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Archive for December, 2008

HELL!

There is too much of a delight for my taste when I hear Christians advise hell is one of the most talked about subjects by Jesus. I hate hell. I hate thinking that anyone would have to go to hell just because of what they believe. I have concluded that hell in the Bible is not some lake of fire where the Creator enjoys torturing forever those that don’t believe in Him. Wouldn’t God have to keep humans alive somehow since bodies eventually burn to death? Please read other articles on this website that speak of why the creation of hell is necessary for freedom and justice reasons. I have also defended the Bible teaches there is annihilation after death, as opposed to unconditional immortality, for those who have no desire to be with the Creator after death. Fire is likely metaphorical language. God’s anger against evil is like an all-consuming fire (Heb 12:29). But, having said this, there is no denying that Jesus speaks of hell and an eternal existence without one’s Creator.

God has always only threatened punishment in hopes of turning others from their evil to His good. God doesn’t delight in punishment for the mere act of punishing.  Even in the Old Testament, where God has the reputation of being a warmonger, God always extended mercy and unbelievable patience in hope one would come to their senses. War was used when there was no other way to stop or prevent the influence of horrendous evil acts such as child sacrifices. Would any of us be alive today if God punished evil as much as we wish on those who hurt us? Thank God I don’t get what I deserve or wish on others at times. 

Humans would create Hell for one’s final destination if they so chose. Punishment in this life for crimes is moral. What about those crimes one is never discovered or punished for? God gives hope to victims of horrendous evil acts. Justice delayed does not mean justice not served. Too, the threat of punishment can be a good thing for certain folks. It can cause one to think before they act on their impulses. There are no guarantees it will deter people from hate or evil, but God will do anything in hopes we might choose a life of everlasting existence with Him than the alternative.

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Prayer – Why Bother?

It seems many become so very disappointed with the whole prayer thing. Let’s be honest. Many, many of our prayers are not answered. Maybe the problem is the way we approach God. I do not wish to argue we can never pray the desires of our heart. If we want something form God we should communicate to Him about this. But, just as in marriage, if desires become expectations we will be solely disappointed. Job seemed to get a tongue lashing from God. Maybe because Job seemed to suggest God doesn’t care if He doesn’t answers our prayers the way we think they should be. It was almost if God said to Job “you want to try running a world where freedom has been given.” One person’s prayer for rain is another person’s prayer for flooding. Healing may just lead to one’s continued independence from God after brief euphoria. People were more influenced about the really important stuff in life by Jesus’ suffering than the miracles He produced. The same may be true in our own lives with those we seek to influence about the really important things in life.

It might revolutionize our prayer life if we begin to see prayer as communication to God about what is on our heart. But “God, if my desire is what is not best all things considered (the big picture) I know you can sustain me, I know I can count on you to get me thru anything. Please, please help me to lean and rely on you every step of the way.” God always answers prayer but often not the way we would hope for. God will always answer the prayer of those that pray “God, you know my desires but God no matter what happens, I am going to need you to never leave me every step of the way.” God promises He will always answer such prayers.

Why If There is God Is There Evil?

After years of reflection on this issue, I have come to the belief that the answer to this question is not that complicated. Christian theism has the best answer:

Christian theism acknowledges that God created the potential for evil because God created humans with freedom of choice. We choose to love, to hate, to do good or to do evil. The record of history bears eloquent testimony to the fact that humans, of their own free will, have actualized the reality of evil through such choices. Without choice love is meaningless. God is neither a cosmic rapist who forces his love on people, nor a cosmic puppeteer who forces people to love him. Instead, God, the personification of love, grants us the freedom of choice. Without such freedom, we would be little more than preprogrammed robots. (Hank Hanegraff, www.equip.org

The answer to suffering and evil may be quite simply, just hard to accept. There is evil and suffering because God created freedom. Humans make daily decisions to rebel against God’s will. Where there is a human will, there is a way. God does not cause evil or suffering. If there is to be genuine freedom, there must be the opportunity to love as well as to hate. Evildoers cause much of suffering, directly or indirectly, thus suffering inflicted by others is a by-product of freedom. God did not create evil or plan suffering in the first place, so He could ride in on a great white horse and save the world. But God has not abandoned us. God promises life after death with Him, where there will be no sin, for those who want to live with Him for eternity.  On earth, God works to bring good out of what was intended for evil. This does not mean God orchestrates evil to accomplish good. God, because of who He is, ultimately permits every evil act but this doesn’t mean ever evil permitted by God is necessarily for a greater purpose. The only way God can totally stop evil is to not create. Evil is not some grand scheme by God!

The problem may be that we do not accept how God has chosen to respond to suffering and freedom. Why doesn’t God intervene or stop more evil and suffering than He does? God seemed to answer Job questioning of His ways in this manner – “When you understand how difficult it is to run a world where there is genuine freedom and what I should and shouldn’t permit, call Me!” Humans may destroy at the first hint of evil, yet demand mercy for themselves and their loved ones. God isn’t human. God does not destroy or annihilate people at the first sign of opposition or even before evil gets out of hand. One time God started over, but The Flood proved evil just grows back. God is patient. God is merciful. Justice delayed does not mean justice will not be served. We have to decide whether to believe and accept that if anyone can best respond to freedom and evil and suffering, God can. God’s ultimate response to evil is the slow, necessary way of the Incarnation. God didn’t skip out on suffering Himself. In an attempt to change the world and turn as many people as possible from evil, God sacrificed His Son. Jesus shows us how to respond to and conquer suffering.

Evil could only have been avoided if God had not created at all or at least not given humans the freedom to choose. But, God is not responsible for choices His children make, though He brings them into the world, any more than human parents are responsible for the decisions of their offspring. God’s risk is no more insane than a parent who chooses to have a child born in an already corrupt world where freedoms exist. God at least initially brought children into a perfect world where corruption and death did not exist. We human parents bring children into an imperfect world, knowing they could commit some evil act or experience evil at the hands of others at some time in their life. But, it is worth it! I believe the pleasures of parenthood far outweigh the risks for evil and suffering as a result of freedom.

It is not necessarily true that if God instantly stopped all suffering, the world would be better off or there would be less suffering. During suffering is sometimes the only time one changes their selfish ways. Sometimes others only consider the important matters in life by witnessing how others handle suffering. I am not necessarily a better person the less I suffer.

Whether our theology likes it or not, things happen not according to God’s will because of freedom. It isn’t heresy to assume that not even God can create life in its very essence, impossible to exist without death, violence, suffering and struggle and yet there be genuine free will. God can’t force genuine love. The problem may be that we do not accept how God has chosen to respond to evil. God may intervene through the miraculous though this is hardly the norm. God’s response to evil is not to destroy the evildoer instantly or impose His will immediately. God has not chosen instance justice but mercy and justice in the long run. We demand independence from God and when He gives it to us, we bitch at Him. Often though, we hightail it back to His promises and peace in the midst of chaos that only He sometimes can provide. God didn’t avoid suffering Himself. He sent His Son to show us the way and give us hope beyond this world.

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