection, humiliation, and the sting of death? How can you relate to some of the things that Jesus went through in His life on earth? (This last one will require you to read the
Gospel accounts of His life, teaching, ministry and death)

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