Poems and assassinations

Reading Time: 5 minutes

God wants everyone to worship and follow him and, if they don’t, they burn in hell for all eternity. What does this type of attitude say about his character? By definition, he would be described as a tyrant.

My wife told me my titles, 43 Questions Christian’s can’t answer, 42 Questions Christian’s can’t answer, 41 Questions… are boring.  So I changed it. This question deals with unbelief, choices and consequences, authority, and love and it is the 10th one on the list of 50.

If we were to define God as an all powerful, all knowing, creator of the universe, and final source of moral authority, why would we not choose to follow and worship him? Why would anyone even begin to question a being who is the cause of their own existence, creator of the universe and time itself? The problem is, those who ask this question do not believe God is all those things. If they believe in God at all, it would be a lower case ‘g’ god.

The god they consider might be a powerful being, maybe, but more likely in their view, we are all just chance, as if chance has creative power. Chance requires elements to be put in place for us to look at the odds of an event taking place.

No doubt if we were to look at a human who demanded we worship and follow him or we would be tortured and killed, he would be defined as a tyrant. Some names in history come to mind, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Mussolini, and Bin Laden, but we are not talking about dictators. We are talking about a holy, perfect, just, and righteous God.

I know some exclaim, “What kind of choice is that? Fall on my knees and worship God, or burn forever.” If you give it a moment’s thought, you would realize that life is full of choices with consequences. For example, if we pay our taxes, we are allowed to continue in our daily routine. If we don’t pay our taxes we are fined. If we continue not paying our taxes, we then enjoy free room and board, free health care, and the company of others who have biceps the size of small watermelons.

After choices and consequences, this kind of question deals in part with the issue of authority. Imagine that a young man punches someone at school. We have rules and laws against that kind of behavior in school. Depending on the situation, the young man might find himself in the principal’s office, or expelled from school. What if the same young man decided to punch a police officer? No doubt, he would at least find himself in jail for his actions. Finally, what if this same fellow punched the President of the United States? The consequence would be serious indeed. If you just threaten the President, it falls under a ‘Class D’ federal offense, with 5 to 10 years in prison and a possible $250,000 fine.

In fact, in 2010, Johnny Logan Spencer was sentenced to 33 months in jail for posting a poem about assassinating the president.  He did not lay a hand on the president and he is in jail for nearly 3 years. 1 Why is that?

It should be obvious that consequences become more serious depending on the authority of the figure. We understand that and don’t question it, unless it involves God. For some reason, when God demands a consequence commensurate to His position, atheists cry foul and label Him as a tyrant. He is an all loving, all knowing, all powerful, eternal being, who demands justice. In fact, I am not sure stating He demands justice is accurate; some might say His character requires it. He can do no other.

Finally, there’s a mindset that an all loving God could not send someone to hell for eternity. Holding people accountable is not a popular mindset in today’s culture. Ziggy Marley, son of Bob Marley, wrote a song, “Love Is My Religion”. The lyrics read:

I don’t condemn, I don’t convert.
Yeah, this is a calling, have you heard?
Bring all the lovers to the fort
Cause no one is gonna lose their soul.

No one is gonna lose their soul? Why? Because an all loving God could not possibly send someone to hell for eternity, and we have a generation of people banking on that misguided understanding of the person-hood of God.

Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler wrote the book, Who Made God. In it we find this explanation, “God’s justice demands that sin be punished, but his love compels him to save sinners. So by Christ’s death for us, his justice is satisfied and his love released. Thus, there is no contradiction between absolute justice and unconditional love. To illustrate, God is like the judge who, after passing out the punishment to the guilty defendant, laid aside his robe, stood alongside the convicted, and paid the fine for him.” 2

Alister McGrath put it this way, “Like a skilled physician, Christianity offers a diagnosis of the human situation – not in order to pass judgment and then pass on, but to identify what must be done to transform the situation. Identification of the malady is the essential precondition for a cure.” 3 He went on to say, “Christianity does not simply make sense to us; it also makes sense of us.” 4

In Seeking Allah Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi told a story about his best friend David, who had shared the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. If you can imagine, it was a conversation between a Christian, Buddhist, and a Muslim in a smoothie bar. David, (the Christian), shared, “A better analogy would be a son who has stolen from his father’s business. If after wasting the goods, the son returns to the father and sincerely seeks forgiveness, it is within the father’s right to forgive him. But not all would be settled yet; the accounts haven’t been balanced. Someone has to take the hit for the stolen goods. If the father wants, he has every right to pay for his son’s debt from his own account.” 5

How many tyrants will take on the debt of his people? On the contrary, tyrants put their people in debt and bondage to benefit their own position and power, with no compassion or concern for those he is in position to rule. Yet God takes on the debt of his people in the person of Christ.

You can think about God in many different ways, but he is not just a force in the universe. Although he does not have a body like you and I, he is a person. If you are a human, you are a person, but not every person is a human. Angels, for example, are persons. God is certainly a person, but he is perfect in his person-hood. 6 As persons, we have many qualities that God has, but unlike us, his reasons, his intentions, are morally perfect.

There is nothing wrong with requiring justice for wrong doing, and the greater the person wronged, the greater the consequence. Walking away from, turning your back on, ignoring, the greatest being, who is responsible for all creation, would reap serious consequences indeed.

Sources:

1. Siegel, Elyse. “Johnny Logan Spencer Sentenced To Nearly 3 Years In Prison For Threatening Obama In Poem.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 06 Dec. 2010. Web. 21 Sept. 2014.
2. Zacharias, Ravi; Geisler, Norman. Who Made God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003. Print.
3. McGrath, Alister E. Surprised by Meaning. Louisvelle: John Knox Press, 2011, Print.
4. Ibid.
5. Qureshi, Nabeel. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014. Print.
6. Ganssle, Gregory. Thinking About God. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004. Print.

 

 

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Poems and assassinations by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at dev.christianapologetics.blog.

42 Questions Christian’s can’t answer

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Why can’t the all-powerful God forgive someone of their sins after they die? Example: A Christian man that is seemingly on God’s good list makes a stupid decision and decides to drink a little too much at the fish fry. On his way home he crashes into a mini-van killing a mother, her two children and himself. This man led a very faithful life and made one stupid, yet grave mistake. If this man did not ask for forgiveness of his sins before the electrical activity in his brain ceased, then God will judge him and send him to hell to burn for eternity.

I had read other blogs about Pucket who had asked the above question, and 50 others, and I had read he was a former Christian, who had a solid grasp of the Gospel. Frankly, this question shows a tremendous amount of ignorance concerning salvation and the good news of the Gospel, so it surprised me.

The New Testament is packed with scripture that gives us a view of salvation that is simply based on our acceptance of the gift Christ offers. Christ saves all those who believe in Him, and it is not conditional on our asking forgiveness on every single sin we commit. Not only is that unnecessary, but impossible.

The above illustration by Pucket can be carried to the extreme with another simple example. Say a Christian man who has lead a nearly sinless life was walking across the street carrying a gift and flowers for his wife of 30 years. Walking across in the opposite direction is a lovely young girl, in a short skirt, and top that shows off her nearly perfect figure. For a moment, this Christian man lets his thoughts wander into sin after they passed each other. Then, suddenly, a car that had been speeding ran the red light and instantly killed this man.

To suggest God would condemn this man to eternal separation from Him due to this one moment, before he could ask forgiveness, is silly. The verses of scripture that address this are numerous, so instead of constructing an argument, I will let scripture speak for itself. I have listed just list a few below.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 5:24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

John 6:37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”

2 Corinthians 5: 15-19 “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

Titus 3:5-7 “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

Acts 13:39 “Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

This question, and the scripture above, are a perfect lead in to asking, “Who then is going to heaven?” It is surprising how many think they are, due to their general, good behavior. The Pew Research center did a survey a few years ago asking how many Americans believed in a God or some kind of universal spirit, and over 90% responded positively. 1 Out of those respondents, 74% believe in heaven, but only 59% believe in hell. Pewpoll11

 

 

 

 

 

That suggests quite a few people have the notion that we are going to heaven no matter what kind of life we led.  In other words, some people believe that everyone will get a ‘get out of jail’ Monopoly card that will work in the afterlife, guaranteeing a seat in heaven.

Heaven33

 

Pewpoll22

 

Another figure that was worth mentioning was the percent of those who have a religion, felt that many religions can lead to eternal life. A shocking 70% feel that their way, (their own religion), is not the only way. Not surprising was the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism lead the way with 89% and 86% believing their religion is not the only way into heaven. 2 Not far down the list is the Evangelical believers, and 57% of them feel Jesus is not the only way to heaven.

With these kinds of figures, I would ask what is the point of Jesus? If we can just lead a relativity good life, where our generous actions and behaviors out weigh the selfish actions, and that would usher us into heaven, then why bother with the whole Jesus thing? Obviously, many Christians believe that. Where do they get that idea? Another Pew Research poll said, “Even among white evangelical Protestants, nearly three-quarters (72%) of those who say many religions can lead to eternal life name at least one non-Christian religion that can lead to salvation.” 3

Salvation is a gift. It is not something you can earn through good works or asking forgiveness each and every single time you sin. Salvation through Christ allows you to live a life free from condemnation, but with the realization that there was a price paid, because a just and righteous God demands it. This realization comes into play every day as we recognize it is impossible to live a perfect, sin free life. Ravi Zacharias said, “Jesus did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came into this world to make dead people live.” 4

When a person repents, accepts Christ as their Lord and Savior, their sins are forgiven, past, present, and future. This does not mean you go and sin all you want because of the get out of jail free card. God looks at the heart of a man, He knows their intent, their purpose. 1 Samuel 16:7. Gill’s Exposition puts it this way, “…though the heart is deceitful, it cannot deceive him, because he judges not according to outward appearance; he sees and knows the heart; and none but the Lord, or he who is Jehovah, can so search the heart as thus to know it.”

Mark Mittelberg told a story of a business man who was on an airplane sitting next to a pastor. Their conversation was polite and surface at first, but after a few minutes turned to more serious topics. The pastor was asking the man if he believed in heaven, and if so would he be allowed in. The business man felt he would because his good deeds surpassed his selfish deeds.

The pastor then gave the man an illustration on a napkin, by drawing a ladder that would reach up to heaven. Each rung on the ladder represented a spot for one person on earth. Up at the top is God, because He is perfect. Each person on earth would be placed on the ladder according to their good deeds. The higher up the ladder, the more good deeds a person did. The lower the part of the ladder were the Hitlers, child molesters, and mobsters.

The pastor brought up Mother Teresa, who has admitted she has sinned many times in her life, this, despite her being considered one of the most caring, giving, and ethical persons who ever lived. She would not consider herself even past ½ way up the ladder. The pastor then mentioned Billy Graham, who many in America consider to be an outstanding moral and ethical man, who has lead a long dedicated life serving the Lord. The pastor pointed out that Billy Graham would not consider himself above Mother Teresa, and has said he has sinned many times in his own life. The pastor then marked a spot for Billy Graham below Mother Teresa on the ladder, and both were below the ½ way mark.

He then asked the man where he would be on this ladder, who hesitantly wrote his name near the bottom below both Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. The pastor let that sink in for a minute as the business man contemplated his good deeds compared to those icons of honorable human behavior.

The pastor then asked the business man where he thinks the cut off point on the ladder would be for those who ‘get’ to go to heaven for their good deeds, and if he would be above it. The business man replied, “I guess I am screwed.” to which the pastor replied, “Well welcome to the club. We’re all in that kind of predicament. And here’s the real problem: do you think, if you got serious and tried to to do good for the rest of your life, you could ever hope to climb above Mother Teresa?” 5

The point is driven home in the above story. It is not about leading a good and moral life, but accepting the gift of salvation, and realizing it is a gift that everyone should be thankful for. The latter illustration works well because each and everyone of us can be placed on this ladder according to our deeds in this life. Everyday we walk by, talk to, work with, wake up next to someone who may be above us or below us on the ladder, but where we are placed on the ladder has nothing to do with being ushered into heaven.

laddertoheavenAccepting the gift of salvation that Christ offers, and realizing we can never reach the top of this ladder because of our own works is key. Our nature tells us to hang on tight to whichever rung of the ladder we are clinging to. We try not to get our fingers stepped on by the person above us, and at the same time try to mash the fingers of the person attempting to climb past us. If we are not careful we might slip down further, below those we were above moments before. All the while Jesus is telling us to let go, lean back, and fall into His arms, and he will then lift us, not only above the spot where we were on the ladder, but then, up and past those who were above us because of their good deeds.

It is that moment you fully realize no one on the ladder will ever make it into heaven, because you can’t climb into heaven, but only fly there, in the arms of Jesus.

Sources:

1. “Religious Beliefs and Practices.” Pew Forum. Pewforum.org, 1 June 2008. Web. 17 September 2014.
2. “Many Americans Say Other Faiths Can Led to Eternal Life”, Pew Forum. Pewforum.org, 18 December 2008. Web. 19 September 2014.
3. Ibid
4. “A Loving God Wouldn’t Send People To Hell” The Mumbling Christian. Mumblingchristian.com, 20 February 2009. Web. 20 September 2014
5. Mittelberg, Mark. The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2010. Print

 

 

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42 Questions Christian’s can’t answer by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog/.

#8 of 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer

#8 of 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Above Image by Valdas Miskinis from Pixabay

How is it that the bible explains the earth to be 6,000 to 8,000 years old when we know that dinosaur bones are at least 65 million years old? This isn’t the only example of our planet’s age by any means, either.

This is one of those ‘in house’ discussions that even educated and intelligent Christians do not agree on. Pucket is also guilty of a strawman fallacy, by misrepresenting or fabricating someone’s position on an issue, so it is easier to attack.

Pucket, who asked the above question, and 49 other questions, lump all Christians as ‘Young Earthers, when many Christians do not hold to a young earth view. I personally do not hold to a young earth, but anyone who spends just a few minutes researching a young and old earth view will find scholars on both sides of this issue.

For example, many have heard of Ken Ham and his life long work at answersingenesis which publishes books, video’s, and other materials in support of a young earth view. Also, his recent debate with Bill Nye the Science Guy brought this issue to some headlines. Both sides, science and religion, claim victory. I spent a few minutes looking at online magazines and popular blogging sites, and without fail, the secular science sites give Bill Nye the win, and the Christian oriented sites said Ken Ham won. Reminds me of the demographics when you look at the percent of whites vs blacks who voted for President Obama. 

It is interesting that many who are troubled with an old earth view have no problem with verses concerning the earth not moving. For example: 1 Chronicles 16:30, Psalm 93:1, Psalm 104:5, and 1Samuel 2:8. John Lennonx points out in his book, Seven Day’s that Divide The World, that the Bible even has passages about the sun moving. Psalm 19:4-6 and Ecclesiastes 1:5. Lennox also wrote, “Why do Christians accept this ‘new’ interpretation, and not still insist on a ‘literal’ understanding of the pillars of the earth? Why are we not still split up into fixed-earthers and moving-earthers? Is it really because we have all compromised, and made Scripture subservient to science?” 1

Of course not! We now know that Copernicus in the 1500’s was correct; the earth is revolving around the sun. Its path takes a year at the speed of 67,000 mph. No one doubts this, well, no one I know of does. No one that I know of still insists the earth is unmoved, with the starry heavens revolving around the earth. Yet when Copernicus first suggested this, and then Galileo in the 1600’s attempted to confirm it, the Church made it clear Galileo was to keep quiet about it. Galileo was not tortured or beaten, as many liberal historians would suggest, but he was slapped on the hand and put under house arrest in a luxurious mansion. This was the beginning of the science vs. religion mentality that continues today.

Read the question again. Pucket is right. Dinosaur bones are not the only way we can date the age of the earth. Although carbon dating is relatively accurate, it is not without its hiccups. Fossils are also dated by their location in the sedimentary layers, yet this also can have suspect assumptions. If sediments laid down in same rate over thousands or millions of years it would be easy to date, but any laymen knows this is not the case. Couple that with the plate tectonics, dating by sedimentary layers can be troubling to say the least. In my recent post about Noah’s ark and the account of the flood, I touched on the possibility of a massive flood in the past 5000 years. Robert Ballard and his team have found evidence of that possibility with a shoreline in the Mediterranean 400′ below the surface of the sea.

Yet we do have evidence beyond carbon dating, beyond the depth of fossils in sedimentary layers, and plate tectonics. Evidence that does point to an old earth. The two that come to mind are the ice cores and distant galaxies.

The Christian Apologetics Research Ministry has an article on ice cores. “Antarctica is the coldest, windiest, highest and driest continent on Earth. That’s right – the driest ! Antarctica is a desert. The annual precipitation of snow, averaged across the continent, is about 30 centimeters, which is equivalent to about 10 centimeters of water. In some locations as little as 2 centimeters, [about ¾ of an inch] (water equivalent) is recorded. Because of the low temperatures, however, there is little or no melt. Thus the snow has accumulated year after year for thousands of years and, with time, is compressed to ice to form the Antarctic ice sheet. 2

Ice cores are tubes of ice that are drilled out of large ice sheets or glaciers. Greenland has produced some with dates beyond 120,000 years old, and cores from Antarctica well over 500,000 years old. 3 Ice cores give information about past climates trapped in the tiny bubbles of air, but they can also give us dates by the layers that can be counted, much like you would count the rings of a tree to determine how old it is.
Yes, the rings compress the further down you drill for the core, and there are other climate factors that could make some dating of the ice cores problematic, but like the carbon dating, the accuracy is widely accepted in the scientific community.

By and large, the scientific community accepts the Big Bang theory. The theory that the universe began billions of years ago from some unimaginably small, yet inconceivable bright flash of energy. Could the universe have somehow caused itself? Nothing in our experience of science even remotely suggests that something could be the cause of its own existence.

Tim Keller wrote in his book, The Reason For God, “Everything we know in this world is ‘contingent’, has a cause outside of itself. Therefore the universe, which is just a huge pile of such contingent entities, would itself have to be dependent on some cause outside of itself. Something had to make the Big Bang happen – but what?” 4 As Christians, as Believers, we know just what that is.

If the Big Bang is true and we have other galaxies millions of light years away, then how could we possibly see the light from them if the speed limit of light is set at 186,000 miles per second? Yes, that is fast, but even at that speed the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is just over 4.3 light years away. That is the nearest star in our own Milky Way galaxy. We have over 200 billion stars in our own galaxy, and beyond that, estimations of 200 to 500 billion galaxies outside our own. The light from some of those distant galaxies have taken millions of years to reach us.

earth5

Bible scholars do not agree on the age of the earth or how to interpret time-spans in the early chapters of Genesis. With that in mind, the question above, asked by Pucket, implies and makes the assumption that all Christians are young-earthers, and that is certainly not the case. Nor is it the case that Genesis 1 and science conflict with each other.

Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe wrote a large volume titled, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, addressing this very issue, “There is no demonstrated contradiction of fact between Genesis 1 and science. There is only a conflict of interpretation. Either, most modern scientists are wrong in insisting the world is billions of years old, or else some Bible interpreters are wrong in insisting on only 144 hours of creation some several thousand years before Christ with no gaps allowing millions of years. But, in either case it is not a question of inspiration of Scripture, but of the interpretation of Scripture (and of the scientific data).”5

Sources:

1. Lennox, John. Seven Days That Divided The World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011, Print.
2. “Ice Core Dating.” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. CARM.org 1998. Web. 10 September 2014
3. “Ice cores and climate change” British Antarctic Survey. Antarctica.ac.uk/bas 2014. Web 12 September 2014
4. Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. New York: Penguin Group, 2008. Print.
5. Geisler, Norman. Howe, Thomas. The Big Book Of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1992, Print.

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43 Questions Christians can’t answer by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.dev.christianapologetics.blog/.

44 Questions Christian’s can’t answer

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Why do innocent children have to suffer with terminal diseases such as cancer? What part of ‘God’s plan’ is this exactly?

The question of evil and why there is suffering in this world is something we all struggle with, especially if you believe, (as I do), in an all knowing, and all powerful God. Romans 8:28 explains that everything works together for the good of those who love Him and are called by Him.

Well that sounds great, but to the unbeliever who has lost a parent, friend, or child to cancer it does little or nothing to comfort them. R. E. Pucket has a list of difficult questions you can find here, and this is number 6 on the list.

Some of the questions are legitimate, and others frankly seem silly, nevertheless I am working through them. The question of children suffering with painful and lengthy diseases such as cancer, and finally yielding to the illness, with a supposed purpose in mind, can be difficult for anyone to understand.

Mark Mittelberg said of Romans 8:28, “This is one of the most encouraging verses in the Bible – and also one of the most abused. First, it does not say that everything that happens is good. Rather, it acknowledges the reality that many things that happen in our lives are bad, but it assures us that God can use them for good or bring good out of them.” 1

Furthermore, God does not promise us an explanation for the suffering we see and experience. For those of us who are, or have been, parents of little children, we do the best we can to explain why they have to get a shot at the doctor. Yet despite our comforting and explanations, the tears still flow, and until they are older, much of the discomfort they experience at the hand of a doctor or dentist is beyond their understanding.

After hearing of the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis wrote, “The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed – might grow tired of his vile sport – might have a temporary fit of mercy, as an alcoholic have fits of sobriety. But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before that operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless.” 2

Finally, Romans 8:28 does not promise that all the bad we experience will bring forth good, but only those, “who love God and are called according to his purpose” can share in that promise.

Mittelberg supplies us with a short list of some of the good that can come out of suffering.
1. God can use pain to deepen our character.
2. He can use pain to reshape us as his sons and daughters.
3. He can use pain to give us a more spiritual and eternal perspective.
4. He can use pain to protect us from ourselves.
5. He can use pain to grab our attention and teach or redirect us in ways that will be important.
6. He can use pain to lead us to himself. 3
7. He can use pain to demonstrate His sacrifice for us.

I added number seven to the list because, without suffering, we would have no idea or understanding of Christ’s suffering on the cross for our salvation. Too many nominal believers have this concept of God as someone who does not want us to suffer. Their view is more like that of humans and their pets, as if the purpose of our lives is to be happy, while God just feeds us and takes care of us, when our actual purpose in life is to know God.

William Lane Craig put it this way, “One reason that the problem of suffering seems so puzzling is that people naturally tend to assume that if God exists, then His purpose for human life is happiness in this life. God’s role is to provide a comfortable environment for his human pets.” 4 The purpose God has for us in this life is not limited to what we experience here on earth. How our experiences in this life affect the life we have beyond this is anyone’s guess, but for the Christian, it is a comforting thought that cannot be shared by an unbeliever.

Just dwelling on that should give us as believers a sobering perspective. I recall years ago an old Star War episode when Darth Vader had captured Han Solo. They tortured him for a period of time and then returned him to his room. Han Solo’s comment was, “They never even asked me any questions.” If they had wanted some information, he would have at least seen a purpose to his suffering.  Suffering for a purpose gives us all strength to endure, and those who see no purpose in suffering struggle in ways many of us cannot imagine.

Craig wrote, “The ‘health and wealth’ gospel and the gospel of positive thinking that are being proclaimed in various megachurches and denominations are false gospels…”5 He is right. Can you imagine preaching that message in the Middle East in the presence of ISIS or the Muslim brotherhood? It is a false gospel, as hollow and dry as an empty snail shell at the end of summer. The first moment of outside pressure will crush the thin shell of that lie. Craig went on to say, “If it won’t preach there, it isn’t the true gospel. We need to understand that God’s plan for human history may involve terrible suffering for us, whose point or reason we can’t expect to see. Our hope lies not in worldly happiness but in that day when God will wipe away every tear.” 6

Jeremy Begbie gave a lecture in the Veritas Forum at the University of Berkeley exactly one month after the 9/11 attack. He is a multimedia lecture-performer and actually specializes in the the interface between theology and music.

Begbie spoke about a time he was in a black South Africa township. He was told that just before the service a house around the corner had burned to the ground, the night before a teen who was a member of that church was hunted down and killed, and a week prior a tornado came through destroying homes and lives. The pastor began in prayer asking why these things were happening. Groans from the congregation could be heard with each question. When the prayer ended they began to sing. Begbie wrote, “They sang and they sang, song after song of praise – praise to a God who in Jesus had plunged into the very worst to give us a promise of an ending beyond all imagining. The singing gave that congregation a foretaste of the end. Christian hope isn’t about looking around at the state of things now and trying to imagine where it’s all going. It’s about breathing now the fresh air of that ending, tasting the spices and sipping the wine of the feast to come.” 7

 

Sources:
1. Mittelberg, Mark. The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2010. Print
2. Craig, William L. Hard Questions Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print
3. Mittelberg, Mark. The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 2010. Print
4. Craig, William L. On Guard. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010. Print
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Willard, Dallas. A Place For Truth. Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2010. Print

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44 Questions Christian’s can’t answer by James Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.dev.christianapologetics.blog.

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